Healthline’s dietitians determined the best protein powders using the following criteria:
Ingredient and nutrient quality: We looked for products that are made from high quality ingredients and contain minimal amounts of added sugars and artificial additives.
Quality testing: We prioritized products that are third-party tested for quality, accuracy, and purity. We also looked for products that are third-party certified to be safe for competitive athletes.
Reviews: The protein powders listed below either have been tried and recommended by Healthline editors or have mostly positive online reviews.
Price: We included options to suit a variety of budgets.
Additionally, every brand and product on our list has been vetted to ensure that it aligns with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. Each product in this article meets the following criteria:
FDA compliance: All brands and products adhere to allowable health claims and labeling requirements, per Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Additionally, products are manufactured in facilities that adhere to the Current Good Manufacturing Practices established by the FDA.
Medical and business standards: Products are produced by medically credible companies that follow ethical, legal, and industry best standards. Companies also provide objective measures of trust, such as having their supplements validated by third-party labs.
Health claims: Products don’t make outlandish health or medical claims, and any claims that are made align with Healthline’s approach to well-being.
The type of protein powder you choose depends on your dietary needs, health goals, and personal preferences.
Whey: Whey is a milk-based protein that’s quickly and easily digested and absorbed. When combined with resistance training, whey protein may help increase muscle mass, support growth, and speed up post-workout recovery, so it’s a great choice for athletes.
Casein:Casein is a protein in milk that’s digested and absorbed slowly, which can help you feel full longer, so it may help reduce your appetite. The slower digestion and absorption rate may also support muscle growth and recovery over longer periods.
Egg white: Egg white protein is a great alternative to whey or casein protein, especially for people with an allergy to dairy products.
Collagen powder:Collagen is a component of muscles, and supplementing with it may help stimulate muscle growth when combined with resistance training.
Plant-based: People following a vegan lifestyle should opt for plant-based protein sources, such as pea or brown rice. These can also be suitable for people who follow a dairy-free diet or have trouble digesting dairy or lactose.
Concentrate vs. isolate vs. hydrolysate
The specific form of protein may also be important to consider.
Whey protein, in particular, is available in concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate form, although many supplements contain a combination of the three.
Although whey concentrate and isolate offer similar benefits, whey protein isolate undergoes processing methods that result in a higher concentration of protein and lower amounts of fat, carbs, and lactose.
As such, it may be a better option for people who are limiting their consumption of fat, carbs, or lactose.
Meanwhile, whey hydrolysate, or hydrolyzed whey, has been partially broken down to ease digestion and speed absorption.
Protein powder can be a quick and convenient option to increase your protein intake.
This may be especially beneficial for people who have increased protein needs, have difficulty meeting their needs through food sources alone, or have certain dietary restrictions, such as a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Many athletes take protein powder after exercising, which may help enhance muscle growth and speed up post-workout recovery.
Additionally, enjoying a protein shake or high protein snack may even support weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness between meals.
When choosing a protein powder, you’ll want to consider several factors, including:
Protein source: Protein powders contain either animal-based or plant-based protein sources. Examples of animal-based proteins include casein, whey, collagen, soy, and egg. Plant-based protein powders often contain pea, rice, or hemp protein. Some vegan blends also contain whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Additional ingredients: Look for protein powders that have as few ingredients as possible. Always check the labels carefully, and consider avoiding products containing artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.
Quality testing: Because the FDA doesn’t evaluate the safety, quality, or effectiveness of protein powders, it’s best to choose products that are third-party tested to ensure purity and potency.
“Safe for sport” designation: Competitive athletes may want to choose a protein powder that has been tested for banned substances by an organization such as NSF International or Informed Sport.
Keep in mind that protein powder shouldn’t be used to replace healthy sources of protein in your diet because high protein foods also provide other valuable nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Still, supplements can be an easy and convenient way to increase your protein intake, as there are many ways to use protein powder.
The simplest way is to mix it with a beverage, such as water or milk, or blend it with other ingredients, such as fruits and veggies, to create a smoothie.
You can also mix protein powder into simple foods, such as yogurt, oatmeal, or dips.
If you feel like getting creative, you can experiment with using protein powder as an addition or substitution in your usual recipes. For example, you can use protein powder in soups, veggie burgers, pancakes, and baked goods.
To save time, make a larger portion of smoothie mixture and freeze it to make individual ice pops.
To lose weight: Try incorporating more high protein foods throughout the day, as studies show that increasing your intake of protein could help reduce appetite and cravings.
To improve athletic performance or endurance: When to consume protein powder largely depends on your overall fitness goals. While some studies show a benefit of consuming protein prior to aerobic exercise, research suggests that the amount of protein you consume throughout the day is more important than the timing.
To build muscle: It’s generally recommended to consume protein powder within 2 hours of a weightlifting session. Some research also suggests that taking protein powder before you go to sleep may help your muscles recover overnight. But research shows that daily protein intake is the most important factor in muscle building.
To prevent muscle loss: Focus on eating moderate amounts of protein throughout the day to help prevent muscle loss in older adults.
Protein powders are generally well tolerated and have few side effects, so they’re safe for most adults.
However, certain types of protein may affect you, especially in terms of digestion. Certain types of protein can cause gas, bloating, or stomach cramps. Skin reactions are also possible.
Some supplements could contain contaminants, such as yeast or bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness.
They may also contain heavy metals, which can negatively affect the health of your kidneys, brain, thyroid gland, and reproductive system if consumed in large amounts.
Choosing a high quality product that has undergone third-party testing for purity and potency can help minimize the risk of contamination with these harmful compounds.
If you have a medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or take any medications that could be affected by protein powders, talk with a healthcare professional before using one.
For most healthy adults, protein powder is unlikely to harm liver health. If you have liver disease or other underlying health conditions, it’s best to talk with a doctor before adding protein powder to your diet.
Whey protein is a great option for weight loss, as studies have shown that it could improve body composition when paired with resistance training.
According to one small study of 30 people, whey protein and pea protein were similarly effective at reducing appetite and daily calorie intake when consumed as part of a high protein breakfast.
The FDA regulates supplements, including protein powders, as food products rather than medications, meaning that it doesn’t evaluate supplements for effectiveness or safety.
For this reason, it’s especially important to choose a product that’s third-party tested or certified whenever possible.
Protein powders can be a helpful addition to an overall balanced diet by helping you bump up your protein intake to meet your health goals. In particular, increasing your protein consumption may support weight loss, increase muscle growth, and promote post-workout recovery.
Additionally, some products contain essential nutrients that may be helpful if you’re unable to meet your nutrient needs through diet alone.
With that said, not all products are created equal, and some could potentially expose you to heavy metals and other contaminants. Always make sure to purchase a product that has been thoroughly tested for purity and potency, ideally by a third-party lab.
Gainful is a great option for beginners, as it creates a custom protein blend based on your dietary needs and fitness goals. What’s more, you can mix and match the Flavor Boosts to find what works for you.
Each subscription also includes personalized nutrition advice from a registered dietitian.
If gaining muscle mass is your goal, research suggests choosing a product with at least 20 g of high quality protein and minimal fillers, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients.
Though any of the protein powders listed above can support muscle gain when paired with resistance training, Naked Whey Protein Powder is a particularly great option that’s low in carbs and provides a concentrated dose of protein in each serving.
Plant-based protein can be a great option for vegans and people who are unable to tolerate dairy. However, whey and plant-based protein powders offer a similar set of health benefits.
In fact, some research suggests that whey protein and plant-based protein can be equally effective at increasing muscle growth and strength, as long as they contain the same amount of protein and branched-chain amino acids — a group of amino acids that boost muscle building — per serving.
When trying a new protein powder, pay attention to how your body responds. As with any supplement, you may wish to take a break every so often or alternate between different products.
Many people get plenty of protein from the foods they eat.
However, if you’re trying to increase your protein intake, having a protein shake or adding protein powder to foods like oatmeal and yogurt can help you meet your needs.
Finally, try to consume plenty of whole, fresh foods, including natural sources of protein and fiber, as well as plenty of water.
Last medically reviewed on November 30, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
Duarte NM, et al. (2020). Intake of whey isolate supplement and muscle mass gains in young healthy adults when combined with resistance training: A blinded randomized clinical trial (pilot study). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31565912/
Moro T, et al. (2019). Whey protein hydrolysate increases amino acid uptake, MTORC1 signaling, and protein synthesis in skeletal muscle of healthy young men in a randomized crossover trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31095313/
Wirth J, et al. (2020). The role of protein intake and its timing on body composition and muscle function in healthy adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32232404/
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