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The 13 Best Protein Powders of 2023

These top-rated protein powders can help boost your nutrition intake while meeting specific dietary needs.

The products featured in this article have been independently reviewed. When you buy something through the retail links on this page, we may earn commission at no cost to you, the reader. The Sports Illustrated editorial team is not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more here.

Choosing the right protein powder can be intimidating—there are so many options out there. Whether you have specific dietary restrictions, prefer plant-based protein, or want something that packs in a ton of delicious flavor, you’ll find a protein powder to meet your needs. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve created this comprehensive, nutritionist-backed guide to the best protein powders on the market.

Ahead is our in-depth list of 13 protein powder supplements we’ve tested and reviewed ourselves. All protein powders listed below were produced in a cGMP (current good manufacturing processes) facility and are tested by third party labs. The supplement industry is not currently regulated by the FDA, and so these processes ensure that the supplement is sourced, formulated, labeled and packaged according to the leading safety standards.

Our Top Picks for Best Protein Powders:


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

Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate_product

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Three grams carbohydrates, one gram fat
  • Calories per serving: 140 calories
  • Protein per serving: 28 grams
  • Protein source: Whey protein isolate
  • Flavors: Milk chocolate, mocha, strawberry, chocolate peanut butter, vanilla peanut butter, french vanilla, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, cinnamon French toast
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free, no preservatives
  • Total price: $60 (one time), $54 (subscription)
  • Price per 32-gram serving of protein: $1.43

Just like the name implies, Transparent Labs is a brand that works to put transparency and quality at the forefront of all its products. Each product is third-party tested, and its 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is no exception. You won’t find any gluten or artificial components like preservatives or colors in this protein powder—just 28 grams of protein and essential amino acids. Whether you plan on using protein powder as a post-workout muscle boost or a meal replacement shake, you’ll have eight flavors to pick from, like cinnamon French toast and oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

Pros:

  • The grass-fed whey comes from U.S. dairy farms
  • All-natural flavoring
  • High protein per serving

Cons:

  • Those avoiding animal products should skip; milk-based protein
  • Higher price tag but can subscribe and get a discount

Best Whey Protein Powder: XWerks Grow Whey Protein Isolate

XWerks Grow Whey Protein Isolate

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: One gram carbohydrates, zero grams fat, zero grams sugar
  • Calories per serving: 110 calories
  • Protein per serving: 25 grams
  • Protein source: Whey (grass fed)
  • Flavors: Chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, strawberry
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free; soy-free; keto-friendly; no artificial flavors, sweeteners or coloring
  • Total price: $59 (one time), $56.05 (subscription)
  • Price per serving: $1.97 (one time), $1.87 (subscription)

XWerks Grow 100 percent grass-fed whey protein isolate ranks high on our list of whey protein powders because unlike other whey options, it’s made without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or artificial flavors, coloring and sweeteners. It’s also ultra filtered to isolate only the highest quality whey protein. The filtration process removes unwanted carbs, fats and sugars (lactose), which makes it highly digestible for those with lactose intolerance (another big differentiator that sets XWerks apart from other whey protein powders).

Like many other sugar-free supplements, XWerks Grow is sweetened with stevia, and it’s flavored with cacao beans, vanilla beans and peanut butter powder. The lack of artificial flavors is probably what inspires many of the customer reviewers raving about no aftertaste. Each serving contains 25 grams of protein and over six grams of BCAAs. The lack of carbs makes this protein ideal for those following the keto-diet.

Pros:

  • Uses all-natural flavors
  • Made to be easily digested

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • No plant-based options are offered at this time

Best Overall Plant-Based Protein Powder: Swolverine Plant Protein

Swolverine

Swolverine

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Three grams of carbs, 2.5 grams of fat and zero grams of sugar
  • Calories per serving: 130 calories
  • Protein per serving: 22 grams
  • Protein source: Pea protein isolate, pumpkin seed protein
  • Flavors: Chocolate cake, salted caramel
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free, non-GMO, soy free, vegan
  • Total price: $52.99 (one time), $45.03 (subscription)
  • Price per serving of protein: $1.67

If you’re looking for a plant-based protein powder to fuel you during your next spin class, HIIT workout or morning run, check out Swolverine Plant Protein. Not only is this packed with plant-based protein, it’s vegan, soy-free, gluten-free and free from GMOs.

