There are two of us here at Superfoodly who are vegan athletes and we have tried just about every plant-based protein powder on the market.
The one we keep coming back to is Sunwarrior raw protein.
Now to be clear, they’re not perfect products. They definitely have some drawbacks.
But we have yet to find a powder from anyone who gets an A rating in every category. Upon weighing all the pros and cons, 3 out the 5 Warrior Blend flavors come out on top.
But for some people, Classic or Classic Plus will be the best choice.
Whether you’re a professional bodybuilder or just want to add a protein supplement to your diet, there are some things you definitely need to know about these protein powders before you buy.
Fortunately, you’re getting that inside scoop from the ideal source; reviews from not just one-time or occasional customers, but those who have used their products long term, to tell you how they work over time.
If you don’t have time to read this review the short answer is that Warrior Blend Mocha is the best for flavored. You can get it on Amazon for a good price. For unflavored and almost no sodium, go with the Classic.
In addition to using all their flavors, we’ve experimented with many other plant-based brands like Vega Sport Performance, Aloha, MRM Veggie Protein, Garden of Life Raw, and so forth. This allows us to really compare and contrast with the competition on flavor, nutrition, and digestibility.
Warrior Blend vs. Classic Plus vs. Classic
Not to be price snobs, but typically when a given nutrition brand has multiple versions of the same product, it’s the most expensive one that is the highest quality.
Which Sunwarrior protein is best? Maybe you should just choose their most expensive product.
Oh wait, that doesn’t work!
While pricing for each can and does differ depending on who you buy them from, the MSRP is the same for all 3 product lines. What is the difference between Warrior Blend and Classic Protein then?
First, let’s review the traits that all 3 of their lineups have in common…
- USDA certified organic ingredients
- Non GMO
- Gluten free
- Soy free
- Nut free, with the exception of the coconut in Warrior Blend berry and mocha flavors (because coconut is technically a tree nut)
- No added sugars
- No artificial or synthetic ingredients
That is where the similarities stop and the differences between them begin.
Starting with the protein. As we all know, not all sources are equal in terms of how much essential amino acids they have, like the BCAAs. But before we show you you their amino acid profiles, here’s an overview of how these raw powders compare. They recently reformulated and what follows are the new nutrition facts:
|Warrior Blend||Classic Plus||Classic Rice|
|Flavors||chocolate, vanilla, natural, berry, mocha||chocolate, vanilla, natural||chocolate, vanilla, natural|
|Calories||100 (90 for natural)||100||80|
|Total Protein (g)||18 for vanilla, 17 for chocolate, 16 for natural, berry, and mocha||18 for vanilla, 17 for chocolate and natural||16 for chocolate,15 for vanilla, 17 for natural|
|Protein Source||pea, hemp, goji berry||pea, brown rice, quinoa, chia seed, amaranth||brown rice|
|Sodium (mg)||264 to 352||160 to 310||25 to 55|
|Carbs (g)||2 to 5||2 to 4||2 to 4|
|Fiber (g)||1||2 to 3||0 to 2|
|Iron (mg)||5 to 6 (30-32% of DV)||4 (22% of DV)||1.8 to 2.7 (10-15% of DV)|
|Calcium (mg)||25 to 34 (2-3% of DV)||34 to 36 (3% of DV)||60 (6% of DV)|
|Vitamin C (mg)||none listed||45 to 54 (50-54% of DV)||0|
Too much salt?
The American Heart Association recommends you limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day (1). Excess sodium contributes to high blood pressure as well as inflammation, which plays a role in countless diseases.
What Warrior Blend flavor tastes best? Definitely the chocolate… it actually tastes like chocolate pudding. Makes a great protein-packed dessert!
The problem is that chocolate is also the highest sodium flavor. If you used 2 scoops (for 30+ grams of protein) that would be 740 mg or nearly 50% of the daily sodium intake per the AHA guidelines.
Both dairy milk from cows and plant-based milks have 100 to 200 mg of sodium per cup. That holds true whether you’re talking about something cheap like Trader Joe’s brand, or some higher end brand like Califia Farms almond milk.
If you use two scoops of Warrior Blend chocolate + milk + the natural sodium content of whatever else you add, your post workout shake by itself may put you at 70% of daily sodium.
To see how they compare, here is how much sodium is in each serving of other popular dairy-based and vegan protein powders:
- Muscle Milk chocolate = 80 mg
- Vega Sport Performance protein, chocolate = 180 mg
- Isopure whey protein isolate, unflavored = 260 mg
- Optimum Nutrition 100% whey gold standard, chocolate = 130 mg
- Garden of Life organic plant protein, vanilla = 150 mg
This is really our only major criticism of their products, at least the Warrior Blend and Classic Plus. If you’re a bodybuilder, you may be using several scoops per day. It’s not healthy for you to have that much salt.
