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There’s a reason protein powder is consistently one of the most commonly purchased supplements. High-quality protein contributes to muscle gains and recovery after exercise and provides essential amino acids that can keep you healthy and energized. It can even keep you full for longer, helping you lose weight or maintain a healthy one.
But while protein powder has a lot of benefits, you have to make sure you’re choosing one that aligns with your goals. For example, whey protein isolate can help you build muscle while casein protein is a better option for weight loss. It’s also important to choose a clean protein powder that doesn’t have added sugar or artificial sweeteners since these types of ingredients can have negative health effects and hinder your progress, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish.
With so many “rules” about what constitutes a healthy protein powder, the myriad of choices can be totally overwhelming. Luckily, we narrowed it down to the best protein powders you can buy now.
With so many protein powder options out there, it’s difficult to choose a best overall, but Nutiva’s Hemp Seed Protein makes our list for several reasons. Hemp is one of the only plant sources of protein that contains all of the essential amino acids and it fits into almost any diet plan, from paleo to keto to vegan to gluten free.
In addition to 10 grams of protein per scoop, this protein powder offers 4 grams of fiber and around 30 percent of the iron you need for the entire day. It's also organic, certified vegan, cold-pressed, and the only ingredient is hemp protein.
Tera’s Whey combines only four ingredients—grass-fed whey protein, organic Bourbon vanilla, sunflower lecithin, and organic stevia leaf extract—to create a high-quality protein powder that’s as delicious as it is good for you. Each scoop offers 21 grams of protein and 5.3 grams of branched-chain amino acids (or BCAAs) to help you feel satisfied while also providing you with the tools you need for optimal muscle repair and recovery.
Since the whey protein comes from grass-fed cows, it’s also three to five times higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that’s been shown to boost metabolism, increase fat burn, and help promote muscle growth.
It can be difficult to find a truly paleo-friendly protein powder, since popular options like whey, pea, and soy are out on a paleo diet. But Designs for Health rose to the challenge when they created their PurePaleo Bone Broth Protein Powder. Each scoop contains 21 grams of high-quality protein that comes from responsibly-raised beef and some added medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)—fats that increase your energy and burn fat.
And don’t worry—your protein shake won’t wind up tasting like a burger. All three options—unflavored, chocolate, and vanilla—have a delicious balanced flavor that blends right into whatever you’re mixing up.
If you’re having trouble meeting your protein needs on a plant-based diet, the KOS Organic Plant Based Protein Powder can help you optimize your intake of essential amino acids. Instead of relying on one protein source, you’ll get five: organic pea protein, organic flaxseed, organic quinoa, organic pumpkin seed protein, and organic chia seed.
Each serving provides 20 grams of protein (a serving is two scoops) and only 2 grams of sugar, even though the powder is sweetened with a little organic coconut sugar. As an added bonus, the protein powder also contains digestive enzymes that can help reduce bloating and improve your gut health. Plus, it comes in four fun flavors—chocolate, vanilla, chocolate mint, and peanut butter.
While there are several protein powders on this list that can be classified as low-carb, the Isopure Protein Powder earned the title of “best” due to it’s great taste, minimal ingredient list, high-quality protein source, and flavor options. This whey protein isolate is not only highly-digestible in the body, it also blends into anything you put it in, leaving no clumps or gritty mouthfeel.
With five different flavor options—chocolate, vanilla, Tahitian vanilla, strawberry, and banana—you can switch it up so you can enjoy some variety while sticking to your dietary goals.
Many people think keto is a low-carb diet plan, but while that’s part of it, you really need a hefty dose of good fats to get it right. That’s where the Ketologie Keto Shake comes in. Not only is it completely devoid of carbs, but it also contains 25 grams of high-quality fat and 14 grams of collagen protein per serving, making it perfectly macronutrient-balanced for a keto diet.
Since it’s sweetened with a blend of erythritol and stevia, it’s also easy to digest, unlike other keto products that contain different kinds of sugar alcohols that can easily upset your stomach.
All protein powders can help you build muscle to some degree, but whey protein isolate is the gold standard. Because most of the fats and carbs have been filtered out during the manufacturing process, you’re left with a pure protein that digests quickly to help build muscle and promote healthy workout recovery.
Not only is the Onnit Whey Protein Isolate grass-fed, it also contains digestive enzymes and probiotics that support your gut health while also supporting your muscle gains. Neither of the flavors—vanilla and Mexican chocolate—has added sugar, either, so each scoop provides 25 grams of protein with only 2 grams of carbs.
