17 Best Protein Powders of 2020: Whey, Casein, and Plant-Based

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Both animal-based and plant-based foods contain protein, and protein powder is just a broken-down version of that. These are the three most common forms:

  • Protein concentrates: These contain 60 to 80 percent protein, with the remaining 20 to 40 percent being fat and carbohydrates. They’re created by using heat and acid or enzymes on whole foods to extract the protein.
  • Protein isolates: The process is filtered even further so that it removes more fat and carbs. Protein isolate powders contain 90 to 95 percent protein.
  • Protein hydrolysates: When the process of using heat with acid or enzymes continues, the amino acid bonds are broken down. This allows your body to absorb them more quickly, which is what happens with protein powders containing protein hydrolysates.

A 2017 study found that supplementing with whey protein hydrolysates reduced exercise-induced muscle damage symptoms and improved recovery of muscle function. This could help enhance muscle growth after exercise.

Whey isolate and concentrate are both high quality proteins and will produce similar effects. A 2016 research review found that people who took whey protein containing both isolate and concentrate improved their lean muscle mass and strength. You may want to opt for isolate rather than concentrate if you’re aiming to limit carbs and fats.

Many protein powders contain a blend of the different forms.

How do I pick?! Is one type better than the other?

Depending on your goals, one type of protein powder might be better for you than another. What do you definitely need from your protein? Are you looking to build muscle, to lose weight, or just to consume more protein?

Also consider your specific dietary needs. If you have a milk allergy, you obviously need a dairy- and lactose-free option. If you’re vegan, plant-based is the only way to go.

To pick the best protein powders, we looked at the following criteria:

  • Flavors. Variety is the spice of life. We want protein powders that offer more than one flavor that doesn’t taste like chalk.
  • Nutritional makeup. We expect these powders to pack in the protein, but what other benefits do they bring to the table?
  • Ingredients. If the ingredient list is as long as a CVS receipt, we don’t want it. We’re looking for short and sweet!
  • Customer feedback. Lots of positive feedback from customer reviews means a bigger chance of being happy with your purchase and the product.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $29
  • $$ = $29–$39
  • $$$ = over $39

Best-tasting protein powder

1. Ghost Whey protein blend

You just can’t look past these flavor options! What tastes better than that last gulp of milk from the bottom of your cereal bowl?! Many reviewers mention that it satisfies sweet cravings without all the sugar.

A bonus for those with a soy allergy is that this brand uses sunflower protein. All flavors are soy- and gluten-free (except blueberry toaster pastry, because it has actual toaster pastry inside 😋).

Considerations: There’s one downside that may or may not impact you — the product contains artificial sweeteners, specifically sucralose. Even though it’s an FDA-approved non-nutritive sweetener, some people who are more sensitive to artificial sweeteners could experience gastrointestinal discomfort if they consume too much.

Price: $$$

Buy Ghost Whey online.

Best whey protein powder

2. Gold Standard 100% Whey

This gold standard meets our standards as the best whey protein powder. With more than 30 flavors to choose from, you’re bound to find the protein of your dreams. Plus, it contains BCAAs, which have been shown to reduce exercise fatigue and muscle soreness.

Considerations: This protein powder won’t be a good fit if you’re allergic to milk or soy, since it contains both.

Price: $$ (for 2 pounds) or $$$ (for 5 pounds)

Buy Gold Standard 100% Whey online.

Best casein protein powder

3. Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein

Casein is the other type of protein found in milk, next to whey. It’s slower-digesting than whey, taking 6 to 8 hours to completely break down. That allows a slow release of essential amino acids, which can help you recover while you sleep! The addition of essential amino acids is also important since your body can’t produce them.

This specific casein protein powder makes the list because it has no artificial ingredients or flavors and is gluten-, soy-, and hormone-free. Plus, this powder has BCAAs and is Informed Sport Certified (third-party tested to ensure the absence of banned substances).

Considerations: One downside is that this powder comes in only three flavors, but they’re all classics!

Price: $$$

Buy Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein online.

Best vegan protein powder

4. Nuzest Clean Lean Protein

This plant-based protein is made from the highest-quality European peas. It’s also naturally sweetened with a plant called the Katemfe fruit (aka African serendipity berry). It contains a fruit protein called Thaumatin, which gives it a sweet flavor without creating a spike in blood sugar.

Reviewers rave about the limited non-GMO ingredients and say it’s easier to digest than other whey proteins. Nuzest Clean Lean Protein naturally contains all nine essential amino acids, is a good source of iron, and is allergen-free.

Considerations: Keep your wallet open and ready for this protein powder. The cost is on the higher end, and the larger serving size means you’ll go through a lot, depending on how much protein powder you use.

Price: $$$

Buy Nuzest Clean Lean Protein online.

Best protein powder with greens

5. Vega Protein & Greens

In addition to being vegan, gluten-free, and available in many flavors, this powder contains greens! To bump up the amounts of iron and vitamin K you get in, it has ingredients like spinach, kale, and broccoli powder. These additions make it stand out from many other protein powders while still providing great flavors.

Considerations: Because of that added vitamin K, people who are on blood thinning medication (such as warfarin, aka Coumadin) need to be careful. According to the Cleveland Clinic, vitamin K intake needs to be consistent because it can decrease the blood thinning effect.

Price: $

Buy Vega Protein & Greens online.

Best plant-based protein powders

6. Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein

Beyond pea protein, Garden of Life contains 13 organic sprouts to really bump up that protein. What makes us really love it is the addition of probiotics, BCAAs, and enzymes. With 3 billion live probiotics and 13 different enzymes, this protein powder will be easy on your belly.

Considerations: This product uses stevia and erythritol to sweeten things up. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, which provides sweetness without the calories. But sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues for some people.

Price: $$

Buy Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein online.

7. Puritan’s Pride Soy Protein Isolate

Soy gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a myth that it affects hormones. Many studies, including this one from 2018, have kicked that claim to the curb. This specific soy protein is low in fat and carbs, so it fits into many different eating styles. It’s also affordable, organic, and gluten-free!

Considerations: This product does have some artificial flavors (and natural ones too) and doesn’t provide much else beyond the protein and low carb/fat deal. And it only comes in the basic flavors.

Price: $

Buy Puritan’s Pride Soy Protein Isolate online.

8. NutriBiotic Rice Protein

It’s difficult to find a rice-based protein that comes in flavors other than plain. That’s why this tops our list as the best rice protein, with three flavor options in addition to unflavored. The ingredient list is simple: enzymatically processed rice protein from whole grain, sprouted brown rice, and natural flavors. Plus, it’s gluten- and GMO-free.

Considerations: This powder is on the cheaper end but doesn’t contain as much protein as some others. It’s also very low in calories, so if you wanted to use it as a meal replacement, you would need to bulk it up with other foods like fruits, vegetables, or nuts.

Price: $

Buy NutriBiotic Rice Protein online.

9. Hemp Yeah! Max Fiber Protein Powder

Hemp protein comes from hemp seeds that are harvested from the Cannabis plant. Yes, the same one marijuana comes from — but without the THC (the psychoactive part).

Hemp is a great source of fiber, which is important since only 5 percent of adults get the recommended amount of dietary fiber each day. The combo of fiber and omega-3s is beneficial for several aspects of your health, including digestive and heart health.

Considerations: This one comes in only two flavors. It also has much less protein than many other brands, sitting at 9 grams of protein per serving.

Price: $

Buy Hemp Yeah! Max Fiber Protein Powder online.

Best protein powder for men

10. Bodylogix Natural Isolate

Whey protein isolate is one of the highest-quality whey protein options out there. A small 2017 study on young men found that whey protein enhanced whole-body protein metabolism and improved recovery after strenuous exercise.

One hundred percent of the protein comes from whey, and with the 5.7 grams of naturally occurring BCAAs, you’ll be seeing those muscles grow!

This product is also NSF-certified, which means all the raw materials used in it are FDA-approved and that what’s listed on the label is exactly what’s in the product.

Considerations: The pros outweigh the cons, but one con is that there are only two flavors to choose from.

Price: $$$

Buy Bodylogix Natural Isolate online.

