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Protein powder is a popular nutritional supplement that may help people meet nutritional goals, build muscle, and lose weight. The best protein powders contain natural ingredients, are third-party tested, and provide safe amounts of protein.

This article looks at the benefits and risks of protein powders and the best ones to consider. It also answers some frequently asked questions and discusses using protein powder.

Below is a selection of whey protein powders available to buy online.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best easily digestible whey isolate: Momentous Essential Protein Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
  • Price: from $53.55
  • Protein dose per serving: 20 grams (g)
  • Type of whey: isolate

This Momentous Whey Isolate Protein Powder contains 20 g of protein per serving. The company states that it contains easily digestible, grass-fed whey isolate and may help people feel full for longer.

Momentous products are free from sugar, hormones, and gluten. The company says it sweetens products with organic steviol.

The company states it cold-processes this whey protein isolate to preserve protein structures for better bioavailability. Additionally, Momentous states that the protein isolate contains prohydrolase, an enzyme blend that supports the digestion and absorption of protein.

This product is available in two Amazon flavors: Vanilla and Chocolate.

Momentous grass-fed whey protein isolate is available in packs of 1.4 pounds (lb).

Nutritional information per 26.5-g serving:

  • Calories: 100
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Total fat: 1.5 g
  • Sodium: 140 milligrams (mg)
  • Total carbohydrate: 3 g


  • This type of protein may be easier to digest than other proteins.
  • Some reviewers report that this protein isolate mixes well even in cold water.
  • Other reviewers report that this product is a good value as people only need to add one scoop to water, compared with three scoops with other brands.


  • Some reviewers say the protein isolate has a bland taste.
  • Other reviewers report that the product is difficult to handle because the powder is fine and creates a lot of dust.
  • One customer reports that they experienced stomach cramps after consuming the product.
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Best probiotic blend: Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Whey

Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Whey
  • Price: from $56.99
  • Protein dose per serving: 24 g
  • Type of whey: isolate

The manufacturer states that this grass-fed whey protein differs from others because it is free of hormones and antibiotics.

Additionally, it contains 2 billion colony-forming units (CFU) of lactis BL-04 probiotic dietary supplement in one serving. Probiotics may help support digestive health, but experts state that a daily dose of 5 billion CFU is the most effective for promoting digestive health.

This whey protein isolate contains milk protein to provide some of the components found in whole milk, such as immunoglobulins. Additionally, it contains 4 g of glutamine and 18 amino acids, which the manufacturer states are important for reducing recovery time and promoting muscle repair.

People may take this supplement an hour after a workout or throughout the day.

This brand is available in 1.5-Ib tubs and in Vanilla and Chocolate flavors.

Nutritional information per 32-g serving:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 24 g
  • Total fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 120 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 6 g


  • This product contains 6 g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) per serving.
  • Customers report that the product has a mild flavor, is not too sweet, and has no artificial aftertaste.
  • Other customers report that the product is gentle on the stomach.


  • This product contains milk protein, so is unsuitable for vegans or people with dairy sensitivities.
  • The product contains stevia extract, which some people may prefer to avoid.
  • Some customers find the product expensive compared with similar brands.
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Best for BCAAs: Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed 100% Whey Protein

Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed 100% Whey Protein
  • Price: from $79.94
  • Protein dose per serving: 25 g
  • Type of whey: isolate

This offering from Dymatize uses easy-to-digest hydrolyzed whey protein isolate.

This protein powder contains 25 g of whey protein in each serving. Each serving contains 120 calories when mixed with water. This product is also gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians.

Dymatize also includes 5.5 g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and 2.7 g of leucine per serving. Recent research into the health benefits of BCAAs is limited, but a 2017 study shows that they may improve lean muscle mass. One 2021 study shows that in males, BCAAs may reduce muscle damage and improve muscle soreness after resistance training.

This product is available in the following flavors:

  • Chocolate
  • Birthday Cake
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Cocoa Pebbles
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Fruity Pebbles
  • Fudge Brownie
  • Vanilla

This protein powder comes in a 5-Ib tub.

