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If you’re following a low carb or ketogenic (keto) diet, you may look to protein powders to supplement your diet.

While you can likely meet your protein needs with food alone, protein powders offer a convenient and easy way to increase your intake.

However, choosing the right one to fit your low carb or keto lifestyle can be challenging, as there are countless forms and sources of protein powder.

Most protein powders are low in carbohydrates; however, many are made from foods that naturally contain carbohydrates or are made of blends that include carbohydrates.

“Most protein powders are lower in carbohydrates; it often depends on the source they come from, such as dairy, pea proteins, or soy, along with added sugars to increase palatability,” explains Cari Riker, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist based in Nashville, Tennessee.

We have found the best protein powders to fit a low carbohydrate diet, many of which are also keto-friendly.

Whey protein (isolate and concentrate)

  • Source: dairy
  • Pros: high quality source of protein that’s easily digested and quickly absorbed (1)
  • Protein volume: whey protein isolate must have at least 89.5% protein by weight, whereas whey protein concentrate is required to have at least 79.5% protein by weight (2)

There are two types of whey protein: concentrate and isolate.

Whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey protein you can buy, and it has the highest percentage of protein and the lowest number of carbs per serving of any whey protein. It contains few — or even zero — carbohydrates per scoop.

Casein protein

  • Source: dairy
  • Pros: slower to digest, which may benefit overnight muscle protein synthesis (3)
  • Protein volume: many casein protein powders have at least 80% protein by weight

Casein is the other milk protein. Unlike whey, casein is digested and absorbed much more slowly, making it a popular choice for overnight recovery.

Casein powders has few carbs and generous amounts of protein. They can also be a source of calcium, an important mineral your body needs for bone health, muscle contractions, and blood clotting (4).

Egg protein

  • Source: eggs
  • Pros: eggs are nutrient-dense; they’re a source of protein, choline, vitamins A, D, and E, and multiple B vitamins (5)
  • Protein volume: protein makes up 12.5% of the weight of a whole egg; the protein percentage of egg-based protein powders varies depending on whether they’re made from egg whites, yolk, or both (5)

Most egg-based protein powders are made from egg white. Egg white protein powders are manufactured by removing the yolks and dehydrating the remaining whites to create a powder.

The egg whites are then pasteurized to deactivate avidin, a protein that inhibits the absorption of biotin, an essential B vitamin (6).

However, some egg protein powders are purely egg yolk, while others are a combination of white and yolk. Depending on the type of egg protein powder you choose, the specific nutrient values for things like cholesterol and protein will vary significantly.

Collagen protein

  • Source: usually cowhide, cow bones, chicken bones, eggshell membranes, and fish scales
  • Pros: may aid in injury prevention when taken prior to exercise; plays a role in skin aging and wound healing (7, 8)
  • Protein volume: many collagen supplements are 90% or more protein by weight

Collagen protein powder, or collagen peptides, is often tasteless and unflavored and is made from animal sources.

It’s the most common structural protein in your body, and is found in your hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments, and tendons (8).

Research shows that collagen may play a role in injury prevention when taken prior to exercise. However, it’s lacking in tryptophan, an essential amino acid, making it an incomplete protein and not optimal for muscle protein synthesis (8, 9).

Soy protein isolate

  • Source: soybeans (a legume)
  • Pros: aids in muscle protein synthesis after resistance training (10)
  • Protein volume: greater than 90% protein by weight (11)

Soy protein powder is created by grinding soybeans into a meal and then into soy protein isolate, which is high in protein and very low in carbohydrates (11).

Manufacturers sometimes add sugar or other additives to plant-based protein powders like soy, which increases total carbohydrates. However, this isn’t always the case, which makes it important to check labels carefully.

Studies have shown that soy protein can be as effective for muscle protein synthesis as animal-based protein, including whey (10, 12).

Soy protein is a high quality protein alternative for people allergic to milk or anyone looking for a plant-based protein.

Pea protein isolate

  • Source: peas (legume)
  • Pros: allergy-friendly, high quality protein that may have similar muscle repair and growth benefits to animal protein when eaten after resistance training (13)
  • Protein volume: <85% protein by weight (14)

Peas naturally have between 20% and 25% protein (14).

Like soy protein isolate, pea protein powder is made by grinding dried peas, which naturally contain protein, into a powder and extracting the carbs (15).

However, manufacturers sometimes add sugar — and therefore carbs — to increase palatability, so you’ll want to carefully review ingredient labels.

Rice protein isolate

  • Source: rice
  • Pros: rice is hypoallergenic, so it’s unlikely to cause allergic reactions; plus, this type of protein is plant-based
  • Protein volume: 90% of protein by weight (16)

Rice protein powder is typically made by treating brown rice with enzymes that cause the carbs to separate from the proteins.

