When it comes to finding the best protein supplement, there are so many different options out there that it can be confusing. That’s why we’ve asked nutritionists and experts about what exactly makes a great protein supplement for you to make an informed decision. Here is what they had to say.

Proper Protein Intake

Most people can easily meet their protein needs through food, and many consume more protein than they need on a daily basis. However, using protein powders can be helpful for people who have higher protein needs—such as athletes, pregnant and breastfeeding people, and people with certain medical conditions. It may also be beneficial for those who follow restricted diets, such as vegans or vegetarians or those who don’t like many protein-rich foods. Protein powders can also help boost the protein content of meals and snacks that might otherwise be lacking, such as smoothies or oatmeal.



Rise of Protein Powders

Protein powders can be found in thousands of formulations on tens of thousands of shelves across the country. And while they’re popular for their ability to help people gain and retain muscle protein synthesis, these supplements aren’t just for bodybuilders — or even people with regular gym memberships. Protein powder is also great for vegetarians to absorb protein or if you have a picky-eater child. Some experts have no qualms about adding protein powder to their kid’s macaroni and cheese.

Hundreds of protein powders are on the market, but not all are created equally. Lean on the protein powder that matches your dietary goals and priorities. For example, if you’re following a vegan lifestyle, options like hemp, soy, or pea will be better choices. Also, consider which powder you tolerate best. For some, soy or a dairy-based protein powder may not be easily tolerated. It’s also important to consider additional ingredients like vitamins, minerals, added sweeteners, enzymes, probiotics, caffeine, and more.

Different Types of Protein Powder Supplements

Sources of protein found in most protein powders can be divided into two categories: animal-based and plant-based protein powder.

Animal-based protein powders are often made of either whey or casein. Whey comes from the translucent liquid part of milk, while casein comes from the top solid portion of milk. Both contain all nine essential amino acids. Other animal-based protein powders are made with egg white protein.

Meanwhile, plant-based protein powders typically include proteins from soy, peas, hemp, rice, chia seeds, or pumpkin seeds.

best protein powder supplementWhey Protein Powder

If you opt for a whey protein, consider the form you want to use. In addition to whole protein powder, options include:

  • Whey protein concentrate, which excludes water and other minerals from the protein
  • Whey protein isolate, a very pure purest protein source, which excludes all fat and lactose from the protein
  • Whey protein hydrolysate, which is often considered a “predigested” form of protein

Casein Protein Powder

About 80% of cow’s milk is made of casein protein, while whey protein makes up the rest. Casein is a slower-digesting protein, and because of this, it is often taken before bed or before long periods of fasting. Because it takes the body longer to digest casein protein than whey, casein is often a better choice for a meal replacement. Casein protein also contains lactose, which may be an important factor for those with allergies and sensitivities.

Pea Protein Powder

Extracted from green and yellow peas, pea protein is lactose-free and safe for people with milk and dairy allergies or sensitivities. The three types of pea protein extracts include isolates, concentrates, and hydrolysates.

While pea protein can offer a boost to athletic performance, it also has the potential to provide other health benefits. Research into pea protein isolate specifically has found that it may assist with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Organic And Vegan Protein Powder

Those who follow vegan diets may have a tougher time getting the necessary amount of protein, which can make protein supplementation through the use of protein powders important. In addition to pea protein powders, other popular ingredients in vegetarian and vegan protein powders include quinoa and amaranth. Vegetable proteins are incomplete proteins, so choosing a blend of plant proteins or mutually supplementing, could be the way to go to ensure you’re getting all the branched-chain amino acids your body needs. One example of this supplementation is mixing bean and rice protein powders together in one smoothie.

How to Choose the Best Protein Powder

When choosing from the long list of the best protein powders, nutritionists and dieticians recommend paying particular attention to the product’s certification(s). There are no standards for labeling, so going with an item tested by a third party can offer peace of mind and make for a safer, healthier product. This best indicates high quality and lower/limited contamination or ‘filler’ products. It’s a red flag if a brand uses a term like ‘proprietary blend’ without detailing what it contains. That’s a safety concern for things like heavy metals, botanicals, and other ingredients that could potentially interact with other foods or medications. Whether you choose a plant-based or animal-based protein source is a matter of personal preference.

best protein pwdersNutritional Content

Nutritionists recommend looking at the nutritional content of the protein supplement before making a purchase, as this will give you an idea of how much of which ingredients it contains. A good rule of thumb is that a quality protein supplement should contain at least 20g of protein concentrate per serving, along with other important vitamins and minerals. It should also be free from additives such as sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Taste and Texture

Taste and texture are also key considerations when choosing a protein supplement. A great product should have a pleasant taste without being overly sweet or artificial-tasting. It should also mix easily with water or milk without leaving any clumps behind or having an unpleasant aftertaste.

Price Point

When choosing a protein supplement, it’s also important to consider the price point. Of course, everyone has different budgets when it comes to health supplements, but generally speaking, a lower-priced product might not be as high quality as one that is more expensive but still within your budget range. Nutritionists recommend doing your research and comparing products in order to find something that fits both your needs and budget constraints.

When choosing your protein powder:

Protein source

Every nutritionist we spoke to told us that the first and main decision is whether you want an animal- or plant-based protein powder, which they say comes down to dietary preference. (A person’s age, gender, or body type are not really factors to consider, according to the experts.) If you’re going animal-based, powders with whey protein (which comes from cow’s milk) are generally what they recommend for the most digestible fast-acting powder to help with muscle building and weight loss. There are two types of whey protein — whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate — and the experts say the best kind is whey protein isolate because it is strained in a way that gives it a lower lactose content than whey protein concentrate.

For vegans, vegetarians, lactose-intolerant folks, and anyone else who doesn’t eat animal products, plant-based protein powders are (obviously) the way to go. As the nutritionists told us, pea protein powder is generally considered the most effective plant-based alternative to whey. And they say a pea protein isolate, like a whey protein isolate, is even better because it has the highest amount of protein per scoop. While they warn that some people may experience issues like stomachaches with plant-based powders, all of the ones in this story are easy to digest, according to the folks who recommend them.


best protein supplementsFrom there, the experts say it comes down to choosing a flavor you like. The most common options are vanilla, chocolate, and unflavored. But some powders come in a range of flavors, including more exciting ones like matcha or chai. We recommend people just try one and see how they feel about it. This is especially true if you are sensitive to lingering aftertastes in your smoothies. All of the recommendations below were chosen for both their ingredients as well as their taste.

Clean ingredients

As with any nutritional supplement, you want to choose a protein powder that adds only the highest-quality ingredients to your diet. So watch out for powders with excess chemical additives and artificial sweeteners where possible. Nutritionists caution against powders with Splenda and suggest looking for ones with natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit. Some powders have also been NSF certified, which trainers explain is a “nationally recognized verification that proves there are no banned substances in the product” — or contaminants or masking agents — making it a great option for athletes who compete professionally.

Final Thoughts

In summary, when choosing the best protein supplement for yourself, consider its nutritional content, taste and texture, and price point in order to make an informed decision that meets all your needs. With these tips in mind, you will find the perfect match!