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You don’t need to be an avid gym-goer to incorporate protein powder into your diet. It’s true that it helps build muscle, but the right protein powder can do way more than that.

Protein is an important macronutrient that benefits your immune system, keeps your organs functioning, and helps control your appetite.

With so many options out there, we’ve broken down the best protein powders in a variety of categories to help you find your match made in protein heaven.

To pick the best protein powders, we looked at the following criteria:

  • Flavors. Variety is the spice of life. We want protein powders that offer more than one flavor that doesn’t taste like chalk.
  • Nutritional makeup. We expect these powders to pack in the protein, but what other benefits do they bring to the table?
  • Ingredients. If the ingredient list is as long as a CVS receipt, we don’t want it. We’re looking for short and sweet!
  • Customer feedback. Lots of positive feedback from customer reviews means a bigger chance of being happy with your purchase and the product.
  • Vetted products. We put every product we considered through a thorough vetting process that checks for unsupported health and disease claims, shady business practices, FDA/FTC warning letters, and lawsuits involving a company’s products. We also made sure that the company is transparent about the ingredients it uses, doesn’t use any illegal ingredients, and provides dosage information. Only products that passed vetting made this list.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $29
  • $$ = $29–$39
  • $$$ = over $39

1. Best-tasting protein powder

Ghost Whey

Typewhey isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate
Price$$$ (for 2 pounds)
Calories120–140
Protein25–16 grams (g)
Carbs2–5 g
Sugar0 g (blueberry toaster pastry flavor has 1 g)
Flavorscereal milk, peanut butter cereal milk, fruity cereal milk, cinnamon cereal milk, coffee ice cream, blueberry toaster pastry, and milk chocolate
How to take itAdd it to your milk to make it taste like you just finished a bowl of cereal.
CertificationsN/A

You just can’t look past these flavor options! What tastes better than that last gulp of milk from the bottom of your cereal bowl?! Many reviewers mention that it satisfies sweet cravings without all the sugar.

A bonus for those with a soy allergy is that this brand uses sunflower protein. All flavors are soy- and gluten-free (except blueberry toaster pastry, because it has actual toaster pastry inside 😋).

It’s got mostly positive reviews and lots of shout-outs for awesome flavor. But, some reviewers say the taste leaves a lot to be desired and can sometimes seem artificial.

Considerations: There’s one downside that may or may not impact you — the product contains artificial sweeteners, specifically sucralose. Even though it’s an FDA-approved non-nutritive sweetener, some people who are more sensitive to artificial sweeteners could experience gastrointestinal discomfort if they consume too much.

Pros

  • amazing flavors
  • soy-free, gluten-free (expect blueberry toaster pastry flavor)
  • manufactured in a cGMP-compliant facility

Cons

  • contains artificial sweetener sucralose
  • some reviewers say the taste seems artificial
  • not third-party tested

2. Best whey protein powder

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein

Typewhey protein isolate and concentrate
Price$$ (for 2 pounds) or $$$ (for 5 pounds)
Calories120
Protein24 g
Carbs3 g
Sugar1 g
Flavors20 flavors ranging from cake donut to Key lime pie. You can also stick with classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
How to take itThe brand’s website recommends combining the powder with cold water, milk, or your beverage of choice. These flavors would be great blended into a smoothie too!
CertificationsGMP-, Informed Sport-, and Informed Choice- registered

This gold standard meets our standards as the best whey protein powder. With 20 flavors to choose from, you’re bound to find the protein of your dreams. Plus, it contains BCAAs (aka Branched Chain Amino Acids), which have been shown to reduce exercise fatigue and muscle soreness.

We also appreciate that Optimum Nutrition manufactures all of its products in a facility that is GMP-, Informed Sport, and Informed Choice-registered. These certs help ensure high quality supplements that are free from banned substances.

Reviewers love this one for the most part, but some say the taste is a bit artificial and that it doesn’t mix very well.

Considerations: It contains the artificial sweeteners acesulfame potassium and sucralose, so if you’re avoiding artificial sweeteners you may wanna pass on this one. This protein powder also won’t be a good fit if you’re allergic to milk or soy, since it contains both.

