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Protein powder is a great way to help you lose unwanted weight, or gain and maintain muscle, for adults at any age. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for those in their prime either. A good protein powder is especially important (and often overlooked) for older people who may be losing muscle mass and strength, to help them get a sufficient supplementation of extra protein too.
The best protein powders are generally pretty safe when used responsibly. And while you should already be getting most of the protein in your daily diet from meats and/or plants, a protein powder is an easy and convenient way to get even more, while avoiding the other unwanted elements in foods such as cholesterol, sodium and extra fats.
What You Need To Know About High-Protein Powders
Types of Protein Power: There are multiple protein powder types with varying benefits, and different choices for where your extra protein can be sourced from.
Whey, along with casein, is possibly the most popular option. It’s a complete protein source, which puts it at an advantage over plant-based powders. It’s also easily digestible by the body (unless you’re lactose intolerant) and contains lots of the essential amino acids needed for muscle maintenance. And grass-fed is always better than grain-fed, if available.
A good plant-based protein powder is another option, but some (like hemp or soy) contain a large serving of carbs or fiber, and less protein than the whey varieties.
There are more choices now than ever though, including egg and pea, so it might take some prior research to find the one that’s right for you and your fitness goals.
Flavor and Taste: Taste matters too. Since this is something you’ll most likely be drinking every day, enjoying (or at least tolerating) the taste is a must. Whey has, unsurprisingly, a mild milky taste to it, while egg, soy, and pea all have their own distinct flavors.
Ingredients: It’s important to take a look at the labels. While all powders provide protein, some may come at a cost, and include a lot of stuff you don’t want to be putting into your body as well. Sweeteners and additives, like Splenda and carrageenan can upset stomachs, and those who are lactose intolerant should ask a health or fitness expert before trying anything with whey. It’s also advised to keep an eye out for fillers, such as both natural and artificial flavoring, and maltodextrin, which can spike blood sugars.
How to Take It: Protein powders dissolve easily into water or as part of a shake or smoothie. Of course, while protein powder is a great supplement, it’s important to remember that it’s not a magic all-in-one muscle builder. If bulking up is what you’re shooting for, then resistance exercise and weight training should be part of your routine too, around three times a week at least. The best time to drink a protein shake is after a workout, but really any time of day will help muscle building as long as you’re exercising.
We’ve selected four powders here that deliver in terms of taste, accessibility and health benefits. Ask a doctor or a trainer about any questions or concerns, then get out there and crush your fitness goals, protein shake in hand for the journey.
1. ZonePerfect Carb Wise High-Protein Powder
ZonePerfect has been a leader in the fitness foods field for nearly 25 years, and offers a massive array of health products for both weight loss and muscle building. This high-protein whey powder blends well with water (or milk/nut-milk) for a smooth, satiating, low-carb morning meal-replacement mix, and comes in two tasty flavors – Chocolate Ice Cream and Fruity Cereal. A two-scoop serving (at 170 calories per scoop) is packed with 30 grams of protein. And with no gluten or added sugar, this is a top choice for diabetics and the Paleo crowd too.
Those trying to break the habit of loading up on carb and sugar-heavy cereal every morning will find it easy to make the switch to this healthier option. Blending it into a smoothie with peanut butter or fruit makes it extra tasty, while still staying on target to meet your macros.
And though it can be tough to avoid the distinct taste of protein in any powder, the flavors here pass the taste test, with a non-chalky texture. There’s also no filmy aftertaste left in your mouth when finished, and the hunger-satisfying effect keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
PROS: Large serving of protein with little carbs and calories. Great taste.
CONS: While there’s no sugar added, there is still a little sugar – about 3g per serving. Also it’s not listed as an ingredient, but the chocolate-flavored option naturally contains a bit of caffeine.
2. Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder
For those who are lactose intolerant, or just prefer a plant-based powder over a milk-derived one, Orgain’s mix is a reliable source of protein that’s completely gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan too. There’s less protein here than in whey and casein brands, but it’s just as blendable, far gentler on your stomach and GI system, and keeps your hunger cravings at bay for about 4-5 hours.
Aside from stevia and xanthan gum, which are both technically from natural ingredients, there is no artificial anything in here. Each chocolatey, thick serving delivers 21 grams of organic protein, 3 grams of carbs, along with an extra 5-7 grams of organic fiber, which may reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. It’s an ideal choice for either pre or post-workout, busy mornings, and working towards your strength training or weight loss goals.
PROS: Free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Totally vegan, with an extra boost of fiber in every serving too.
CONS: Slightly less protein than a serving of whey-based powder, but only by a few grams. Still worth noting when planning how to meet your macros though.
3. Isopure Low Carb, High Protein Powder with Vitamins
Isopure’s goal is going beyond just athletes and dieters. Their protein powders are specifically made for anyone with demanding jobs and lives, that require both healthy muscle and mental strength to power through each day. From firefighters to first responders, teachers to trainers, everyone can benefit from what’s inside. Along with the 100% whey protein isolate, there’s also a bonus blend of vitamins and minerals too, including A, C, E and K, with a blast of zinc and B12.
That being said, it’s still great for athletes and dieters, and is ingestible at any time of day – pre or post workout, morning, afternoon, or evening. This can also help those on keto diets to meet their macros, while keeping calories low (there are options for both low-carb and no-carb) and gluten/lactose levels at zero.
PROS: Mixes well in cold beverages, and delivers a serving of vitamins and minerals along with the protein. Keeps the stomach-churning aftereffects to a minimum compared with other brands too.
CONS: Slightly unpleasant aftertaste.
4. Quest Nutrition High-Protein Powder
Quest’s whey-based, Chocolate Protein Powder has all the taste of a “cheat food,” without the actual cheating part.
The texture and viscosity is ice cream sundae-worthy when blended with ice and water alone (add milk or yogurt to kick it up too), and satisfies hunger cravings for hours. Not only does it make great shakes, but it’s ideal for baking. Mix it in to any recipe for a richer, more buttery flavor while retaining all the benefits you originally bought it for. The result is delicious pancakes, waffles, cookies and brownies just to name a few.
Quest also hasn’t forgotten about the keto crowd either. Their MCT powder option is a great way for newcomers to avoid symptoms of the dreaded “keto flu” – where your body hasn’t quite quit carbs, but also hasn’t started fueling from fats either. MCT can help tone down the unwanted effects that beginners often run into, such as nausea, headaches, fatigue, and sugar cravings.
PROS: Taste always gets mixed reviews at best with protein powders, but Quest has overwhelmingly positive feedback.
CONS: Not recommended as a meal supplement.