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If you’ve ever been in a supplement store, you know just how many protein powder varieties there are, and while it’s hard to choose the best protein powder out of all of them there are ways to narrow down your choice based on your fitness goal, whether that’s losing weight or building muscle.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to try them all, cause we already did that for you. Our team of certified nutrition coaches, registered dietitians, and competitive weightlifters personally tested more than 60 protein powders, including the best whey proteins, casein proteins, and collagen proteins. The competitive athletes and fitness enthusiasts here at GGR ran taste tests and solubility tests.

In addition to trying dozens of different protein powders, we consulted with Laila Ouldibbat, a New York City-based registered dietitian who’s pursuing a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, to give you our top picks for the best protein powder through evaluating factors such as the following:

  • Formulation: Does it have clinically recommended protein content and macro ratio?
  • Ingredients: Are additional ingredients sound, or problematic?
  • Third-party testing: Has it been tested for potential contaminants and banned substances?

We used our in-depth supplement testing methodology to arrive at our choices for the best protein powders.

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.

Our Top Picks for the Best Protein Powder 

Best Overall Protein Powder: Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

Good for: Anyone who’s looking for a high-quality protein powder for muscle gain and/or weight loss

Best Overall

Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • High-quality whey protein isolate
  • 28 grams of protein per serving
  • 8 flavors to choose from
  • $1.99 per serving

Pros & Cons


  • High-quality protein
  • No artificial sweeteners, food dyes, or preservatives
  • Lots of flavors to choose from
  • Good customer reviews
  • Whey isolate may be easier to digest for some people


  • Price per serving on the high end

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is a clean, high-quality protein powder that contains 28 grams of protein per serving.

Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is essentially pure protein, with 28 grams coming from the macronutrient responsible for building muscle and increasing satiety1 (the feeling of being full). There’s just one gram of carbohydrates and zero grams of fat in most flavors, making it a great option for anyone whose main focus is protein intake. 

We like Transparent Labs for those looking to build muscle or lose weight, which is why we named it our best overall protein powder. 

Anthony O’Reilly, a certified personal trainer and GGR performance editor, loves it because it tastes great—customer reviews state the eight year-round flavors are all delicious, but he couldn’t help snagging the limited edition Peppermint Hot Chocolate flavor. “This is something I’d put our for Santa Claus if he drank protein shakes instead of milk, though I would’ve liked the peppermint flavor to be a little more apparent,” Anthony says. “Still, it gets a 5 out of 5 on taste. I hope they bring this back next holiday season.”

Laila Ouldibbat, R.D., loves it because it’s a clean product, starting with the grass-fed and hormone-free cows who help make the milk from which the whey protein isolate is extracted. Whey protein isolate is protein that’s been filtered to remove lactose from the product, which not only allows those with dairy sensitivities to consume it with few issues but also creates a lower-fat product. 

transparent labs best protein powder bottle in hand

Laila also likes the short ingredient list—there are only five—and the fact that it’s free of dyes, preservatives, or fillers, which granted this a 4.5 out of 5 on our rating metric. It’s not a significant source of vitamins and minerals, which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re getting those vital nutrients from other food sources. 

Read our full Transparent Labs Protein Review for the rest of our thoughts on this product.

Price per serving$1.99 
FlavorsMilk Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon French Toast, Strawberry, Mocha, Vanilla Peanut Butter, French Vanilla, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie 
Servings Per Container 30
Total Calories120
Protein28 g
Protein SourceWhey protein isolate

Best Natural Protein Powder: Legion Whey+

Good for: Those who don’t want a protein powder free of artificial ingredients

Best Natural Protein Powder

Legion Whey+

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland
  • Over 5 g of BCAAs per serving
  • Non-GMO and animal welfare approved
  • Third-party tested for banned substances

Pros & Cons


  • Low in carbs and fat
  • Natural ingredients
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Made with ethically-sourced milk
  • Lots of flavor options


  • Comparably high cost per serving
  • May be clumpy when mixed
  • Some flavors have mixed reviews

Bottom Line

Legion Whey+ is a clean, sustainable protein powder that also is macro-friendly and a great option for anyone looking for a clean protein supplement.

Legion Whey+ contains all-natural ingredients and is tested by Labdoor, a third-party laboratory that ensures supplements are free from heavy metals and banned substances. In other words, athletes and those looking to prioritize all-natural supplements can take this natural protein powder with peace of mind knowing it’s antibiotic-free, hormone-free, GMO-free, and sugar-free, which is more than enough for it to earn a 5 out of 5 for transparency and third-party testing.

Legion also has a Truly Grass-Fed certification, which means the cows that produced the dairy from which the protein was made spent most of their time grazing on grass in open fields—you know, the way nature intended.

legion whey protein powder scoop

The GGR team has tried several flavors of Legion Whey+ and found most, if not all to be very tasty. Anthony O’Reilly, a certified nutrition coach and GGR performance editor, awarded the Cinnamon Cereal flavor a 5 out of 5 on taste and says it tastes like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

GGR Head of Content and competitive weightlifter Kate Meier has been using Legion Whey+ for a month. “The Vanilla option is perfect for my morning fruit smoothie because it adds a hint of flavor and gets me more than 20 grams of protein,” she says.

As far as solubility goes, this gets a perfect 5 out of 5 on our list, as it dissolves great in water and mixes very well in smoothies.

As far as nutrition, Legion hits it out of the park. The exact macronutrient makeup varies by flavor, though you can expect anywhere from 22 to 24 grams of protein with a modest amount of carbs and fat.

Learn more in our Legion whey protein review.

Price per serving$1.99 
Servings Per Container 30
Total Calories110
Protein22-24 g
Carbs2-4 g (varies by flavor) 
Fat0-5 g (varies by flavor)
Protein sourceWhey protein isolate

Best Low-Carb Protein Powder: Jacked Factory Authentic Whey

Good for: People who are looking to cut down on their carb intake 

Best Low Carb

Jacked Factory Authentic Whey

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 24 g of protein per serving
  • Low-fat and low-carb
  • Costs $1.50 per serving
  • Five flavors
  • Artificial aftertaste

Pros & Cons


  • Low-carb
  • Five flavors
  • 24g of protein per serving
  • No fillers or thickening agents


  • Some artificial ingredients
  • Has an artificial aftertaste

Bottom Line

Jacked Factory Authentic Whey is a low-carb, high-protein supplement that comes in five flavors at an affordable price.

We’re not the type of fitness gurus who demonize carbs, but we also agree that protein powders should mostly contain…well, protein. Jacked Factory Authentic Whey only contains one gram of carbs per 31-gram scoop, making it a perfect choice for those looking to prioritize protein intake or those who need to minimize carb intake.

Unlike some low-carb protein powders, Jacked Factory doesn’t compromise on taste. Anthony O’Reilly, a certified nutrition coach and GGR performance editor, can personally attest to the fact that the Fruity Cereal Splash tastes exactly like the fruity breakfast cereal we all know and love (y’know, the one with the bird on the box) but it does have a slight artificial aftertaste, which brought its flavor score to a 4 out of 5.

There were also no clumps, which is always a huge plus. Don’t be alarmed if you choose this flavor. The powder is white, but once you pour liquid on it it turns red.

Jacked Factory’s filtration process creates a low-fat, low-carb, and high-protein product with a short ingredient list. The filtering also removes a good amount of lactose, so it should be good for those who don’t always agree with dairy products. 

Best Low-Carb Protein Powder Jacked Factory Authentic Whey

Jacked Factory uses a combination of whey protein concentrate and whey isolate protein powder, both of which contain all the essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis2 to aid in muscle growth and recovery. 

It’s free of fillers and thickening agents, though it does contain artificial flavors (which are simply man-made flavors created in a laboratory that have little to no nutritional value and are safe for consumption).

