Best Types of Protein Powders To Consider Buying

Protein Powder Guide

If you want to build muscle and reach your fitness goals, the main ingredient is discipline and maybe a little bit of extra protein. You have to keep exercising, keep running, keep lifting, even when you don’t want to, even a top protein powder can’t help you if you don’t do these things. Achieve discipline, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the physique you’ve always wanted.

The second most important thing you should focus on is fueling your body. During and after exercise, your body is put under severe strain, and it needs certain things to help it perform and recover. A proper, protein-rich diet is vitally important. Eating right is almost as important as lifting right – so diet should always be a main focus of your fitness efforts.

In order for your body to perform at its best and recover efficiently, your muscles need adequate protein. The Institute of Medicine recommends an adult needs a minimum of 0.8 grams per 1kg of body weight per day, or 0.4g per 1.1lbs. However, that figure is intended for the average individual – those who workout regularly should consume significantly more protein. Typically 1g per 1lb of body weight.

What is Protein?

Protein is the building block of healthy muscles. Next to water, protein is the most abundant substance in your body – making it an absolutely essential nutrient. Our muscles are literally made of protein, which is why bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts need more protein than the average individual.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. The order and arrangement of these acids change the type (and quality) of the protein. There are 20+ different amino acids, which means there are a huge number of potential combinations – meaning a huge variety of types of protein.

How Much Protein Should You Consume?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that men who strength train regularly should consume 0.64 to 0.82 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, per day. That translates to about 102-131 grams of protein per day for the average 160-pound man who regularly strength trains. Female athletes and fitness enthusiasts need slightly less protein than men, but should still consume well over the official recommended levels.

Everyone has their own theory as to how much protein athletes need. Men’s Fitness says 0.7 to 0.8 grams per pound of body-weight, while other industry experts recommend 1-1.2g or more. The short answer is this: if you work out, you need more protein than you’d think. That’s why people usually recommend checking out one of the top protein powders below.

In order to reach daily protein requirements, most athletes supplement their diets with protein powders. These useful supplements provide an easy, quick and affordable way to increase protein intake. However, keep in mind that there are a lot of lower-quality products on the market. In order to achieve the best results, it’s important that you find the best protein powder for you.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the top 10 best protein powders. Since men and women have different dietary needs, you’ll also learn the differences between the best protein powder for women and the best protein powder for men.

But before we get into the nitty gritty details, let’s learn a bit more about protein and protein supplements.

What Are Protein Powders?

Protein supplements are dietary supplements intended to help people increase their protein intake in an easy and affordable way. Most of the time, they’re in powder form, and are used by mixing into water or milk, or making smoothies.

While protein powders are the most popular type, there are other protein supplements like bars, pre-made drinks, etc. There is no single “best protein supplement”, but rather, there is a huge variety of different products, each with their own pros and cons. Many people ask themselves which protein powder is best, but the answer really depends on your individual needs and goals.

Most Common Types of Protein Powders

While our list of the top protein powders will mainly focus on whey protein, there are many different types of good protein powders on the market. Here’s a brief overview of the different types:

Whey protein concentrate – Whey is the most common source of protein found in fitness supplements. Whey is derived from milk, and it’s one of the quickest-digesting proteins out there. Because whey protein is digested very rapidly, it’s commonly used by bodybuilders immediately after their workouts, because it delivers essential amino acids to muscles quickly.

Many of the top protein powders on the market will use whey protein as a main ingredient. This is because 1. it’s digested quickly, and 2. it’s affordable. Since whey is widely available and affordable, it makes for the best cheap protein powder. But don’t let the low price fool you – whey is a high-quality, effective protein.

Whey protein isolates – Whey isolates are another common ingredient. They are absorbed and digested very quickly – even faster than whey protein concentrate. Because of this, they’re best used as part of a pre-workout supplement blend, or taken immediately after working out. Including whey protein isolate is usually a good indicator of a top protein powder.

