As existing brands have improved their protein formulas and new brands have entered the protein space touting better flavors, I've found a few brands that make protein products I'm satisfied with over the years. Still, it feels like even the protein products I like have their pitfalls; either they contain too much sugar or they have a strange, cardboard like texture. Sometimes, even the bars labeled with words like "natural" and "organic" contain unnecessary fillers, chemicals, or sugar alcohol, so I'm always on the hunt for a clean, delicious-tasting alternative.
Scrolling from our Instagram (@thecleanmethod) I came across a company that claimed to have created the "cleanest" vegan protein powder. With a description like this, I had to get my hands on it and give it a try! After some back and forth DM'ing with the company, named Pure Charge Nutrition, they were kind enough to send me two blends to test: Dark Cocoa and Vanilla Bean. What I immediately loved about Pure Charge Nutrition was their passion for their clean protein products, and the fact that they made it clear that they were seeking an honest, no BS review!
Upon receipt of the two 100% plant-based proteins, one thing on their packaging stood out to me immediately: you could count the ingredients in each formula on one hand -- literally! If you're a fit foodie like me that's obsessed with finding products that are made as close to nature as possible, you know they're incredibly rare. But PCN Protein Powders might have just made the cut.
Here's what was in both formulas:
- A proprietary protein blend (consisting of two plant-based ingredients: Pea Protein & Organic Brown Rice Protein)
- Natural Flavors
- Stevia Extract
Plus, both formulas (Dark Cocoa and Vanilla Bean) have 21 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar!
That's it! The only difference between the Dark Cocoa and Vanilla Bean flavored protein powder formulas was one ingredient: the Organic Alkalized Cocoa Powder found in the former.
In addition to the minimal ingredients, these protein powders met all of the other "clean" criteria we use to evaluate products. They're all-natural, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, diary-free, soy-free and hypoallergenic, making either flavor fitting for paleo, vegans, gluten-free foodies or anyone with common food sensitivities and allergies following a strict or restrictive diet. Their ingredients were free from artificial additives, colors, sweeteners, sugars, bulking agents, stabilizers, emulsifiers and fillers. In addition to their clean ingredients, both formulas contain complete Amino Acid profiles, which are necessary for your body to actually rebuild protein and repair muscles following a workout.
Even though I was thrilled with the minimal amount of ingredients, I wondered if the protein powders would taste good as a result. After all, how good can pretty simply made protein taste?
Apparently - delicious!
I tried tried PCN Vanilla Bean Plant Protein first and I was totally satisfied with the flavor! It could have passed for vanilla ice cream, without the chalky texture that I find in so many other protein powders and even bars. (I did, however, take the company's suggestion and mix the powder with 4 oz water and 3 oz unsweetened non-dairy milk - in my case, pea milk - to ensure a smooth texture.) Per usual, I also added some greens and fruit to my smoothie. I loved that these extra ingredients didn't kill the protein's natural Vanilla flavor. I had my smoothie first thing in the morning, about 2 hours before I hit the gym, and the combination of nutrients and Amino Acid building clean protein gave me the perfect, healthy energy boost to start my day. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't feel bloated after sipping my PCN Vanilla Bean Plant Protein smoothie, especially because I combined fruit and veggies with the protein. That's likely because PCN intentionally created an easily digestible formula with a high thermic effect.
I'm not a huge chocolate fan but I really enjoyed the Dark Cocoa protein powder that I incorporated into my smoothie the next day as a snack, about 30 minutes after my workout. (Aside from first thing in the morning and before bed, a great time to have your smoothie is after a workout to spark muscle recovery.) I didn't add any veggies or fruit to this one (with the exception of a banana -- and some Chia seeds that I usually add for Omega 3s) because I thought that might interact with the flavor. As I was taking one level scoop from the tub, I noticed that the protein was super high in iron (180%, as was the Vanilla flavor, to be exact.) This makes sense for plant-based consumers, like vegans, interested in Pure Charge Nutrition's protein powders, because vegans can be at risk for iron-deficiency anemia. This is because the type of iron that is easily consumed by the body (Heme iron) is found in the animal products that vegans avoid.
For more information, including nutrient profiles and pricing, visit www.PureChargeNutrition.com. Don't forget to check out their subscription-based service, which allows you to save money and ensure you never run out of your protein! Also follow them on Instagram (@pure_charge_nutrition) for more news and deals.