Price per serving$1.50 
FlavorsVanilla, Fruity Cereal Splash, Salted Chocolate Caramel, Orange Ice Cream, Chocolate
Servings Per Container30
Total Calories120
Protein24 g
Carbs1-2 g (varies by flavor)
Fat2 g 
Protein sourceWhey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate

Best Tasting Protein Powder: XWERKS Grow

Good for: People looking to bulk up their physique

Best Tasting

Xwerks Grow

GGR Score: 4.25 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Natural, healthy, convenient, and tasty way to get protein
  • Uses a microfiltration process to preserve critical biological nutrients in raw whey
  • Removes unwanted fats and carbohydrates
  • All flavors are naturally sweetened
  • Nicely flavored, easily digested, and low-carb protein powder
  • Promotes muscle growth and repair

Pros & Cons


  • Keto-friendly
  • Naturally sweetened
  • Sourced from naturally raised grass-fed cows
  • Tastes great
  • Soy- and gluten-free
  • Convenient


  • Expensive

Bottom Line

Xwerks Grow whey protein isolate provides a solid blend of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in a whey protein isolate. It comes in a widely-loved range of flavors which are naturally sweetened, so they’re easily digested.

XWERKS Grow tastes like a richer, protein-packed version of Yoo-hoo, and what’s even better is that it almost tastes as good when mixed with water as it is when mixed with milk—the latter, of course, is the preferred beverage but you’ll still have a delicious protein shake if you run out and don’t feel like running to the store. Either way, you’re getting a protein powder that gets a 5 out of 5 on taste.

“This is the smoothest, finest protein powder I’ve ever drank and I’ve downed no fewer than 50,” says Anthony O’Reilly, a certified nutrition coach and GGR performance editor. “An absolute 5 out of 5 for solubility. I don’t think you even need a blender ball for this to dissolve.”

XWERKS has a lot more than taste going for it. It’s a high-quality protein that contains key nutrients that have been shown to help with building muscle mass. The whey protein isolate comes from cows raised in New Zealand, which has some of the strictest dairy laws in the world. 

The land down under prohibits3 any antibiotics, pesticides, or hormones from coming in contact with the cows. XWERKS also uses a micro-filtration process that removes most of the fat, sugar (lactose), and carbs from the whey while keeping its amino acids—protein’s building blocks—and other key nutrients intact.

xwerks grow

One of those nutrients is alpha-lactalbumin, a protein found in human breast milk needed for growth4 (you can see where they got the name from). It also contains immunoglobulins, which are antibodies that help the body fight bacteria and viruses.5  

Grow is nearly pure protein, with 100 of the 110 calories per every 30-gram scoop coming from the muscle-building macronutrient. Most flavors contain zero grams of fat and only one gram of carbs, with the exception of peanut butter which has two grams of each. 

At $1.96 per serving it’s a fairly expensive protein powder, but well worth it if you’re looking for some of the best quality whey isolate on the market. 

Price per serving$1.96
FlavorsChocolate, Vanilla, Peanut Butter, Strawberry
Servings Per Container30
Total Calories110
Protein25 g (Peanut Butter has 23g)
Carbs1 g (Peanut butter has 2g)
Fat0 g (Peanut Butter has 2g) 
Protein sourceWhey protein isolate

Best Plant-Based Protein Powder: Ritual Essential Protein 18+

Good for: Those who want a high-quality pea protein powder

Best Plant Based

Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+

GGR Score: 4.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Organic pea protein powder
  • 20 g of protein per serving
  • Formulated to support adults 18-49
  • Third-party tested
  • 150 mg of choline per serving 

Pros & Cons


  • Soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Complete amino acid profile
  • Non-GMO
  • USA-grown peas


  • Only comes in one flavor
  • Price per serving is on the high end

Bottom Line

Ritual’s Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+ is specifically designed for 18-to-49 year-olds with 20 grams of protein per serving and 150 milligrams of chlorine (to support brain and nervous system function). This protein powder from Ritual is third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified, which means this formula has been screened for over 250 banned substances.

Plant-based protein powders often have the disadvantage of being low in certain types of amino acids—case and point, pea protein lacks enough methionine to be considered a “complete” protein source (a protein with all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle growth). Ritual Essential Protein 18+ gets around this problem by adding more methionine to the powder, providing you with 20 complete grams of protein per serving.

GGR Head of Content and weightlifting coach Kate Meier has been using Ritual Essential protein in her morning smoothies that has blueberries, strawberries, and one serving of this vanilla protein powder. “The taste is definitely detectable, but not overly strong,” Kate says, scoring it a 4 out of 5 on taste.

ritual essential shake 18+ in blender next to bag

Ritual also has an Essential Protein Powder 50+ that’s specially formulated to be a protein supplement for older adults. Kate and Kathleen, a 50-plus woman, found their respective powders to be a 5 out of 5 on solubility. “This has a shockingly great consistency,” Kate says.

Both testers also said the pouch sometimes gets powders stuck in the grooves near the top, which makes closing the bag a struggle.

Ritual only has one flavor as of this writing, and as a subscription-based company you can’t just order one container (though there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee). On the bright side, you’ll never have to worry about running out of protein powder.

Price per serving$2.66
Servings Per Container15
Total Calories15
Carbs3 g
Fat2 g
Protein sourcePea protein

Best Collagen Protein Powder: Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen Hydrolysate

Good for: Anyone who’s looking after their hair and nail health in addition to their protein intake 

Hair and Nail Health

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen Hydrolysate

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • No artificial sweetener, colors, or preservatives
  • Formulated with grass-fed bovine collagen peptides
  • Claimed to help eliminate visible signs of skin aging like sagging and wrinkles
  • Made with minimal ingredients

Pros & Cons


  • Worldwide shipping
  • A good amount of positive reviews
  • Easily mixable in cold or hot beverages


  • Only 10 g of protein per serving
  • Low doses of collagen compared to other brands
  • Doesn’t include vitamin C, which can help with absorption
  • Only comes in 1 flavor

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen Hydrolysate is a collagen rich in type I and type III collagen peptides made without artificial sweetener, colors, or preservatives.

Collagen has become a bit of a buzzword in the fitness industry lately, but the Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen Hydrolysate is anything but buzz. “Good for someone who is not only looking for increased protein intake but also considering skin, joint, bone, hair health11,” says registered dietitian Laila Ouldibbat. 

There are two types of collagen found in this protein powder: Type I and Type III. “Type I is the type of collagen for preserving the levels of collagen in your skin, hair or nails,” Laila says. It’s also a major component of the tendons, organs and bones.

“Type III is generally found in reticular fibers, such as in the bone marrow,” she adds. “It’s usually found alongside Type I collagen in the body.”

An image of Transparent Labs Grass-fed collagen hydrolysate

There are 10 grams of protein per scoop and 11 grams of hydrolyzed collagen from bovine hide (cow’s skin). 

Amanda Capritto, GGR staff writer and competitive triathlete, tried the collagen’s chocolate flavor (the lone option) and warns against mixing it with water like other collagen supplements. “It tastes like watered-down chocolate milk,” she warns, though she says it’s much better when mixed with almond milk.”

Amanda says the solubility is “a little scary,” but in a good way and scored it a 5 out of 5. She adds that it’s virtually unnoticeable when mixed with other powders, such as greens powder or other protein powders. We also recommend mixing it with your coffee for a nice mocha treat that helps with your skin, hair, and naisl.

Laila says the collagen can be used like any other protein powder to increase satiety (being full)1 and may also help with joint pain, bone health, and lean muscle growth14

It should be noted, however, that collagen protein is an incomplete protein, meaning it doesn’t contain one of the essential amino acids needed for muscle protein synthesis7. In this case, it’s tryptophan, of which there is zero milligrams.  

Price per serving$1.17
Servings Per Container 30
Total Calories45
Protein10 g 
Collagen11 g
Carbs2 g
Fat0 g
Protein sourceCollagen

Best Protein Powder for Building Mass: Huge Whey

Good for: People looking to bulk up their physique

Best for Building Mass

Huge Supplements Huge Whey Protein

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Contains lactase and papain to aid in digestion
  • Includes 5 g of BCAAs per serving
  • 6 dessert-inspired flavors

Pros & Cons


  • High protein content
  • Creative flavor options
  • Low in carbs and fat
  • Includes digestive aids


  • Contains sucralose
  • Has artificial flavors
  • Only 1 size option

Bottom Line

While containing some ingredients you may want to avoid, the great flavor options of Huge Nutrition Huge Whey makes it a good protein option for those looking for something simple after their workout.

While we typically suggest protein powders with relatively low carbohydrates, someone who’s looking to build mass and put on high-quality muscle might want to look at the higher-carb nutrient profile of Huge Whey. That’s because a wide-ranging 2012 study6 found that athletes who added carbs to their protein supplement were able to more easily replenish glycogen stores—which helps you look big— and stimulate muscle protein synthesis (or when your body absorbs the amino acids from protein to help build muscle).

RELATED: Best Mass Gainer

huge whey protein

The exact number of carbs varies by flavor, but there are some containing as much as 8.5 grams of carbohydrates. The protein content ranges from 23 grams to 25.5, and you can pick from options such as Blueberry Muffin, Cookie, Fruity Cereal, and Chocolate Peanut Butter. GGR Head of Content and certified personal trainer Kate Meier opted for the Chocolate Peanut Butter and said it reminded her of flavored yogurt.

“You can tell the flavors are there, but it’s not quite the real thing,” she says, giving it a 4 out of 5 for taste. “There is sucralose, so you do have a small bit of that artificial sweetener taste.”

Huge has a relatively simple protein powder, with under 10 ingredients in every flavor. There are some artificial flavorings, preservatives, and thickeners, though we like to remind people these are present in very small quantities and have little to no impact on our overall health.

As a plus, Huge includes papain to help with digestion and gut health7.

Price per serving$1.49
FlavorsCookie & Cream, Vanilla Milkshake, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Strawberry Cheesecake, Blueberry Muffin, Fruity Cereal
Servings Per Container30
Total Calories120
Protein23 – 25.5 g (varies by flavor)
Carbs2.5-8.5 g (varies by flavor)
Fat2.5 g
Protein sourceWhey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate

Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss: Transparent Labs Casein

Good for: Those who are looking for a filling protein powder to aid with weight loss

For Weight Loss

Transparent Labs Casein Protein

GGR Score: 4.18 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 100% grass-fed casein protein 
  • 3rd-party lab tested 
  • Chocolate flavor

Pros & Cons


  • Subscribe and save 10%
  • No artificial sweeteners, coloring, or preservatives
  • 3rd-party lab tested
  • Transparent ingredients
  • Extremely positive reviews on taste


  • Only available in 1 flavor
  • May be sold out
  • Comparably expensive
  • Limited reviews

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs Casein Protein provides 25 grams of protein per scoop and is extremely popular among users. Unfortunately, it may be sold out when you try to buy it, but you can sign up to be notified when it is available again.

Casein protein powder is one of the best protein powders for weight loss because it digests slower than whey protein or any plant-based protein types, meaning it keeps you fuller for longer and can help you more easily achieve a caloric deficit is necessary to achieve weight loss. Transparent Labs is our favorite casein powder because it tastes great and is more easily mixed into liquid than other options (casein is naturally thicker than whey).

“Unlike with most casein powders, I don’t find it particularly difficult to break up all the clumps with this one,” says certified sports nutrition coach and GGR senior staff writer Amanda Capritto, who scored the solubility a 4.5 out of 5.

Transparent Labs Casein 1

Amanda has tried dozens of protein powders and it’s rare that she awards a 5 out of 5 on taste—but she did for this protein powder. “This stuff tastes damn near like Jell-O chocolate pudding out of the little plastic tubs,” she says. “I actually crave this.” She normally uses it to create a protein pudding, which you can make by adding splashes of liquid (preferably milk) and mixing until all the powder is incorporated and it reaches your desired consistency.

The thick pudding will also keep you more full than if you were to just drink it as a protein shake.

Price per serving$1.99
Servings Per Container30
Total Calories120
Protein25 g
Carbs4 g
Fat0.5 g
Protein SourceGrass-fed micellar casein

Best Whey Protein Powder: Kaged Nutrition Whey Protein Isolate

Good for: Anyone who is looking for high-quality protein

This is the Whey

Kaged Whey Protein Isolate

GGR Score: 4.5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Whey protein isolate
  • 25 grams of protein per serving
  • Available in 5 flavors
  • Third-party tested

Pros & Cons


  • Affordable
  • Good macro profile
  • Reviewers claim it's easy on the stomach
  • Tastes good


  • Clumpy when mixed
  • Certain flavors out of stock frequently
  • Only 5 flavors available

Bottom Line

Kaged Whey Protein Isolate is a fast-digesting protein available in five flavors with 25 grams of protein per serving.

Yes, most of the protein powders on this list are whey protein, but Kaged Nutrition Whey Protein Isolate uses a special type of protein that’s more easily digestible. Unlike other powders that solely contain whey protein isolate, Kaged has ProHydrolase for improved protein absorption and muscle recovery10—and that’s what pushes it over the edge. 

Nicole Davis, GGR editor and certified nutrition coach, likened the Chocolate flavor to “one of those Carnation instant breakfast mixes” and gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 for taste.

However, be warned, solubility might be an issue, so you may want to use a blender if you go with this protein. “It’s clumpy just mixed in a shaker (even with the ball),” Nicole says. She said there were some clumps remaining even after a vigorous shake. 

It’s a clean product with minimal ingredients, which is what we and many other people like to see in a whey protein powder. You get 25 grams of protein per 31-gram scoop, so it’s mostly protein (it has under a gram of fat and only two to three grams of carbs). 

kaged bottle

Another advantage is you get more than 40 servings per container (the exact number varies by flavor)—so while the tub isn’t the most budget-friendly, you end up saving some money on a per-serving basis, especially since most protein powders have 25 to 30 scoops in a container. 

Price per serving$1.36-$1.46 
FlavorsChocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla, Chocolate, S’Mores, Cinnamon French Toast
Servings Per Container41-44
Total Calories120
Protein25 g 
Carbs2-3 g
Fat0-0.5 g
Protein sourceWhey protein isolate

Best Grass-Fed Protein: Momentous Grass-Fed Whey

Good for: People who prefer grass-fed dairy

Best Grass Fed

Momentous Grass-Fed Whey

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Grass-fed whey protein isolate 
  • Cold-pressed with a micro-processing filtration 
  • ProHydrolase enzyme blend 
  • Protein is sourced from Irish cows

Pros & Cons


  • Clean
  • Third-party verified
  • Mixes well
  • High-quality
  • Bioavailable


  • Unflavored may clump when mixing
  • Expensive

Bottom Line

If you are willing to pay a premium price for a high-quality grass-fed whey protein, the Momentous brand is a solid choice.

Grass-fed dairy not only benefits the cows by allowing them to graze as nature intended, but it also has benefits for you—the person drinking it. Studies have shown that grass-fed dairy has more antioxidants and a more optimal omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid ratio. Momentous Grass-Fed Whey is sourced from European farmers who adhere to the strictest health and grass-fed standards to ensure all dairy is free from hormones, steroids, and rBST (an artificial hormone used to increase milk production).