Products using whey isolates are generally very low in carbs and sugars, making them a good choice for people on diets. If you’re looking for a low carb protein powder, look for whey isolates as a primary ingredient. However, not all products are created equal, so always read whey protein reviews before choosing a powder.

Casein protein – Casein protein is another common ingredient found in protein supplements. Casein is also derived from milk, but unlike whey, it’s absorbed very slowly by the body. Casein can take anywhere from 5 to 7 hours to fully break down, which helps keep your body fueled throughout the day (or night).

Many of the best protein powders for weight loss will use casein as a primary ingredient. Because it is digested slowly, casein helps you feel full for longer periods of time, making it easier to eat less and lose weight. For bodybuilders, casein is often used as pre-bedtime snack, because it keeps muscles fueled while you sleep.

Soy protein – Soy protein is commonly taken by athletes as a way to supplement protein intake. It’s more common amongst women than men, but it’s gaining traction as an effective option for male strength trainers. Soy protein is widely considered to be the healthiest protein powder, because soy helps to maintain a healthy cholesterol profile while speeding up the metabolism.

Soy protein is also popular amongst people with allergies and dietary restrictions. It’s a vegetarian and dairy-free source of high-quality protein, so it’s good for those who are on certain diets, or those who are lactose-intolerant.

Other protein types – Whey, Casein and Soy are the most known protein powders on the market. However, there are many other protein types found in blended protein powders, including egg protein, beef protein, hemp protein and more!. The types listed above are the most common and usually are a good choice for the best protein powder, but we have also listed the top 10 in each category below this guide.

Benefits of Protein Powders

To explore the benefits of protein supplements, you should first understand the benefits of protein itself:

  • Stimulates muscle growth
  • Keeps muscles fueled during and after exercise
  • Helps repair muscles after strenuous exercise
  • Helps stimulate fat loss/weight loss
  • Helps build and repair muscle tissues
  • Helps build and repair bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood
  • Helps your body create enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals

Protein in supplement form aims to provide the same benefits as listed above, in an easy, affordable package. The best protein powders will provide high quality protein to help fuel your body.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of low-quality products out there. It’s important to read protein powder reviews to find the best protein powders available.

How to Take a Protein Powder

Depending on your goals and the products you’re using, the way you take supplements will vary significantly. In general, you should follow the instructions on the product packaging.

Generally speaking, you should take a quick-absorbing protein like whey isolates immediately after your workout, or even mid-workout. Slower-absorbing proteins like casein can be taken between meals, or before bed.

When it comes to figuring out how much protein you should take, you can use a protein intake calculator to get a rough estimate. Be sure to calculate the approximate protein content of the food you eat throughout the day into your overall intake. Here’s a list of protein content in common foods that you can use.

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What to Look for in a Good Protein Powder Powder

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the best protein powder for you, but here are some things to look for in a quality product:

  • Quality of ingredients – the type(s) of protein used in the product are very important, as is the overall quality of the ingredients used. A good protein powder will have a very high quality build.
  • Brand reputation – there are hundreds of sports nutrition companies out there – some good, some bad. Sticking to the reputable, well-known brands is generally recommended.
  • Value for money – how expensive is the product? How many doses are in each container? These are questions you should be asking yourself. When comparing prices, be sure to do your calculations based on the number of servings, and not just on the per-package price.
  • Taste/mixability – if the product tastes bad, you probably won’t want to take it every day! Read reviews to learn about the taste of different flavors/products. The best protein shakes contain some mix of protein powder and other ingredients, so keep in mind what flavors will work well with the way you intend to use the protein. For example, if you plan to make smoothies with berries and fruit, a vanilla-flavored protein would be a better choice than chocolate.
  • Applications to your goals – is your main goal to lose weight, gain muscle, tone up, or get huge? Depending on what you’re going for, you could be looking for the best protein powder for weight loss, or the best for muscle growth! Your goals dictate which product(s) you should use.

