Sunday, March 20, 2011

Confessions of a vegan supplement junkie (part 1)

My long involvement with the vegan strength crew has led me down a path of never ending experimentation with health supplements. My natural tight-fistedness also kept me on the lookout for cheap suppliers and my inner geek saved me (most of the time) from falling victim to the many dodgy claims of the supplement companies. I thought it was about time to share some of my findings rather than just keep it to myself and a few friends. The first installment will be about protein supplements.

Let me get my basic recommendations out of the way.

My first recommendation is to always go for unflavoured protein and to buy in bulk. The crappy little tubs of soy protein you can buy at your local supermarket are a total rip-off as are the pricey supps which are mostly sugar, oil, "super foods" and other fillers with very little protein per serving not to mention very few servings per container.

Second, don't fall for the marketing hype. For the most part your body doesn't care if the form of the amino acids you consume is raw, processed, "alkalising", "natural" or whatever other buzz words are popular at the moment. It's just another way for companies to try to get more money out of you. If you are concerned about the amino acid profile of certain proteins you can always buy two types and combine them (pea or soy and rice is a common blend) or just get nitrofusion if you are too lazy for that ;) .

Protein powder

Protein is often lacking in the diets of people who eat no protein. Thankfully this is not the case for people who don't make poor food choices ;) . Not too long ago there was little choice available to the vegan muscle man/woman wanting to add a quick and easy protein boost to their diet. Soy and rice protein were the only local options. In recent years it has expanded greatly and there is no reason why a vegan couldn't be knocking back 200+gms of protein a day if they wanted to, which could theoretically be done without supplements if you tweak your diet enough, but why would you bother? ;)

NHS Soy Protein Isolate

I initially started out buying the NHS soy protein (around $95 for 3 kg) from Evelyn Faye Nutrition in the city and it is still pretty good value, gets the job done and doesn't taste too bad.

Bulk Nutrients Rice Protein Isolate

The cheapest source of protein powder in Australia, that I have found, is bulk nutrients' rice protein isolate which can be as cheap as $22 per kg if you buy in bulk. I can't comment on the taste as I've never tried it.

Vital Greens Pea Protein Isolate

My go to protein powder at the moment, mainly for convenience as there are a few cheaper options. The best place to get this is from the Uproar store as the markup is minuscule and the profits go towards actually helping animals and promoting veganism.

Some people think pea protein is revolting, but I don't have a problem drinking it with plain water. I think this might be due to something like the brussels sprouts phenomenon where many people are disgusted by them yet I find them delicious. I think I'm a non-responder to pea protein's taste.


When nitrofusion hit our shores a few years ago all the cool kids were using it as it was the ultimate blend of pea, rice and artichoke protein that provided the greatest amino-acid profile of any protein powder on the market. The problem was with the Australian distributors who seemed to hate the eastern side of Australia and refused to send any of the product to potential suppliers in Victoria. Eventually Uproar came to the rescue, providing an insanely cheap source for chocolate, mocha and berry flavoured nitrofusion. It tastes pretty good too. However, it does contain a few filler ingredients like sweeteners which may be problematic for people wanting to control their macronutrient intake.

This is the place to go for vegan protein powders. There are lots of them here. The only problem is that lots of them contain hemp protein and xylitol, which can both cause a problem at customs. Sunwarrior rice protein and a multitude of rice, pea and soy proteins are available from iherb. Take your pick. The prices are practically unbeatable at the moment thanks to the strength of the Australian dollar.

You can't look past this site either. It has a great range of proteins and prices comparable to other online stores. Best of all it is a fully vegan company that stocks heaps of great stuff that you can't find at other places and you know for sure that it's vegan unlike other sites that don't bother doing the research to confirm if products are really vegan.

Protein Bars

Clif Builder's bar

A few years ago these played a big part in me getting stronger and also fatter, when I was sometimes eating three a day. They are more accurately described as chocolate bars with added protein as there are more carbs than protein. You can get these from uproar, Vegan Essentials and iherb.

Organic food bar - Protein

If you are after an overpriced and disgusting protein bar that contains kooky, mumbo jumbo, ingredients (i.e. biodynamic foods) then this is the bar for you. If however you are after something that actually tastes nice, go with the builder's bar or make your own.

Protein Bar recipes has a great thread with protein and energy bar recipes that you could try out. Vegan kettlebell guru, Mike Mahler, also has some cool recipes on his website for bars, cookies and shakes. Check them out.

If you'd like to calculate your protein and macronutrient intake, check out cron-o-meter and sites like nutrition data and the USDA nutrient database.

Well, that's all for part one. Let me know of any other protein bargains you have found or if you have any good protein bar and shake recipes. Now, off to the gym with you!

Video of the day
Rocky IV training montage


  1. Great informative post. P.S: I love builders bars!

  2. Good stuff. Nitrofusion makes my belly sick though :-(