The 9 Best Types of Protein Powders to Consider Buying

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With so many different options of protein powders on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you.

Here’s our breakdown of the top powders and the research to help you choose the best option for you and your fitness goals.

Whether you looking to lose weight, gain muscle, or honor your vegan lifestyle, we’ve got all the powders covered here for your goals.

Always select a high quality source of your protein powders.

Why Take Protein Powder?

Protein powders have the ability to provide a convenient and concentrated source of high-quality protein.

High quality protein powder supplements can be especially beneficial to you if you do resistance training, strength training, or if you simply have a hard time reaching your protein intake goals with diet alone.

These protein powders can assistant you in your weight loss. Adding protein powder supplements to a low carb, high protein diet can help with decreasing fat mass and increasing lean mass simultaneously.

There are many benefits to using protein powder supplements including:

  • Muscle Gain
  • Reduce your appetite
  • Decrease fat mass
  • Increase lean mass
  • Part of Overall Weight Loss Strategy

Essentially, all protein powders products that are concentrated sources of protein derived from either animals or plants such as eggs, peas, dairy or other plants. Many protein powders are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. With calcium being the most common additive.

The reason WHY people choose to take protein powder supplements varies, but most say its because they want to improve muscle growth during exercise.

The most optimal choice for you can be made after doing a bit of research – we’ve taken care of the research for you so go ahead and pick your favorite and try ‘em out!

You might end up trying a couple different ones before deciding which one is best for you and your body type.

Which Protein Powders Are Best for My Goals?

Honestly, if your diet is already full of high-quality protein, you probably won’t see much of a difference in your muscle mass or exercise regimen by adding protein powder. Athletes and people living very active lifestyles who regularly engage in resistance exercises may find that protein powders help increase muscle gain, improve body composition, and facilitate fat loss.

Certain types of protein powders may be more effective at giving your body what it needs. We’ve pulled the best scientific research to show you which powders will help you meet you specific fitness goals.

If you are interested in muscle gain for example, there are a variety of options that might differ if your primary goal is weight loss. Follow this short guide to select the best powers for you.

If Gaining Muscle Mass Is Your Goal

Research has consistently show the ability of whey protein’s to promote, not only muscle mass building, but recovery as well.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is derived from milk. Whey is produced when liquid separates from curds in the process of traditional cheese culturing. It’s high in protein but since it’s derived from milk its not the best choice is you are lactose intolerant. Whey contains lactose, which many individuals have difficulty absorbing. This can lead to digestive problems.

One alternative, you could try the isolate type of whey protein, which contains only small amounts of lactose because most of it is lost during the extraction process.

Whey protein is a quickly digested protein that provides a quick rise in amino acids which can increase strength and muscle mass. It also contains leucine, one specific type of amino acids that plays a key role in supporting recovery after weight training, endurance exercises.

It also plays a major functional role in muscle growth (1). As the amino acids are absorbed into your bloodstream, they become available for the creation of new muscle also known as muscle protein synthesis (MPS) (2).

Whey protein meal replacements and protein powder supplements have both been shown to decrease appetite and provided the largest reduction in caloric intake among participants in controlled studies.

Additional studies on whey protein seems to suggest that it can reduce appetite and curb cravings as much as other forms of protein (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

Many studies looking at athletes suggest that whey protein can help maintain existing muscle mass as well as help build new muscles. And is particularly helpful for athletes who may be recovering from intensive exercise and resistance or weight training (8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13).

Whey has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) 132% more than casein protein and by 31% more than soy protein when used in conjunction with resistance training (13).

In studies involving normal-weight and obese individuals it was found that whey protein could improve lean mass and enhance body composition by removing fat mass (14, 15, 16).

Whey protein may not be a the most ideal choice for post-menopausal women who fared no better than those taking a placebo when combined with resistance training compared to whey protein (17).

Other studies found evidence that whey may help to improve certain heart health markers in obese and overweight individuals along with reducing inflammation (18, 19, 20).