Nutritional information per 32-g serving:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 25 g
  • Total fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 180 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 2 g


  • This product contains BCAAs which may help build lean muscle.
  • The product is gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians.
  • Some reviewers praise the product’s taste


  • The product is more expensive than some other whey proteins.
  • Some reviewers report having severe bloating after consuming the product.
  • Other reviewers found the taste to be sour though the product smelled sweet.
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Best for ingredient transparency: Ghost Whey Protein

Ghost Whey Protein
  • Price: from $29.99
  • Protein dose per serving: 25 g
  • Type of whey: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate

Ghost features a 100% transparent label on all its products. This label fully discloses the dose of each active ingredient so people know exactly what and how much each ingredient they consume in every scoop.

This product contains sunflower lecithinated whey protein instead of the popular soy lecithinated whey protein present in many other products. This may be a suitable option for people with soy allergies, but sunflower is also an allergen for some people. The product is gluten-free.

Ghost whey protein is available in multiple flavors, including the following:

  • Coffee Ice Cream
  • Cereal Milk
  • Fruity Cereal Milk
  • Peanut Butter Cereal Milk
  • Marshmallow Cereal Milk

This protein powder is available in 1.2-Ib and 2-Ib tubs, depending on the flavor. The serving size and nutritional information vary between flavors. The data below relates to the cereal milk flavor powder.

Nutritional information per 34.5-g of Cereal Milk flavor powder:

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 25 g
  • Total fat: 1.5 g
  • Sodium: 150 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 4 g


  • The protein matrix gives a precise ingredient breakdown so people can see exactly what they are taking.
  • The product is gluten-free.
  • The product contains sunflower lecithin whey protein so it may be a good option for people who are allergic to soy protein.
  • The product is available in multiple flavors.


  • The product may be unsuitable for those with dairy sensitivities.
  • This product contains artificial flavors.
  • Some people may be allergic to sunflower lecithin.
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Best for essential micronutrients: Huge Supplements Whey

Huge Supplements Whey
  • Price: $49.95
  • Protein dose per serving: 23 g
  • Type of whey: isolate and concentrate

Huge Whey protein powder contains 5 g of BCAAs and 23 g of protein per serving. In addition, it contains essential micronutrients, including calcium and potassium.

This supplement uses whey protein from soybeans, lecithin, and dairy, so it is unsuitable for vegans and people with allergies to these ingredients. The formula also has sweeteners such as sucralose and artificial flavors and taste enhancers.

Huge claims that people can take this supplement at any time of day.

Huge Whey protein is available in 2.5-lb tubs in the following flavors:

  • Cookie & Cream
  • Vanilla Milkshake
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Blueberry Muffin
  • Fruity Cereal
  • Cinnamon Bun
  • Chocolate Brownie

People can make a one-time purchase or subscribe for a 10% discount.

The nutritional information varies between flavors.

Nutritional information per 30.8-g serving of Chocolate Brownie flavor:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 23 g
  • Total fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 90 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 2.5 g


  • The product contains high amounts of the essential micronutrients, potassium, and calcium.
  • The company offers a discount of 10% if people subscribe.
  • Reviewers praise the taste of the protein supplement and say that it mixes well without forming clumps like some other protein brands.
  • Reviewers report that they have noticed physical results from taking the protein supplement regularly.


  • This product contains artificial flavors and sweeteners.
  • This product is unsuitable for people who are allergic to soy, lecithin, and dairy.
  • It contains dairy and, therefore is not suitable for vegans.
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Best for protein absorption and muscle soreness: Thorne Whey Protein Isolate

Thorne whey protein isolate
  • Price: $55.10
  • Protein dose per serving: 21 g
  • Type of protein: isolate

This whey protein isolate supplement offered by Thorne contains 21 grams of bioavailable protein. Thorne states that flavors and sweeteners contained in the products derive from natural sources.

