I want to start adding protein powder into my routine, but I have some food intolerances and don’t always trust the ingredients listed on those big tubs of processed protein. Is it possible to make your own at home? —Jon L.
You’re right to be wary of those overly processed protein supplements. Consumer Reports tested 15 of the most popular brands and found that all of them contained heavy metals like arsenic and lead. While most had relatively low levels, some clocked in as nearly toxic—bad news, considering consumers take them up to three times a day.
Many commercial formulas use either whey concentrate or isolate, both of which are derived from milk. That means it’s not the best option for those with dairy or lactose intolerances (whey is notorious for causing “protein farts”—gross, but good to know if you have a sensitive stomach).
And even if whey doesn’t bother you, or you’ve found a vegan product that’s free of allergenic ingredients (I love Vega or Garden of Life), it’s nice to have the chance to customize your own protein powder.
This basic recipe works nicely—hemp, chia, and spirulina are all excellent sources of vegan protein, and chocolatey cacao has antioxidants and adds flavor.
Here’s my favorite vegan protein powder recipe; it’s so easy to make at home and comes together really quickly, so you can make it one serving at a time or do a big batch for the week. Plus, it packs in 20 grams of vegan protein plus essential amino acids you need to rebuild muscle. The recipe makes one to two servings—for a denser, more high-protein shake, you can use all of it at once.
Chocolate Vegan Protein Powder
Yields: 1 to 2 servings
Active Time: 1 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes
In a spice grinder, blend the chia, hemp, and spirulina into a fine powder. Transfer powder to a bowl and whisk in remaining ingredients. To make a protein shake, add to 1 to 1 ½ cups of almond or coconut milk and blend until smooth.
Store in an air-tight container in the pantry for up to three months.
If you want to mix it up and throw in some extra health benefits, here are some of my favorite add-ins.
All of these good-for-you ingredients pair perfectly with the basic recipe above—go with whatever sounds good to you on any given day. For example, in the video we added in maca powder for a bit of extra energy and mood-balancing.
- Ashwagandha: Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, it can help lower chronically high anxiety levels, decrease cortisol levels, and reduce symptoms of stress like fatigue and temporary brain fog. A teaspoon should do the trick.
- Green coffee powder: Some studies suggest that it can boost metabolism by 3 to 11 percent. Yet because of its high caffeine content—roughly as much as you’d find in a serving of coffee—green coffee powder gives some people jitters. I recommend experimenting with this one to see if it’s right for you. Start with half a teaspoon.
- Bee pollen: About 40 percent of the nutrition in a teaspoon of bee pollen comes from protein, which is pretty significant for a plant-based substance. Essential amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, beneficial fatty acids make up the other 60 percent, including 28 different minerals like calcium, magnesium, selenium, nucleic acids, lecithin, and cysteine.
- Cinnamon: A sprinkle of cinnamon brings out a little more of the rich, chocolatey taste of cacao in the basic recipe—and it’s been proven to effectively lower blood sugar levels.
- Rhodiola: This mushroom powder is believed to improve your mental clarity, kind of like a good cup of coffee. Hey, if it’s good enough for Gwyneth, it’s good enough for me.
- Cordyceps: Another superfood mushroom, cordyceps can boost energy and speed up muscle recovery.