Without a doubt, the most popular sports nutrition supplement on the planet our protein powders. There are literally thousands of different options.
That’s the problem. There are so many options and such a broad range of quality, how in the world do you choose the right powder for your needs?
Our top protein powder reviews look at the best powders based on the quality of the protein, the amount of added branch chain amino acids, the absence of harmful fillers and other junk, as well as taste and value.
This list should help educate you to make the best decision based on your specific needs. Additionally, we have some educational material towards the bottom of the article in the event you are super new to protein powder supplements. Use our website as an ultimate protein powder supplement resource.
The Top Protein Powders 2018
Rule One Protein, otherwise known as R1 Protein, is one of the top, most trusted and recognizable protein supplements on our list. One of the cleaner experiences, Rule One Protein has no fillers, no junk, and no sugars. Like many other R1 Protein reviews, ours is glowing. READ MORE
Phase 8 is one of the premier protein powders you can find online. While it failed to make our top spot, I wouldn’t suggest anyone sleep on this amazing protein powder that’s manufactured by a top-level company. READ MORE
Without question, Whey Gold Standard is a premier protein powder experience. Used by numerous high-intensity athletes, Whey Gold Standard is pure blend of both whey isolate and whey protein concentrate. READ MORE
One of the most trusted protein supplement manufacturers, Rule One Protein has its second addition to our top protein list. This time, it is the more budget-friendly Rule One Whey Protein. READ MORE
One of the most recognizable brands in the entire protein supplement industry, largely due to their brand alignment with the UFC, Combat Protein powder is a worthy choice for anyone’s supplement list. READ MORE
Myotein’s big benefits are that it is produced by a big supplement company, it includes vital colostrum, and that it tastes rather amazing (if you love chocolate). It’s a good protein supplement, but hardly competitive with 0ur #1 slot. READ MORE
The “low carb” marketing buzz is taken to new heights with Isopure’s Zero Carb protein powder. This protein powder has a powerful serving size. But its also ranked 8th for a reason. READ MORE
This is the part of our list that takes a pretty dramatic turn. If you are into saving a few bucks, Complete Whey is a worthy contender, though I don’t love their protein blend whatsoever. READ MORE
Lacking BCAAs, COR Performance had a difficult time even sliding into our number 10 spot. However, if price is your concern, this is a pretty good solution as it is very budget and priced according to what it lacks in power. READ MORE
Why Protein Supplements Matter
For many, the idea of using a supplement for anything seems trivial and based on marketing pitches. While there are certainly a number of supplements that aren’t necessary and somewhat useless if you eat a proper diet, a protein supplement isn’t one of them. Protein supplements matter, so long as they are high-quality, they are able to supplement the body with the needed protein volume to help replace, recover, and grow muscle mass following intense workouts.
Eating chicken breast is a great source of protein, particularly if you participate in less strenuous versions of fitness. But if you put in the hours at the gym and hit the weights hard, a chicken breast will hardly be able to keep up and replenish torn muscles. Additionally, it can’t provide the absolute most streamlined recovery experience.
The faster that your body’s muscles can recover from a strenuous exercise, the faster you can get back to the gym and start the process all over again. The more workouts per week, per month, and per year, add up to bigger gains. That’s just science. Without protein supplementation, it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to achieve more expedited recovery times.
BCAAs are an essential ingredient for muscle recovery. Many protein powder supplements contain BCAAs for this reason, but not all do. I think I’ve included maybe one on my top protein list that doesn’t include BCAAs. I leave this as an option for folks who are potentially getting their BCAAs from another source.
But if you aren’t getting BCAAs, pass on any protein powder supplements that don’t include BCAAs.
Whey Protein Powder
The most common type of protein powder is whey protein powder. And that’s a good thing. Whey is the fluid portion that remains following the milk curdling process. Whey protein has some rather superior health benefits even beyond muscle building.
Scientifically, whey protein is composed of the following substances:
- alpha lactalbumin
- bovine serum albumin
Now, if that didn’t bore the heck out of you, I’m not totally sure what would.
Whey Protein Powder Benefits
Whey protein has been linked to weight loss. One study showed that out of 158 people seeking to lose weight, those who were given whey protein ended up losing a lot more weight than those who were not given whey protein.
Whey protein has been shown to lower cholesterol. In most of our protein powder reviews, we look at the amount of cholesterol present in the formula. For many fitness junkies, keeping their cholesterol in balance is a priority.
One study showed relatively decent results in whey protein’s relationship with cancer prevention. Oddly, it was inferior whey protein concentrate used in the study.
Whey protein has been shown to help children deal with asthma. A recent study using children who took around 10 grams of whey per day showed some pretty solid results.