Whey concentrate is typically less expensive than whey isolate, as it contains less protein when measured by weight. Whey may also reduce appetite and promote fat loss.

Check out our list of the 10 best whey protein powders on the market.

If Weight Loss Is Your Goal

Whey protein powders (mentioned above) are also an excellent choice for weight loss for the reasons described in the research above. If you primary goal is weight loss, then you may also consider adding casein protein.

We recommend a combination of the two for promoting fullness and fat loss.

Casein Protein

In studies involving low calorie diets among overweight men findings suggest that when calories are restricted, casein may be more effective at improving body composition than compared to whey when done in conjunction with weight training (21).

Very similar to whey, casein is a protein found in milk. Casein is digested evenly and absorbed a little slower than whey. This ultimately leads to a slower, even release of amino acids into the bloodstream, which can reduce the breakdown of muscle protein (22).

Compared to the effects of soy and wheat proteins, casein is more effective at increasing muscle protein synthesis and overall strength. But whey is still the most superior in this regard over all three other alternative tested in this research (9, 10, 23, 24, 25, 26).

Check out our list of the 10 best casein protein powders on the market.

Are You a Vegetarian or Vegan?

It’s best to choose a protein powder based on your dietary preferences, food tolerances and health and fitness goals. For the vegetarians and vegans, you have a number of high quality options that are 100% plant based protein.

We suggest you try pea protein, hemp protein, or brown rice protein depending on your dietary restrictions. There are also a number of exciting mixed plant protein powders on the market which combine a number of these together into a single supplement.

Pea Protein

Pea protein is very popular among vegetarians and obviously vegans. For those who might be allergic to dairy or eggs this is also a good option. It’s made from high-fiber legumes that contain all but one of the full spectrum of essential amino acids.

Pea plant protein is also high in those important BCAAs.

One study found that pea protein is absorbed quicker than casein but slower than whey. It has also been found to release several hormones that signal fullness to the brain (27).

In studies involving resistance training for men, those who took a daily dose of 1.8 ounces of pea protein powder were found to have similar outcomes related muscle mass and strength when compared to controls who took whey protein daily (28).

Pea protein has also been show to reduce high blood pressure in both animal and human studies.  (29)

Research is quite limited on pea protein supplements, thus interpretation of findings needs to be validated in future research.

Check out our list of the 10 best pea protein powders on the market.

Brown Rice Protein

Brown rice protein powders have been around for a while yet there still remains little research on this rice protein.

Brown rice protein is considered low in lysine thus it is not often considered a “complete protein”.

Generally, beef protein is considered to be equivalent or less effective than whey protein for building muscle.

One study found that rice and whey protein were fairly equal in terms of the changes in muscle strength, muscle recovery and other general changes to body composition (30).

Very little research, exist though so the findings may be limited for interpretation. More research is needed.

Check out our list of the 10 best rice protein powders on the market.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein powder is another very popular plant-based protein powder supplement on the market. Hemp is extremely potent and full of advantageous omega-3 fatty acids and a number of essential amino acids.

Nonetheless, help protein is not considered a complete protein. This is due to the fact that it has negligible levels of leucine and lysine – amino acids important for muscle recovery.

For this reason there is not a ton of support for research on this protein. But it does seem to be a well-digested plant protein (31).

Check out our list of the 10 best hemp protein powders on the market.

Plant Protein Mixtures

Mixed plant protein powders contain an assortment of different plant source proteins to nourish your body with amino acids, an essential component of the muscle building process. Combinations of the following proteins are typically found in mixed plant protein powders:

  • Pea
  • Hemp
  • Brown rice
  • Alfalfa
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds

Mixed plant proteins may be slower to digest when compared to animal proteins. Although this does not pose any serious problems for most people, it could limit the available amino acids your bloodstream for use after exercise (32).

Check out our list of the 10 best mixed plan protein powders on the market.

Looking for Another Kind of Protein?