Pros

  • LOTS of flavors
  • contains BCAAs
  • third party-tested
  • manufactured in a GMP-, Informed Sport-, Informed Choice-registered facility

Cons

  • contains artificial sweeteners

3. Best chocolate protein powder

Ascent Micellar Casein Powder

Typecasein protein
Price$$$ (for 2 pounds)
Calories110–140
Protein25 g
Carbs1–6 g
Sugar0 g
Flavorschocolate, chocolate peanut butter, and vanilla bean
How to take itAscent recommends making pudding. You just need 1 scoop of powder and 8 oz of milk or milk alternative. Let chill and enjoy!
CertificationsInformed Sport, gluten-free

This casein-based protein powder has RAVE reviews for taste, especially for the chocolate flavor.

Casein is the other type of protein found in milk, next to whey. It’s slower-digesting than whey, taking 6 to 8 hours to completely break down. That allows a slow release of essential amino acids, which can help you recover while you sleep! The addition of essential amino acids is also important since your body can’t produce them.

This specific casein protein powder makes the list because it has no artificial ingredients or flavors and is gluten-, soy-, and hormone-free. Plus, this powder has BCAAs and is Informed Sport Certified (third-party tested to ensure the absence of banned substances).

Not everyone is a fan of the taste, though. Some reviewers say it tastes too strongly of stevia (which can have a bitter aftertaste) and doesn’t mix well.

Considerations: One downside is that this powder comes in only three flavors, but they’re all classics!

Pros

  • added essential amino acids and BCAAs
  • no artificial ingredients
  • third-party tested
  • Informed Sport-certified, certified gluten-free

Cons

  • some reviewers say it doesn’t mix well
  • not a ton of flavors to choose from

4. Best plant-based powder

Nuzest Clean Lean Protein

Typepea protein
Price$$$ (for 17.6 oz)
Calories90–100
Protein19–20 g
Carbs1–2 g
Sugar0–1 g
Flavorssmooth vanilla, just natural, real coffee, rich chocolate, wild strawberry
How to take itEnjoy in a glass of your favorite beverage, blended in a smoothie, or added to baked goods.
Certificationsnon-GMO, gluten-free, GMP-registered

This plant-based protein is made from high quality European peas. It’s also naturally sweetened with a plant called the Katemfe fruit (aka African serendipity berry). It contains a fruit protein called Thaumatin, which gives it a sweet flavor without creating a spike in blood sugar.

Reviewers rave about the limited non-GMO ingredients and say it’s easier to digest than whey protein. Nuzest Clean Lean Protein naturally contains all nine essential amino acids, is a good source of iron, and is allergen-free

Most reviewers agree that it tastes great and they are v satisfied with the ingredients, but others report that the protein powder can be way too sweet.

Considerations: Keep your wallet open and ready for this protein powder. The cost is on the higher end, and the larger serving size means you’ll go through a lot, depending on how much protein powder you use.

Pros

  • minimal ingredients
  • no artificial sweeteners
  • third-party tested and manufactured in a GMP-registered facility
  • certified non-GMO and gluten-free

Cons

  • expensive

5. Best vegan protein powder

Vega Protein & Greens Plant-Based Protein Powder

Typepea protein
Price$ (for 30 g)
Calories110–120
Protein20 g
Carbs4 g
Sugar0 g
Flavorsberry, chocolate, vanilla, plain unsweetened
How to take itSimply add it to your favorite beverage or smoothie. The brand also recommends using it in baking by swapping the powder for 1/8 to 1/4 of the flour in a recipe.
Certificationsnon-GMO, vegan, GMP-compliant

In addition to being vegan, gluten-free, and available in many flavors, this powder contains greens! To bump up the amounts of iron and vitamin K you get in, it has ingredients like spinach, kale, and broccoli powder. These additions make it stand out from many other protein powders — and you still have some great flavors to choose from.

While some reviewers absolutely love the taste, others say it’s a bit of adjustment. Because of all the greens it contains, it may taste a little too salad-y for your liking — or alternatively, just the right amount of salad-y.

Considerations: Because of that added vitamin K, people who are on a blood-thinning medication (such as warfarin, aka Coumadin) need to be careful. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin K intake needs to be consistent because it can decrease the blood-thinning effect.