Plant Fusion is actually worse, but not by much; 390 mg of sodium for their chocolate raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, and unflavored varieties as of the time of this review.
The good news is that two new Warrior flavors came out which are a step in the right direction.
They’re still a far cry from being low sodium, but they do have lower amounts of salt versus their chocolate, vanilla, and natural (surprisingly even their “natural” is 290 mg per scoop).
- Berry = 210 mg
- Mocha = 240 mg
Both of those flavors are delicious, even on their own mixed with just water and a spoon.
Why use a spoon? Because a blender adds more air and that might cause more gas and bloating.
The best choice for low sodium is the raw Sunwarrior Classic Protein Natural flavor, which is just 25 mg per scoop. The Classic Vanilla (55 mg) and Chocolate (45 mg) are higher, but still very low relative to the Classic Plus and Warrior lineups.
Other stuff? That’s all good
With the exception of the ridiculous sodium content, everything else you see on the nutrition facts label is good for you. Each is fat free or close to it with under 1 gram.
How much they have is less than 1% of your daily value. That can be said whether you’re talking about Sunwarrior Classic protein natural, or one with a lot of flavor like Warrior Blend chocolate.
This is because the flavors with added sweetness are getting it from organic stevia extract, not sugars.
But even if they did have carbs, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
After a bodybuilder has an intense bench pressing session or similar, they’re going to need some simple carbs to replenish the depleted glucose and glycogen in their muscles. This is why some fresh fruit or juice post-workout is a great idea.
Previously the berry and mocha Warrior Blend flavors had 3 grams of sugar. When reformulated, that was dropped, Now all flavors are sugar free.
Thank you for not adding chicory root/inulin/Jerusalem artichoke!
Natural fiber content in foods is good, but this recent trend of adding these to seemingly everything is wrecking havoc on many peoples’ digestive systems. They are oligosaccharides and did you know they weren’t even counted as dietary fiber until recently (2):
“…more recent definitions have included oligosaccharides as dietary fiber, not based on their chemical measurement as dietary fiber by the accepted total dietary fiber (TDF) method, but on their physiological effects.”
That’s right, these “new” forms of fiber are usually not the same as what you are getting in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (which are mostly polysaccharides). For many people, inulin and similar sources cause gas and bloating, or even abdominal cramps and pain if consumed in excess.
If you’re making a smoothie, you are already getting plenty of fiber from the fruits you add. Too much fiber, whether from oligosaccharides or polysaccharides, is actually bad for you. Gas, bloating, and digestive pain can result.
We get why people want to believe in probiotics. Farts from protein shakes are disgusting and a major problem for many. For non-vegan sources, it’s seemingly an even bigger problem with whey and casein powders.
This Sunwarrior review is not the time and place to go over all the science, but in a nutshell, probiotics are good beyond your stomach but not in your stomach or immediately proceeding it.
The problem with oral probiotic consumption is they inevitably pass through your stomach and upper digestive tract, where they may ferment and cause more farting in some people. It’s why we prefer Sunwarrior Warrior Blend vs. Vega One or Vega Sport Performance, which both contain over 1 billion CFUs of spore-forming bacillus coagulans per serving.
We think the probiotic craze has gotten way out of hand and people are overdoing it. For some it may have a net benefit, but for others it may create the side effect you’re trying to avoid!
The Sunwarrior Classic protein powder doesn’t have any, nor do the Warrior Blends. If you want 50% of the vitamin C daily value, go with Classic Plus.
All of these are excellent sources of iron. Getting 10-15% of your daily value from the Classic brown rice protein is impressive considering an 80 calorie serving is only 4% of a 2,000 calorie diet (an athlete’s diet usually has more).
All of the 5 different Warrior Blend flavors provide around 30% of the daily value per scoop, making them the clear winner for iron.
Paleo friendly or not?
Is Sunwarrior protein paleo? Using the strictest definition, no.
This is because it contains rice and refined protein powder is not considered “real” food under that diet.
Though we would like to point out there is a lot of hypocrisy with the Paleo diet, as almost all claim coconut oil is paleo friendly, yet to get that you have to highly processed and refine coconuts.
Is Warrior Blend protein paleo friendly since it doesn’t contain rice? We would say so, since the protein sources are pea, hemp, and goji.
