Artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols: Many protein powders (and protein bars) contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols to add a bit of sweetness, but these compounds may cause GI distress, SELF previously reported, especially in the forms of bloating, gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Plus these artificial ingredients may not be great for your gut health, Brown says. Examples of artificial sweeteners include sucralose and aspartame, while sorbitol and xylitol are some sugar alcohols.
Artificial flavors: This one is a preference thing! Some artificial flavors in protein powder can test a little too…artificial, leading to a protein taste that’s way too cloying or has a not-so-great aftertaste. If you know you’re not a fan of certain artificial flavors, you may want to skip protein powders that use them but, in other cases, it might be more of a trial and error.
Dextrins/maltodextrins (fillers), vegetable oils, and gums: These ingredients are usually added for texture, but can cause discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract, Brown says. “In general, I don’t mind certain fiber additions like psyllium husk or acacia fiber, but they can cause GI tract distress for some.” If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to skip ones with these ingredients.
How to incorporate protein powder into your diet
Rather than a meal replacement, a protein blend powder can serve as a great supplement to other whole foods. “I love adding protein powder to smoothies, shakes, overnight oats, coconut or almond yogurt, and chia pudding,” Brown says. You could also add protein powder to baked goods, coffee (especially if you skip breakfast), or blend it into salad dressings or soups.
“While I typically recommend clients focus on real whole foods wherever possible, protein powders—when done right—are a super-easy way to get a protein boost at breakfast and also after a workout to rebuild muscle,” Brown adds.
The best protein powders
Still completely stumped when looking at the protein powder nutrition labels at your local grocery store? Don’t stress: The following protein powders have been vetted by RDs and are guaranteed to make meeting your protein needs as easy (and tasty!) as possible. As always, there are a lot of individual considerations in diets, so we recommend speaking with your doctor or RD about your specific protein intake needs. And, once you find the protein supplement powder that suits you, don’t forget to pick up a high-quality shaker bottle to blend it up.
1. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder
2. Welleco Nourishing Protein
Welleco Nourishing Protein
Brown recommends this chocolate protein specifically for those who prefer a plant-based option but are still trying to build muscle. “It contains all nine essential amino acids required for muscle recovery, plus a whole host of pre and probiotics, herbal extracts, vitamins, and minerals,” she says. Pro tip: Blend it into coffee for a chocolate morning treat!
3. Sano Plant-Based Organic Vanilla Protein
Sano Plant-Based Organic Vanilla Protein
For those with a lot of dietary restrictions, the Sano protein powder is your best bet. Each single-serve pouch contains 20 grams of plant-based protein through a combination of pea protein, hemp seed protein, and flax seed protein (so you get some essential fats in too), along with no sugar, fillers, or lactose. It’s great for those with dairy intolerances or looking for a gluten-free option.
4. Vega Protein Made Simple
Vega Protein Made Simple
“This is my favorite plant-based option,” Agyamen says. “It’s delicious and made with only four ingredients.” The company also has a bunch of other flavors, including a greens option that adds kale, alfalfa, broccoli, and spinach for an added nutrient boost.
5. Four Sigmatic Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
Four Sigmatic Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
This protein powder blend is chock-full of functional mushrooms and a combination of organic hemp protein powder, organic American pea protein, organic chia, organic pumpkin protein, and organic coconut protein, containing 18 grams of protein per serving. It also uses real vanilla versus artificial flavoring and sugars, and the formula is free of gums and other fillers too.
6. Be Well by Kelly Vanilla Bean Protein Powder
Be Well by Kelly Vanilla Bean Protein Powder
“Many protein powders use harsh ingredients to extract the protein, but not this one!” Brown says. “Be Well by Kelly uses a chemical-free process, so there is zero contamination and no nutrients are lost. There are three ingredients or less in each flavor, so this is my favorite if you’re looking for something simple.”
7. Needed. Collagen Protein Powder
Needed. Collagen Protein Powder
“Needed. is a pre and postnatal brand that makes this single-ingredient grass-fed collagen protein specifically for mamas and future mamas,” Brown says. “Clients love to blend it up in smoothies or savory soups or drinks for a protein boost.”
8. Naked Protein Powder Blend
Naked Protein Powder Blend
“If you’re really looking to put on muscle, this is my pick for post-workout protein,” Brown says. “This high-quality whey is 100% grass-fed and with minimal ingredients—casein, egg white protein, and sunflower lecithin.” Note that whey and casein protein powder contains milk-based ingredients, though, so those with lactose intolerances would do best to avoid this option.
9. Truvani Plant Based Protein Powder
Truvani Plant Based Protein Powder
“If you’re looking to go plant-based protein with minimal ingredients, try Truvani,” Brown says. “They are totally organic and use only pea protein and real whole flavors like ‘organic vanilla powder’ instead of the vanilla flavoring or natural flavors you’ll find in many mainstream proteins.” And the peanut butter chocolate flavor tastes just like dessert!
10. Ka’chava Protein Powder
Ka’chava Protein Powder
“This is a superfood plant-based protein with lots of extras, from a vegetable blend to digestive enzymes and adaptogens,” Brown says. “The Ka’Chava Protein is for you if you want to get some de-stressing herbs and prebiotics in with your breakfast, which can help digestion.”
11. Now Sports Nutrition Pea Protein
NOW Sports Nutrition Pea Protein
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, founder of Greenletes and author of Planted Performance, likes Now Sports because it does third-party testing on all its products. She recommends this unflavored pea protein powder (with no added sugars) for its versatility. “An unsweetened protein powder isn’t great for drinking straight, but it’s a wonderful stand-in for flour in baked goods to give an added protein boost,” she explains. “When making muffins, pancakes, or quick breads, use a 1/4 cup of protein powder in place of 1/4 cup of flour in the recipe.” Consider this a great source of protein for your next high-protein baking project.
12. Prima Kitchen Collagen Fuel Vanilla Coconut
Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel Collagen Peptide Drink Mix
This vanilla collagen powder is a favorite of Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices: “Try blending this vanilla collagen into “proffee” (TikTok’s viral protein coffee) or a protein mug cake”
13. Garden of Life Organic Plant-Based Protein
Garden Of Life Sport Organic Vegan Protein Powder
According to Rizzo, this powder from Garden of Life, another brand known for reputable testing practices and third-party certifications, is one of the best vegan protein powders you can choose when whipping up a muscle-building smoothie. “It’s made with a combination of pea and beans, so it has a good balance of all the essential amino acids,” she says. “And although it’s not necessary for a protein powder, this variety contains probiotics, which is a nice addition for a gut health boost!”
14. Naked Whey Unflavored Whey Protein Powder
Naked Nutrition Unflavored Whey Protein Powder
Naked Nutrition makes the list once again with this streamlined blend. “If you’re looking for a protein powder with just the protein and no additional ingredients, Naked Nutrition Protein Powder is a great choice,” Burgess says. “It contains 25 grams of protein per serving with just one ingredient–whey protein concentrate.” The brand also offers whey isolate protein powder, which comes in several fruity flavors for those looking for a refreshing, high-protein drink.
15. Vital Performance Protein Powder
Vital Performance Protein Powder
If you’re lactose-free, Burgess recommends Vital Performance’s line of protein powders, which comes in a variety of flavors including cold brew. She also points out that Vital Performance is NSF-certified, meaning it meets the National Science Foundation (NSF) criteria for safe, functional foods, so it’s a great choice for athletes.