Unlike other brands, this supplement contains bromelain and papain which may aid in the digestion and assimilation of protein as well as helping with muscle soreness. Additionally, it contains 2.3 g of leucine per serving which is the optimal amount for muscle repair and maintenance.

It is NSF Certified for Sport and is available in 1.84-Ib tubs in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors.

Nutritional information per 27.9-g serving:

  • Calories: 100
  • Protein: 21 g
  • Total fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 75 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 3 g

Thorne states that its products go through rigorous in-house checks and each product is tested four times to ensure that it is free from contaminants.

The company recommends people mix one scoop of powder with at least 8 ounces of water, juice, or preferred beverage daily. Alternatively, people can sprinkle it on food or add it to baking.


  • This product is gluten-free and contains bromelain and papain which may help with muscle recovery and protein absorption.
  • The product is NSF Certified for sport.
  • Some reviewers report that although the price is higher than some other brands, the product tastes good, mixes well with beverages, and is filling.


  • This product contains milk, so is unsuitable for people who have a dairy allergy or intolerance.
  • This supplement contains stevia, which some people may prefer to avoid.
  • It is only available in chocolate and vanilla flavors, which may be limiting for some.
  • Reviewers report that both flavors taste unpleasant and do not mix well with any beverage.
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Casein protein powder options include the following:

Best for muscle recovery: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100 Casein
  • Price: $73.71–$91.46
  • Protein dose per serving: 24 g
  • Type of protein: casein

This powder contains casein, a slower-digesting and absorbing protein.

The brand suggests it is a suitable powder to use after exercise, between meals, or before bed to support fullness and muscle recovery.

It contains 24 g of protein per serving.

Dairy-based protein sources, such as whey and casein, also contain BCAAs, which may further help recover muscles.

This product is available in Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Supreme, Cookies & Cream, and Creamy Vanilla flavors. It is available in tub sizes of 2 and 4 lb.

Nutritional information per 34-g serving of Creamy Vanilla flavor powder:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 24 g
  • Total fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 230 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 3 g


  • People can take casein at any time of the day, after exercise, between meals, or before bed, as it digests slower than whey protein.
  • This protein supplement contains BCAAs, which may aid in muscle recovery.
  • Reviewers say the protein supplement tastes nice and has a smooth texture.


  • This protein supplement is unsuitable for those with soy allergies.
  • It contains artificial sweeteners.
  • Some reviewers report that the flavor and mixability of the product have changed from the previous time they bought it. They found it to be clumpy when mixed with water and the taste to be unpleasant.
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Good pea protein powder options include:

Best clean-sourced protein: Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+

  • Price: $40
  • Protein dose per serving: 20 g
  • Type of protein: pea

Ritual states that this vanilla flavor pea protein supplement is organic, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and formulated with non-GMO ingredients. Additionally, it is free from all major allergens and contains natural sweeteners from vanilla bean extract, fermented sugarcane, and monk fruit. It contains no stevia or sugar alcohol.

The company states that this protein supplement helps build lean muscle, supports muscle recovery, and supports strength after exercise.

This product is Informed Sport certified, which means that third parties rigorously screen it for over 250 banned sports substances, including stimulants, narcotics, and diuretics. It also carries The Clean Label Project Purity Award Certificate.

Each serving provides a complete amino acid profile, with 8 g of essential amino acids (EAAs) and 4 g of BCAAs.

It is available in a 1-Ib pouch.

Nutritional information per 30-g serving:

  • Calories: 115
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Total fat: 2 g
  • Sodium: 290 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 3 g


  • This product contains 100% clean ingredients.
  • It is organic, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and contains no GMOs.
  • It is free from stevia and sugar alcohol.
  • Each serving contains EAAs and BCAAs.
  • This product carries the Clean Label Project Purity Award certification.


  • This product is only available in Vanilla, which may be a little limiting for some.
  • It can work out to be more expensive than other brands as the pouch only contains 15 servings per container.
  • According to some reviews, the product is not sweet enough and people found that they had to add more natural sweeteners to their shakes.
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Egg protein powder options include:

Best for a paleo-friendly egg protein option: Naked Nutrition Egg White Protein Powder

  • Price: around $68
  • Protein dose per serving: 25 g
  • Type of protein: egg white protein

This egg protein powder offering from Naked Nutrition uses dried egg whites that come from non-GMO chicken eggs laid on U.S. farms.

This product is a suitable option for people following a paleo diet.

It contains 25 g of protein per serving, and the company says that it processes eggs into a powder in under 1 day to retain the highest nutritional value.

Naked Egg products also contain no additives such as sweeteners, flavors, or colors.

This protein powder is unflavored. It is available in a 3-lb container.

Nutritional information per 31-g serving:

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 25 g
  • Total fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 380 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 2 g


  • This product is a good choice for people who cannot digest whey or casein protein or are lactose intolerant.
  • This protein supplement is suitable for people on a paleo diet.
  • Customers report that this product is reasonably priced compared with other egg protein supplements.


  • Some people may experience digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
  • This product is unsuitable for people who are allergic to eggs.
  • Reviewers report that this product contains nuts, which some people may be allergic to.
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A good brown rice protein powder includes:

Best allergen-free protein: Orgain Organic Protein Powder

  • Price: $27–$37
  • Protein dose per serving: 21 g
  • Type of protein: plant-based

Orgain Organic Protein Powder provides an organic plant-based protein blend that is suitable for a range of different diets.

In addition to brown rice, this powder also contains protein from pea and chia seed sources.

Each serving delivers 21 g of protein alongside vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

According to the company, the product includes a complete amino acid profile. It is also vegan-friendly and gluten-, soy-, and lactose-free.

This protein powder is available in a range of flavors, including:

  • Natural Unsweetened
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Vanilla
  • Iced Coffee
  • Strawberries & Cream

It is available in canisters of 1.02, 1.59, and 2.03 lbs, and a bundle of 10 single-serve packets.

Nutritional information may vary between flavors.

Nutritional information per 46-g serving of Strawberries & Cream flavor:

  • Calories: 180
  • Protein: 21 g
  • Total fat: 5 g
  • Sodium: 290 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 16 g


  • This product has a low sugar content.
  • This protein supplement is available in different canister sizes and handy travel packets.
  • It is vegan-friendly and is soy- lactose- and gluten-free.
  • It contains vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.


  • Some customers report stomach discomfort and bloating.
  • Customers report that the protein supplement has an unpleasant taste and a gritty texture when mixed with any liquids.
  • The product contains erythritol which some people may wish to avoid.
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Some of the best plant-based protein powders include:

Best nutritionally complete plant-based protein: Huel Complete Protein

  • Price: around $36
  • Protein dose per serving: 20 g
  • Type of protein: plant-based

Huel claims this plant-based protein powder contains sustainably sourced, animal-free ingredients such as hemp, faba, and pea protein. Additionally, it states that this powder is naturally gluten-free and contains more essential amino acids per gram than whey protein.

This supplement also contains curcumin and piperine (black pepper extract). It is also gluten-, lactose-, GMO- and dairy-free, and vegan-friendly.

Huel claims people can drink this protein powder post-workout or whenever they need an energy boost during the day.

People can purchase Huel protein powder in a 1.66-Ib tub. On Amazon, it is available in the following flavors:

  • Chocolate Fudge Brownie
  • Vanilla Caramel
  • Strawberry Shortcake

There may be extra flavors available on the company website.

Nutritional information per 29-g serving:

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Total fat: 1.5 g
  • Sodium: 190 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 5 g


  • This product contains 27 essential vitamins and minerals.
  • It is vegan-friendly and gluten-, lactose-, GMO-, and dairy-free.
  • Customers report that this product is good value, has a pleasant taste, and mixes well in any liquids.