All whole grains, including rice, are made up of three parts: bran, endosperm, and germ. The endosperm is the largest part of the grain and is made up of starch and protein (17).

Rice is a source of essential amino acids, but some concentrations are higher than others. For this reason, it’s often used as a blend with other plant-based proteins to improve the amino acid profile (18).

We considered the following factors when choosing protein powders for this article:

  • Third-party testing: We chose only protein powders that have been third-party tested. Most powders listed are either NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice Certified.
  • Total carbohydrate content: We chose protein powders with less than 10 grams (g) of carbohydrates per serving.
  • Type of protein: We selected protein powders made from a variety of sources in order to meet the needs of different dietary restrictions and eating patterns.
  • Price: We included protein powders that range in price, to make sure there’s something for everyone’s budget.

Pricing guide

Price ranges are indicated with dollar signs ($–$$$). Protein powders range in price from less than $1 per serving to more than $2 per serving.

  • $ = under $1 per serving
  • $$ = $1–$1.99 per serving
  • $$$ = over $2 per serving

Best whey protein isolate

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

  • Price: $$$
  • Serving size: 1 scoop (23.3 g)
  • Protein content per serving: 20 g
  • Carb content per serving: 1 g

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate is an unflavored whey protein isolate with 20 g of protein per scoop. It’s very low in carbohydrates, with just 1 g per serving, making it a good choice for anyone looking for a low carb protein powder.

Whey protein isolate is a concentrated protein source that has a higher percentage of protein than whey protein concentrate. It’s lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein by weight, which means it’s often preferred by folks on low carb diets.

However, both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate are low in total carbohydrates and the difference between the two is minimal (19).

Klean Isolate is unflavored and mixes well into baked products, smoothies, or other beverages without adding unwanted flavor. The powder also comes in Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry, though the flavored versions are slightly higher in carbs.

This protein powder is NSF Certified for Sport, is gluten-free, and is made without artificial sweeteners or other flavors.

Pros

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • no artificial sweeteners or flavors
  • gluten-free

Cons

  • expensive

Best whey protein concentrate

True Athlete Natural Whey Protein

  • Price: $$
  • Serving size: 2 scoops (26.7 g)
  • Protein content per serving: 20 g
  • Carb content per serving: 2 g

True Athlete Natural Whey Protein has 20 g of protein and 2 g of carbohydrates per serving. This unflavored protein also contains probiotics, which may aid in digestion (20).

The Natural Whey Protein comes in an unflavored option that is gluten-free and made without artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors. However, this powder does contain soy in addition to milk-derived whey, which makes it inappropriate for people with soy or milk allergies.

True Athlete Natural Whey Protein is third-party tested for quality and purity and is NSF Certified for Sport. It’s also available in Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla.

Pros

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • gluten-free
  • no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors

Cons

  • not appropriate for people with a soy allergy

Best casein protein

NOW Sports Micellar Casein

Price: $$
Serving size: 1 scoop (24 g)
Protein content per serving: 19 g
Carb content per serving: <1 g

NOW Sports Micellar Casein is a very low carb casein protein. It’s made from micellar casein, which is a high quality source that’s slowly digestible (21).

Casein protein powder is often used as a supplement before bed, as it’s thought to promote recovery and reduce muscle breakdown during sleep. However, it can be used throughout the day to increase total protein intake.

Because NOW Sports Micellar Casein is unflavored, it can be easily added to a variety of foods like smoothies, baked products, snacks, and other recipes of your choice.

This protein powder is made without artificial sweeteners or gluten-containing ingredients. However, it’s not listed as gluten-free and is made in a facility that processes wheat and other allergens, so it may not be the best choice for folks with a severe gluten intolerance or allergy.

NOW Sports Micellar Casein is also third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified.

Pros

  • Informed Sport Certified
  • made without artificial sweeteners
  • good for baking and use in recipes

Cons

  • only available in one flavor

Best egg white protein

NOW Sports Egg White Protein

  • Price: $$
  • Serving size: 1/4 cup (20 g)
  • Protein content per serving: 16 g
  • Carb content per serving: 2 g

Egg whites are a highly digestible protein source of protein, and the NOW Sports Egg White Protein contains 16 g of protein and 2 g of carbohydrates per serving, making it a good choice for those on low carb diets (5, 22).

While eggs aren’t typically thought of as containing carbohydrates, they have a small amount in both the egg yolk and egg white. As such, this powder will contain a small amount of carbohydrates in every serving (5).

NOW Sports Egg White Protein only comes in unflavored variety, which makes it great for use in recipes, as it won’t affect the flavor.

Like other NOW Sports products, this powder is made without gluten-containing ingredients, but it’s manufactured in a facility that processes other major allergens including wheat.

The powder is also third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified.