Pros

  • contains added greens for extra nutrition
  • third-party tested and manufactured in a GMP-compliant facility
  • certified non-GMO and gluten-free

Cons

  • some don’t love the taste

6. Best pea protein powder

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein

Typepea protein
Price$$ (for 21.86 oz)
Calories110–130
Protein22 g
Carbs2–5 g
Sugar0 g
Flavorschocolate, unflavored, vanilla, and vanilla chai
How to take itYou can either drink it in your favorite beverage or add the unflavored variety to savory dishes
CertificationsGMP-certified, Informed-Choice, organic, non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free

Beyond pea protein, Garden of Life contains 13 organic sprouts to bump up that protein. What makes us really love it is the addition of BCAAs, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. With 3 billion colony-forming units (CFU) of live probiotics and 13 different enzymes, this protein powder is designed to go extra easy on your belly.

This protein powder is well-loved by most reviewers. However, some say that it really messes with their digestion and that the taste just isn’t there.

Considerations: This product uses stevia and erythritol to sweeten things up. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, which provides sweetness without the calories. But sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues for some people.

Pros

  • contains BCAAS, probiotics, and digestive enzymes
  • third-party tested and manufactured in a GMP-certified facility
  • Informed-Choice certified and certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free

Cons

  • contains sugar alcohols
  • some reviewers say it causes GI upset
  • not a ton of flavor choices

7. Best protein powder for weight loss

NutriBiotic Rice Protein

Typerice protein
Price$ (for 0.53 oz or 21 oz)
Calories60
Protein12 g
Carbs2 g
Sugar1 g
Favorschocolate, plain, vanilla, and mixed berry
How to take itAdd 1 heaping spoonful to any beverage or smoothie you’d like. Or add it to your favorite recipes!
CertificationsGMP-compliant

At just 60 calories per serving (and roughly one gram of net carbs), this rice protein powder is ideal for weight loss — whether you’re limiting calories or cutting carbs.

It’s also difficult to find a rice-based protein that comes in flavors other than plain, so we were pumped to see this available in vanilla. The ingredient list is simple too: enzymatically processed rice protein from whole-grain sprouted brown rice, and natural flavors. Plus, it’s gluten- and GMO-free.

However, reviewers say that it’s gritty and some people just CAN’T with the taste.

Considerations: This powder is on the cheaper end but doesn’t contain as much protein as some others. It’s also very low in calories, so if you wanted to use it as a meal replacement, you would need to bulk it up with other foods like fruits, vegetables, or nuts.

Pros

  • low calories and carbs make it ideal for weight loss
  • third-party tested
  • gluten-free and non-GMO

Cons

  • gritty
  • some reviewers really dislike the taste
  • only 12 g protein per serving

8. Best hemp protein powder

Hemp Yeah! Max Fiber Hemp Protein Powder

Typehemp protein
Price$ (for 16 oz)
Calories110–130
Protein8–13 g
Carbs14–16 g
Sugar5 g
Flavorschocolate, unsweetened, and vanilla
How to take itTry blending it into your favorite smoothie or using it in place of flour in baking.
Certificationsnon-GMO, organic

Hemp protein comes from hemp seeds that are harvested from the Cannabis plant. Yes, the same one marijuana comes from — but without the THC (the psychoactive part).

Hemp is a great source of fiber, which is important since only 5 percent of adults get the recommended amount of dietary fiber each day. The combo of fiber and omega-3s is beneficial for several aspects of your health, including digestive and heart health.

Although it’s got great reviews, some reviewers absolutely despise the taste — likening it to wet lawn clippings. Yikes.

Considerations: This one comes in only two flavors. It also has much less protein than many other brands, sitting at 9 grams of protein per serving.

