We all know that when it comes to protein, the best source is always going to be animal-based products. A nice steak, a chicken breast, even a glass of milk. Vegans have to work a little bit harder to find their protein.
This also extends to finding the right protein powders, as the most popular are made from dairy products, which are off the menu for vegans.
Plant-based protein powders are generally less popular than animal-derived ones. This is because animal-derived proteins are complete proteins that contain all the essential amino acids, while plant-based proteins tend to be partial.
But soy protein is an exception among plant-based proteins. Not only is it a complete protein, but it is also very high in protein, offering 85 to 90 grams of protein per 100 grams of powder.
But, if soy protein powder is the answer that vegans have been looking for, why isn’t it more popular?
Soy has received a lot of attention from the dietary community over the years, and dietitians tend to consider it either an essential superfood or a dangerous new addition to our diets.
But we think that, while there are certainly a few things to be aware of when adding soy protein powder to your diet, it is an excellent source of a nice big protein boost.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about soy protein, and our recommendations for the best pea protein powders that you can buy today.
Soy: The Controversial Protein
Soybeans are legumes that are an excellent source of high-quality protein. Soy is a source of complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce itself, something which most other legumes and plant-based proteins lack.
This is why soy is such a popular food for vegetarians. Tofu and tempeh are both made from soy, and who doesn’t like a little bit of soy milk.
Soy is naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. It is high in fibre for good digestion, and it is also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Why wouldn’t you want to add this superfood to you diet?
Soy protein powders, which can be used as a supplement and are also used to make a variety of meat and dairy alternatives, are made from defatted soybean flakes that have been washed to remove the sugars and dietary fibre. This is then dehydrated and turned into powder.
The resulting powder contains:
- 82 grams of protein per 100 grams
- 340 calories per 100 grams
- 3.6 grams of fat per 100 grams
- 7.2 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams
This all looks very good on paper, especially in terms of the amount of protein that you get, so why the controversy?
Research suggests that when it comes to supporting muscle development, soy protein powder is a good source of protein, just a little less effective than Whey protein, which makes it a good alternative for vegans.
Research also suggests, however, that using a combination of whey, casein, and soy protein can offer the best results when it comes to both building muscle and losing weight, as they all add different things to mix.
But, if you speak to some people, you will find that they have some concerns about soy. These concerns are minor and are generally blown out of proportion by critics of soy, but they are worth being aware of.
First, it is a concern that soy protein powder contains phytates, an antioxidant compound that can impair the absorption of important minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium. This will only affect your health if you have a very low intake of these minerals, but it is something that anyone using soy protein should be aware of to avoid deficiencies.
On some corners of the internet, you may find rumours that soy protein can reduce testosterone levels in men. This idea stems from the fact that soy, like all plants, contains phytoestrogens, which is an oestrogen-like protein that binds to oestrogen receptors in the body. But extensive research has shown that soy does not affect testosterone levels in men.
Finally, always be careful when sourcing soy, as it is often farmed using genetically modified (GMO) techniques. While the verdict is still out on whether eating GMO soy is dangerous, anyone pursuing a natural and healthy diet will probably want to avoid this.
So, what’s our verdict on soy protein powder as a supplement for increasing your protein intake?
It is a good source of protein, especially for vegans, but should be used in combination with other proteins.
Generally speaking, we don’t recommend that you down shakes made from the same protein powder two or three times a day. We all know that variety in the diet is important, and this extends to protein powders as well.
You get a better mix of nutrients if you down a variety of different protein powders. So, maybe try soy in the morning to start your day off with a strong protein boost. After your workout, down a whey protein shake. This is a fast-releasing protein that will immediately give your muscles the fuel that they need. Then, before bed, have some casein protein. This is a slow-release protein that will help prevent your body from eating its own muscles for fuel overnight.
Variety is the spice of life.
5 Best Soy Protein Powders
The Protein Works Soy Protein Powder
If you are looking for an affordable source of soy protein powder, then check out this isolate mix from The Protein Works. It is a very high protein mix, offering more than 85 grams per 100 grams. That is about 25 grams per standard 30-gram serving.
The company promises that it is made from ethically sourced soy, and there is little need to worry about GMOs since it is manufactured in the UK, where this is strictly controlled.
This is highly palatable that comes in a variety of flavours including Choc Peanut Cookie, Choc Mint Brownie, and Caramel Macchiato.
- £18.99 per KG
- 85.8 grams of protein per 100 grams
- 364 calories per 100 grams
- Variety of flavours
PhD Nutrition Smart Protein Plant
If you want the big protein boost that you get with soy, but would like to try and balance out your diet with a variety of other plant-based protein, then try this formula from the PhD Nutrition Store.
It delivers a high protein formula through a mix of pea and soy protein, with added flavours to make it palatable. Choose from Chocolate Cookie, Eton Mess, Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, and Lemon Drizzle Cake.
You get a slightly lower protein kick than you get with pure soy protein, but with 20 grams per serving, it more than does the job.
