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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 protein powders to consider. It also answers some frequently asked questions and discusses how to use protein powder.

Although the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein in the general population is about 0.36 grams (g) of protein per pound (lb) of body weight, those who are active may benefit from a higher protein intake.

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

People should aim to get sufficient protein from their diet, but this 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 29–89% of protein and other nutrients, such as fats and carbohydrates.
  • WPI: This form has a slightly higher protein content, at about 90%, and it 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 that 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 responsibility of the manufacturers 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.

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 that have a range of protein sources, such as whey and plant-based.
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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 Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
  • Price: around $59.50
  • Protein dose per serving: 20 g
  • Type of whey: isolate
  • Pro: may be easier to digest
  • Con: reviewers say the protein isolate has a bland taste

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 sugar-, hormone- and gluten-free. 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 currently available in two flavors on Amazon: vanilla and chocolate.

Momentous grass-fed whey protein isolate is available in packs of 1.4 Ib.

Nutritional information per 26.5 g serving:

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

Best probiotic blend: Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Whey

Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Whey
  • Price: around $55
  • Protein dose per serving: 24 g
  • Type of whey: isolate
  • Pro: contains 6 g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) per serving
  • Con: unsuitable for vegans or people with dairy sensitivities

The manufacturer states that this grass-fed whey protein is different 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 dosage of 5 billion CFU is the most effective dosage 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 1.6 Ib tubs and comes 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

Best for BCAAs: Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed 100% Whey Protein

Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed 100% Whey Protein
  • Price: around $100
  • Protein dose per serving: 25 g
  • Type of whey: hydrolysate
  • Pro: BCAAs may help build lean muscle
  • Con: more expensive than some other whey proteins

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

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

Dymatize has also included 5.5 g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) including 2.7 g of leucine per serving. Recent research into the health benefits of BCAAs is limited, but an older 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
  • orange Dreamsicle
  • vanilla
  • banana

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

Best for ingredient transparency: Ghost Whey Protein

Ghost Whey Protein
  • Price: $44.99
  • Protein dose per serving: 25 g
  • Type of whey: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate
  • Pro: The protein matrix gives a precise ingredient breakdown so people can see exactly what they are taking
  • Con: unsuitable for those with dairy sensitivities, includes artificial flavors

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 of each ingredient they are consuming 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 who have 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 2 Ib tubs. 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

Best for essential macronutrients: Huge Supplements Whey

Huge Supplements Whey
  • Price: $49.95
  • Protein dose per serving: 23 g
  • Type of whey: isolate and concentrate
  • Pro: contains high amounts of essential macronutrients
  • Con: it contains artificial flavors

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. There are also sweeteners such as sucralose and artificial flavors and taste enhancers in the formula.

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

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:

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

Casein protein powder options include the following option:

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

  • Price: around $54–89
  • Protein dose per serving: 24 g
  • Type of protein: casein
  • Pro: people can take casein after exercise, between meals, or before bed as it digests slower than whey protein
  • Con: unsuitable for those with soy allergies, includes artificial sweeteners

This powder contains casein, which means that it is a slower-digesting and absorbing protein.

The brand suggests that 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 sources of protein, such as whey and casein, also contain BCAAs, which may further help recovering 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 g
  • Total carbohydrate: 3 g

A good pea protein powder option includes:

Best for a non-GMO pea protein option: Ritual Essential Protein

  • Price: $40
  • Protein dose per serving: 20 g
  • Type of protein: pea protein
  • Pro: free from common allergens
  • Con: plant-based proteins have lower levels of essential amino acids

This product contains organic pea protein.

Each serving of this product delivers 20 g of protein, with only 3 g of carbohydrates and no sugars.

According to the brand, this product is also free from GMOs, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors.

This protein powder is unflavored. It is available in a pouch that weighs 1 lb.

Nutritional information per 32 g serving:

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

Egg protein powder options include:

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

  • Price: around $68
  • Protein dose per serving: 25 g
  • Type of protein: egg white protein
  • Pro: a good choice for people who cannot digest whey or casein protein or are lactose intolerant
  • Con: some people may experience digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea

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 container that weighs 3 lb.

Nutritional information per 31 g serving:

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

A good brown rice protein powder includes:

Best allergen-free protein: Orgain Organic Protein Powder

  • Price: around $20–32
  • Protein dose per serving: 21 g
  • Type of protein: plant-based
  • Pro: low sugar content
  • Con: some customers report stomach discomfort and bloating

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 the following:

  • 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 per 46 g serving of Strawberries & Cream flavor:

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

Nutritional information may vary between flavors.

One of the best milk protein powder includes:

Best budget-friendly milk protein: Vital Performance Protein Powder

  • Price: around $30
  • Protein dose per serving: 25 g
  • Type of protein: milk protein isolate
  • Pro: suitable for consumers who are lactose intolerant
  • Con: contains added sugar

This protein powder combines lactose-free milk protein isolate with collagen peptides, which Vital Performance states may help improve recovery, stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and promote healthy bones, joints, and tendons.

It is a more affordable protein powder, which may suit those working with a smaller budget or those new to protein supplements who do not want to invest a lot of money the first time.

Vital Proteins states that this supplement contains all nine essential amino acids, and is suitable for people to take at any time or post-workout. It contains 10 g of collagen peptides and 5 g of BCAAs.

Additionally, It is third-party tested and gluten-free.

People can purchase the Vital Performance protein powder in roughly 1.7 Ib tubs.

Vital Performance protein powder is available in the following flavors:

  • chocolate
  • vanilla
  • strawberry
  • cold brew coffee

Nutritional information per 36 g serving:

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 25 g
  • Total fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 230 mg
  • Total carbohydrates: 6 g

One of the best plant-based protein powders includes:

Best nutritionally complete plant-based protein: Huel Complete Protein

  • Price: around $38
  • Protein dose per serving: 20 g
  • Type of whey: plant-based
  • Pro: contains 27 essential vitamins and minerals
  • Con: offers less protein per serving than other products

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

The following table compares all of the protein powders in this article.

Type of whey or proteinProtein per servingSize (lb)Price
Momentouswhey isolate 20 g1.4around $59.50
Garden of Lifewhey isolate24 g1.6around $55
Dymatizehydrolyzed whey25 g5around $100
Ghostisolate25 g2 and 5$44.99
Huge Supplementsisolate23 g2.5$49.95
Optimum Nutritioncasein24 g2 and 4around $54–89
Ritual Essentialpea20 g1$40
Naked Eggegg25 g3around $68
Orgainplant21 g1.02, 1.59, and 2.03around $20–32
Vital Performancemilk 25 g1.68 and 1.72around $30
Huelplant20 g1.66around $38

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 a higher amount of 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 that are available 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.

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 there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

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

If the person’s aim is weight loss, it may be better to take protein powder before they exercise. Protein aids fat loss as it keeps the body feeling fuller for longer and may help increase the metabolism.

If the person’s aim is 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 of protein — 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 the manufacturing process or from toxins in the soil that plant-based proteins were cultivated in.

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 in the same way as 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.

What is the healthiest protein powder source?

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 test its products. A third party will ensure that the protein powder has not been cross-contaminated and is free from harmful ingredients.

What protein powders do celebrities use?

Celebrities most likely use the protein powders that they or their personal 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.

Which is the best whey protein for beginners?

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.

Which protein powder is best for men?

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 per day.

Which protein powder builds the most muscle?

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.

What is the best high quality protein?

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 has an advantage over other protein sources such as soy and casein in 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.

There are many protein powders 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.