We’ll be very transparent and warn you that this is an expensive protein powder—one 24-serving bag is more than $60, though you can save nearly $10 by putting it on a subscription plan. Is it worth it? Yes, but in the same way a ribeye steak is worth it so long as you have the budget for it, or are someone who enjoys the best-of-the-best.

The whey protein isolate, which contains less lactose than whey protein concentrate, comes in three flavors: Unflavored, Chocolate, and Vanilla. Caine Wilkes, a GGR staff writer and Olympic weightlifter who competed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, went with Vanilla and scored it a 4 out of 5. “With milk, the flavor reminded me of vanilla bean ice cream,” he says.

Momentous Whey Protein

Kate Meier, a competitive weightlifter and GGR’s head of content, went with Chocolate and also scored it a 4 out of 5. “It has a rich taste, it tastes very much like cocoa,” she says.

Both expert testers agreed the solubility is a 5 out of 5. “It’s incredibly smooth,” Kate says.

Price per serving$2.71
FlavorsUnflavored, Chocolate, Vanilla
Servings Per Container24
Total Calories100
Protein20 g 
Carbs3 g
Fat0 g
Protein sourceWhey protein isolate

Best Protein Powder for Athletes: Onnit Grass-Fed Whey Protein

Good for: Competitive athletes looking for a protein powder to help with training and recovery


Onnit Whey Protein

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Sourced from New Zealand grass-fed cows
  • Made with whey protein isolate to filter out fats and carbs
  • Offers a complete amino acid profile
  • Website offers a subscription option to save money and auto-ship

Pros & Cons


  • Low in carbs
  • High in leucine
  • Whey isolate gets to muscles faster
  • Non-GMO


  • High cost per serving
  • Can cause digestive issues for some people
  • The Mexican Chocolate flavor has mixed reviews

Bottom Line

Onnit Whey Protein is a great protein option for those looking for a grass-fed protein, however there are cleaner grass-fed protein powders on the market that are lower in cost.

Onnit Gras-Fed Whey Protein has an Informed Sport certification, meaning it’s been tested for more than 250 banned substances and meets the standards of approval of several regulatory and government agencies, sports industry organizations, and consumer groups.

An image of Onnit grass-fed whey

Some supplements, including protein powders and pre-workouts, contain harmful materials or small doses of banned substances that might show up in a drug test. Different sports governing bodies have different screening policies and dose limits for certain substances, so the Informed Sport certification tells an athlete they can take that supplement without worrying about potentially failing a drug test.

GGR senior staff writer, expert product tester, and triathlon athlete Amanda Capritto grabbed the Mexican Chocolate flavor and said it was one of the more unique chocolate protein powders she’s tried.

“It actually does taste different than other chocolate protein powders, which I honestly wasn’t expecting,” she says. “It’s rich when mixed with whole or oat milk.” The solubility, she added, was a 5 out of 5. “This dissolves great—almost too well!”

RELATED: Best Pre-Workout for Women

Onnit sources their dairy from New Zealand cows, which, as a reminder, means there are zero concerns about hormones or antibiotics in the dairy3 used to create this whey protein isolate.

RELATED: Best Pre-Workout for Men 

In addition to the 20 grams of protein, it also has several billion probiotics to help with immune health13 (though most studies point to more short-term benefits than long-term improvements). The probiotics will also aid with digestion13, as will the digestive enzyme blend that includes protease and papain, which researchers believe may support gut health7.

Price per serving$1.99
FlavorsVanilla, Mexican Chocolate 
Servings Per Container30
Total Calories110
Protein20 g
Carbs3-5 g
Fat2 g
Protein SourceWhey protein isolate

Best Organic Protein Powder: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Powder

Good for: Those who prefer organic protein supplements


Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Powder

GGR Score: 3.75 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • A rice and pea protein powder 
  • Rated with 4.3 stars on their website
  • Comes in 2 flavors 
  • 24 g of protein per serving
  • Organic product with minimal ingredients

Pros & Cons


  • No artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives
  • Organic and vegan
  • Only 5-7 ingredients
  • Reviewers love the taste
  • 24 g of protein per serving


  • Only 2 flavors
  • Stevia can cause GI issues for some
  • Expensive

Bottom Line

This organic rice and pea protein powder is a good choice for people who want a clean plant-based protein option with minimal ingredients.

It’s not uncommon to find artificial ingredients in protein powders (and to be honest there’s nothing dangerous about most of them), but if you’re someone who insists on having naturally sourced products, then we recommend Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Powder. It’s made with all-organic ingredients and bears the important USDA Organic Seal, which is why it’s our choice for the best organic protein powder.

This plant-based protein powder is made from rice protein and pea protein powders, which, when combined, provide all 9 essential amino acids needed for muscle growth. You get 24 grams of protein and minimal carbohydrates and fats. It’s sweetened with stevia, which like erythritol is digested differently than sugar and is considered calorie-free17.

An image of Transparent Labs rice and pea protein

RELATED: How to use a fitness log

GGR writer Lauren Strong said the chocolate flavor tasted like dark chocolate. “But with an earthy hint because of the rice and pea protein,” she adds. “I wouldn’t suggest this for people who like sweet protein drinks, though, as there isn’t that much sugar and you can really taste the cocoa powder.”

Priced at $1.67 per serving, this isn’t the most affordable protein you can find and falls at a 3 out of 5 on price. However, it is certified organic, and it is third-party tested for contaminants and other potential issues.

Price per serving$1.67
FlavorsFrench Vanilla and Chocolate
Servings Per Container30
Total Calories130
Protein24 g
Carbs3 g 
Fat2 g
Protein SourceRice & Pea Protein

Best High-Protein Protein Powder: Kaged Re-Kaged

Good for: Those looking for a protein powder with the highest possible protein content 

High Protein

Kaged Re-Kaged

GGR Score: 4.15 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Recovery blend includes L-glutamine, digestive enzymes, and creatine HCI
  • Formulated to build lean muscle and improve recovery time 
  • Scientifically-researched ingredients at appropriate ratios
  • Unique flavors: strawberry lemonade, iced lemon cake, and orange kream
  • Banned-substance free

Pros & Cons


  • Mixes well
  • Unique flavors
  • Reportedly highly effective
  • Only 1 gram of sugar
  • Contains L-glutamine and creatine


  • Too sweet for some people
  • Contains sucralose
  • May cause digestive issues

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a post-workout product that not only improves recovery but also is designed to build muscle mass, Kaged Re-Kaged may be the right option for you.

With 28 grams of protein per 41.5-gram scoop, Re-Kaged is a convenient way of increasing your protein intake without turning on the stove. Laila Ouldibbat, R.D., also likes some of the other ingredients, which she says help increase protein absorption and boost its muscle-building capabilities. 

To start, you get a digestive enzyme known as ProHydrolase that purportedly enhances protein synthesis and improve muscle recovery10. There are also three grams of glutamine, which has been shown to help with muscle tissue repair following intense resistance training18

Certified personal trainer and GGR performance editor Anthony O’Reilly calls this one of the best-tasting protein powder he’s ever tried and awarded it a 5 out of 5 on taste. “I went with Orange Kream, which to me is one of the more unique protein powder flavors,” he says. “It reminded me of an orange-and-cream ice cream bar, though I have to note it’s a pretty large scoop so you’ll have to do a good bit of mixing to get it all incorporated.”

Kaged Nutrition Re-Kaged protein powder in shaker bottle

Although it’s marketed as a post-workout protein powder, Re-Kaged contains two ingredients linked with improved muscle endurance and strength: betaine19 and creatine. Creatine, the most-researched supplement ingredient, has consistently been shown to support increases in strength and aid in recovery20, but it’s not something commonly found in protein powders—in fact, Re-Kaged is the only one we tried that has it. 

These muscle-building ingredients and the heaping 28 grams of protein are some of the many reasons we named it our top pick for the best protein powder for men.