Each scoop contains 22 grams of protein from pea protein isolate and pumpkin seed protein. We love the health benefits of this combination, not to mention they will help you stay full and satisfied. Pumpkin is high in fiber, rich in potassium and since it’s full of vitamins, it even provides a boost to your immune system. Pea protein isolate is a good source of iron and often has a creamier texture than other powders making it perfect to blend into your next smoothie. With flavors like salted caramel and chocolate cake, which users on the Swolverine website rave about, who wouldn’t want to give this powder a try? Your gut will thank you for the added benefit of the prebiotic fiber inulin which is used in Swolverine Plant Protein. It’s known for preventing constipation and keeping you feeling fuller, longer.

Pros:

  • Third-party tested
  • Vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO
  • Users rave about taste, and say it mixes well into drinks

Cons:

  • Slightly less protein than other products
  • Only two flavors
  • Higher price tag but can subscribe and get a discount

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

transparent  labs whey

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Three grams carbohydrates, one gram fat
  • Calories per serving: 140 calories
  • Protein per serving: 28 grams
  • Protein source: Whey protein isolate
  • Flavors: Milk chocolate, cinnamon French toast, strawberry, chocolate peanut butter, mocha, vanilla peanut butter, French vanilla, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free, no preservatives
  • Total price: $60 (one time), $54 (subscription)
  • Price per 32-gram serving of protein: $1.43

Transparent Labs offers a grass-fed whey protein isolate that contains no artificial colors, sweeteners or flavors. Whey isolate is different from concentrate because it's processed to reduce the fat and lactose content, leaving mainly high quality protein. With Transparent Labs, consumers can enjoy a low-calorie, high-protein shake option that's easier to digest than many other options, since a majority of the lactose is removed during processing.

This product is sweetened with stevia leaf extract, and the chocolate peanut butter flavor was one of the best tasting protein powders I have ever tried. This product was a little clumpy in a classic shaker bottle, so using a blender is advised. The brand’s eight flavors include cinnamon French toast, salted caramel and mocha. I would have to agree with the 1,600+ reviews and an average rating of 4.4 out of five stars on the company’s website that this is one of the best protein powder supplements currently on the market; you can feel confident trusting that this protein powder checks all the boxes of a high quality protein supplement.

Pros:

  • 28 grams of protein per serving
  • Whey comes from American dairy cows
  • Nine flavors to pick from
  • Non-GMO and no artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives

Cons:

  • Higher up-front cost and price per serving
  • Contains protein from animal sources; plant-based protein users should opt for Transparent Labs’ Vegan Protein instead

Best Unflavored Protein Powder: KOS Organic Unflavored Protein Powder 

KOS Protein

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Nine grams carbohydrates, six grams fat, two grams sugar
  • Calories per serving: 140 calories
  • Protein per serving: 20 grams 
  • Protein source: Organic pea protein, organic flax seeds, organic quinoa, organic pumpkin seeds and organic chia seeds
  • Flavors: Unflavored
  • Sweetener: None
  • Noteworthy features: USDA Certified Organic, California Certified Organic Farmers, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and made in the USA
  • Total price: $49.99 (one-pack), $42.49 (subscription)
  • Price per serving: $1.78 (one time), $1.52 (subscription)

Just because there are many wild flavors of protein out there doesn't mean there aren't great unflavored options. With KOS, there are 20 grams of plant-based protein with every serving. Supplementary components for vitamin and mineral intake are also organic, like inulin fiber, coconut and non-GMO produce.