It’s important to understand that the above studies are considerably thin in terms of research time and energy, but they are promising and do show that whey protein can be beneficial to people who take it for reasons beyond just muscle development and recovery.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate vs. Whey Protein Concentrate
Often in my reviews, you will hear me discuss those two types of proteins. And that’s for good reason. The ingredients found in your protein supplement matter the most. If you are in a GNC or even a Whole Foods, you need to learn how to distinguish what makes a protein supplements label worthy and what makes it a crock.
Whey protein hydrolysate is the one you want. In the above list, Hydro Whey 100 is the only protein powders supplement to contain this specific protein only. Most others contain some whey protein concentrate as well.
It’s simple. concentrates beef up their labels. It helps to make the serving sizes for protein larger.
How do you avoid getting screwed?
Read the label. Look at the total amount of protein, then look at the ingredient list and see where the concentrate is listed in comparison to where the hydrolysate is listed. If the concentrate is listed before the hydrolysate, you know that serving size of protein is mostly composed of concentrate.
That’s how labels work in general, even with food.
Vegan Protein Powder
Whether its clothes or tacos or soup, there is a legion of people who subscribe to vegan ways. Fortunately, there are some wonderful options for vegan protein powder.
Here are the best vegan protein options (notice that not all of these can be found in a protein powder supplement).
Hemp Protein Powder
Hemp is the leader for vegan protein powder options. It is the most well-known and one of the best-constructed vegan protein powder solutions there is. Hemp protein powder is loaded with 20 different amino acids. These are all amino acids that your body simply isn’t capable of producing internally.
Don’t worry, you won’t’ get high or fail any drug test if you opt for a hemp protein powder. This isn’t the same, scientifically, as smoking THC.
Hemp protein powder is made up of hemp seeds and provides similar nutritional aspects of flaxseeds. Protein powder made from hemp packs a serious health punch of chlorophyll, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants without any cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar or sodium.
When taking a high-quality hemp protein powder you can expect the following from 4 tablespoons, which is equivalent to 30 grams…
- Calories: 120
- Carbs: 11 grams
- Protein: 12 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Magnesium: 260 milligrams (65% DV)
- Iron: 6.3 milligrams (35% DV)
- Potassium: 380 milligrams (11% DV)
- Calcium: 60 milligrams (6% DV)
As you can see, hemp protein powder is a solid way to get a ton of nutrition that your body cant produce on its own.
Pumpkin seeds offer a slew of health benefits, being a vegan protein is just one of them. Even if taking a protein powder is the easier option, it is never a bad idea to get your pumpkin seeds in on a weekly basis.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the true gifts from nature, and they taste great too. When shopping for pumpkin seeds make sure you stick to the raw, organic heirloom seeds, or the bright green pumpkin seeds, since these offer way more nutrients than roasted, salted, or pesticide covered seeds.
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with iron and can offer you 16% of your daily diet needs in a 1/4 cup. You can even buy pumpkin seed protein powder, which will provide you with 40% of your daily intake.
A big plus, especially for those who are allergic to nuts, is that pumpkin seeds are non-allergenic. Nuts provide a great deal of fatty acids, so if you’re allergic to nuts than you may not be able to get those crucial fats. Eating pumpkin seeds regularly can help you to get those
fats that are necessary to your health.
In a small serving of pumpkin seeds (1 ounce), there are 5 grams of protein. Pumpkin seeds are very rich in amino acids and can contain a high amount of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can boost production of serotonin. It is a true feel-good food, and make an excellent addition to any meal. You can add them to oatmeal, smoothies, salads, stir-fries, soups, and more!
Flax sees are an awesome source of not only vegan protein, but also omega 3 fatty acids. Flax seeds are commonly found in vegan protein supplements.
These tiny kernels can provide health benefits from vascular health, digestion issues, to possibly even deterring cancer.
The reason flax seeds have gotten so much attention in the realm of scientific research is that of their fiber content. Flaxseeds have been used for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, lowering cholesterol, and even combating cancers such as breast, and prostate. On top of all of that, the oil and the seeds contain alpha-linolenic acids, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. You can an abundant amount in fish oils, which could reduce the risk of strokes, or heart disease.
A few ways you can utilize flaxseeds is by buying ground up flax meal or grind the seeds yourself in a coffee grinder and adding them to cereals, yogurts, and smoothies. You can also bake them into muffins or bread.
Open sesame! Sesame seeds are used for more than just cooking oil manufacturing, they are a great source of vegan protein.
Deriving from the sesame plant, sesame seeds grow in tiny pods, and are native to India and Africa. The crop has been used for more than 3,000 years and is currently harvested more than any other seed in the world.
Sesame seeds have a wonderful taste and filled with a ton of health benefits. In two tablespoons of sesame seeds there are less than 100 calories. Beyond that, they have 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, have a quarter worth of your daily intake of iron and calcium, and are very low in carbohydrates.
Sesame seeds offer a variety of minerals vital to your health including manganese, copper, tryptophan, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. They also contain a great source of B1 vitamins.
Sunflower seeds offer a powerful source of vegan protein. 1 ounce of roasted or raw kernels contain 5.9 grams of protein and is only 166 calories. This is comparable to almonds, cashews, and peanuts.
Sunflower seeds are very low in carbohydrates, and run in around 5.7 grams in each serving. This is less than 2% of your daily intake. Sunflower seeds are comprised of protein, fiber, and fat with little or no sugars and carbs.
Sunflower seeds are considered a complete protein, and contain 9 essential amino acids. The sulfur-rich proteins (cysteine and methionine) are a great compliment to any low sulfur source such as salmon, and dark meat chicken.
One of the better traits of sunflower seeds, in my eyes, is the fact that they are easy to digest. If you have stomach problems, or IBS, sunflower seeds go easy on your gut. Not only do they provide easy digestion, but they are super cheap to purchase. Its not hard to find a bag of sunflower seeds at any convenient store for around a dollar.
Ah, good old quinoa. Its trendy, its popular, and sometimes it can be annoying if you have a friend on a quinoa kick. But it is difficult to argue that quinoa is a wonderful vegan protein source.
Quinoa is one of the few foods that come from a plant that contain all 9 essential amino acids. It’s high in magnesium, fiber, iron, B-vitamins, calcium, vitamin E, phosphorus, and antioxidants.
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wha, is a seed which is eaten and prepared like a grain. This superfood has been around for thousands of years, and can be found in 3 main types, which are red, black, and white.
Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free plant, and can be used as a substitute for your typical ingredients that are gluten-free, and will increase the antioxidant and nutrient value of your diet.
Quinoa is high in protein which can help metabolism, and reduce your appetite. The amount of fiber is high, which helps you to feel full, making it easier to intake fewer calories. All of this promotes weight loss and just seems smart to incorporate into your diet regularly.
I can’t explain enough how quinoa is one of the most powerful foods in the world. It’s loaded with nutrition and it’s healthy. So maybe show some love for those friends on the quinoa train.
Ketosis and Protein Powders
The keto diet is known as a low carb diet, where your body produces ketones in your liver, which is turned to energy. Your body produces insulin and glucose when eating foods high in carbohydrates. The glucose is one of the easier molecules for the body to convert to energy. Insulin processes glucose in the bloodstream by moving it around your body.
When glucose is your primary energy source, the fats are stored. When participating in a high carb diet, the body uses glucose as the main energy source. When lowering your intake of carbohydrates, your body will induce itself into ketosis.
Ketosis is natural and is initiated when food intake is low to help the body survive. The body will produce ketones, which come from he breakdown of fats in your liver.
The main goal of anyone starting the keto diet is to force themselves into this metabolic state. You aren’t succeeding by cutting out calories, but by cutting out carbohydrates. When you reach optimal levels of ketone the benefits following such as weight loss, mental, and physical performance.
Protein Powders in Ketosis
If you are following a keto diet, then you need a good amount of protein in your diet. You don’t want to consume a ton of protein because your liver will convert the protein to glucose for energy. This will slow the changeover when it comers two burning fat for energy.
You want your protein intake to be high enough to maintain your muscles, but also low enough so it doesn’t interfere with the state of ketosis that you’re in. An average amount of protein your body needs is 0.8 grams per 2.2 pounds of your body weight if you aren’t one that is constantly active. If you are one that workout regularly, then you’ll need 0.9 grams of protein.
Most protein powders contain somewhere between 20 and 30 grams of protein per serving. Your body can need upwards of 150 grams of protein per day if you are in the early stages of your keto diet. Keep an eye on how much protein you ingest, especially if you drink multiple protein shakes each day.
Carbs are very important during a keto diet. Make sure that your protein shake contains just a few grams of carbs per serving. Keeping the carbs to below 60 grams per day will allow your body to go into ketosis. If you are drinking protein shakes as a meal replacement or snacks, then keep an eye on protein shakes that have more than 10 grams of carbs, because this may send you over your daily limit.
Fats are usually pretty low in high-quality protein shakes, which can be a bummer since fat is your main source of food on the keto diet. If the protein you are taking is low in fat, a good way to add fat to your shake can be nuts, or coconut oil.
While you might not feel you qualify as an elite level athlete, protein still matters. The more we age, particularly in women, the more protein our bodies need to not only build muscle but adhere to maintenance in organs. A quality protein supplement is essential to most everyone who has fitness goals, or is aging (um, none of us are getting any younger).
While protein powders are plentiful, so are scams. Knowing how to separate the pretenders from the contenders is essential when considering a protein supplement purchase. Save yourself time and money by referring to our above list and not getting ripped off from the start. Just buying some fancy looking protein powder from the shelves of Rite Aid is a bad move. Read protein powder reviews, be aware of scams, understand protein powder ingredients. We are always here to help.