Best protein powder for women

11. KOS Organic Plant Protein

Don’t fall for marketing and reach for a protein powder that’s specifically advertised to women. This one meets our standard because it contains 40 percent of the daily iron females need. Women who have a heavy flow can be at greater risk of iron deficiency (iron is in blood, so blood loss = loss of iron).

This product is soy-, dairy-, and gluten-free. And it contains good amounts of macro- and micronutrients, so it could easily be used as a meal replacement. We’re looking at you, ladies on the go!

Considerations: This protein powder contains tree nuts, so steer clear if you have an allergy. It also has a small amount of added sugar and is a bit higher in total fat and carbs than some other powders.

Price: $$$

Buy KOS Organic Plant Protein online.

Best organic protein powder

12. Orgain Organic Protein

This USDA certified organic protein tops our list because, in addition to being organic, it meets the needs of a wide variety of people and eating patterns. It’s kosher, vegan, and free of soy and gluten. And it comes in six delicious flavors.

Considerations: This powder has more carbs than some others. And it contains the sugar alcohol erythritol, which could cause stomach issues for some people.

Price: $$

Buy Orgain Organic Protein online.

Best grass-fed protein powder

13. Naked Whey (concentrate)

This product says it’s from grass-fed cows and means it. The brand’s website claims the cows it uses are from Northern California and spend more than 300 days per year and 19 hours per day grazing in the pasture. This in is comparison to some brands that use cows from Wisconsin, where grazing is possible for only part of the year (because, ya know, snow).

The ingredient list is super short — the unflavored has only one ingredient, and the other flavors have no more than three. This product is also gluten-free, contains 5.9 grams of BCAAs, and has no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.

Considerations: The biggest ding is the serving size. Although the cost is on the lower end, this powder comes in only a 1-pound package with 15 servings. If you’re using this on the reg, you’ll need to stock up.

Price: $

Buy Naked Whey online.

Best egg white protein powder

14. MRM Nutrition Egg White Protein

Instead of eating six eggs, just add one scoop of this powder to your favorite drink or food to get in 23 grams of protein. The consistency of egg white protein also avoids that “chalky” texture and makes the powder easy and smooth to mix.

This product also includes vegetarian digestive enzymes that support healthy digestion and may limit gas and bloating.

Considerations: We’re a little bummed that there are only two flavors, but many egg white protein powders don’t even have flavors!

Price: $$

Buy MRM Nutrition Egg White Powder online.

Best collagen protein powder

15. Vital Proteins Collagen Whey Protein

Vital Proteins gives you a good combination of protein and collagen with interesting flavors. We know whey protein helps build and repair muscles, and collagen can lend a hand by keeping bones strong and relieving joint pain. The addition of coconut water provides electrolytes, which can prevent dehydration.

Considerations: You need two scoops per serving, and there are only 15 servings per container. That means if you use this every day, you need another container after about 2 weeks. That can really add up!

Price: $$$

Buy Vital Proteins Collagen Whey Protein online.

Best protein powder for building muscle

16. Apollo Pure Protein Powder

There’s always a debate on which type of protein powder helps build muscle. Instead of picking one, why not have them all?

Apollo contains a 2:2:1 ratio of whey, casein, and egg white proteins. The combination of the three allows you to feel fuller for upwards of 6 hours. That means more time for your body to heal and prepare for the next weightlifting sesh.

Considerations: Better keep your wallet full if you want to commit to this protein. It’s one of the most expensive on this list, and with 27 servings per container, you could blow through this faster than your muscles use it.

Price: $$$

Buy Apollo Pure Protein Powder online.

Best protein powder for weight loss

17. Truefit

Not only does Truefit provide 25 grams of protein per serving, it also contains 12 non-GMO fruits and vegetables. The addition of these fruits and veggies along with 1 billion live probiotics means it’s packed with fiber, which can help you feel full longer. This powder’s balance of protein, fats, and carbs allows for an easy meal on the go!

Considerations: If you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll need to skip this powder. It still contains milk, which will get that tummy rumbling (in a bad way). If you’re following a low carb diet, the carbs per serving may push you over your daily limit.

Price: $$$

Buy Truefit online.

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