Pros

  • high in fiber and contains omega-3s
  • third-party tested
  • certified non-GMO and organic

Cos

  • less protein than other powders
  • reviewers dislike the taste

9. Best low carb protein powder for keto

Ancient Nutrition Keto Protein Powder

Typechicken and beef bone broth protein concentrate
Price$$$ (for 1.19 pounds)
Calories160
Protein18 g
Carbs2 g
Sugar0 g
Flavorschocolate, vanilla
How to take itBlend into a morning smoothie or simply stir into your favorite beverage.
CertificationsN/A

At just one gram of net carbs (that’s total carbs minus fiber) per serving, this protein powder is perfect for our keto peeps. It’s also got medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which may help you burn more fat during workouts.

It’s made from chicken and beef bone broth protein, which sounds pretty weird at first — but many reviewers absolutely love this powder. Others aren’t huge fans, though.

Considerations: This protein powder is expensive, so it may not be in your budget. Many other protein powders are low enough in carbs to be considered keto-friendly, even if they’re not marketed as such. Just be sure to check those labels!

Pros

  • keto-friendly
  • contains MCT oil
  • third-party tested

Cons

  • expensive
  • only 17 servings per container
  • not manufactured in GMP-compliant facility

10. Best protein powder for women

KOS Organic Plant Protein

Typeplant-based: pea protein, flaxseed, quinoa, pumpkin seed protein, and chia seeds
Price$$$ (for 2.6 pounds)
Calories160
Protein21 g
Carbs9 g
Sugar2 g
Flavorsmint chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate
How to take itMix it into cold water or a smoothie or use it in baked goods.
CertificationsGMP-compliant, organic

Don’t fall for marketing and reach for a protein powder that’s specifically advertised to women. This one meets our standard because it contains 40 percent of the daily iron females need. Women who have a heavy flow can be at greater risk of iron deficiency (iron is in blood, so blood loss = loss of iron).

This product is soy-, dairy-, and gluten-free. And it contains good amounts of macro- and micronutrients, so it could easily be used as a meal replacement. We’re looking at you, ladies on the go!

Reviews about the taste are pretty mixed. Some people love love LOVE it, while others are pretty disappointed and say it’s gritty. Some reviewers also say it made them bloated and gassy… and who drinks protein powder so they can feel bloated and gassy??

Considerations: This protein powder contains tree nuts, so steer clear if you have an allergy. It also has a small amount of added sugar and is a bit higher in total fat and carbs than some other powders.

Pros

  • contains antioxidants and digestive enzymes
  • high in iron
  • third-party tested and manufactured in a GMP-compliant facility
  • certified organic
  • soy-, dairy-, gluten-free, vegan

Cons

  • some reviewers dislike taste
  • may cause gas

11. Best organic protein powder

Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Protein Powder

Typeplant-based: pea, rice, and chia seed
Price$$ (for 2.03 pounds)
Calories150
Protein21 g
Carbs15 g
Sugar0 g
Flavorscreamy chocolate fudge, chocolate coconut, chocolate peanut butter, peanut butter, natural unsweetened, vanilla bean, iced coffee, strawberries and cream
How to take itOrgain recommends trying a “power smoothie”: Blend 2 scoops of protein powder with 12 ounces of your milk of choice, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, and 1 frozen banana.
CertificationsGMP-certified, organic, non-GMO, plant-based, vegan

This USDA-certified organic protein tops our list because, in addition to being organic, it meets the needs of a wide variety of people and eating patterns. It’s kosher, vegan, and free of soy and gluten. And it comes in six delicious flavors.

While many reviewers looove this protein powder, some say that the taste isn’t great. Some reviewers also say that it’s really gritty, and that it causes gas and bloating.

Considerations: This powder has more carbs than some others. And it contains the sugar alcohol erythritol, which could cause stomach issues for some people.

Pros

  • third-party tested and manufactured in a GMP-certified facility
  • certified organic, non-GMO, plant-based, and vegan
  • kosher, gluten-free, soy-free

Cons

  • contains sugar alcohols
  • may cause gas and bloating

12. Best unflavored protein powder

Naked Whey

Typewhey concentrate
Price$$$ (for 5 pounds)
Calories110–120
Protein22–25 g
Carbs2–8 g
Sugar1–7 g
Flavorsunflavored, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and matcha
How to take itshakes, smoothies, yogurt — the possibilities are endless with these classic flavors
CertificationsGMP-certified, Informed-Choice, gluten-free

Looking for a protein powder that can mix into ANYTHING — including plain water or chicken noodle soup? We got you. Reviewers love this unflavored protein powder because it mixes well and it’s truly tasteless.