Pros

  • Informed Sport Certified
  • made without artificial sweeteners
  • good for baking and use in recipes
  • egg whites are highly digestible

Cons

  • only available in one flavor
  • eggs contain small amounts of carbs

Best pea protein

Promix Vegan Protein Powder

  • Price: $$
  • Serving size: 2 scoops (31 g)
  • Protein content per serving: 25 g
  • Carb content per serving: 3 g

Promix Vegan Protein Powder is a pea-based protein made from yellow pea protein isolate. The chocolate protein powder is a low carbohydrate option with 25 g of protein and just 3 g of carbs per serving.

This is an allergen-free protein powder that’s also gluten-free. Promix Vegan Protein Powder is available in multiple flavors, including Raw Chocolate, Chocolate, Vanilla, and Vegan + B12, which is unflavored.

Our No. 1 picks are the Chocolate and Vanilla flavors for best pea protein powder, as both are low in carbohydrates and also NSF Certified for Sport. In contrast, the Vegan + B12 unflavored and Raw Chocolate powders aren’t NSF Certified for Sport.

Though the Vegan + B12 unflavored powder calls out that it contains the essential vitamin, the other flavors of the Promix Vegan Protein Powder also contain added B12, with each variety giving 200% of the Recommended Daily Value for the vitamin. The powders are sweetened with monk fruit.

In addition to the company’s focus on quality, Promix also prioritizes sustainability with plastic-free packaging and a commitment to donating a portion of sales to sustainability efforts.

Pros

  • two flavors (Vanilla and Chocolate) are NSF Certified for Sport
  • made without artificial sweeteners or flavors
  • sustainability focused company
  • all flavors include B12

Cons

  • some flavors aren’t NSF Certified for Sport

Best rice blend protein powder

Momentous Essential Plant-Based Protein

  • Price: $$$
  • Serving size: 1 scoop (35 g)
  • Protein content per serving: 20 g
  • Carb content per serving: 9 g

Momentous Essential Plant-Based Protein is made from a blend of rice protein concentrate and pea protein isolate, giving it 20 g of protein per serving.

In addition, it contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are a popular supplement among athletes and body builders. This protein powder also provides 2.5 g of fat per serving.

It’s a plant-based option that comes in two flavors: Chocolate and Vanilla Chai. The powder’s sweetness comes from a combination of organic cane sugar and steviol glycosides.

While it’s slightly higher in carbohydrates than other protein powders on our list, the overall amount is still relatively low, at just 9 g of carbohydrates per serving.

In addition, this powder is third-party tested for purity and potency and is both NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Sport Certified.

Pros

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • Informed Sport Certified
  • gluten-free

Cons

  • expensive
  • contains added sugar

Best soy protein

NOW Sports Soy Protein Isolate

  • Price: $
  • Serving size: 1/3 cup (24 g)
  • Protein content per serving: 20 g
  • Carb content per serving: 0 g

NOW Sports Soy Protein Isolate contains only one ingredient: soy protein isolate. This powder is unique because it has zero carbohydrates and contains 20 g of protein per serving.

It’s available in three flavors: Creamy Chocolate, Creamy Vanilla, and Unflavored. However, only the Unflavored variety is free of carbohydrates. The other two flavors contain 9 and 13 g, respectively, of carbs per serving.

This powder is made without gluten and is dairy-, egg-, and nut-free.

The NOW Sports Soy Protein Isolate is also third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified.

Pros

  • Informed Sport Certified
  • made without artificial sweeteners
  • good for baking and use in recipes

Cons

  • inexpensive
  • other flavors are higher in carbohydrates

Best collagen

Gnarly Collagen Pro

  • Price: $$$
  • Serving size: 15 g
  • Protein content per serving: 14 g
  • Carb content per serving: 0 g

Gnarly Collagen Pro is an unflavored collagen powder made from hydrolyzed bovine collagen that comes in a can of multiple servings, or in convenient, single-serve travel packs. It contains 14 g of protein per serving and 0 g of carbohydrates.

Collagen supplementation has been associated with a reduced risk of injury, and it’s best taken prior to exercise. While it can up your total protein intake, it’s not a complete protein and should be used as a complement to other complete protein sources (8).

Gnarly Collagen Pro doesn’t contain ingredients aside from collagen, unlike many flavored collagen protein powders that are fortified with easily digested and absorbed fats called MCTs, which are found in foods like coconut oil (24).

Because Gnarly Collagen Pro is unflavored, it’s a great option to add to most beverages or recipes without altering the taste.

The Gnarly Collagen Pro is both NSF Certified for Sport and NSF Content Verified.

Pros

  • NSF Certified for Sport and NSF Content Verified
  • available in a canister or travel packs
  • made without artificial sweeteners or flavors

Cons

  • expensive
  • should only be used with other complete sources of protein

Best for competitive athletes

Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Whey

  • Price: $$
  • Serving size: 1 scoop (33 g)
  • Protein content per serving: 24 g
  • Carb content per serving: 6 g

Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Whey protein is made with a blend of whey protein isolate and milk protein. It contains 24 of protein per serving with 6 g of carbohydrates.