It is on the expensive side, at $2.25 per serving, and you only get 20 servings per container so it’s not for anyone who’s on a budget. 

Price per serving$2.25 
FlavorsStrawberry Lemonade, Orange Kream, Iced Lemon Cake 
Servings Per Container20
Total Calories 140
Protein28 g 
Carbs2-3g (varies by flavor)
Protein SourceWhey Protein Isolate

Best Unflavored Protein Powder: NOW Sports Nutrition Whey Protein Isolate

Good for: Anyone looking for an allergen-free and/or unflavored protein powder

No Flavor

NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate

GGR Score: 3.5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 25 g of whey protein isolate per serving 
  • Unflavored option only
  • NPA A-rated GMP certified 
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or additives
  • Packaged in the USA

Pros & Cons


  • No additives
  • Pure protein isolate
  • Budget friendly
  • Mixes well


  • Some reports of a sour aftertaste
  • Some users complained of missing scoopers

Bottom Line

NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate is an unflavored protein which delivers 25 grams of protein per serving along with a good profile of BCAAs.

Now Sports Nutrition Whey Protein Isolate contains two ingredients: whey protein isolate and a minimal amount of sunflower lecithin emulsifier (which prevents the protein from separating). That’s it. No flavorings or artificial sweeteners, though GGR staff writer and certified personal trainer Lauren Strong detected a “whey taste,” which she says is neither good nor bad.

“Blended just like you would want a protein powder to—no clumps, not too thick or thin,” Lauren says. “Pretty decent all around.” She landed on a 4 out of 5 for taste and a perfect 5 out of 5 for solubility—aka no chunks in your morning protein smoothie.

Now Sports whey protein isolate

Laila Ouldibbat, R.D., noted that the powder is free of most notable allergens, including corn, egg, soy, and is gluten-free.  It’s also safe for those who follow kosher and halal lifestyles, which she says is “extremely rare” in protein powders.

She also likes that the company is very transparent in listing the protein powder’s amino acid content, including non-essential amino acids (amino acids that don’t need to be obtained through diet because our body creates enough of them on its own) and branched-chain amino acids, which may help reduce muscle fatigue2.  

Each 28-gram scoop delivers 25 grams of protein and less than a gram of fat and carbs. Now Sports only gives you 19 servings in the 1.2-pound tub, which comes out to about $1.31 per serving. We usually like to see at least a month’s worth of protein in each tub, but we can’t complain much about the price. 

Price per serving$0.66-$1.38 (varies by size) 
Servings Per Container19-162
Total Calories110
Protein25 g
Carbs<1 g
Fat0.5 g
Protein SourceWhey protein isolate

Best Vegan Protein Powder: KOS Vegan Protein Powder

Good for: Athletes living a plant-based lifestyle or those who can’t consume dairy

Best Vegan

KOS Vegan Protein Powder

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Multi-source vegan protein powder 
  • USDA-certified organic, soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO
  • Digestive support via DigeSEB to help maximize absorption

Pros & Cons


  • Manufactured in the USA
  • Superfood-infused
  • 20 g protein per serving
  • Chocolate flavor is rich
  • Enhanced with digestive support enzymes
  • Under $1.50 per serving


  • Customers say it has a gritty/chalky flavor
  • Some users reported protein gave them stomach issues
  • Reports of strong sweetness and bad aftertaste

Bottom Line

KOS is a vegan protein with a lot of positive reviews, but a number of people experienced stomach issues using this protein powder.

Not only does KOS Vegan Protein Powder come packed with 20 grams of high-quality plant protein, it also has 9 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s more than other vegan protein powders we tried and it can help keep those following a vegan lifestyle energized in two big ways.

The first you probably already know: Carbs8 are the body’s preferred energy source. The second way is actually fiber, which when fermented releases short-chain fatty acids into our system that can be used as energy9. Researchers say about 10 percent of our daily energy comes from short-chain fatty acids.

GGR senior staff writer Amanda Capritto doesn’t follow a plant-based lifestyle, but she is a competitive triathlete who regularly uses protein shakes. She says she felt no negative side effects from this vegan protein powder, and while she rates the Chocolate flavor a 3 out of 5 it should be noted that she’s quite critical of most vegan protein powders so that score is a compliment coming from her.

“I tried it three separate times: with almond milk, regular 2% milk, and water. Even with water, the taste is decent,” the experienced triathlete says. “It’s not great but it’s not terrible, and honestly, what more can you ask for when you’re drinking vegan protein powder?”

KOS Organic Plant Protein 2

KOS also has a decent amount of vitamins and minerals needed for bodily functions vital to any sport, such as hand-eye coordination and energy output.

Most importantly, KOS uses a combination of organic pea protein, organic chia seed, organic pumpkin seed protein, organic flax seed, and organic quinoa to ensure you get all 9 essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis.

Read Amanda’s full KOS vegan protein review for a deep dive.

Price per serving$1.49
FlavorsVanilla, Chocolate
Servings Per Container28
Total Calories160
Protein20 g
Carbs9 g
Fat6 g
Protein sourceOrganic pea protein, organic chia seed, organic pumpkin seed protein, organic flax seed, and organic quinoa

Best Budget Protein Powder: Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein 

Good for: People who are on a budget 

Best Budget Powder

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Contains 3 different kinds of whey protein
  • Tested for banned substances
  • Over 5 g of BCAAs per serving
  • Instantized to help prevent clumping

Pros & Cons


  • High in protein
  • Plenty of flavor options
  • Low in carbs


  • Some users say it's overly sweet
  • Contains artificial flavors
  • Most flavors contain sucralose

Bottom Line

With plenty of flavor and size options to choose from, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey is a great basic choice in protein powder.

Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein is easily the most affordable protein powder we tried, but the trick is to order the bigger bags. For example, a 27-serving bag comes out to $1.66 per serving and a 146-serving bag is only $1.08 per 31-gram scoop. Protein powder can last a surprisingly long time, which means you can stretch your dollar even further with this protein powder.

Certified personal trainer and GGR senior editor Nicole Davis has tried multiple flavors and awarded all of them a 5 out of 5. “I ordered Delicious Strawberry and it’s amazing,” she says. “I wouldn’t have normally picked this flavor but my husband said this was his favorite protein back in the day and it didn’t disappoint. Even my kids liked it.”

Nicole noted it mixed well in her morning smoothie but that it was very thin compared to other protein powders. Don’t like strawberries? No worries, we tried multiple Optimum Nutrition protein powders to find the best optimum nutrition flavor.

It should come as no surprise that a budget-friendly protein powder comes with artificial sweeteners like sucralose and thickeners (that’s how they’re able to make it so affordable), but there’s a lot to like about Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard.

For one, there are more than 20 flavors that are beloved by Amazon customer reviewers and our expert product testers.

optimum nutrition whey in a shaker bottle

Laila Ouldibbat, R.D., is also a fan of this protein powder for multiple reasons. For one, it has a mix of protein sources (whey isolate and concentrate and hydrolyzed whey protein) that comes from hormone-free cows, along with five and a half grams of branched-chain amino acids in support of improved muscle endurance and recovery12

The nutritional content varies by flavor, but generally, you can expect around two grams of fat and three grams of carbohydrates along with 24 grams of protein (which is standard across the board). 