The Best Protein Powders to Consider

Whey Protein Powders

In the world of protein powders, whey reigns supreme. A watery byproduct of the cheese-making process, whey is easily absorbed and digested by the body and features an exceptional amino acid profile. Most importantly of all, it is a type of protein–the macronutrient that acts as a building block for muscle.

Milk contains two types of protein: whey and casein. Whey is the watery part. In addition to protein, it is loaded with branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, which stimulate protein synthesis and can enhance muscle growth over time. Leucine, in particular, is prized for its anabolic, protein-synthesizing abilities.

The way in which whey is processed affects its protein and amino acid profiles. Whey isolate, which retains 70 to 80 percent of the original protein, also contains some fat and lactose. Whey concentrate retains around 90 percent protein and less lactose and fat. However, it also contains fewer nutrients–including those crucial BCAAs. Finally, hydrolyzed whey is a broken-down version of whey isolate. All forms of whey are absorbed and digested rapidly by the body, but hydrolyzed whey is absorbed and digested even faster.

Thanks to its rapid absorption, easy digestion and exceptional levels of protein and BCAAs, whey is a mainstay in the world of protein powders. Because it is absorbed and digested so quickly, it is ideally taken immediately before or immediately after a workout. When taken before, it provides fuel for muscles. When taken after, it helps them recover and grow.

Ideal dosages of whey vary, but most people benefit from taking between 25 and 50 grams of whey protein per day, which is equivalent to one to two scoops of whey protein powder.

Our #1 Whey Protein Recommendation

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Full Breakdown: Gold Standard 100% Whey Review

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Casein Protein Powders

Like whey, casein is a protein that is found in milk. Unlike whey, however, it is insoluble, which means that it is a solid protein. As such, its release process is significantly different than whey’s, as it is absorbed and digested much more slowly by the body.

Otherwise, casein delivers many of the same benefits as whey. Also known as calcium caseinate, this powerful milk protein boasts a strong BCAA profile. However, it contains a lot less leucine than whey. Therefore, it may not prompt as strong of an anabolic reaction, which means that it may not help muscles grow as effectively.

Still, there are lots of benefits associated with taking casein protein powder. Those who are allergic to whey find it to be a viable alternative. It increases feelings of fullness and may therefore aid in fat loss. Some studies have also shown that it may reduce protein breakdown and amino acid oxidation.

As it hits the stomach, casein becomes a gel. It then provides a slow trickle of food for muscles. Therefore, taking it immediately before a workout isn’t advantageous. It may prove useful immediately following a workout, but many people choose to take it right before bed to provide fuel to their muscles while they sleep. In most cases, however, casein and whey are used in combination to deliver fast- and slow-absorbing protein to muscles.

As for dosage, a 200-pound man should aim to take 40 to 50 grams of casein protein per day.

Our #1 Casein Protein Recommendation

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Full Breakdown: Gold Standard 100% Casein Review

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Soy Protein Powders

Soy protein is somewhat mired in controversy, as research through the years has suggested that its phytoestrogens may decrease testosterone levels and increase estrogen levels. However, more recent studies have largely refuted these findings, and soy is routinely offered in protein powder form.

Unlike most plant protein sources, soy contains all nine essential amino acids, which are amino acids that can’t be produced by the body and must be obtained through dietary sources. Soy protein powder is made by hulling and drying soybeans into soy flour. As an isolate, which is its purest and most refined form, it contains about 90 percent protein. After being put through a de-fatting process, it becomes a concentrate with around 65 percent protein.

In addition to being an excellent plant-based source of protein, soy is loaded with arginine, which prompts anabolic hormone production, and glutamine, which is crucial during metabolic stress. For these reasons, soy protein can enhance athletic performance by aiding in recovery. Most notably, it reduces soreness and inflammation in the muscles.

Because its main claim to fame is helping the body recover after working out, soy protein powder should be taken immediately after exercising. It complements whey protein well, so many people take whey prior to working out and soy after.

The right dosage of soy protein powder varies depending on things like body composition and long-term goals. However, approximately 40 grams per day is a good starting point.