The brand’s website claims the cows it uses are from Northern California and spend more than 300 days per year and 19 hours per day grazing in the pasture. This is compared to some brands that use cows from Wisconsin, where grazing is possible for only part of the year (because, ya know, snow).

The ingredient list is also super short — the unflavored has only one ingredient, and the other flavors have no more than three. This product is also gluten-free, contains 5.9 grams of BCAAs, and has no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.

Considerations: The price is on the high side. A nearly $100 investment in protein powder is doubletake-worthy, but one tub does contain over 70 servings.

Pros

  • simple ingredients
  • contains added BCAAs
  • mixes well
  • third-party tested and manufactured in a GMP-certified facility
  • Informed-Choice certified, certified gluten-free

Cons

  • expensive

13. Best egg white protein powder

MRM Nutrition Egg White Protein

Typeegg white protein
Price$$ (for 1.5 pounds)
Calories120
Protein23 g
Carbs4–5 g
Sugar0 g
Flavorschocolate and vanilla
How to take itMix 1 scoop into 8 ounces of water, almond milk, or coconut milk. Or add it to your smoothie!
CertificationGMP-compliant, gluten-free

Instead of eating six eggs, just add one scoop of this powder to your favorite drink or food to get in 23 grams of protein. The consistency of egg white protein also avoids that “chalky” texture and makes the powder easy and smooth to mix.

This product also includes vegetarian digestive enzymes that support healthy digestion and may limit gas and bloating. Reviewers say that it’s a good alternative if whey protein makes you bloaty too.

However, one reviewer said that their experience was inconsistent between tubs. Of the same flavor, one tub was very sweet and the other was only mildly sweet with a weaker taste.

Considerations: We’re a little bummed that there are only two flavors, but many egg white protein powders don’t even have flavors!

Pros

  • contains added digestive enzymes
  • free of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols
  • third-party tested and manufactured in a GMP-compliant facility
  • certified gluten-free

Cons

  • one reviewer reports variance in taste between containers
  • only two flavors

14. Best collagen protein powder

Vital Proteins Vital Performance Protein Powder

Typemilk protein isolate
Price$$ (for 18.7 oz)
Calories120–130
Protein25 g
Carbs5–6 g
Sugar5 g
Flavorschocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cold brew coffee
How to take itUse it in desserts, smoothies, or just water.
CertificationsNSF Certified for Sport, GMP-certified, organic, non-GMO

Vital Proteins gives you a good combination of protein and collagen with classic flavors. We know protein helps build and repair muscles, and collagen may lend a hand by keeping bones strong and relieving joint pain. The addition of MCT oil may improve exercise performance too.

Reviewers like the taste, but a few say that it’s gross when it’s mixed with just water — so make smoothies or use it in desserts for best results.

Considerations: You need two scoops per serving, and there are only 21 servings per container. That means if you use this every day, you need another container after about 3 weeks. That can really add up!

Pros

  • contains collagen and MCT oil
  • third party-tested, NSF Certified for Sport, and manufactured in a GMP-certified facility
  • certified organic and non-GMO

Cons

  • doesn’t taste good with just water
  • only 21 servings per container

15. Best protein powder for building muscle

Unico Apollo Pure Protein Powder

Typewhey isolate and concentrate, casein, and egg white blend
Price$$$ (for 2 pounds)
Calories120
Protein25 g
Carbs5 g
Sugar2 g
Flavorsvanilla ice cream, molten chocolate, birthday cupcake, strawberry cheesecake, cookie dough, banana cream pie, chocolate peanut butter, cinnamon roll, cookies ‘n cream, pumpkin spice latte, salted caramel
How to take itBake it or drink it! Use it in pancakes or cookies or just add it to a cold beverage.
CertificationsN/A

There’s always a debate on which type of protein powder helps build muscle. Instead of picking one, why not have them all? (And in ALL the flavors?? Who else has PSL protein?)

Apollo contains a 2:2:1 ratio of whey, casein, and egg white proteins. The combination of the three allows you to feel fuller for upward of 6 hours. That means more time for your body to heal and prepare for the next weightlifting sesh.