Some additional options you might consider are soy, beef or egg proteins as well. While there is limited research on beef and egg protein, soy is one that has been quite controversial.

Let’s clear up some of the confusion.

Soy Protein

It’s time to make your amends with tofu and let’s start with the myths about soy and cancer. If you’ve been at the market and hesitated to try soymilk, hearing it could be linked to breast cancer, we can understand why!

The evidence is confusing. Let’s get you up to speed and clear up the confusion about soy.

First, it looked positive when studies in the early 1990s found that Asian women who consumed large amounts of soy had a reduced chance of getting breast cancer (33).

But then a different study shows that there was a possible increase in risk from eating soy.  More studies throughout the 2000s found eating soy reduced survivors’ recurrence of different types of cancer (34, 35).

In 2006, the American Heart Association proclaimed that eating soy could be good for heart health. They later retracted that statement in 2008.

Finally in 2017, the FDA stated it was revoking any claim that soy protein reduces the risk of heart disease due to the very irregular findings (36, 37, 38).

THIS IS ALL REALLY CONFUSING!

According to the experts – mostly registered dietitians, they all say there’s little evidence that eating soy (it’s high in protein and low in calories!) as part of a balanced diet will have any effects on your risk of developing cancer.

But from a research standpoint, measuring diet can be tricky, and is not easily accounted for methodologically in these studies, hence the variable outcomes.

We can agree that eating whole soy foods (edamame, tempeh, tofu) over any of the more processed versions like tofu based “meat like” products, soy burgers and hot dogs is a wiser choice.

Check out our list of the 10 best soy protein powders on the market.

Egg Protein

Egg-white protein is high in quality and easily digested — though it may not keep you feeling as full as other protein powders.

Eggs are a great source of high quality protein and can be a great alternative for people with a dairy allergy who want animal based protein. They help decrease appetite and keep you feeling fuller for longer (39, 40).

Eggs have a very high protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). This score is based on a measure of protein digestibility and the overall quality. Compared to other whole foods, eggs are the best in this score (41).

Egg based protein powders are made from egg whites instead of whole egg. Thus, quality remains first-rate but the yolks have been removed. So, you might not feel satiated for as long and you can expect a lower fat content.

The research on egg-white protein hasn’t been studied as much as whey or casein.

In one study, female athletes taking egg-white protein showed similar changes in lean muscle and overall strength compared to those enhancing with carbs (42).

Check out our list of the 10 best egg protein powders on the market.

Beef Protein

For those keto fans or anyone who’s allergic to whey and milk it can be hard to find good protein sources. Beef powder protein is one option you might not have thought of!

If you want to supplement protein into your diet without having to consume possibly mercury contaminated tuna, this in an excellent solution.  It’s packed full of amino acids and high quality protein.

You may also want to incorporate some lean red meats into your diet. Lean beef is generally signaled by the words “round” or “loin.” It’s packed full of B vitamins, selenium and zinc. Not to mention all the protein.

Lean cuts of beef contain less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat per 3.5-ounce serving (43).

One study found that beef can help generate muscle protein synthesis in participants and provided necessary amino acid precursors for elevated synthesis of proteins. Beef protein can be comparable to whey or casein but without the dairy derivatives. (44)

Check out our list of the 10 best beef protein powders on the market.

ⓘ Any specific supplement products & brands featured on this website are not necessarily endorsed by Molly.

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Molly Lancaster, PhD, CHES

Written by Molly Lancaster, PhD, CHES

I hold a PhD in Preventive Medicine and Health Behavior Research from USC- Keck School of Medicine and I’m also a certified health education specialist (CHES). I currently work as a freelance writer, researcher, and strategy consultant. I'm also a professor of psychology, sociology and health sciences at two amazing universities in Los Angeles. Finally, I'm an intuitive healing practitioner and I teach meditation with private clients in Hollywood and Worldwide. I specialize in mindfulness, clearing negative energy and releasing creativity blocks. My website is www.drmollyann.com. Email Molly.