Related Post: 10 Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss

This protein is designed to be absorbed without any gastric side effects, such as lactose-induced bloating. You have a couple of options to make this an effective meal replacement: drink it as a shake, incorporate into your daily coffee or smoothie or even add it in while baking in place of normal flour.

Pros:

  • Flavorless for easy incorporation into protein shakes and meals
  • 20 grams of protein per serving
  • Contains no gluten, soy or animal protein 

Cons:

  • High calorie (140 calories per serving)
  • 28 servings per container may not be enough for some users

Best Protein Powder for Beginners: XWerks Grow Whey Protein Isolate

XWerks Grow Whey Protein Isolate

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: One grams carbohydrates, zero grams fat, zero grams sugar
  • Calories per serving: 110 calories
  • Protein per serving: 25 grams 
  • Protein source: Whey protein isolate
  • Flavors: Chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, strawberry
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free; soy-free; keto-friendly; no artificial flavors, sweeteners or coloring
  • Total price: $59 (one time), $56.05 (subscription)
  • Price per serving: $1.97 (one time), $1.87 (subscription)

For a protein powder that checks all the boxes of quality ingredients, expert formulation and key components that propel you toward your fitness goals, “X” marks the spot—as in XWerks, that is. And if you’re new to protein powders and unsure where to even begin, this protein aims to provide an easy, straightforward approach to adding it to your daily routine.

XWerks uses whey protein isolate from pasture-raised New Zealand cows to eliminate the potential contamination of chemicals like pesticides and hormones. The whey is microfiltered to sift out unnecessary fat and lactose, leaving pure whey protein isolate rich in amino acids and protein. 25 grams of protein and six grams of amino acids encourage muscular growth and maintenance to prep for the next workout.

Pick between chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter or strawberry. All Grow flavors are keto-friendly, gluten-free, soy-free and sweetened with stevia. XWerks makes it easy to make sure you'll never run out of scoops with a subscription service.

Pros:

  • Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors do not contain lactose, carbs, soy, fat or gluten
  • Uses New Zealand dairy for increased product quality
  • Contains 25 grams of protein and six grams of amino acids to support your muscles

Cons:

  • Higher price per serving ($1.97)
  • Not dairy-free because of whey protein; not suitable for vegan diets

Best Protein Powder for Men: Kaged Muscle Micropure Whey Protein Isolate

Kaged Whey Protein Isolate

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Three grams carbohydrates, 0.5 grams fat
  • Calories per serving: 120 calories
  • Protein per serving: 25 grams 
  • Protein source: Whey protein isolate
  • Flavors: Chocolate, vanilla, chocolate peanut butter, s’mores, cinnamon French toast
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Non-GMO, gluten-free
  • Total price: $45
  • Price per serving: $1.16

For those looking to put on (and keep) muscle mass, Kaged whey protein is a good option. Whey protein isolate contains essential amino acids for the body to undergo muscle protein synthesis, otherwise known as muscle growth. This product doesn’t offer a full amino acid profile breakdown, which we would like to see. Still, it does have 12 grams of essential amino acids, 8.3 grams of non-essential amino acids, 5.7 grams of BCAAs and 4.7 grams of conditional amino acids per serving.

Kaged Muscle offers whey protein isolate that contains no artificial colors or flavors. This product contains pure whey protein isolate; however, it is flavored with sucralose, which causes the product to taste very sweet and can possibly cause gastric distress for sensitive individuals. That being said, if you can tolerate the artificial sweetener, at only $1.16 per serving of protein this supplement is a great option for those looking to maximize their budget.

Kaged Muscle offers the standard chocolate and vanilla flavor options, but also includes chocolate peanut butter, s’mores and my personal favorite, cinnamon French Toast.

Pros:

  • Informed Sport Certified and third-party tested
  • Whey protein isolate provides 25 grams of protein per serving
  • 12 grams of essential amino acids per serving

Cons:

  • Contains milk; not the best option for those avoiding lactose
  • Not for those who want plant-based protein

Best Protein Powder for Women: Swolverine Plant Protein

Swolverine

Swolverine

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Three grams of carbs, 2.5 grams of fat and zero grams of sugar
  • Calories per serving: 130 calories
  • Protein per serving: 22 grams
  • Protein source: Pea protein isolate, pumpkin seed protein
  • Flavors: Chocolate cake, salted caramel
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free, non-GMO, soy free, vegan
  • Total price: $52.99 (one time), $45.03 (subscription)
  • Price per serving of protein: $1.67

Looking for a protein powder that tastes good and you can feel good about using? Check out Swolverine Plant Protein. It’s our pick for the best protein powder for women. Users on the Swolverine website rave about the chocolate cake and salted caramel flavors. Plus this powder is plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and free from GMOs with only three grams of carbs and zero grams of sugar per serving.

A container of Swolverine Plant Protein has 30 servings and each serving packs 22 grams of protein into just one scoop. This powder uses a blend of pea protein isolate, pumpkin protein and inulin. We love that this combination will help your power through your workout, and also provide you with added health benefits. The prebiotic fiber inulin is often found in plants, fruits and vegetables like asparagus, bananas and onions. It has several benefits for your gastrointestinal system like preventing constipation and increasing the good bacteria in your gut. Pumpkin is a great source of potassium which promotes heart health and can even boost your immune system thanks to the vitamins and antioxidants it contains. While some plant-based protein powder can cause uncomfortable bloating, pea protein is easily digested and comes with a creamy texture making it a great choice for your next post workout smoothie.

Pros:

  • Third-party tested
  • Vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO
  • Users rave about taste, and say it mixes well into drinks

Cons:

  • Slightly less protein than other products
  • Only two flavors
  • Higher price tag but can subscribe and get a discount

Best Organic Protein Powder: KOS Organic Vegan Protein 

kos organic plant protein

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Nine grams carbohydrates, six grams fat, two grams sugar
  • Calories per serving: 160 calories
  • Protein per serving: 20 grams 
  • Protein source: Organic pea protein, organic flax seeds, organic quinoa, organic pumpkin seeds and organic chia seeds
  • Flavors: Chocolate, blueberry muffin, chocolate chip mint, chocolate peanut butter, salted caramel coffee, vanilla, unflavored
  • Sweetener: Organic stevia extract, organic coconut sugar, organic monk fruit extract
  • Noteworthy features: USDA Certified Organic, California Certified Organic Farmers, Vegan, Gluten-free, soy-free and made in the USA
  • Total price: $49.99 (one-pack), $42.49 (subscription)
  • Price per serving: $1.78 (one time), $1.52 (subscription)

KOS Organic Plant Protein has racked up quite a few certifications to underscore the quality and purity of its product. Certified by both the USDA Organic and California Certified Organic Farmers associations, KOS products are manufactured in Southern California in a GMP-certified facility (Good Marketing Practice). To take it one step further, the fruits and vegetables used to enrich this protein powder are also USA-sourced and GMO-free.

KOS gets gold stars across the board for all its certifications, and especially for all the steps it takes to create a tasty, effective and plant-powered protein powder.

Pros:

  • Seven flavor options
  • Protein comes from organic plant sources like peas and flax seeds
  • Vegetarian and vegan friendly

Cons:

  • Uses coconut derivatives; those with coconut allergy should skip
  • Contains up to six grams of fat and nine grams of carbohydrates per serving

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

transparent  labs whey

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Three grams carbohydrates, one gram fat
  • Calories per serving: 140 calories
  • Protein per serving: 28 grams
  • Protein source: Whey protein isolate
  • Flavors: Milk chocolate, mocha, strawberry, chocolate peanut butter, vanilla peanut butter, French vanilla, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, cinnamon French toast
  • Sweetener: Stevia
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free, no preservatives
  • Total price: $60 (one time), $54 (subscription)
  • Price per 32-gram serving of protein: $1.43

Transparent Labs takes traditional chocolate protein powder and ups the ante with elevated flavor options: milk chocolate, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, chocolate peanut butter and mocha for coffee lovers. 