RELATED: Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard Review

Price per serving$1.08-$1.66 (depending on container size)
Servings Per Container28-70
Total Calories120-130
Protein24 g
CarbsVaries by flavor
FatVaries by flavor 
Protein sourceWhey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed whey protein

Best Personalized Protein Powder: Gainful

Good for: Anyone who wants a protein powder that’s tailor-made for their specific fitness goals

Personalized Protein

Gainful Customized Protein

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Specifically formulated for you 
  • Choose from a variety of flavor boosts
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids 
  • Tailored to meet your dietary needs 
  • Subscription-based service renews each month
  • Unlimited access to registered dieticians

Pros & Cons


  • High-quality ingredients
  • Ability to work with registered dietitians
  • Personalized to your needs and goals
  • Solid profile of amino acids
  • No gluten, soy, artificial sweeteners, or dyes


  • Subscription-based
  • Expensive

Bottom Line

Gainful protein powder is a subscription-based supplement that is personalized by dietitians to meet your specific needs and health goals.

Gainful allows you to create a protein powder blend that’s specifically formulated to help you reach your fitness goals, and all you have to do is take a simple quiz. The website will ask you a series of questions about your goals, dietary preferences, and activity levels before developing a protein blend made just for you. One thing I really liked about Gainful’s process was that they explained why they were asking each question, which shows you just how thorough they were in their research.

Certified personal trainer and GGR senior editor Nicole Davis says her protein blend was a bit clumpy, but that the flavors were a 5 out of 5. “I like that you can control how much flavor you want in each shake via the packs, and even mix them, like chocolate and vanilla for instance,” she says.


Gainful recommended a whey-casein blend (mostly whey) for me. Regardless of what protein sources it uses, you’ll get an unflavored protein powder that can be flavored with eight “Flavor Boosts,” that are added onto each order. Each Flavor Boost adds an 10 calories to your protein powder.

The carbohydrate and fat content will also vary based on your answers. If you’re curious about your results or have questions on how to best utilize your protein powder, Gainful gives you complimentary access to a registered dietitian as part of your subscription.

Don’t like your formula? You can take advantage of Gainful’s “Happiness Guarantee” to get a new one for free.

For more, check out our Gainful protein powder review.

Price per servingStarts at $45 with 14-28 servings per container
FlavorsCaffé Mocha, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Toast, Cookies & Cream, Madagascar Vanilla, Rich Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel, Strawberry Cream
Servings Per Container14-28 (varies based on your results)
Total Calories(Varies based on your results)
Protein19-27 g (varies based on your results)
Carbs(Varies based on your results)
Fat(Varies based on your results) 

Best Hydrolyzed Protein Powder: Dymatize ISO 100 

Good for: Those looking for a quick-absorbing protein powder 


Dymatize ISO 100

GGR Score: 4.09 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Each serving contains 25 g of whey protein isolate 
  • Pre-hydrolyzed protein to speed up absorption
  • Available in 11 flavors, including Dunkin’ coffee flavors
  • Low in both fat and carbohydrates

Pros & Cons


  • 11 flavor options
  • Includes 5.5 grams of BCAAs
  • Fast absorption
  • Flavors are highly rated


  • Complaints of quantity in container
  • Contains sucralose and stevia

Bottom Line

Available in 11 different flavors, Dymatize ISO100 is stacked with 25 grams of protein, including 5.5 grams of BCAAs and 4.4 grams of glutamine designed to enhance muscular growth and recovery.

Hydrolyzed protein powder goes through a process called hydrolysis—”hydro” means water and “lysis” means to remove or bind, Laila Ouldibbat, R.D., explains. “This form of protein has been broken down by exposing it to heat, acid, or enzymes that break apart the bonds linking the amino acids, making it the purest form of whey protein,” she says. 

Laila continues that while hydrolyzed protein powder, such as Dymatize ISO 100, is more easily absorbed and digested by the body16, there’s little to no evidence supporting claims that it can stimulate muscle/protein synthesis quicker than intact proteins. 

Still, she says, Dymatize ISO 100 is a high-quality protein powder that delivers 25 grams of protein per 32-gram scoop with one or fewer grams of fat (depending on the flavor) and two grams of carbs. 

Amanda Capritto, expert product tester and senior staff writer at GGR, went for a bowl, um, shaker bottle of Cocoa Pebbles. “I like it, but I wouldn’t say it’s better than other chocolate protein powders,” she says. She scored the solubility a 4 out of 5 because it didn’t work well with water. “I like chocolate milk, but not chocolate water, and that’s basically what you get when mixing this powder with just water,” she says. “I definitely recommend milk.”

dymatize iso 100 whey

Dymatize is well-known for having fun and unique flavors that are officially licensed by Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, and Dunkin’ Donuts (hi, Ben Affleck and everyone from Boston). 

While it’s not the most budget-friendly option on a per-serving basis, the container itself is under $40, which can’t be said for many other protein powders. 

Read our full Dymatize ISO 100 review for a deep dive on this protein powder.

Price per serving$1.65-$1.99
FlavorsFruity Pebbles, Birthday Cake, Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cocoa Pebbles, Cookies & Cream, Dunkin’ Cappuccino, Dunkin Mocha Latte, Fudge Brownie, Strawberry, Vanilla 
Servings Per Container20 servings/ 5 lbs.
Total Calories <120 (varies by flavor)
Protein25 g
Carbs2 g
Fat1 g
Protein SourceHydrolyzed whey protein isolate, whey protein isolate

Other Protein Powders We Researched 

It might be hard to believe, but there are a few protein powders we came across during our research that didn’t make the mark. Hey, after trying more than 60 you’re bound to run into some that just don’t make the cut.

Muscle Milk Genuine Protein Powder: We noted in our full Muscle Milk review that this protein powder is a great choice for people who are more active than the everyday person due to the higher caloric and carbs and fat content. If you fit that description, this might be the best protein powder for you.

Bob’s Red Mill Almond Protein Powder: This plant-based protein powder is produced by Bob’s Red Mill, a company that primarily makes baking ingredients. While it does have 20 grams of protein per serving the fat and carb content is higher than we’d like to see and the per-serving cost is high at $1.85. It’s also only made from ground almonds, which are an incomplete protein. 

BSN Syntha 6: A mixture of whey protein and casein protein, BSN Syntha 6 is a fairly affordable protein powder (around $1.50 per scoop) that some might consider a meal replacement shake (each serving is 200 calories with a moderate amount of carbs and fats). It has a longer ingredient list than we would like and can contain up to four grams of added sugar (depending on the flavor). 

Ka’Chava Meal Replacement: $6.02 per serving…no that’s not a typo. Customers were impressed with the taste and those trying to lose weight found it to be a suitable meal replacement. It also has the advantage of being higher in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) than other protein supplements.

Bare Performance Nutrition Whey Protein: Anthony O’Reilly, a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, tried Bare Performance Nutrition Whey Protein years ago. “I recall being a big fan of their product when I first got into weightlifting,” he says. The protein powder is a whey and casein blend, so it’s a little thicker than most whey proteins and is perfect for protein sludge (my favorite recipe actually comes from BPN founder Nick Bare). The flavors, as I recall, are all great— but if I had to pick just one I’d go with Blueberry Muffin.

Orgain Grass-Fed Whey Protein: Many of Orgain’s protein powders are organic, however, this one is not and it contains more carbs and fats than we typically like to see in a protein powder. Our Orgain protein powder review looks at the plant-based version, which is organic.

An image of a woman drinking Ritual Essential protein powder for pregnancy

What Is Protein Powder?

Protein powder is a dietary supplement that contains a powdered form of protein either from plants (like hemp, quinoa, pea, soybean, rice, or hemp), milk (whey or casein), or eggs. It was first introduced as a bodybuilding supplement by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kali Muscle and has since gone mainstream, with everyday people using it to bulk up their morning smoothies or as a meal replacement shake.

Protein and Amino Acids

Protein is a molecule made up of 20 amino acids—of those 20, there are 11 that the body makes enough of and so we don’t have to worry about getting them through our diet. The other nine are known as essential amino acids (EAAs), which the body doesn’t make enough of and must be obtained through diet.