Apollo protein powder has A LOT of dedicated fans, but some reviewers say that some of the flavors are a little too sweet.

Considerations: Better keep your wallet full if you want to commit to this protein. It’s one of the most expensive on this list, and with 27 servings per container, you could blow through this faster than your muscles use it.

Pros

  • combination of whey, casein, and egg white protein
  • variety of flavors
  • third-party tested

Cons

  • some flavors may be too sweet
  • not manufactured in a GMP-compliant facility

16. Best protein powder for weight loss and muscle gain

RSP Nutrition TRUEFIT Meal Replacement Protein Powder

Typewhey protein concentrate
Price$$$ (for 4.14 pounds)
Calories160–170
Protein25 g
Carbs10–14 g
Sugar3 g
Flavorscinnamon churro, chocolate, and vanilla
How to take itPut it in your favorite beverage for a post-workout shake or even an on-the-go meal.
CertificationsN/A

Truefit provides 25 grams of protein per serving and contains 12 non-GMO fruits and vegetables. The addition of these fruits and veggies means it’s packed with fiber, which can help you feel full longer (esp when paired with protein). So the protein in this powder (and, well, all protein powders) delivers a one-two punch of helping you stay full and feeding those muscles.

If you’re trying to lose weight, this protein powder serves as a great base for an on-the-go meal replacement.

This product has pages and pages of excellent reviews, but some reviewers dislike the taste and others say it doesn’t mix well.

Considerations: If you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll need to skip this powder. It still contains milk, which will get that tummy rumbling (in a bad way). If you’re following a low carb diet, the carbs per serving may push you over your daily limit.

Pros

  • contains fiber and probiotics
  • gluten-free, non-GMO, no artificial ingredients

Cons

  • may not mix well
  • not manufactured in a GMP-compliant facility

PriceProtein typeGrams of protein per servingCertifications
Ghost Whey$$$whey isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate 25N/A
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein$$whey protein isolate and concentrate 24Informed Sport
Ascent Micellar Casein Powder$$$casein protein25Informed Sport
Nuzest Clean Lean Protein $$$pea protein 20non-GMO
Vega Protein & Greens Plant-Based Protein Powder$pea protein 20non-GMO, certified vegan
Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein$$pea protein 22organic, non-GMO
NutriBiotic Rice Protein$rice protein 12N/A
Hemp Yeah! Max Fiber Hemp Protein Powder$hemp protein13organic, non-GMO, certified vegan
Ancient Nutrition Keto Protein Powder$$$chicken and beef bone broth protein concentrate18N/A
KOS Organic Plant Protein$$$pea protein, flaxseed, quinoa, pumpkin seed protein, and chia seeds 21organic
Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Protein Powder$$pea, rice, and chia seed 21organic, non-GMO, certified plant-based
Naked Whey$$$whey concentrate25Informed Sport
MRM Nutrition Egg White Protein$$egg white protein23N/A
Vital Proteins Vital Performance Protein Powder$$milk protein isolate25NSF Certified for Sport
Unico Apollo Pure Protein Powder$$$whey isolate and concentrate, casein, and egg white blend 25N/A
RSP Nutrition TRUEFIT Meal Replacement Protein Powder$$$whey protein concentrate25N/A

Here’s how to pick your protein powder BFFLMM (BFF for lean muscle mass).

Protein source

Both animal-based and plant-based foods contain protein, and protein powder is just a broken-down version of that.

Animal-based protein

The most common animal-based protein powders you’ll come across are egg white protein (made from egg whites), whey protein(made from cow’s milk protein), and casein (also made from cow’s milk protein).

Casein is known for taking longer to break down and absorb than whey protein — but existing research on whether casein or whey protein is more effective is conflicting:

  • A study from 2012 on elderly men found that whey protein supports greater protein synthesis than casein protein.
  • Research from 2013 didn’t find a huge difference in lean muscle mass or body composition between collegiate female athletes who took casein vs. whey protein alongside a resistance training program.