Our #1 Soy Protein Recommendation

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Egg Protein Powders

Before whey stole the limelight, eggs were the gold standard when it came to protein. Concerns about cholesterol caused a major drop-off in their popularity, but they have been experiencing a renaissance of sorts among bodybuilders and workout enthusiasts as egg protein powder.

A typical egg contains about six grams of protein. Eggs are also loaded with vitamins A, E and K as well as a wide array of B vitamins, and they also contain all nine essential amino acids.

Egg protein powder is made out of egg whites. Because yolks aren’t used, egg protein powder contains no cholesterol and limited amounts of fat. It is also lactose free and contains minimal amounts of carbohydrates.

Another prime benefit of egg protein powder is that it is digested quickly and prompts a strong muscle-building response. This is largely thanks to its high levels of leucine, the stimulating, anabolic amino acid; only whey contains more. Egg protein also promotes satiety, making it easier to stick to diet plans.

Because it is a fast-digesting protein, egg can be taken immediately before or right after a workout. A single scoop of most egg protein powders contains about 24 grams of protein. The ideal dose for a 200-pound man is around 30 to 40 grams of egg protein per day, but it varies depending on things like body composition, energy expenditure and long-term workout goals.

Our #1 Egg Protein Recommendation

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Beef Protein Powders

Most people are well aware of the fact that beef is an excellent source of protein. The problem, however, is that beef is red meat, which is also associated with health issues like high cholesterol and thickening arteries.

This is where beef protein powder comes into play. Made from dehydrated, processed beef, beef protein powder is typically produced in a way that strips the majority of the “bad stuff” away. What’s left behind is highly concentrated protein, which includes all nine essential amino acids.

Beef protein powder is typically produced by heating up beef, which hydrolyzes the protein. This is then filtered to remove cholesterol, fat, evaporated water, lactose and carbs. The result is a dry powder that consists of approximately 99-percent protein.

As long as it has been hydrolyzed, beef protein is absorbed fairly quickly by the body. Although it’s among the least popular protein powders out there, it doesn’t cause the bloating that is often associated with whey and may therefore be a good alternative for those who experience that particular side effect.

Most folks take beef protein powder first thing in the morning or immediately before or after working out. An ideal dose is around 20 to 40 grams of beef protein per day.

Our #1 Beef Protein Recommendation

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Hemp Protein Powders

For those who prefer to avoid all animal sources of protein, hemp protein powder may be a viable alternative. Derived from hemp seeds, which come from the cannabis plant, hemp protein boasts an incredible profile. It contains all 21 known amino acids, including all nine of the essential ones that can’t be produced by the body. It’s also loaded with essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, and it’s an excellent source of fiber.

Although it is derived from the cannabis plant, hemp protein contains no THC and therefore does not have any psychotropic effects. Hemp protein powder is typically organic and is easily digested by the body. It is also hypoallergenic, so it’s a great option for people who are allergic to other protein sources.

While it is true that hemp protein contains all of the known amino acids, it is not considered a complete protein source because it is relatively low in lysine, the rate-limiting amino acid, and leucine, the anabolic amino acid that spurs protein synthesis and muscle growth. For this reason, many people use hemp protein in conjunction with whey or soy protein to cover all of their bases.

The primary advantages of taking hemp protein powder are that it contains high levels of BCAAs, which fuel muscles and help spur growth. Hemp protein has also been shown to improve immune functioning and reduce fatigue.

Because it is easily digested by the body, hemp protein powder can effectively be taken before, during or after workouts. After accounting for dietary protein, you should supplement with about 0.68 to 1 gram of hemp protein powder for every one pound of body weight.

Our #1 Hemp Protein Recommendation

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Austin Meadows

Written by Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows is an independent writer and consultant specializing in health and wellness topics. With more than 7 years of experience writing in the natural health industry, Austin strives to deliver accurate, concise and researched based information to his readers. You can find more of Austin's work at Olympic-Creative.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn.