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The 6 Best Protein Powders of 2024


Protein, it seems, is the crown jewel of the macronutrients these days (sorry, fat and carbs!) and with good reason: This essential macronutrient is responsible for muscle growth and repair, keratin and collagen development, and even bone health and digestion. Foods high in protein also tend to make you feel full for a longer period of time, which can cut down on snacking, if that’s a goal of yours. In fact, protein has so many benefits you’re probably wondering if you’re getting enough (more on that in a minute!). 

That’s where protein powders come in. As a supplement, they’re a quick and easy way to boost your protein intake. Unfortunately, the world of supplements can be a complex and sometimes pricey space to navigate, making it difficult to find one that meets your nutritional needs and is palatable. 

According to dietitian Cara Harbstreet, M.S., RD, LD of Street Smart Nutrition, “The most important considerations are quality, [third-party] testing, cost and flavor.” We couldn’t agree more, so we took on the task of trying and rating 26 of the top contenders in the marketplace on exactly these qualities. Read on to find out which protein powders offer both a nutritional boost and great flavor.

Our Protein Powder Recommendations

How much protein powder do you need? 

Dietary guidelines say adults should get 10 to 35 percent of their calories from protein. That’s about 200 to 700 calories from protein for a 2,000-calorie diet. Another way to estimate your protein needs is to do the math on 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight per day—that’s the recommended dietary allowance. Some experts say you can go up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (if you’re looking to build muscle and/or gain weight).

Those recommendations are for total protein, though, and as much as possible should come from whole food sources. Then use protein powders to fill in any gaps.

Best Overall: Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

Amazon


What we like: The flavor profile is as clean as the ingredient profile in this super simple and incredibly tasty whey protein isolate. 

What to know: At about $3 per serving, the price per serving is on the higher side.  

Klean Isolate from Klean Athlete snagged our top spot overall for its standout performance in flavor and texture. Its only ingredients are whey protein isolate and sunflower lecithin, and if you think the limited ingredients mean a lack of flavor, you’d be wrong. We loved Klean Isolate’s delicate sweetness and almost vanilla-like flavor, which showed no hints of the off-putting aftertaste that’s so common with additions like zero-sugar sweeteners. This protein maintains its low-carb, high-protein nutrient profile by capitalizing on the natural sweetness of the milk it’s derived from. 

Klean Isolate does run a bit on the pricier side, with only 20 servings per package, making each serving about three dollars. However, it’s easy to see why this scored so highly in testing; not only does it have superior flavor, but its super-fine powder dissolves seamlessly into liquids, which had us dreaming up all kinds of ways to add it to our favorite drinks and foods. 

Price: $60 | Available size: 15.73 oz. | Source of protein: Whey | Diet type: Low-carb | Third-party tested: Yes

Nutrition info per 1 scoop (22.3g) serving: 85 calories, n/a g total fat, 30 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 20 g protein

EatingWell / Jessica Juliao


Also Great: Promix Vanilla Protein Powder

Promix


What we like: The vanilla taste isn’t overpowering, and feels like it would work well with lots of different mix-ins. 

What to know: A bit higher in added sugars than our typical choice.

While Promix Vanilla Protein Powder didn’t win the top spot, we wanted to highlight its attributes as an option also worth considering. This supplement is a grass-fed whey protein sweetened with coconut sugar and flavored with Madagascar vanilla extract. The result is a deliciously light, vanilla-flavored protein that does pack a touch more sugar (at 4 g added sugars per serving) than other options but won’t give you the cringe if you’re sensitive to sugar-free sweeteners like stevia. Additionally, the Promix blend also contains a small amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and outpaces our top choice by 5 g of protein per serving. 

During testing, we did find that shaking this mix created a fair amount of foam. Still, this is a minor criticism. Besides its pleasant taste and a hefty dose of protein, Promix’s commitment to third-party testing helps us feel confident in recommending this as an excellent alternative to our top pick.

Price: $51 | Available size: 2.5 lbs., 5 lbs. | Source of protein: Whey | Diet type: Vegetarian | Third-party tested: Yes 

Nutrition info per 2 scoop (36g) serving: 135 calories, 1.5 g total fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 5 g sugar (4 g added sugars), 25 g protein

EatingWell / Jessica Juliao


Best Chocolate: Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Whey

Amazon


What we like: The rich, authentic chocolate flavor won over our taste buds. 

What to know: This one blends up a little thin, so use a thicker liquid like milk if you want a more shake-like texture.

Not only does the Garden of Life Sport chocolate whey protein pack a rich and delicious chocolate flavor, but it’s also dually certified by third-party testers NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Choice Certified and incorporates probiotics for added gut health benefits. We’re big fans of the protein content at 24 g and the fiber at 2 g per serving. Now, this one is sweetened with stevia and erythritol, so bear that in mind if you’re concerned with your intake of these types of sweeteners.

This protein powder wowed us with its bold cocoa notes, likely due to the organic cocoa on the ingredient list, a far cry from the artificial-tasting chocolate flavors in other protein powders we tried. While we feel the texture could have been thicker and richer, this wasn’t a dealbreaker for us; you could easily opt for cow or nut milk rather than water if a thicker texture is what you’re after. 

Price: $60 | Available size: 24.33 oz. | Source of protein: Whey | Diet type: Vegetarian | Third-party tested: Yes 

Nutrition info per 1 scoop (33g) serving: 120 calories, 0.5 g total fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 24 g protein

EatingWell / Jessica Juliao


Best Vanilla: Kaged Protein Isolate Elite

GNC


What we like: This protein offers a sweet, vanilla flavor that’s not overly cloying. 

What to know: The intense vanilla scent feels more artificial than the flavor.

Kaged Protein Isolate Elite is a blend of three protein sources from whey, casein and milk protein which, according to Kaged, is an ideal ratio of fast-, medium- and slow-digesting proteins for muscle building in recovery. Harbstreet says that this is more of a theoretical claim for a few reasons. “Yes, it’s true that some types of protein (casein) are slower-digesting than others (whey),” she says. “When combined, in theory, they deliver a steady supply of the amino acids your body needs for optimal recovery.” However, without more specific clinical evidence presented from the brand, it’s hard to know if it can be substantiated, and Harbstreet says, “There’s debate to be had about whether consuming fast- and slow-digesting proteins from supplements in tandem is an effective strategy. Generally, protein powders consumed alone move through the GI tract faster even if slow-digesting proteins are present.” 

During testing we found this protein powder to be a smooth, easy-to-drink option. We noted a slightly sweet, true vanilla flavor and zero aftertaste, though this powder has a bit of an artificial smell. We think this protein powder would be an excellent option for anyone who consumes dairy, wants to up their protein intake and is looking for a clean, palatable vanilla flavor. We also like that it’s third-party verified by Informed Sport Certified.

Price: $50 | Available size: 29.6 oz. | Source of protein: Whey, casein, milk | Diet type: Vegetarian, low-carb | Third-party tested: Yes 

Nutrition info per 1 scoop (35g) serving: 130 calories, 1.5 g total fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrates, n/a g sugar, 1 g fiber, 25 g protein

EatingWell / Jessica Juliao


Best Plant-Based: Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+

Amazon


What we like: The top-tier taste satisfied our sweet tooth. 

What to know: It’s not the smoothest protein drink when mixed by hand in water. 

Let’s just say it—vegan protein powders are not known for being delicious, but this pea protein from Ritual is a refreshingly tasty option in a sea of gritty textures and underwhelming flavors. This shake is designed to help support muscle recovery with a complete amino acid profile derived from pea protein. Unfortunately, at 290 mg of sodium per serving (13 percent of your daily recommended limit), it does come in a little higher than other protein powders we tested, which may be a consideration for some.  

We thought this one took a bit longer to dissolve and did have some clumping, but not so much that it was off-putting. Additionally, the flavor of the vanilla was strong but appealing and lacked a lingering aftertaste despite being sugar-free and flavored with monk fruit. All in all, we love this Informed Sport Certified option for anyone who wants a plant-based protein choice. 

Price: $46 | Available size: 1.0 lbs. | Source of protein: Pea | Diet type: Vegan, gluten-free | Third-party tested: Yes

Nutrition info per 1 scoop (30g) serving: 115 calories, 2 g total fat, 290 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 20 g protein

EatingWell / Jessica Juliao


Best Value: NOW Sports Nutrition Whey Protein Isolate

Amazon


What we like: This whey protein gets high marks on drinkability and at less than half the price of some other favorites. 

What to know: This powder’s neutral flavor is almost too neutral. 

Coming in at just over a dollar per serving, this whey protein isolate from NOW Sports Nutrition is less than half the price of similar options. Especially if you’re making this a daily addition to your nutrition regimen, this one is a much more cost-effective option. You won’t have to sacrifice on quality, though, as this one is third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified and contains only two ingredients: whey protein isolate and sunflower lecithin.  

While we loved how easily this protein dissolves, we wish it had more of its own flavor profile; it mostly just tastes and smells a bit milky. We found ourselves wishing we’d used chocolate or strawberry milk during our taste tests. Overall, though, this supplement scored extra points for its smooth texture and would make a great option to easily mix into everything from coffee to a smoothie or baked goods. 

Price: $30 | Available size: 1.2 lbs | Source of protein: Whey | Diet type: Vegetarian, kosher | Third-party tested: Yes 

Nutrition info per 1 scoop (28g) serving: 110 calories, 0.5 g total fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, <1 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 25 g protein

EatingWell / Jessica Juliao


The Bottom Line: The Best Protein Powder

If it’s a protein boost you need and only a powder will do, we absolutely love the Klean Athlete Klean Isolate (view at Amazon) for its minimal ingredients, neutral but pleasant taste and infallible texture. If you’re in need of a plant-based option, the Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+ (view at Amazon) is tough to beat.

Choosing a Protein Powder

Type of Protein

The type of protein you choose will depend largely on both desired outcomes and any dietary restrictions you may have. There are fantastic milk-based options available, and for our plant-based friends, plenty of vegan sources, too. Remember, not all plant-based options are a complete source of protein, so keep this in mind when choosing a vegan protein powder. 

Generally speaking, we recommend choosing a type that’s associated with your goals, such as whey protein for muscle growth and recovery, and looking for around 20 g per serving in your supplement. 

Ingredients and Additives

While it’s helpful to be conscious of the ingredients in your protein powder supplement, like the form of protein itself, it’s also important to consider other additives. For example, caffeine is a common additive in sports supplements, but according to Harbstreet “may not be appropriate for certain populations like teens or people who should limit caffeine.” Some supplement additives can also interact with certain medications, so we recommend doing a thorough review of labels and speaking with your doctor before starting a new supplement. 

Third-Party Testing

Our nutrition expert, Cara Harbstreet, says, “Some brands and manufacturers undergo voluntary third-party testing to ensure quality and safety. This should be [but isn’t always] clearly shown on the label for transparency.” Some of the most common certifications that we look to prioritize are Informed Sport, NSF Sport and USP Verified. These organizations assess whether or not a supplement’s contents reflect what’s on the label, as well as look for contaminants and banned substances. 

Cost per Serving

Protein supplements can be an expensive exercise in finding the right fit, but there’s no need to break your budget. A top dollar formula may not serve you better than a formula that’s more basic and priced accordingly. Look at the cost per serving (our recommendations here range from $1.50 to $3 per serving), in addition to considering the overall cost of a tub (our picks vary from $30 to $60). 

Our Protein Powder Tests

We scooped, shook and tasted 26 protein powders to offer you our thoughts on the best available options. Our team of food and nutrition experts tasted each protein mixed simply with water and evaluated it based on its flavor, smell, aftertaste, texture and any leftover sediment. Additionally, we took stock of its value, nutrition composition, ingredients and any available third-party ratings. Each protein powder was scored in the same way, mixed with the same amount of water and subjected to the same testing. Our findings are a combination of expert perspective and subjective research. 

We Also Considered

In a blind tasting, we brought forward 26 different protein powders for tasting and comparison in our lab. We sampled various flavors and nutrient profiles to determine which were worth recommending as the best of the best, and these are a few that didn’t quite make the cut: 

Essential Elements Organic Pea Protein Powder ($38 at Amazon): While this plant-based protein was a past winner for us for its vanilla flavor, during this round of testing it lost rank based on flavor profiles and the chalky taste it leaves behind. 

Garden of Life Organic Creamy Protein with Oat Milk ($34 at Amazon): This protein powder has a dreamy, rich texture but the heavy aftertaste from the blend of sweeteners in the vanilla cookie flavor made it not quite worth the $45 spend. 

Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate ($65 at Amazon): While the texture of this protein was very fine and dissolved easily, we didn’t love the strong, overly sweet flavor, and the price is on the higher end. 

Common Questions

Are protein powders healthy? 

Protein is made up of amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own, making it an essential nutrient for health. However, when it comes to consuming protein in supplement form, there are some caveats to consider. Supplements are not regulated in the same way as food or pharmaceuticals, and according to Harbstreet, “While there are high-quality, safe and likely effective protein powders, reliance on protein powders, or using them as a replacement for other protein-rich foods, could lead to insufficient variety in your diet.” If you happen to have decreased kidney function, you may need to avoid protein powders. Be sure to check with your doctor or registered dietitian.

How are protein powders made? 

Methods for producing protein powder vary by the substances being used to derive the protein, but Harbstreet says the process “generally involve[s] processes of drying/dehydrating, isolating and purifying protein sources.” For certain forms of protein, like hydrolyzed peptides, complex protein chains are broken down further making them easier to dissolve in liquid and for your body to digest. 

What is the best type of protein powder to take?

It’s tough to say which protein powder is “best” as nutrition needs vary so widely from person to person. Each provides a unique blend of nutrients and works to certain advantages, but may not work for everyone. 

  • Whey: This milk-based protein may appear in concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate forms, all of which are appropriate for consumption and provide similar benefits. For adults, when combined with resistance training, whey protein is one of the best for supporting increases in muscle mass and assisting in post-workout recovery. 
  • Casein: Casein is also a milk-based protein but is digested more slowly than whey and other milk proteins. This may help you feel fuller for longer after drinking it—and can help with muscle protein synthesis (aka building muscle).  
  • Pea Protein: This protein is an excellent plant-based option and is one of the few vegan, single-source proteins with a complete amino acid profile. 

What’s the best protein powder for weight loss?

When it comes to leveraging protein powder for weight loss, it’s easy to lean on protein powders for convenience and satisfaction, as they can certainly help you feel fuller longer. However, Harbstreet says there’s no ‘best’ protein for weight loss and recommends focusing on getting your protein from whole-food sources whenever possible. 

What are the side effects of protein powders?

Over-consuming protein doesn’t necessarily pose the same risk of harmful side effects that other supplements can. A healthy individual “can consume up to 2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight without adverse effects,” says Harbstreet. However, in the long term, there can be negative effects on the kidneys with overconsumption. People with impaired kidney function should be especially cautious with protein supplements. However, the more pressing concern for the general population is with additives and contaminants that can be present in supplements. These can pose health risks as well as possible eligibility considerations for college and professional athletes. According to Harbstreet, “Proceed with caution and stick to supplements that are certified safe for sport.” 

When should I take protein powder? 

The suggested timing of protein intake really varies depending on your exercise status. For elite athletes, Harbstreet says, “The evidence suggests there’s optimal benefit in consuming specific types of protein post-training or before bed.” Getting some protein into your system within 2 hours after a workout will help with muscle recovery. 

For those of us who aren’t considered high-level athletes, adding it earlier in the day, like during breakfast, can help with satiety throughout the day. The bottom line, Harbstreet says, is that adequate protein throughout the day is more important than “perfect” timing, so focus on that rather than fixating on the clock.

Our Trusted Expertise

Tori Martinet, M.S., RD, is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University Teachers College. Her work has been featured in publications like Food & Wine, The Spruce Eats, Verywell Health, Verywell Fit, Health, Shape and more. She has worked with athletes at both collegiate and elite levels and additionally served as the dietitian overseeing player dining for the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament for five years. For this piece, she consulted with fellow registered dietitian and sports nutrition specialist Cara Harbstreet M.S., RD, LD of Street Smart Nutrition

This article was edited by Katie Tuttle, a food editor and contributor to publications such as Food & Wine and The Spruce Eats. A powerlifter since 2016, she regularly uses protein powder to help her meet her daily protein goals. This article was reviewed by Brierley Horton, M.S., RD, senior commerce editor, who has 15 years of experience reporting, writing, and editing nutrition and health content.



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