Best choice for raw?
What is the best raw protein powder? In our opinion, it’s Sunwarrior.
Garden of Life Organic Raw Fit Vanilla is an okay option. It is low sodium, but it contains a laundry list of ingredients we would prefer to do without.
Some are allergy concerns, since the ingredients list sesame and a few other known food sensitivities. Considering the higher calories, the BCAA content is also disappointing.
Now we do like the non-raw vanilla Garden of Life Organic Plant Protein because its grain free and lower sodium than Warrior Blend and Classic Plus. Though it’s irrelevant to this topic since it is NOT raw.
If you’re okay with that, its flavor is much better than any of the vanilla Sunwarrior raw powders. But it’s only sold in a small 10 serving bag, which makes it a bad choice for frequent users.
Amino acid profiles
The ingredients list doesn’t tell you how much of each item there is, but you can bet the flavorings represent only a trivial percentage.
This is because how much Branched Chain Amino Acids and other essentials there are only changes by an insignificant amount, when comparing natural protein versus vanilla or another flavor.
However to keep this comparison 100% apples to apples, we used the chocolate flavor for each product.
|Warrior Blend Chocolate||Classic Plus Chocolate||Classic Protein Chocolate|
|Essential Amino Acids (mg)|
|Non-Essential Amino Acids (mg)|
|Total Protein||16 g||17 g||16 g|
All are complete protein sources with a good ratio of amino acids. With the Warrior Blend we seem to experience the best muscle gain over time versus other brands like Vega.
For the brand Plant Fusion, the taste was good but we never used it long term since there was too much sodium and other ingredients we did not like.
One of the biggest surprises you may get from this review is how excellent the profile is for Sunwarrior Classic protein powder, which only contains brown rice and if flavored, natural vanilla or chocolate.
If standardized for equal calorie amounts, when you compare whey vs. brown rice protein, it’s the latter which actually wins. Yes, the vegan protein source actually beats the “gold standard” whey protein for isoleucine and valine, which are 2 of the 3 BCAAs. How much higher whey is for the other, leucine, is so trivial it really doesn’t matter; only one-half of 1%.
Which should you choose?
The best choice for men is different than for women. This is because the ingredients of Sunwarrior Classic Plus protein lists chia. Sure, these seeds are superfoods, but men will want to consume them in moderation.
Most men buy soy free protein because they don’t want the phytoestrogens from soy (and we agree, that’s a smart decision). Soy get most of their phytoestrogens from isoflavones.
Another type of phytoestrogen, lignans, are found in sesame, flax, and chia seeds.
Chia are still an excellent source of omega 3 and natural fiber. Consuming light amounts is fine for men. But if you are a professional athlete or bodybuilder, then you may be consuming lots of protein powder multiple times per day, every day of the week.
For this reason, we only recommend the Sunwarrior Classic Plus for women. It’s not that it’s “bad” for your average guy, but the chia might not be the best idea if you’re a heavy user.
|Warrior Blend||Classic Plus||Classic|
|Protein sources||pea, hemp, goji berry||pea, brown rice, quinoa, chia seed, amaranth||brown rice|
|Who uses it according to manufacturer||athletes, fitness gurus, muscle enthusiasts, super active souls, yogis, chefs||athletes, fitness gurus, active souls, yogis, chefs, health enthusiasts||those with sensitivities, connoisseurs of simplicity, chefs, hippies|
|Who we recommend it for||male and female bodybuilders, athletes, those who want flavorful powder which tastes great even on its own, those who want a grain free source||females, those who want sweetness but less than Warrior Blend||male and female bodybuilders and athletes who want a healthy, low sodium, non-sweet option to blend with|
Our top picks for 2020
After an intense weight lifting session, it is nice to have a rewarding sweet shake, rather than something which tastes earthy and feels like a chore to drink.
For that reason, we recommend the Warrior Blend mocha because its flavor is almost as good as the chocolate, but has a bit less sodium. And so you don’t get bored, switch between mocha and the berry flavor.
Whatever you do, don’t use the Warrior Blend natural or vanilla with just water, because they taste nasty by themselves. With mocha, chocolate, and berry, you can mix it with just water and it’s delicious.
For blended smoothies which contain other tasty ingredients, to reduce your sodium intake you may want to use the Sunwarrior Classic natural flavor, which is made without stevia.
As you see, brown rice has a great amino acid profile and if you are concerned you’re not getting enough BCAAs, you can just use more being that it’s low sodium and has a slightly lower calorie count; 80 vs. 100 for the other two varieties.