  • The product offers less protein per serving than other brands.
  • Some customers report the Chocolate flavor has a bitter, chalky taste.
  • Other customers report that the product has a glue-like consistency when mixed with water.
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Best for all the family: KOS Organic Plant Protein

  • Price: from $44.79
  • Protein dose per serving: 20 g
  • Type of protein: plant-based

This plant-based protein supplement by KOS contains 20 g of protein and 12 vitamins and minerals per serving.

It is USDA certified organic and contains protein from organic peas, flaxseed, quinoa pumpkin, and chia seeds.

KOS states that this supplement is suitable for all the family, whether a person is looking to lose weight, needs a quick refuel between meals, or for children who won’t eat vegetables.

This plant-protein supplement is available in the following flavors:

  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Salted Caramel Coffee
  • Vanilla
  • Unflavored

Nutritional information per 39-g serving:

  • Calories: 160
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Total fat: 7 g
  • Sodium: 330 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 9 g

This protein supplement is manufactured in the USA and is also additive- vegan- dairy- soy, and gluten-free.

Additionally, KOS states that this protein supplement contains only natural flavors and is additive-free.

The manufacturers recommend people mix one serving (2 scoops) in 8–12 ounces of cold water or non-dairy drink and blend or shake in a shaker cup. People can also add this protein supplement to baking.

If people are unhappy with this product, KOS offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.


  • The manufacturer offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • This product is suitable for all the family.
  • This product contains 12 vitamins and minerals.
  • It is USDA certified organic.


  • Some reviewers report that this product gave them bloating and cramping.
  • Other reviewers report that the product does not mix well with any liquids and is impossible to drink.
  • Some reviewers report that since the manufacturer has “improved the taste” of its protein supplements they now taste unpleasant and are too sweet.
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Best for vegans: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Rice and Pea Protein

  • Price: from $44.99
  • Protein dose per serving: 24 g
  • Type of protein: plant-based (rice and pea)

This rice and pea, plant-based protein powder contains 24 g of protein per serving. A person can choose between two flavors: Chocolate and French Vanilla.

This protein powder also contains potassium, iron, and calcium.

Transparent Labs recommends combining one scoop with 6-8 ounces of water. The brand also suggests one to three scoops per day for best results. A person can also adjust the ratio of water to powder to suit their taste.

Nutritional information per 37-g serving:

  • Calories: 150
  • Protein: 24 g
  • Total fat: 2.5 g
  • Sodium: 300 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 7 g
Our tester’s experience

“It’s a tasty option with simple ingredients, and it offers a good amount of protein for vegans

“I first tested this protein powder in a smoothie with unsweetened almond milk, frozen banana and blueberries, and some ground flax and chia seeds. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet when used in this way. The taste almost reminds me of maple syrup rather than vanilla.

“I also tested it just mixed with unsweetened almond milk, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was a little chalky, and it tasted WAY too sweet to me when used plain like that.

“That said, I did like the product overall and will continue using it when I want something a little sweeter than my go-to (Orgain unsweetened vegan protein powder). I like that it has few ingredients includes 24 grams of protein — as someone who follows a vegan diet, I often feel like I don’t get enough protein. It’s also low in sugar and doesn’t include any added sugar since it’s sweetened with stevia.”

— Chelsea Logan, Senior Editor


  • high amount of protein while still being low calorie
  • a good option for vegans who have high protein needs
  • discount available with subscription


  • only two flavors available
  • not particularly sweet
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The following table compares all of the protein powders in this article.

Type of whey or proteinProtein per servingSize (lb)Price
Momentouswhey isolate 20 g1.4from $53.55
Garden of Lifewhey isolate24 g1.5from $56.99
Dymatizehydrolyzed whey25 g5from $79.94
Ghostisolate25 g1.2 and 2from $29.99
Huge Supplementsisolate23 g2.5$49.95
Thorneisolate21 g 1.84 $55.10
Optimum Nutritioncasein24 g2 and 4$73.71-$91.46
Ritualpea20 g1 $40
Nakedegg25 g3around $68
Orgainplant-based21 g1.02, 1.59, and 2.03 (and 10 single-serve packets)$27–$37
Huelplant-based20 g1.66around $36
KOSplant-based20 g2.4from $44.79
Transparent Labsplant-based rice and pea24 g2.45from $44.99

People may wish to consider the following factors when purchasing a protein powder:

  • Type of protein: People may wish to consider their dietary requirements. For example, those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or vegetarian may prefer plant-based powders as they do not contain any dairy or animal by-products.
  • Amount of protein per serving: Some people may prefer to purchase a protein powder with more protein per serving.
  • Flavors: Unflavored options may work better if a person wants to add protein powders to flavored drinks, such as juice. Flavors may be artificial and increase the calorie count of each serving.
  • Size: Some companies offer protein powders in different weights. Others may also offer single-serve packets, which may be preferable to those who wish to try out a product before buying a larger container.

Medical News Today’s methodology

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria where possible:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high-quality ingredients that are clearly labeled. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT chooses products that must clearly state the supplement dosage.
  • Serving size: MNT selects products in which manufacturers recommend a safe dosage.
  • Third-party testing: MNT chooses products that undergo third-party testing for contaminants.
  • Type of protein: MNT chooses products with a range of protein sources, such as whey and plant-based.
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Although the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein in the general population is about 0.36 g of protein per pound of body weight, active people may benefit from a higher protein intake.

Research suggests that physically active people need twice the amount of protein intake than those who are sedentary. This amounts to approximately 0.72 g of protein per pound of body weight.

People should aim to get sufficient protein from their diet, which can sometimes be difficult due to dietary restrictions or costs. Therefore, protein powder supplementation may be a suitable alternative to help people reach their nutritional goals.

The most suitable protein powder for each individual will vary, as people will need to consider their health goals and any dietary restrictions they have.

The makers of protein powders isolate the protein in foods to make a nutritional powder. Some of the most popular variants include milk proteins and plant proteins, which are ideal for vegans. Some manufacturers may also use egg protein.

People who choose milk proteins can choose from two primary milk derivatives: whey and casein.

Whey protein is a fast-digesting protein that the body can quickly absorb. This means that it is a suitable protein source for a pre-or post-workout snack. Casein takes longer to digest, so people may prefer to use casein before fasting or going to sleep.

Whey protein is also typically available in three formats:

  • whey protein concentrate (WPC)
  • whey protein isolate (WPI)
  • whey protein hydrolysate (WPH)

Each type undergoes a different manufacturing process to determine its protein concentration and attributes:

  • WPC: This form is the least processed and also usually the cheapest. It contains roughly 34–89% of protein and other nutrients, such as fats and carbohydrates.
  • WPI: This form has a slightly higher protein content, at about 90%, and contains far fewer carbohydrates and fats. It requires additional processing and tends to be more expensive.
  • WPH: This type is the most processed form and is “predigested,” meaning it has undergone partial hydrolysis. This means that it is easier for the body to digest and use.

Plant proteins such as hemp protein and pea protein are options for vegans, people with lactose intolerance, and those whose bodies do not digest milk protein well.

However, plant protein powders may not be complete by themselves, meaning that they may not contain all nine essential amino acids. A 2019 review notes that manufacturers can make plant protein higher in quality by either blending or supplementing them with other protein sources to create a complete protein profile.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements such as protein powders as strictly as pharmaceuticals. Therefore, it is the manufacturers’ responsibility to evaluate product safety and label them accordingly.

A Clean Label Project analysis suggests that some protein powders may contain high concentrations of harmful metals. Therefore, people should investigate what the manufacturers do to reduce contamination and whether or not the product has undergone third-party testing before they buy.

There are many types of protein powders available for people to choose from. Knowing which one is best can be confusing especially if a person is new to taking protein supplements.