This protein powder serves up so much more than a sweet treat, though. Each serving provides your muscles with 28 grams of grass-fed whey protein isolate and essential amino acids. It's also sweetened with stevia and cocoa, so you don't have to worry about any artificial additives.

Pros:

  • Variety of flavors, including four chocolate specific options
  • Uses grass-fed whey protein isolate to maximize protein intake

Cons:

  • High price point

Best Personalized Protein Powder: Gainful Personalized Protein Powder

Gainful

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Varies based on your personalized formula
  • Protein per serving: 19–27 grams
  • Protein source: Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, micellar casein, organic pea protein, organic brown rice protein
  • Flavors: Strawberry cream, Madagascar vanilla, rich chocolate, caffè mocha, cookies and cream, chocolate peanut butter, matcha green tea, cinnamon toast, sea salt caramel
  • Sweetener: Stevia extract, monk fruit
  • Noteworthy features: Gluten-free; soy-free; no fillers, artificial flavors, dyes or sweeteners
  • Total price: $45
  • Price per serving: $3.21

Gainful is one of just a handful or brands that personalize their protein powder to your specific fitness and dietary needs. Your formula is created from the results of a quiz on the Gainful website, but each protein powder contains a variation of just 14 simple ingredients, none of which are artificial flavors, dyes or sweeteners. If you prefer plant-based protein, your formula will likely include organic pea protein and/or organic brown rice protein. Those who prefer whey may have whey isolate, whey concentrate or micellar casein in their mix.

Other possible ingredients include organic oat powder, coconut oil, organic sunflower oil, green tea extract, BCAA blend, organic tapioca dextrose and organic tapioca maltodextrin. Rather than producing full bags of a single flavor, Gainful gives you flavor packets with your order, so you can switch up the taste of your protein shake day-to-day. While it’s not a budget-friendly option, it’s ideal for those with very specific dietary needs. 

For more information, check out our Gainful protein powder review.

Pros:

  • Produced in cGMP facility
  • Select four flavor boosts with every order
  • Keto, whey and plant-based protein options

Cons:

  • Can only be bought via subscription
  • Only orders over $60 have free shipping

Best Protein Powder for 50+: Ritual Daily Shake 50+

Get 30% off your first month of Ritual

Ritual Essential Protein

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Three grams carbohydrates, two grams fat, zero grams sugar
  • Calories per serving: 120 calories
  • Protein per serving: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Organic yellow peas
  • Flavors: Vanilla
  • Sweetener: Reb-M (fermented sugarcane), organic monk fruit
  • Noteworthy features: Informed Sport certified, gluten-free, major allergen-free, non-GMO, traceable ingredients, third-party tested
  • Total price: $40
  • Price per serving: $2.67

Ritual produces three protein formulas for different ages and stages in life. In addition to the Daily Shake 18+ (for users between ages 18 and 49) and the Daily Shake Pregnancy & Postpartum, it offers the Daily Shake 50+. Like the other two blends, this particular protein powder is traceable and plant-based (made with organic pea protein), but it also includes 370 milligrams of calcium and 1.5 grams (1,500 milligrams) of calcium HMB to support lean muscle mass.

Adults lose three to eight percent of their muscle mass each decade after age 30, which increases the risk of falling, injury and permanent disability. Adults over 50 are also susceptible to developing osteoporosis, which is why the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium increases from 1,000 milligrams to 1,200 milligrams for women over 50 and men over 70. One serving of Ritual Daily Shake 50+ provides over 30 percent of the RDA of calcium for both men and women over age 50, plus four grams of BCAAs and 20 grams of protein.