According to a 2016 review, evidence is likely conflicting because of the different absorption times between the two. More evidence is needed, but it’s likely that there’s no difference in the long run. (The study even suggests taking casein protein before working out and whey protein after working out to give casein more time to absorb).

If you’re sensitive to dairy, you can opt for egg white protein instead. Research comparing egg white protein to whey and casein is limited, but a recent animal study suggests that egg white protein might be superior for muscle gain compared to whey and casein protein.

More research is needed to determine the “best” animal protein source. For now, it’s worth experimenting a bit based on your personal preferences to figure out what works best for you.

Plant-based protein

OTOH, plant-based protein powders are mostly made from legumes and seeds. The most common types are pea protein and soy protein, but you may also come across hemp, rice, chia, and more.

If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, it’s kind of a no-brainer — you should opt for a plant-based powder. But if you don’t have any diet restrictions, there are some things to keep in mind.

Plant-based proteins aren’t considered a source of complete protein because they’re usually low in or missing certain essential amino acids (aka building blocks of protein). According to research from 2018, that makes them less effective than animal-based proteins at building and maintaining muscle mass.

BUT, according to research from 2019, there are ways to fix that — including fortifying plant-based protein powders with essential amino acids, blending several plant protein sources, and mixing plant-based protein with animal-based protein.

Again, animal-based protein isn’t gonna work for vegans or vegetarians, so make sure any plant-based protein you’re considering adds in missing essential amino acids (like L-methionine and leucine) or mixes several plant-based protein sources together.

Protein type

You can also find any kind of protein powder in various forms. Here are the ones you’re likely to see on a label:

  • Protein concentrates. These contain 60 to 80 percent protein, with the remaining 20 to 40 percent being fat and carbohydrates. They’re created by using heat and acid or enzymes on whole foods to extract the protein.
  • Protein isolates. The process is filtered even further so that it removes more fat and carbs. Protein isolate powders contain 90 to 95 percent protein.
  • Protein hydrolysates. When the process of using heat with acid or enzymes continues, the amino acid bonds are broken down. This allows your body to absorb them more quickly, which is what happens with protein powders containing protein hydrolysates.

A 2017 study found that supplementing with whey protein hydrolysates reduced exercise-induced muscle damage symptoms and improved recovery of muscle function. This could help enhance muscle growth after exercise.

Whey isolate and concentrate are both high quality proteins and will produce similar effects. A 2016 research review found that people who took whey protein containing both isolate and concentrate improved their lean muscle mass and strength. You may want to opt for isolate rather than concentrate if you’re aiming to limit carbs or fats.

Many protein powders contain a blend of the different forms, though — so keep an eye out when you’re shopping.

Budget

Protein powder can be reasonably priced or REALLY expensive. It all depends on what you’re comfortable paying, and if you want certain characteristics that command a higher price, like organic ingredients, protein from grass-fed cows, or extras like added probiotics or digestive enzymes.

Diet restrictions

Also, consider your specific dietary needs. If you have a milk allergy, you need a dairy- and lactose-free option. If you’re vegan, plant-based is the only way to go.

If you prefer organic or non-GMO, make sure to look for options with those certifications.

Goal

Depending on your goals, one type of protein powder might be better for you than another. What do you definitely need from your protein? Are you looking to build muscle, lose weight, or just consume more protein?

If gaining muscle is your goal, you may want to look for a powder that includes things like branched-chain amino acids, which may help your build more muscle.

If weight loss is your goal, seek out a protein powder with added fiber for maximum satiety.

And if you just wanna add more protein to your diet, simpler is better. There are plenty of brands that offer protein-and-nothing-but powders.

Quality

Because supplements like protein powder aren’t regulated by the FDA, it’s important to do your research on a brand before buying. Here’s what to look for:

  • Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). CGMPs are standards set forth by the FDA that help ensure the quality, safety, and purity of supplements. Some companies will pay for a third party (like NSF) to certify that they’re abiding by cGMPS (look for “GMP-certified”), while others follow cGMPs without formal certifications (look for “GMP-compliant”).
  • Third-party testing. Many brands put their products through third-party testing to certify that they’re free from contaminants, banned substances, allergens (like gluten or soy), and GMOs. Others can certify that a product is vegan, kosher, or organic. Look for certifications from NSF Certified for Sport, Informed-Choice, Non-GMO Project, USDA Organic, and Vegan.org.