Whey protein powder is the most common form of protein powder on the market. It is sourced from milk and is available in different forms including concentrate, isolate, and clear. It is known as a “fast” protein because it is easily digested.

Whey protein concentrate

Whey protein concentrate is high in protein low in sugar and contains a full amino acid profile.

Whey is the liquid that separates from the curds when manufacturers curdle milk to make cheese. Manufacturers then process this liquid to remove lactose, fat, and impurities which results in concentrated whey protein. Manufacturers then filter and dry the concentrated whey protein to create a pure powder which they then mix with other ingredients to form an edible whey protein powder.

Whey protein isolate

This type of protein is similar to whey concentrate. However, it is higher than concentrate in protein content due to the extra filtering process which increases its purity. Concentrate typically has 35–80% protein by weight, whereas isolate has 90% protein content per weight.

Whey isolate often has less fat, fewer carbs, and fewer calories than whey concentrate.

This type of protein would suit someone looking for a premium whey with the highest protein quantity. Additionally, protein isolates may benefit people with lactose sensitivities or digestive conditions, due to their low lactose content.

Hydrolyzed whey protein

Hydrolyzed whey protein is also known as clear whey isolate, suggesting that it is an isolate. However, in this instance, the isolate is hydrolyzed, meaning that the power is more refined than a regular protein powder. As it is more refined the protein content is higher, usually around 90–95% of protein content per serving.

Similar to isolates, hydrolysates can also benefit people with lactose sensitivities or digestive conditions.


Casein is one of the main proteins found in dairy products and contains around 80% of the total protein found in cow’s milk compared with whey which only accounts for 20%.

Casein is similar to whey in that it is a complete protein and therefore it provides the body with all the essential amino acids needed to build muscles. Casein protein is known as a “slow” protein because it is digested more slowly than other proteins, so it might be better at reducing appetite and increasing feelings of fullness.

Research reports that if people take casein before sleep it can have a positive effect on post-exercise recovery.

Pea protein

Pea protein is a good choice for vegans or people with allergies or intolerance to dairy or lactose. This type of protein is more gentle on the digestive system than whey-based products.

Due to its high dietary fiber content, 60–65%, it can help people feel fuller for longer. Additionally, it is high in protein, 20–25%, is low in sugar and fats, 1.5–2%, and has a good amino acid profile, as well as being high in vitamin B.

A 2019 pilot study on the effects of pea protein versus whey protein on physical adaptations following eight weeks of high intensity functional training reports that pea proteins and whey proteins promote similar strength and muscle growth.

Plant protein

Plant protein is high in fiber, so it helps regulate how the body uses sugar and helps people feel fuller for longer. Additionally, it helps food move through the digestive system, helping the body function well.

Similar to pea protein, it is a good option for people who are vegans or are allergic or intolerant to lactose.

Both whey and plant protein contain similar amounts of protein, however whey is a complete protein in that it contains all nine essential amino acids. Plant protein, on the other hand, contains fewer BCAAs, so is not a complete protein. The exception to this is soy.

Egg protein

Egg protein is an alternative to whey for people who are lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy, or follow a vegetarian diet.

Studies have found that it has more protein than whey but contains the same amount of BCAAs, typically 100%.

Like whey, egg protein improves muscle mass, strengthens muscles, and helps recovery during exercise. It has the added benefit of whey protein, which can help reduce visceral fat and cholesterol.

However, it is not suitable for people who have an egg allergy.

Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps build muscle, repair tissue, and make enzymes and hormones.

One 2019 study indicates that protein powder supplementation is a safe and convenient method of ingesting high quality dietary protein, although further research is needed to establish its long-term effects.

Following a high protein diet may help a person build muscle mass, promote fullness, lose weight, and aid muscle recovery after exercise.

People should always follow the instructions on the packaging. Typically, this will involve taking a scoop of protein powder and mixing it with a liquid to make a protein-rich beverage.

Popular mixer options include water, milk, milk alternatives, and yogurt. Some people may also consider blending fruit into the beverage to create a more nutrient-dense snack.