Pros:

  • Formulated with more calcium for adults over 50
  • 20 grams of plant-based protein per serving
  • Informed Sport Certified and third-party tested

Cons:

  • Specific formula geared towards adults over 50

Best Tasting Protein Powder: Gainful Personalized Protein Powder

Gainful-Protein-Flavors

Key features:

  • Nutrition per serving: Dependent on selected formula (whey, keto or plant-based)
  • Protein per serving: 19–27 grams 
  • Protein source: Organic yellow pea protein, organic brown rice protein, organic oat powder, micellar casein, whey protein concentrate and isolate
  • Flavors: Sea salt caramel, strawberry cream, Madagascar vanilla, matcha green tea, cookies & cream, cinnamon toast, chocolate peanut butter and caffé mocha
  • Sweetener: Stevia leaf extract and organic monk fruit
  • Noteworthy features: Does not contain any artificial sweeteners, flavors or dyes; gluten-free, no fillers or soy products used
  • Total price: $45
  • Price per serving: $3.21

Like mixing up your protein powder flavors whenever you’re craving something different? Gainful takes a unique approach to protein powder, not only tailoring it to your needs and goals but letting you switch up daily flavors. This is achieved by way of “Flavor Boosts” or individual flavor packets that are incorporated into your protein shake. The protein powder itself has no flavor by design so you can enjoy your post-workout reward.

There are nine flavor boost options available, and you can select four with your protein powder order: sea salt caramel, strawberry cream, Madagascar vanilla, matcha green tea, cookies and cream, cinnamon toast, chocolate peanut butter and caffé mocha.

Pros:

  • Subscription lets you work with Gainful to come up with your custom formula
  • Flavor boosts use natural stevia leaf extract and organic monk fruit instead of artificial sweeteners
  • Gluten- and soy-free

Cons:

  • Four flavor boosts included with your order; have to order more if you prefer extra on hand
  • Pricier option at $3.21 per serving due to customization 

What Is Protein?

Protein, alongside carbohydrates and fats, is one of the three macronutrients. It is of particular importance because it plays a role in almost all biological processes of the body. Protein itself is composed of chains of amino acids which function in the body to build human tissues, produce hormones and enzymes, maintain fluid balance, and much more. For athletes, consuming an adequate amount of protein helps build muscle, which both increases strength and aids post training recovery.

What Are the Dietary Benefits of Protein?

  1. Increased satiety. This means that you’ll feel full for a longer period of time.
  2. Greater lean body mass. Increased protein ingestion preserves muscle mass.
  3. Increased metabolic rate. Protein takes the most energy to digest, so you’ll be upping your metabolic rate post protein consumption.
  4. Decreased body fat conversion. While in a caloric surplus (i.e., eating more calories than your body needs in a day), protein is stored as body fat at approximately 65 percent efficiency; compared to carbohydrates and fat, which are stored at approximately 80 percent efficiency and 95 percent efficiency, respectively. This is because protein requires a percentage of the energy it provides the body for digestion and absorption into the muscles.

The World Health Organization advises a protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. This means that a 150-pound person would aim to consume only 54 grams of protein per day to meet their dietary needs. The vast majority of people eating a conventional Western diet easily achieve this in a day. However, this recommendation does not consider weight training and/or athletic performance goals. This protein intake is enough to maintain the muscle mass of a relatively sedentary person but it is most definitely not enough to support or maximize muscle growth. This is where taking a protein supplement, such as protein powder, can have a tremendous benefit in your daily regimen.

Who Should Use Protein Powder

Consider your health and fitness goals. For instance, a long distance runner needs a different amount of protein than an Olympic weightlifter. Here are some recommendations:

Athletes who aren’t aiming to change their weight

Athletic performance-oriented individuals who aren’t concerned with gaining or losing weight should aim for the following daily protein intakes, expressed in grams of protein per pound (grams/pound) of body weight.

  1. Sedentary or low-intensity activity = 0.4 grams/pound
  2. Endurance Training (moderate/heavy training) = 0.5 to 0.7 grams/pound
  3. Strength & Power Training = 0.6 to 0.8 grams/pound

Muscle building/weight gain program

During a “bulking” phase, where you are aiming to gain weight and build muscle, you are consuming excess calories and therefore have carbohydrates and fats to burn as fuel. This type of plan has a protein sparing effect; because your body won’t need to use protein as energy, you will not need to consume excess protein. The protein recommendations for a bulking program are 0.7 to one grams/pound of body weight.