Regardless of your why, here are some of the key benefits of using protein powder.

  • Muscle growth. Having protein after a workout promotes muscle growth. Your muscles are pushed to their limits in tough workouts, and some post-workout protein floods them with the amino acids they need not only to repair themselves but to grow.
  • Satiety. Having protein with a meal helps you stay full and satisfied for longer. This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight, and may be one key reason that high protein diets are often recommended for weight loss.
  • Optimal health. Finally, protein powder may help meet your protein needs if you’re not getting enough — which can help to improve your overall health. Protein is necessary for your body to recover from injury and illness, as well as to build strong and healthy cells.

Protein powder is not just for shakes. If you’re not a shaker bottle devotee, no worries! There’s LOTS you can do with a can of protein powder that doesn’t require holding your nose and chugging just to get it over with. Here are a few of our fave ideas:

  • Chocolate protein powder in plain yogurt (dessert!)
  • Unflavored protein powder in soups
  • Protein powder in oatmeal or grits
  • Protein powder in baked goods (you can find TONS of recipes online)

And just in case you need some more inspo, here are some links to recipes for protein powder coffee shakes, smoothies, more smoothies, pancakes, and desserts.

There’s not much to worry about when it comes to protein powders — they’re normally well tolerated with few side effects. Certain types of protein or ingredients could cause digestive issues for some people. Possible side effects include:

  • gas
  • bloating
  • stomach cramps
  • skin reactions (if you’re allergic to an ingredient)

It’s always best to have a chat with a healthcare pro before jumping on the protein powder bandwagon. Some proteins could interact with medications (like antibiotics) or affect medical conditions.

Don’t go overboard with your intake either. The recommended intake for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. But some experts say that amount is too low for some people, especially active folks. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends consuming 1.4 to 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight if you’re active.

Our process and why you should trust us

This article was written and updated by two registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), who used their expertise to choose the products on our list.

Before writing about those products, we put them all through a thorough vetting process that checks for unsupported health and disease claims, shady business practices, FDA/FTC warning letters, and lawsuits involving a company’s products. We also made sure each company is transparent about the ingredients it uses, doesn’t use any illegal ingredients, and provides dosage information. Only products that passed vetting made this list.

After wrapping up our recommendations and tips, we sent this entire article to a third nutrition expert (in this case, Marie Lorraine Johnson MS, RD, CPT) for review.

So basically, you can feel good knowing that we put in the WORK to get you these recommendations.

What does protein powder actually do?

It simply adds extra protein to your diet. It’s a good way to get more protein after a workout, on a busy day where you may not be able to sit down to a meal, for a quick breakfast, or if you don’t eat a ton of protein-rich foods.

Should I take protein before or after a workout?

For muscle building, it’s best to take protein after a workout — but a balanced snack before a vigorous workout is always a good idea.

Should I take protein powder every day?

It’s totally up to you! You can make it a daily habit or use it just after workouts or on busy days. *sings “The Battery’s Down”* This is your Li-IIIIII-iii-iife!

Which protein powder brand is best?

It really really depends on your needs. For instance, whether you’re plant-based or not, what your budget is, what flavors you like, and if you’re looking for any extras in addition to protein. We recommend any of the brands above.

What is the healthiest protein powder source?

TBH, they’re all pretty equal. There’s a lot of research on the benefits of whey protein and pea protein, but in general, protein is protein. You can make the call based on what you like best, what’s the easiest for you to digest, and what doesn’t hurt your wallet.

How much protein do I need each day?

Most people need roughly 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram (or 2.2 lbs.) of body weight, but you may need up to 2 grams per kilogram if you’re really active. If you need more clarity and help to find the right protein goal, then you should definitely reach out to a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area and make an appointment!

6,000 words deep, we think it’s pretty clear that there’s a protein powder out there for everyone.

Whether you’re vegan, keto, counting calories, all of the above (bless you), or none of the above — you can find the protein powder that’s just right to use as a filling snack, a quick meal replacement, or post-workout muscle food.