When to take protein powder depends on the person’s goal, such as weight loss or building muscle. People can take protein powders pre- or post-workout, although both have advantages and disadvantages.

If a person takes protein powder before a workout, it may stimulate the cells to help build muscle and reduce damage and fatigue during exercise.

If the person aims to lose weight, it may be better to take protein powder before exercising. Protein aids fat loss as it keeps the body feeling fuller for longer and may help increase the metabolism.

If the person aims to build muscle mass, research suggests the best time for people to take protein powder for post-exercise recovery is before sleep and during the first few hours after exercise to stimulate muscle protein growth and improve total body protein balance. Researchers suggest people take a moderate amount — around 30 g — to optimize muscle mass building.

Consuming protein powder comes with some potential risks. These include:


Research suggests active adults should consume 0.72 g of protein per pound of body weight.

An older study writes that consuming more than 0.91 g per pound of body weight could lead to a range of side effects, such as:

Risks from contamination

Some protein powders may become contaminated during manufacturing or from soil toxins cultivated by plant-based proteins.

Researchers from the Clean Label Project screened 134 protein powder products for 130 types of toxins and found that many protein powders contained heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. Additionally, they found some contained bisphenol-A (BPA), pesticides, and other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions.

The Clean Label Project found that some toxins were present in high quantities, such as one protein powder that contained 25 times over the allowed BPA limit.

People should look for protein powders that have gone through third-party testing and read the lab results before buying a protein powder online.

Risks from impurities

As protein powders are classified as dietary supplements, the FDA does not regulate them like food and drugs.

The FDA reports finding illegal steroids or steroid-like substances in some protein powders. These have been associated with health risks which include:

The FDA advises people to contact a healthcare professional if they experience symptoms such as nausea, weakness, fatigue, chest pain, jaundice, or shortness of breath after taking protein powders.

People should look for third-party tested products and those with certifications like NSF Certified for Sport to ensure they are buying good quality products with no impurities or banned substances.

Below are answers to some common questions about protein powder.

The type of protein powder a person purchases depends on their dietary requirements. People who are vegan, vegetarian, or lactose intolerant, for example, will prefer to purchase plant protein as this does not contain any animal by-products or dairy.

It is also important to check whether a company has a third-party lab to test its products. A third party will ensure that the protein powder has not been cross-contaminated and is free from harmful ingredients.

Celebrities most likely use the protein powders that they or their trainers believe give them the best results from their workouts.

Some celebrities may recommend certain protein powder brands on their social media. They are often paid to promote these products. However, a person should choose the protein powder that best suits their dietary and nutritional needs.

Whey protein is an easily digestible form of protein.

Whey protein isolate has a higher amount of protein than whey protein concentrate. However, it tends to be more expensive.

Whey protein hydrolysate is “predigested” and the most processed form of whey protein. People may find this form easier to digest.

Currently, there is no scientific research suggesting one type of protein powder is better for males than females, although recommended daily intakes will differ between sexes. The minimum amount of protein most adults need is around 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight (0.36 g per pound) per day.

Research into protein supplementation in athletes suggests that to build muscle, people need to choose a product that contains at least 20–30 g of high quality protein, and minimal fillers, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients.

This research also states the best type of protein supplement is whey protein. It has the highest BCAA content out of the natural proteins and stimulates muscle protein synthesis. High BCAA concentrations are also associated with improved endurance performance and upper body power.

The best high quality protein is whey protein isolate. On average, it has a higher protein content and contains fewer carbohydrates and fats than other types of protein. Research suggests that whey protein is one of the highest quality proteins due to its high amino acid content. Additionally, it is best for stimulating muscle protein synthesis and improving recovery rate.

Protein is a vital macronutrient to include in the diet. Using protein powder may be a helpful way for people to add more protein to their diet.

Many protein powders are available to suit people’s dietary restrictions and requirements. People may also wish to consider their health and fitness goals when choosing a protein powder.