Fat loss program

During a “cutting” phase you are taking in less food (energy) than your body is burning, which places you in a caloric deficit to lose weight. While you are in a caloric deficit, you have less overall body fat and glycogen stores, which are the energy reserves for the body. In this scenario, your body is much more likely to break down muscle tissue as a source of energy since you no longer are getting energy from excess carbohydrates and fats. For this reason, it is advised to increase protein consumption. The protein recommendations are 0.8 to 1.2 grams/pound of body weight.

Body recomposition program

During this program you are looking to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Although you might not see your overall weight change during this process, you should be able to see progress over time in the mirror. On this program you will be using a maintenance level of calories (i.e., the number of calories your body needs in one day to stay at the same weight you are now) with the same protein requirement as a cutting phase.

If you’re already consuming enough protein to support your activity level and goals, you do not need a protein powder. However, if you find yourself falling short of that mark, let’s find a supplement that works for your goals.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Protein Powder for You

When looking for a protein supplement, you want to think about more than just the amount of protein per serving. Take into account a number of different factors such as the ingredient quality, macronutrient numbers, amino acid profile, taste and cost. It’s also good to look at manufacturing and third party testing—in most cases, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so NSF Certified for Sport is the gold standard to look for.

Muscle protein synthesis, or muscle growth, is stimulated by resistance training along with the intake of amino acids from protein; in particular the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three amino acids make up about one-third of the body's muscle protein, and have been shown to help build muscle by increasing the rate of protein synthesis and decreasing the rate of protein degradation in resting human muscle tissue.

The amino acid leucine is particularly important because it stimulates an enzyme called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) which triggers new muscle growth. Three grams per meal, for a total of 15 to 20 grams per day, has been shown to be the amount necessary to stimulate mTOR and muscle protein synthesis. Leucine is most commonly found in animal sources, including eggs, milk, fish, and meats.

When to Eat Protein

For optimal protein intake, it’s best to focus on overall protein consumption throughout the day rather than being incredibly preoccupied by the amount of protein consumed per meal. This is important for people who follow different dietary protocols such as time restricted eating, one meal a day (OMAD), or intermittent fasting. However, based on the research, if we want to be as optimal as possible, then three to five meals containing protein spread evenly throughout the day is likely best for maximizing muscle protein synthesis and better for digestion as a whole. This is where having a protein supplement like protein powder can be an important asset to anyone’s health and fitness program.

Protein Powder FAQS

How much protein powder should I take in a day?

This depends on factors including your activity level, age and body weight. 25 grams of protein is what the average person should strive for in a day, sometimes more if you are working on building muscle or have different nutritional needs. According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive protein intake would exceed 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

Is it healthy to have protein powder?

Yes! Adding protein powder as a dietary supplement can help your body get extra nutrients it needs that you may not be taking in otherwise. There’s a wide variety of protein powders to accommodate your individual needs.

Are protein powder supplements regulated?

While the FDA doesn’t regulate any dietary supplements, there are companies that offer third-party verification. Looking for protein powder that is Informed Sport certified or NSF Certified for Sport will ensure that what you see on the label is exactly what you get. This is even more important if you’re an athlete, as you’ll want to ensure there are no banned substances in your protein powder.

Can I take protein powder even if I don’t work out?

Yes. Protein powder can be used as a high protein meal replacement, and can assist with dietary needs.

Should I take protein powder with milk or water?

It all comes down to your personal goals. Milk is another way to increase protein intake along with the type of protein powder you are using. It can create more of a “milkshake” taste depending on the flavor you use, whereas water has no flavor and no calories.

Do protein shakes have side effects?

While there aren’t reported side effects, it’s important to take into account the ingredients you’re taking in. Keep an eye out for sugar, sweeteners, preservatives and ingredients with little nutritional value.

Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.