A protein molecule containing all nine essential amino acids is called a complete protein, whereas a protein molecule lacking any of the nine EAAs is an incomplete protein. To make sure you’re reaping the benefits of the best protein powder you need to make sure you’re eating complete proteins.

How We Picked and Tested the Best Protein Powder 

There are more than 400 brands creating what they claim to be the best protein powder, according to marketing analysis firm Lumina Intelligence21. We’ll say right now that we didn’t try nearly that much, but we were able to narrow down our selections by using our GGR supplement testing methodology. 

We also worked with a registered dietitian to develop our protein-specific testing method, which accounts for a number of factors.

best protein powder testing sheet
A small sample of the dozens of protein powders we tested for this roundup

Protein Content

Obviously, a good protein powder should have a high amount of protein—our top picks have protein content ranging from 19 to 30 grams. In order to score a perfect 5/5 for protein content, we insist that a supplement has at least 18 to 20 grams of protein per serving.

RELATED: How Much Protein Do I Need?

Protein Source

The source of the protein matters because we recommend complete proteins. Therefore, we research if the protein powder comes from whey, casein, egg white, or plant-based sources (such as pea protein, rice protein, chia seeds, or brown rice). If the protein comes from an incomplete source, are there additional ingredients to make it a complete source? If not, the product would score low with our testers. 

Carb and Fats

We also wanted to make sure each selection had a low or moderate carb and fat content (it should, after all, be mostly protein). If a protein is loaded with carbs, it could be considered one of the best mass gainers instead of just a protein powder.

Digestibility and Side Effects

We had each product tester report back on any potential side effects. For example, how well did the protein powder digest? Did it cause any digestive issues or bloating? You will often find enzymes in protein derived from dairy sources to help with the breakdown.


We personally mixed protein powders with water or with milk or milk substitutes to test for solubility. our testers put the powders in a shaker cup and used blenders to asses: How well does this product dissolve in the suggested amount of liquid? Are there floaties? Is it grainy? Is it super thick or super thin? Does it separate after a few minutes?

Amino acids

Did each protein powder have all nine essential amino acids? This is especially important for plant-based protein sources as every one, with the exception of soy and technically pea, is incomplete protein. Companies work around this by using complementary proteins, or combining two or more protein sources to get all essential amino acids into their supplement.

Flavor and Taste

Did it taste good? Most protein powders are going to be sweet and milk-based. We know taste is subjective, so we had multiple people try many of the options on our list, and we also consulted customer reviews.

One factor we also look for in the taste department is variety. While we wouldn’t rate a product low for a lack of options, we do give credit to companies that offer customers a number of options.

Price per serving

The price per serving can range from $1.25 on the low end to upwards of $2 on the high end. Protein powders with a more affordable cost-per-serving were rated higher than those that cost $2 or more per scoop.


Protein powders get bonus points for having a short ingredients list. Things like artificial sweeteners and fillers aren’t as bad as some health influencers want you to believe but we don’t want large amounts of them in a protein supplement.

Third-Party Testing

Since dietary supplements are not approved by the FDA, having an independent third-party lab verify that what’s on the label is what’s in the protein powder is super important, especially for athletes. Companies that had their products tested for heavy metals, toxins, or banned substances got extra points in our book.

Transparency also plays a part in this—does the company provide COAs, not use proprietary blends, and generally seem very upfront about what’s used in their protein powder and why?

How to Use Protein Powder

If you’re new to consuming protein powder, it’s understandable you may have some questions around how much to take as well as when to take it. We’ll address those questions here.

How Much Protein Should I Take?

We consulted with Perry Nix, registered dietitan, regarding how much protein the average person should take.

“It’s almost impossible for the average person to consume too much protein in a day,” she says.

An image of macros for weight loss

There is a spectrum of protein recommendations based on several factors, as the Mayo Clinic states that anywhere between 10% to 35% of your overall caloric intake should come from protein. Put another way, on the lower end of the spectrum, a sedentary adult should get 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, while highly active adults generally shouldn’t exceed 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

The Mayo Clinic offers these recommendations:

  • Sedentary adults: 0.8 to 1 g of protein per kg bodyweight
  • Average adults: 1 to 1.2 g of protein per kg bodyweight
  • Active adults: 1.1 to 1.5 g of protein per kg bodyweight
  • Athletes: 1.2 to 1.7 g of protein per kg bodyweight

Dietitians and health professionals recommend that micro- and macronutrients should come from real foods, not powders. However, it’s understandably difficult to hit high protein goals.

If you track your food, you’ll likely find you aren’t getting enough protein. Supplementing with a clean protein is a great idea. Most quality powders offer 20 or more grams of protein per serving, and many people find that just one to two servings of powders gets them within their protein recommendations.

When Should I Take Protein Powder?

As long as you’re not a competitive bodybuilder, the answer is whenever you’re hungry or need a quick dose of protein. And before you say, “But I heard you need to take it right after working out” or even utter the words “anabolic window, I’ll tell you why both of those things are “bro science,” or fitness myths that people believe just because someone with big muscles told them it’s true. (By the way, if you are a competitive bodybuilder or strength athlete I’ll get back to you in just a second).

Numerous studies22 in recent years have shown that overall caloric and protein intake along with proper resistance training is more important than so-called nutrient timing or eating certain meals based on when you workout. Nutrient timing can be beneficial for professional bodybuilders or powerlifters, but for the general lifter or person, there’s no need to down a protein shake right after a workout.

An image for best time to drink a Klean Isolate Protein 4 Shake

Here’s how the researchers in a review published in Nutrients18 put it:

“When it comes to nutrient intake for athletes and active individuals, there exists a hierarchy of needs. If we look at it like baking a cake, the training stimulus and the total daily intake form the cake itself. The timing of nutrient intake is more like the frosting, which requires the foundation of the cake to do its job.”

In other words, nutrient timing is important but not as important as some people claim.

And now we’ll get back to the competitive bodybuilders, powerlifters, or other strength-based athletes. The “anabolic window” is a little more true for these types of athletes, but it’s a window that’s sometimes only open halfway. What we mean by that is your nutrient timing needs vary based on workout intensity and how much or little you ate before training.

Your meal size can also impact how soon after a workout, as researchers in one study23 said larger meals could be eaten up to 6 hours after a workout, compared to smaller meals that they recommended be consumed 3-4 hours post-training.

Benefits of Protein Powder

Wondering why you should consider purchasing or using protein powder? Here are a few reasons: 


It’s much easier and quicker to chug eight ounces of protein powder (mixed with the liquid of your choice) than it is to defrost, prepare, cook, and eat a piece of meat (not to mention the clean up). It may not be as portable as a No Cow protein bar, but at least it’s quick.


Protein powders can last a surprisingly long time on your shelf if properly sealed and kept out of direct sunlight. 

Builds Muscle

There are mountains of evidence supporting the use of protein powder to help build muscle1.

Lose Weight

Protein powder can also be used for those who are on a weight loss plan1

Potential Side Effects

Too much of a good thing can be bad for you, and the same thing goes for taking too much protein powder. The Mayo Clinic says the potential side effects of excess protein intake include, “bad breath, headache and constipation.” Too much protein may also impact your kidneys, the Mayo Clinic says.

woman scooping quest protein

What to Consider When Buying Protein Powder

Protein powders will try to draw you in with colorful labels and attractive claims, but here’s what you should actually look for when you’re trying to decide which is the best protein powder for you. 

Calorie Content

This might change depending on your fitness goal. For example, if you’re looking to bulk (or add muscle), you’d want more calories than someone whose main goal is weight loss. 

Protein Content

You should generally look for a protein powder with anywhere from 25 to 30 grams of protein per serving, but even 20 grams is enough protein to help keep you full. 

Carb and Fat Content

Carbohydrates and fats are essential macronutrients but they should be present in low or moderate amounts in protein powder—they may be a little higher in protein supplements such as the best protein chips

Protein Type

Most protein powders come from whey protein, but there are different protein types, the two most common alternatives being casein protein powder and plant-based protein powders. Casein is also a dairy-based protein that digests slower than whey, which is why athletes will often take it before going to sleep.

There are also meal replacements, sometimes called mass gainers, which contain an entire meal’s worth of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Mass gainers are primarily used for people looking to add muscle mass but can also be utilized by those trying to reduce their body weight.  


Find a flavor you like. Most protein powders will come in dessert-themed flavors, though there are now companies producing more fruity flavors that mix well with water. If you’re interested in a more refreshing protein powder, we recommend checking out SEEQ Clear Whey Isolate‘s Blue Razz Freeze flavor—certified personal trainer and triathlete Amanda Capritto says it reminds her of candy.


Self-explanatory, but find a protein powder that works for your budget. Most of the best protein powders will be around $1.50-$2.00 per scoop with 30 servings, though you can find more affordable protein powders for around $1.10 per scoop.

Picking a protein powder is kind of like online dating—you have to look out for red flags.

Anthony O’Reilly, certified nutrition coach

What to Avoid in Protein Powder

Picking a protein powder is kind of like online dating—you have to look out for red flags. Luckily, it’s a lot easier to notice the warning signs when looking at protein powder than it is when swiping through dating profiles.

Artificial/Harmful Ingredients

Avoid protein powders that are loaded with excess sugars, thickeners like xantham gum that may cause digestive issues or filler ingredients like maltodextrin. While many of the health risks of these ingredients are exaggerated by online health gurus, they can cause some digestive issues. You’ll also want to check for any allergens and, if applicable, whether your protein powder is kosher or halal.

Excess Carbs and Fat

Although there are times when carbohydrates should be paired with protein, specifically after intense training sessions, most people should look for a protein powder that’s mostly, well, protein. There should be minimal carbs and fats, ideally under 5 grams of each.

Untested Supplements and Proprietary Blends

Athletes should avoid any protein powder that doesn’t bear Informed Choice, Certified for Sport, or any third-party certifications. These marks show that they’ve been third-party tested for banned substances, heavy metals, and toxins.

Lastly, avoid any protein supplement that has proprietary blends. These blends are a mix of different ingredients and manufacturers aren’t required to disclose how much of each ingredient is in the blend—oftentimes, companies underdose ingredients.

Types of Protein Powder

Even though we have our pick for the best protein powder, there are many people who may disagree due to dietary or religious reasons—there are some religions that prohibit the consumption of dairy. No worries, as there are many different types of protein powder for you to choose from.

testing protein powders

Whey Protein Powder

Whey protein powder is the most common type of protein powder, and it comes from whey (shocking, we know). Whey is the liquid left behind after milk has been processed and is used in multiple applications, such as cheese-making or producing protein powder.

The pros of whey protein are that it’s cheap and readily available, though people with dairy sensitivities may find it difficult to digest it. In fact, people who are able to eat or drink milk-based products sometimes struggle with whey protein powder (it can result in some rumbling down under if you catch our drift). Luckily, there are two other types of whey protein powder:

  • Whey protein isolate: Whey protein isolate is simply whey protein that’s undergone additional filtering to remove much of the lactose (aka sugars), which results in a lower carb, lower fat protein powder that’s also easier to digest than normal whey protein (which may sometimes be called whey protein concentrate).
  • Whey Protein Hydrolysate: This whey protein has been pre-digested through a special process that increases the rate of absorption.

Casein Protein Powder

Casein is another byproduct of the cheese-making process, and while it’s not nearly as popular as whey protein it contains just as much protein and micronutrients. It’s made by adding a curdling agent to milk, which then becomes lumpy. Those curdles are then taken and either made into cheese or casein protein powder (after being dehydrated and processed, of course).

You’ll often see casein protein powder in meal replacement shakes for two reasons: It’s thicker than whey protein and digests slower. It’s more like a pudding than a shake, which will give your body the feeling that you’re eating more food than you actually are. And because it’s digested slower than whey protein, it’s a great type of protein to take before going to bed or when you know you might not be able to eat for a few hours.

Plant-Based and Vegan Protein Powders — What to Know

Plant-based or vegan protein powders are dairy-free alternatives that source their protein from soy, plants, or other food sources. Here is a list of the most common plant-based proteins:

  • Soy
  • Pea
  • Hemp
  • Lentil
  • Chia Seed
  • Pumpkin Seed
  • Brown Rice

If you’re looking for a vegan or plant-based protein powder make sure to pay extra attention to the amino acid profile. As we discussed earlier, a protein needs nine of the essential amino acids to be a complete protein and aid in muscle growth or satiety (the feeling of being full). Soy and (technically) pea and hemp are complete plant-based protein sources, whereas other popular options like rice protein are not.

Does that mean plant-based and vegan protein powders don’t work? Not necessarily, since they may use complementary proteins—basically, a company will add rice protein and hemp protein since one may have the essential amino acids that the other lacks.

truvani vegan protein

Some of the best protein powders have their full amino acid profile on the label, so if you’re a plant-based lifter be sure to look for this on the tub or the company’s website.

Pea Protein Powder

Pea protein powder is a plant-based protein source created from yellow peas and is very high in micronutrients. Technically it contains all nine essential amino acids so it’s considered a complete protein, but it is low in methionine. It’s also not as bioavailable as other protein types.

Egg Protein Powder

Egg protein powder comes from eggs and while it can be a great option for those who can’t drink dairy, we should warn you that egg protein powder often comes with an unsavory taste and smell.

Meal Replacements and Mass Gainers

Meal replacement shakes often have more calories and protein (along with additional carbs and fat) than your standard protein powder because they’re made to mimic an entire meal’s worth of fuel. These are used by people who are trying to lose weight or those who don’t have enough time to eat a full plate of food.

Mass gainers are a type of meal replacement shake used by powerlifters or bodybuilders who are trying to put on as much weight as possible, and as a result, contain thousands of calories. Some mass gainers contain more calories and protein in one scoop than some people drink in an entire day, and they should only be used under the supervision of a dietary professional.

RELATED: Onnit Total Human review

Our Experts Who Contributed

Best Protein Powder FAQs

Is whey protein better than plant-based protein?

Whey protein is guaranteed to have all nine essential amino acids (EAAs), which are necessary for protein synthesis and absorption. This is not always the case for plant-based protein, with the exception of soy. However, many plant-based protein powder manufacturers will add complementary proteins to their supplements to ensure all nine EAAs are in their product.

Does protein powder have an expiration date?

If you’re wondering does protein powder expire, yes, it does. It does, however, last much longer than protein sources like chicken or tofu. Most of the best protein powder’s expiration dates are nine to 18 months after it was produced.

As certified personal trainers and expert product testers who frequently have quite a few protein powders on hand, here are some of our tips for ensuring your protein powder stays fresh for many months:

1. Properly seal the container every time
2. Keep the container in a dry, cool place away from sunlight
3. Throw it away if it starts to smell rancid

Is it OK to take protein powder every day?

There are no adverse effects to drinking a protein powder shake every day, though it should be pointed out that it’s a supplement—meaning it supplements your overall diet. The majority of your calories and protein should come from whole food sources like meats, plants, and dairy. That said, protein powder is a cost-efficient and convenient way to increase your protein intake.

What is the best protein powder for beginners?

Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey is the perfect protein powder for beginners due to its lean macronutrient profile, high protein content, great taste, and affordable price point.

Does protein powder help you build muscle?

Protein powder is used to ensure you reach your daily protein goals and maintain a caloric surplus, which is when you consume more calories than you burn in a given day. So yes, it can help you build muscle but only if it’s used alongside a proper workout routine and nutrition regimen.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.


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