If you’re after weight loss instead of that muscle pump, casein protein is probably your best bet. Casein, whey protein’s other half, is a milk-based protein that digests more slowly than the other types, keeping you full for longer periods of time. In a study that compared the two proteins, participants lost 8 percent of their body weight when supplementing with casein compared to 4 percent with whey. And because it tastes great, has 25 grams of casein protein per scoop, and no added sugars, the Ascent Native Micellar Casein Protein is an excellent option.
When choosing a collagen protein, you generally have to opt for one source over another, but the Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder doesn’t make you choose. Instead, it combines four sources—beef, chicken, fish, and eggshell—in one. This ensures that you’re getting all five different types of collagen (type I, II, III, IX, and X) in order to fully support the health of your gut, hair, skin, nails, and joints, since each type does something different.
Because the collagen is water-soluble, you can mix it into any hot or cold drink without even knowing it’s there. Add a scoop to your morning coffee or mix some up in your water after the gym for an easy way to get an extra 9 grams of protein at any time of day.
If you’re looking for a way to up the protein content of your oatmeal or your protein pancakes without any noticeable differences to their flavor, Naked Nutrition Naked Whey has you covered. With only one ingredient—100 percent grass-fed whey protein concentrate—you’ll be getting 25 grams of high-quality protein and 5.9 BCAAs per serving without any undesirable additives.
And because it’s unflavored, this protein is one of the most versatile of the bunch, so you can add it to any and all dishes, both savory and sweet.
If you rely on your protein shakes as a healthier way to get your chocolate fix, then you need the Levels 100% Grass Fed Whey Protein. The formula achieves a perfectly rich, not-too-sweet chocolate flavor with just grass-fed milk, cocoa powder, monk fruit, and stevia. And since Levels combines two types of no-carb sweeteners instead of using stevia alone, you won’t get any of the off-putting bitter aftertaste that’s common with stevia-sweetened powders.
Of course, it’s not only delicious, it’s a great source of protein too. Each serving contains 25 grams of protein and 5.3 grams of BCAAs.
Some vanilla protein powders leave a lot to be desired, but Nuzest nailed it with their Smooth Vanilla Clean Lean Protein. It has one of the cleanest ingredient lists out of all flavored protein powders, containing only pea protein isolate, natural vanilla flavor, and thaumatin, a low calorie, no-carb and wildly palate-pleasing sweetener that comes from the katemfe fruit of Sudan, Africa.
Each serving offers 20 grams of protein with only 1 gram of carbs and no sugar and the vanilla flavor blends perfectly with any other flavor combo you throw at it, leaving no aftertastes or gritty mouthfeel.
What to Look for in a Protein Powder
When you’re picking out a protein powder, the most important things to look at are the protein source, the protein and sugar content, and whether or not it contains any gross additives.
Protein Source. The first thing you need to consider is protein source. Whey protein is the most bioavailable, meaning your body can absorb and use it most efficiently. But if you can’t digest dairy or you’d rather avoid it for personal reasons, hemp, pea, and beef are also excellent options.
Grams of Protein. When it comes to grams of protein, powders run the gamut from 10 grams to as much as 32 grams per scoop; but more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Research shows that you can absorb about 20 to 30 grams of protein at a time and there’s really no benefit in taking in more than that at once.
Also, the ideal amount for you depends on your goals, your body stature, and your activity level. If you’re a bodybuilder looking to build some serious muscle, you’ll probably want something on the higher end. But if you’re mostly sedentary and just looking for a simple way to add some protein to your breakfast smoothie, 10 grams per scoop is likely enough to get the job done.
Grams of Sugar. Protein powders are supposed to be all about the protein, but lots of manufacturers sneak sugar in there to make them taste better. Ideally, you want a protein powder without any added sugar at all, but 1 or 2 grams per scoop is better than the 7 to 8 grams in some.
Artificial Sweeteners. Some manufacturers try to sneak artificial sweeteners into their protein powders in place of sugar. While this lowers the carb count and sugar grams, it doesn’t do your health any favors. Artificial sweeteners can actually mess up your metabolism and increase your risk of obesity, while also negatively affecting your gut health. Check the ingredient list for sucralose, acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, and saccharin. If you see these names, put the power back on the shelf (or delete it from your online shopping cart).