Protein powder is a wildly popular class of supplements that offer a wide array of essential and non-essential amino acids, and have been shown to offer many health benefits. Whey protein is the most-popular form of protein powder, and is known to offer one of the most complete profiles of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) of any product available. The best protein powder will consist of organic, non-GMO ingredients, be free of toxic residue, and be manufactured in a way that preserves the full bioavailability of the ingredients. Vegan protein powders are often seen in blended form, containing many different types of plant-based proteins. These products have began to challenge the long-held notion that whey protein powder is the superior choice, and are now regarded as the best option for many. There are many different types of protein powders available now, and they all have different advantages and disadvantages over others. The best protein powder is a title that takes more into consideration than just levels of amino acids available. Manufacturing processes, ingredient sources, and overall company merit play a role in our determination of our best protein powder choices. Below you’ll find a quick reference to the protein powders found in this review.
Benefits of Protein Powder
Protein is one of the most vital nutrients in your diet, and your body uses proteins to help regulate an insane number of critical processes. Protein are structures that are build from smaller compounds known as amino acids. There are essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and your body uses both to build and repairing structures such as new muscle fibers. Essential amino acids are compounds that your body knows how to make on it’s own, given an adequate supply of raw material (food), and the best protein powders out there are loaded with them. Non-Essential amino acids are compounds that your body loves to use, but have to be supplied directly through diet or supplementation. Another notable type of amino acids are branched chain amino acids (BCAA) which are notorious for being favored by bodybuilders and performance athletes. Adequate amounts of dietary proteins are essential for many vital biological processes in your body. If you are on a calorie-restricting diet you may be at risk of a protein deficiency, and a protein powder supplements may be of great benefit to you. Certain supplements such as L-Glutamine can help your body better utilize the available protein, but the use of protein powder can greatly assist your diet or strength-training program.
Protein is a vital part of any diet, and does much more than simply helping build new muscle
Protein powders are highly-concentrated forms of whole foods, and if you have any issue with certain types of foods you’ll likely have an even harder time with them in concentrate form. For example, a slight issue with dairy products may greatly magnified when using a whey protein powder, although whey protein products are often free of caesin. If you have an issue with dairy, other protein powders such as hemp protein powder would likely be a better fit for you. The best protein powder supplements on the market offer very isolated ingredients, and are free of common allergens. For example, if you’ve a peanut allergy and you buy a quality whey protein powder, you likely won’t have to worry about traces of peanut proteins in you supplement. The awareness towards the many benefits of protein powder has given rise to many new options to choose from. Protein powders have been shown to help benefit overall health in many ways beyond just helping to build lean muscle mass, and the best protein powders are formulated with holistic nutrition in mind. Research has shown increasing your access to protein in highly bioavailable forms can help to reduce the risk of many major health concerns and diseases, such as osteoporosis and heart attacks. By better understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the many types of protein powders available, you’ll be able to gain a better sense of which type might be best for you.
Types of Protein Powders
If you’ve made it this far, then hopefully you have a better idea of the importance of protein for a number of vital processes in your body. Some takeaways you’ve hopefully found so far are the importance of buying high quality protein powders, that your body has an overall protein balance, and that they types of proteins you have in your diet are very important. The best protein powder option for you may not be the most popular supplement in your local gym. For example, whey protein is by far the most popular historically, but many other types are seeing a surge in popularity as well. Pea protein, egg white proteins, hemp proteins, and even soy protein powders are all seeing increased sales figures. A great example of the diversity found in the protein powder market today is the Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder from Sprout Living.
Organic protein powder is the ideal choice for those striving for a better quality of life, but the avoidance of Non-GMO ingredients, Gluten, and artificial ingredients is important as well
The best protein powders aren’t going to taste good, and that’s just how it is. All the flavoring, sweetening, and disguising of many popular protein powders add loads of potentially-harmful ingredients. This doesn’t mean that you should expect a quality protein powder to taste bad—just don’t expect it to taste like a cherry-flavored hot-chocolate soda. Not only do this flavorings increase the likelihood that a product has unneeded ingredients, but it also increases the chances that it’s loaded with sugar. Many of those serious about getting the maximum benefit from their protein powders typically mix them up in juicers with other organic foods such as blueberries, bananas, or strawberries. Keep in mind that the best protein powder choice for you will account for all the subtleties of your individual nutritional needs, general lifestyle, and exercise routine. Below, you’ll find a list of many of the different types of protein powders.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is best protein powder in the minds of many, and is what most people think of when they hear ‘protein powder’. Whey protein powder is made from proteins found in cow’s milk, and contains a very bioavailable selection of nutrients. Whey protein has demonstrated a remarkable ability to help reduce the loss of muscle following strenuous exercise such as weight lifting . This marked increase of muscular repair is attributed largely to the potent blend of essential and non-essential amino acids in whey protein. