From weight loss to better blood sugar control to healthy aging, the benefits of protein are well established.
While you can likely meet your protein needs through your diet, protein powders offer a convenient and easy way to increase your intake.
Many people following low-carb or ketogenic diets turn to protein powders to supplement their diet.
However, choosing the right one to fit your low-carb or keto lifestyle can be challenging due to the countless forms and sources of protein powder.
That said, several types are particularly low in carbs and make superb choices for anyone monitoring their carb intake.
Here are the 7 best low-carb, keto-friendly protein powders.
Whey protein is one of two proteins derived from dairy.
Owing to its amino acid profile, whey protein is a high-quality source of protein that your body can digest and absorb quickly ().
The two main types of whey protein are concentrate and isolate.
During the manufacturing process of whey protein powder, much of the lactose — or milk sugar — is filtered out, leaving a condensed product called whey protein concentrate.
Whey protein concentrate contains 35–80% protein by weight. For instance, a typical scoop of 80% whey protein by weight will contain about 25 grams of protein and 3–4 grams of carbs — and, if flavoring is added, possibly more (2).
Whey protein concentrate is then further processed and filtered to make an even more concentrated product called whey protein isolate, which boasts 90–95% protein by weight ().
Whey protein isolates have the highest percentage of pure protein and the lowest number of carbs per serving of any whey protein.
For example, one scoop (31 grams) of this product by Isopure contains 0 carbs and 25 grams of protein, and one scoop (30 grams) of this product from NutraBio has just 1 gram of carbs and 25 grams of protein.
Summary Whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey protein you can buy. It contains few — or even zero — carbohydrates per scoop.
Casein, the other milk protein, is also high in quality but digested and absorbed much more slowly by your body than whey (, ).
This makes casein protein ideal for periods of fasting, such as before bed or between meals (, , , ).
Like its whey counterpart, casein powder undergoes processing that extracts carbs and fat, leaving a concentrated source of protein (10).
Casein powders not only offer few carbs and generous amounts of protein but are a good source of calcium, an important mineral your body needs for bone health, muscle contractions and blood clotting ().
For instance, the products from Dymatize and NutraBio boast 70% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium per scoop.
Use more water to mix casein powder than you would with whey, as casein tends to thicken when stirred.
Summary Casein is a milk protein that your body digests slowly. Protein powder made from casein provides few carbs and a good amount of calcium.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat (, ).
They’re packed with protein, essential vitamins and minerals and other important nutrients like choline, which is important for proper brain and nervous system functioning ().
Egg-white protein powders are manufactured by removing the yolks and dehydrating the remaining egg whites, turning them into powder.
The egg whites are also pasteurized to deactivate avidin, a protein that inhibits the absorption of biotin, a crucial B vitamin ().
Since egg whites naturally hold trivial amounts of carbs and fat, egg-white protein powders are a good option if you’re following a low-carb diet.
MRM makes a quality egg-white protein powder that provides 2 grams of carbs and 23 grams of protein — or the equivalent of six egg whites — per scoop (33 grams).
Some egg protein powders include both the white and yolk — which contains most of the important nutrients in eggs.
This egg-yolk protein powder from KetoThin boasts a good amount of fat — 15 grams — and a moderate amount of protein — 12 grams — with just 1 gram of carbs per scoop (30 grams), making it a perfect keto protein powder.
Egg-yolk protein powders do contain a relatively high amount of cholesterol, which was long thought to raise cholesterol levels in your body and contribute to heart disease (, ).
However, research suggests that dietary cholesterol has little to no effect on blood cholesterol levels in most people. Thus, there is no significant link between the cholesterol you eat and your risk of heart disease (, , , ).
Summary Egg protein powder is an excellent choice if you follow a low-carb or keto diet. Egg-white protein powder contains only the protein from the white, whereas whole-egg protein powder includes the white alongside the yolk.
Collagen is the most common structural protein in your body. It’s primarily found in your hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments and tendons ().
Collagen’s unique composition of amino acids gives it many purported health benefits, such as promoting body composition in older adults, as well as healthy skin and joints (, , ).
However, collagen lacks one of the essential amino acids that your body needs for good health. Because your body can’t make essential amino acids, it must get them from your diet ().
Collagen protein powder, also called collagen peptides, is made from animal byproducts — usually cowhide, cow bones, chicken bones, eggshell membranes and fish scales.
Most available collagen protein powders are tasteless and unflavored, making them great to stir into soups or drinks like coffee.
What’s more, they’re naturally carb-free.
Vital Proteins makes a beef collagen product that contains 0 carbs and 17 grams of protein for every two scoops (20 grams), while Sports Research offers a similar product with 0 carbs and 10 grams of protein per scoop (11 grams).
Many flavored collagen protein powders are fortified with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are fats found in foods like coconut oil.
MCTs are easily digested and absorbed, providing your body with an alternative source of fuel — particularly when you severely restrict carbs, as with the keto diet ().
For instance, one scoop (17 grams) of this product by Perfect Keto offers 1 gram of carbs, 10 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat from MCTs.
Summary Collagen protein powders, which are derived from the connective tissues of animals and fish, may offer unique health benefits. Some are fortified with MCTs, which benefit those following a keto diet.
Soybeans are a type of legume that’s naturally high in protein.
Soy protein powder is created by grinding soybeans into a meal and then into soy protein isolate, which consists of 90–95% protein by weight and is practically free of carbs ().
Keep in mind that manufacturers sometimes add sugar and flavorings that can contribute unwanted carbs.
For example, this vanilla-flavored soy protein isolate product by NOW Sports holds 13 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein per scoop (45 grams).
A better option is this unflavored product by the same company, which has 0 carbs and 20 grams of protein per scoop (24 grams).
Summary Because it’s naturally high in protein, soy makes for a great protein powder. Unflavored powders have almost no carbs and are packed with protein, though flavored varieties may be higher in carbs due to added sugars and flavorings.
Peas are another type of legume that naturally contains a sizable amount of protein ().
Similar to soy protein isolate, pea protein powder is made by grinding dried peas into a powder and extracting the carbs, leaving an isolated powder.
Manufacturers frequently add sugar — and therefore carbs — to increase palatability.
For example, this flavored pea protein isolate from NOW Sports packs 9 grams of carbs with 24 grams of protein per scoop (44 grams).
On the other hand, one scoop (33 grams) of the unflavored version contains just 1 gram of carbs alongside 24 grams of protein.
Summary Pea protein powder, which is very low in carbs, offers you a great protein boost — but watch out for flavored varieties, as these often harbor more carbs.
Rice protein is a popular plant-based protein, particularly because it’s hypoallergenic — meaning it’s unlikely to cause allergic reactions.
Most rice protein powders contain 80% of protein by weight, less than that of soy or pea protein ().
While rice is particularly rich in carbs, rice protein powder is typically made by treating brown rice with enzymes that cause the carbs to separate from the proteins.
For instance, this chocolate-flavored rice protein powder product from NutriBiotic contains just 2 grams of carbs but 11 grams of protein per heaping tablespoon (16 grams).
The same company also offers a plain rice protein powder with 2 grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein per heaping tablespoon (15 grams).
Summary Rice protein powder is surprisingly low-carb because the carbs in this common grain are extracted from the proteins.
If you spring for an unflavored animal- or plant-based protein powder, there are several ways to make them tastier.
- Add small amounts of cocoa powder.
- Stir the powder into low-calorie beverages like almond milk or powdered drink mixes.
- Drizzle in sugar-free syrups.
- Spoon in artificial sweeteners like Splenda or natural sweeteners, including stevia or monk fruit extract.
- Mix small amounts of unflavored protein powder with soups, stews or oatmeal.
- Stir in sugar-free, flavored pudding mixes.
- Add natural flavor extracts or spices, such as cinnamon.
Summary Zing up your unflavored protein powders with sweeteners and spices, or try adding them to various dishes.
Protein powders are an easy and versatile way to supplement your diet.
Many are inherently low in carbs since they’re extracted during the manufacturing process.
The milk proteins — whey and casein — and egg proteins are some of the best low-carb and keto-friendly protein powders, while collagen proteins typically contain no carbs but have less protein than whey or egg varieties.
Plant-based protein powders made from soy, peas or rice also make an excellent fit for a low-carb lifestyle.
While flavored versions of these powders often harbor more carbs, unflavored versions contain almost none.
All in all, it’s easy to select from several protein powders to optimize your low-carb or keto diet based on your preferences and goals.