Alternatives to Whey Protein

If you're looking for soy-free vegan protein powders, there may be some new options for you.


By J.P. Fanton


Whey protein is widely accepted as the gold standard of protein powders. But, for those who can’t tolerate dairy and/or are vegan, whey is a definite a no-no. Egg white protein is another excellent option, however the same caveats apply. That’s why, for many years, soy protein powder was the primary alternative. A viable solution to the problem, right?

Not so fast! Although soy is appropriate for vegans, it is a common food allergen. Also, head-to-head comparisons between soy and whey protein consistently show that whey is superior in promoting lean body mass and regulating appetite. What’s more, at least one experiment found that daily intake of soy protein blunts serum testosterone in young men who work out. Obviously, this is bad news for any male looking to enhance athletic capacity, physique or sexual performance. 

Thankfully, the last few years have provided real hope for those looking for soy-free, vegan protein powders that compare favorably to whey. There are now two evidence-based options worth considering: Oryzatein Rice Protein and NUTRALYS Pea Protein. A study appearing in the June 2013 edition of Nutrition Journal revealed that giving college-aged, resistance trained males 48 grams/day of rice or whey protein produced equivalent results with respect to decreases in fat mass, increases in muscle, power and strength gains. 

In January 2015, researchers determined that ingesting 25 grams of pea protein twice-daily, in conjunction with resistance training, actually promoted greater muscle thickness than whey in the “weakest” study participants. As a bonus, previous research indicates that pea protein satisfies hunger and reduces short-term food intake more efficiently than whey. 

Another alternative to those mentioned above: pumpkin seed protein isolate (PSPI). Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of nutrition. They possess much greater nutrient density than brown rice or yellow peas. Specifically, pumpkin seeds are chock full of antioxidants, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. 

What's more, pumpkin seeds and their oil are especially beneficial for addressing men’s health issues, including enlarged prostate symptoms and male pattern baldness.  

To make PSPI, they essentially remove the majority of fat and fiber from the final product. This lowers the calorie count and makes the resulting powder more soluble. The flavor of PSPI is rather neutral, but it does have a slightly green color. Personally, I find it quite pleasant and versatile. The one downside is that there haven’t been any human trials on the PSPI itself. So, we can’t know exactly how well it performs in comparison to pea or rice protein. Still, I do use it because of its mild taste and what is known about the numerous health benefits of the source material, i.e. pumpkin seeds.

John Paul Fanton, based in Los Angeles, California, is a consultant, researcher and writer with over 20 years of experience in the field of natural medicine. He designs unique nutritional plans, mind-body (meditation, mindfulness, etc.) and vitamin/supplement programs for individual clients who are interested in improving overall health, weight and wellness. You can find his weekly column on the Healthy Fellow.

Main Photo Credit: Lecic/

May 20, 2015

There is also hemp seed protein, it's pretty good stuff.