The circus of protein powders is overwhelmed with colorful packaging, big claims, and confusing characters, but cheap or ill-processed proteins can be high in sugar and calories, and can cause extreme digestive issues, not to mention contain toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides. And you were just trying to get buff for summer!
That’s why we put together a list of the best protein powders running the gamut of whey, plant-based, meal-replacement, bone broth, and casein options so you can get away from the protein freak show and reap the benefits these buffed-up amino acids have to offer.
So, strong man, which is right for you?
If you’re new to using protein supplements, you might want to take a look at our protein primer for guys.
Levels Provisions Pure Chocolate Whey Protein
Cheap protein is like cheap tattoos or mattresses — it’s worth investing in the good shit. If there is a ripped dude and neon iridescent label touting 50 grams of protein at only $20 a jar, move away quickly and look to Levels Provisions. Their Whey Protein is 100% grass-fed and made from clean ingredients, no artificial sweeteners or GMOs, meaning they never bleach their whey. Yep, some protein is bleached for goodness sake. At a hearty 24 grams per scoop (76 servings per container), the Pure Chocolate flavor has an enjoyable taste, as it’s made with 100-percent pure cold-pressed cacao powder and sweetened with monk fruit extract. Plus, get 5.4 grams of BCAAS per serving, which is proven to prompt muscle growth, enhance exercise performance, and lighten fatigue after workouts.
Tip: If you’re upping protein intake, start also talking a probiotic to ease the toll on your tummy.
If You Prefer Soup to Smoothies:
Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein
Unlike traditional vanilla, chocolate, and peanut butter flavors, this protein powder tastes like chicken stock … and can actually be used as a base for soups and casseroles. Made from real bone broth, this superfood powder has 20 grams of protein and is paleo-friendly. Twenty grams may sound light, but remember consuming too much protein can wreak digestive distress. This Bone Broth Protein supports a healthier gut and includes collagen, 19 amino acids, and was made non-GMO and hormone-free.
Tip: Users recommend drinking with hot water.
For a Collagen Combo:
Bulletproof Collagen Protein Powder
Look good inside and out with a collagen/protein blend like this unflavored Bulletproof powder that not only promotes muscle build but supports healthy joints, bones, and glowing skin. Sourced from pasture-raised cows with zero added hormones, one scoop delivers 22 grams of protein plus collagen amino acids. Bulletproof says collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is tied to the well being of our connective tissues in the skin, hair, nails, and joints.
Tip: Add to morning coffee instead of bloating out with a calorie-packed smoothie.
To Cook With:
Aloha Vanilla Protein
Aloha doesn’t freak out about natural sugars from their real ingredients, making their Vanilla Protein a perfect mix for protein baked goods — it’s a clever way of making your desserts less guilty, or even innocent. At only 4g of sugar and zero artificial gunk, Aloha is delicious and plant-based. Hello, peanut butter protein squares.
Tip: Don’t bake large batches, since this protein ain’t cheap.
For a Meal Replacement:
PlantFusion Complete Protein Complete Meal
Gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free, PlantFusion has achieved the near-impossible, making a meal-replacement plant-based protein powder that doesn’t taste like garbage. This 20-gram protein is free of rice, eggs, nuts, fish, tree nuts, shellfish, artificial flavors, and colors as well. For being a nutrient-dense formula of protein, flax, algae oils, vitamins, and minerals, it’s surprisingly easy to digest (thanks to the removal of the majority of allergens). The powder is also fortified with digestive enzymes so you’ll feel full faster than, say, slow-absorbing casein.
Tip: It’s super nutritious but so-so tasting — add a dash of cinnamon!
If You Need Overnight Muscle Recovery:
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Micellar Casein
Promote muscle mass and weight loss simultaneously by adding a casein protein to your regimen, alongside whey. The difference is when you’ll use each. Whey should be used directly after workouts while casein is taken before bed and slowly feeds your body a stream of protein overnight. Optimum Nutrition’s Micellar Casein is 26 grams of super-slow digesting protein that makes you feel fuller longer. BTW, you can make protein ice cream out of casein.
Tip: Don’t replace your fast-acting protein with slow-acting casein.
For Something Quick, Easy, and Cheap:
Sprouts Chocolate Whey Protein Pack
On-the-go individual whey protein packs from Sprouts are a saving grace when you can’t go home after a workout and want to feel satiated from your protein. Super rich and delicious chocolate (even when mixed with water) delivers 18 grams of antibiotic-free protein. Whey is considered the mac daddy of proteins since it is fast-acting, promotes muscle growth and recovery, and can even alter your body composition by increasing lean mass (compared to fat mass). This whey is also a great source of calcium. Whey is an animal byproduct so those with allergies or sensitives should pick another powder.
Tip: Mix with milk for a milkshake dessert with a protein punch.
If You Want an Alternative Protein Source:
Bob’s Red Mill Protein
There’s been an increase in alternative protein sources and Bob’s Red Mill has you covered with all the options, including pea protein powder, hemp powder, soy protein, and even a protein/fiber blend with unsweetened and unflavored chia and probiotics. Pea protein is packed with BCAAS and increases muscle thickness, while hemp is notorious for being easily digested. Soy, although controversial, is rich in nutrients, and a fiber/protein blend, well, keeps you regular.
Tip: Play around with different proteins and find the one your body likes best.