These are my four go-to protein powders that don’t contain whey. I included pros and cons of each along with a nutrition and price comparison to help you choose the best protein powder for you.
I get asked a lot what my favorite protein powder is, and to be honest, it depends on the day you ask me. There are four brands that I rotate among, and I’ll go into the pros and cons of each. I can’t have whey or casein so all of these are plant-based, with the exception of collagen which is a cow product. I included collagen in the list since it’s a popular protein supplement these days and I get asked about it quite often, but I don’t take it every day like many people do.
Best Protein Powder for Runners
A few things to note before we dive into the list:
Each brand has a few other options so the nutrition specifics may vary slightly, but it should be pretty similar across the brand.
I like having protein powder as a supplement, but I don’t let it replace getting protein from whole food sources. I also get lots of protein from veggies (yes, they have protein and it adds up if you have veggies at every meal!), whole grains, meat, fish and legumes. If you have specific dietary needs or goals, work with a registered dietitian who can guide you.
If you’re going to make a lot of smoothies — which is how I incorporate powder powder into my diet most often — do yourself a favor and invest in a Vitamix. I bought a refurbished one (which is about $200 cheaper), have used it multiple times a week for 6+ years, and have had no issues.
I used protein powder during my pregnancy, especially when I had a lot of issues with nausea and food aversions. Be sure to check with your doctor before you do so!
Generation UCan Chocolate Plant Based Protein
Generation Ucan is the protein powder I’ve used most often in the last year. I love that it contains carbs since I struggle to get enough carbs as a runner, especially when I’m in marathon training mode. They do have whey protein but I’ve only had the plant-based one.
2 full scoop = 20 grams protein = 160 calories
Ounces per container: 21
Servings per container: 12
Cost per serving:$4.16
Sugar: 0g, however there are 6g of sugar alcohol. Erythritol is used as the sweetener.
This has the best taste of all of the protein powders listed in this post!
It blends easily with water or milk in a shaker bottle.
It contains carbs so you could take it right after a workout without needing to supplement it with another carb source.
Uses a “superstarch” blend of carbs that is very gentle on even finicky stomachs.
Can only buy online here: Generation UCan – use promo code AFOODIESTAYSFIT for 15% off
It only comes in a chocolate flavor.
It contains erythritol as a sweetener, which is a sugar alcohol and can cause gut upset for some people.
The carb source is corn based, which may be an allergen for some. The story behind their superstarch corn ingredient is explained here – pretty interesting background that it was developed for an infant!
Garden of Life Raw Vegan Protein
One of my good friends who is a vegan and a sport dietitian recommended this option, which is why I purchased it. I always buy the vanilla flavor and it works well into all of my smoothie recipes. Chocolate flavored protein powder doesn’t always work well in smoothie recipes. They also have an unflavored option, but I haven’t tried it.
1 full scoop = 22 grams protein = 130 calories
Ounces per container: 23
Servings per container: 20
Cost per serving: $1.91
Sugar: 0g. Erythritol and stevia are the sweeteners used in Garden of Life.
It’s difficult to blend without a real blender. Even with a shaker bottle, it often gets chunky.
It uses Stevia as a sweetener. Sometimes that flavor bothers me more than others.
The Vanilla flavor was ranked poorly by the Clean Label Project.
Like Garden of Life, it’s very low in carbs (6 grams) which isn’t ideal for post-run recovery. But again, you can easily pair it with carbs easily in a smoothie.
Perfect Supplements Collagen
I’ve tried three different brands of collagen and I like the Perfect Supplements Collagen best. Note that collagen is an incomplete protein so it’s not the best option to help repair muscles, and it’s important to understand the different types of collagen. And, like any supplement, it’s not a cure all as much as people sing its praises.
1 full scoop = 10 grams protein = 40 calories
Ounces per container: 23
Servings per container: 60
Cost per serving:$0.66
This collagen blends the most easily of any collagen I’ve found. In hot water, it dissolves immediately. In cold or room temperature water, it does require some stirring.
It’s grass-fed and non-GMO.
Contains both Type I and Type III Collagen. Most collagens only contain one type of collagen. Different types of collagen have different benefits.
Type I and III are supposedly the best ones to help support skin.
It’s free of pesticides, hormones, chemicals and contaminants — and Perfect Supplements publishes the Heavy Metal Lab test to verify it.
You can taste it if you add it to coffee. But, to be honest, I’ve NEVER tried a collagen that I couldn’t taste in coffee. If anyone tells you it’s tasteless in coffee, they’re lying or they are used to their coffee tasting like crap with collagen in it!!! I never add collagen to coffee for that reason – I add it to my smoothies instead.
Heavy metals in protein powder
There has been some press recently about protein powders testing high for heavy metals and since supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, you have to do your own research to verify what each brand does to go above and beyond on this aspect. (Skincare is another industry that isn’t regulated enough, so it’s important to seek out brands that go above and beyond for safety.)
Two protein powders brands I use and are included in this post are listed as having poor scores from the Clean Label Product (which looks at heavy metals, pesticides, and contaminants like BPA), but they called out specific flavors, so you’ll see that called out below. I don’t know if they tested multiple flavors and only called out the one that was an issue OR if they only tested one flavor. So, if this is something that’s very important to you, be sure to do more research. As I replace my protein powders, it’s definitely something I plan to dig into more. Unfortunately all of the best-rated scores were given to whey protein powders, which I don’t tolerate well.
Interestingly, the plant-based proteins got worse scores compared to those made from whey (milk) or egg, on average container as much as 2x more lead. It may be that animals’ digestive systems help to remove some of the toxins. As it relates to “organic” protein powder, that label doesn’t have any correlation to a more positive or negative score. On average, organic protein actually had higher levels of heavy metals. But, one of the scientists who worked on the testing stated that it “probably as more to do with these products being plant-based than being organic.” You can read more about the testing here.
I’d love to hear your favorite protein powder brands and why you love them! Leave a comment and share!
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