- £20.00 per KG
- 79 grams of protein per 100 grams
- 385 calories per 100 grams
- Variety of flavours
- Mix of pea and soy proteins
My Protein Soy Protein Isolate Food Supplement
Another affordable brand offering quality soy protein is My Protein, which is again highly concentrated. They claim to have 90 grams of protein per 100 grams. Even if this falls a little short, it is a good dose.
The recipe is guaranteed vegan and included in their MyVegan range of products. Choose between unflavoured, chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.
- £17.37 per KG
- 90 grams of protein per 100 grams
- 360 calories per 100 grams
- Variety of flavours
Haya Labs 100% Soy Protein Isolate Non-GMO
If you are looking for a natural soy protein powder that still tastes good, then check out this certified non-GMO powder from Haya Labs.
It uses a natural cocoa flavour to make the mix palatable, and delivers a decent dose of protein, though not quite as much as some of the other options on this list.
- £30 per KG
- 74 grams of protein per 100 grams
- 360 calories per 100 grams
- Cocoa flavour
Trec Nutrition Soy Protein Isolate
This is a respected brand in Europe that is slowly breaking into the UK market, and their spy protein is one of their great products.
Expect 25 grams of protein from a single serving, and choose from unflavoured or chocolate as your tastebuds and regime prefer.
- £30 per KG
- 85 grams of protein per 100 grams
- 368 calories per 100 grams
- Unflavoured or Chocolate
Other Soy Protein Supplements
Protein powder mashed up into a shake is not the only way that you can use soy to add some extra protein to your diet.
There are lots of great protein bars out there, some of them containing soy for a nice protein boost. For example, check out these PhD Smart Plant Bar high protein bars from the PhD Nutrition store.
They are made with a mix of pea and soy protein to deliver 23 grams of protein per bar with just 256 calories. That is about the same amount of protein that you would get with a shake, though double the calories, assuming that you make your shake with water rather than milk.
Vegans might also be interested in soy protein vegan egg whites, like the option from Buxtrade. This is just as high in fibre as soy powders, delivering around 90 grams of protein per 100 grams.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
A lot of people considering incorporating protein powders into their diet are also asking the question, just how much protein do I need?
The standard recommended daily intake of protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound. So, a woman of about 130 pounds should be eating around 45 grams of protein per day, and a 180-pound man should be eating around 65 grams per day.
However, that is the amount of protein that you need if you just want to stay where you are, and you don’t already have a lot of muscle that is burning through energy at an incredibly fast rate.
If you are looking to transform your body, either building up muscle or losing weight, you need a lot more.
The exact amount depends on what you are trying to achieve, but if you don’t want to get a personalized recommendation from a sports dietitian, then the general rule of thumb is that you need to be eating 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass.
Lean muscle mass is your bones, organs, and muscles. Basically, you don’t want to be feeding the fat.
So, if our 130-pound (59 kg) woman has 25 percent body fat, she needs to be ingesting 100 grams of protein per day.
If our 180-pound (82 kg) man has 20 percent body fat, he needs to be eating almost 150 grams of protein per day.
That’s a lot of protein, and even on the best diet, it can be hard to manage. This is where protein shakes come in. It is a relatively quick, simple, and low-calorie way to boost your protein intake.
The average 25-30-gram protein shake (of any variety) contains 20-25 grams of protein. And it is recommended that you have a maximum of two protein shakes per day, and try and get the rest of your protein through more traditional dietary methods.
The best time to have a protein shake is directly after a workout. Between about 15 and 60 minutes after a workout, your body is in repair mode, and will be seeking the protein it needs to do that, so it appreciates the nice big protein hit.
You can also use protein shakes as a meal replacement if you are looking to lose weight. If you have a lot of muscle, it can be a good idea to give yourself a protein injection before bed. This is because when you go a long time without eating, your body might start burning your muscles for energy if it can’t find it from another source.
Is soy protein powder bad for you?
No, soy protein powder is not bad for you, and is actually a great source of high-quality, complete protein. However, it should be consumed in moderation, as consumed in excess, it can affect the body’s ability to absorb dietary minerals, and may also have an impact on hormones.
Which is better for weight loss, soy or whey protein?
Boosting your protein is great for weight loss as it can help you build muscle to boost your metabolism, and it can help you feel satiated for longer, reducing appetite. While all protein powders should have this effect, studies suggest that whey protein is a little more effective than soy protein in terms of decreasing appetite.
How much soy is safe to consume?
How much soy is safe to consume depends on the individual. But as a general rule, limiting soy intake to around 30 grams per day should ensure against any negative effects.
The reputation of soy as a great source of dietary protein has suffered over the years as dietitians debate whether it is a superfood or a dietary disaster.
But there is no denying that soy is a source of high-quality protein, and one that is accessible to vegans. So, used sensibly and in moderation, soy protein powders can be an important dietary supplement for vegans looking to lose weight or build muscle.
Mixing up your daily protein intake with the occasional soy shake will certainly help you improve your results.
- A soy, whey and caseinate blend extends postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis – NCBI
- Nutritional and health benefits of soy proteins – National Library of Medicine
Last update on 2021-05-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API