This protein powder is a good choice for competitive athletes because it’s third-party tested and both NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Choice Certified.

It’s also a low carb-friendly protein powder that contains no added sugar. It’s available in two flavors: Chocolate and Vanilla, which are both sweetened with erythritol and stevia leaf extract.

Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Whey is certified gluten-free and made without soy ingredients.

Pros

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • Informed Choice Certified
  • sustainably sourced ingredients

Cons

  • contains sugar alcohols

Best personalized

Gainful

  • Price: $$$
  • Serving size: varies
  • Protein content per serving: varies by blend
  • Carb content per serving: varies by blend

Gainful is a subscription service that offers personalized supplements formulated to fit your needs.

Users complete a quiz that covers information on height, weight, activity level, and other factors that influence nutrient needs. Once the quiz is complete, you receive a personalized formula of protein and other supplements for purchase.

Because the company offers personalized blends, total protein and carbohydrate content per serving will vary from one blend to the next. However, Gainful does have keto-friendly protein blends and some contain 0 g of carbohydrates.

All products are free of the major allergens, but are manufactured in a facility that processes these ingredients. You can also choose from multiple flavors and can retake the quiz as your needs change.

Pros

  • access to a registered dietitian upon purchase
  • multiple flavor options
  • fully customizable

Cons

  • expensive

Consider these important attributes before choosing a protein powder that will fit into your low carb or keto diet.

  • Third-party testing: It’s important to choose only third-party tested protein powders to ensure the purity and potency of the product you choose. Look for NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Choice Certified products whenever possible.
  • Total carb content: If you’re following a low carb or keto diet, total carbohydrate intake should be kept within a specific range based on the diet you’re following. Most protein powders will have less than 10 g of carbohydrates per serving, with many containing under 5 g. “Some of those carbohydrates can come from added sugars, so looking for a powder that has minimal to no added sugars can help to minimize carbohydrate intake,” Riker said.
  • Protein source: Protein powders are made from many types of proteins. Some are single-source powders, while others are made from a blend of protein sources. Choose a protein powder made from a protein source that fits your dietary restrictions and preferences.
  • Allergens: Some protein powders contain major allergens like milk, soy, tree nuts, or wheat. Read the labels carefully as you shop to ensure the protein powder you choose doesn’t contain an ingredient you need to avoid due to allergies.
  • Cost: Protein powder costs vary widely, and the cost per serving should be considered when choosing the best option for you. This will also make sure that you choose a protein powder that’s financially sustainable, if you choose to take it for a long time.

If you spring for an unflavored animal- or plant-based protein powder, there are several ways to make them tastier while still staying within your daily carbohydrate range:

  • Add small amounts of cocoa powder.
  • Stir the powder into low carb beverages.
  • Drizzle in sugar-free syrups.
  • Spoon in artificial sweeteners like Splenda or natural sweeteners, including stevia or monk fruit extract.
  • Use unflavored protein powders in baking.
  • Stir in sugar-free, flavored pudding mixes.
  • Add natural flavor extracts or spices, such as cinnamon.

Are protein powders good for a low carb diet?

Yes, protein powder can be a good choice for those on a low carb diet if you need a convenient way to boost total protein intake. Many protein powders are very low in carbohydrates, especially those made without added sugar or other carbohydrate sources.

Are low carb protein powders as good for building muscle as regular protein powders?

Building muscle requires following an exercise training regimen that incorporates strength training while also meeting daily energy and protein needs.

Protein powders can help ensure that you’re getting sufficient protein to support muscle maintenance and repair, but your total energy needs must also be met.

Low carbohydrate protein powders that are made from high quality protein sources that contain the essential amino acids required to promote muscle growth and maintenance are similarly effective as regular protein powders that contain more carbohydrates.

Some research indicates that eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates after exercise is more beneficial for muscle protein synthesis than eating protein alone (25).

Is it good to use low carb protein powder every day?

Protein powders can be a convenient addition to the diet, but they shouldn’t be used as the primary source of protein.

“Although protein powders can be a convenient way to help meet increased protein needs, trying to meet your protein requirements from whole foods can help ensure you are consuming other nutrients your body needs and can be more satisfying than replacing a meal with a protein powder,” said Riker.

The bottom line

Protein powders are an easy and versatile way to supplement your diet.

Many are inherently low in carbs, but some manufacturers often add sugar or other ingredients to improve flavor, which increases total carbohydrates.

Each type of protein offers unique benefits and can be a potentially beneficial low carb addition to your diet.

Choose from several protein powders that best fit your needs to optimize your low carb or keto diet based on your preferences and goals.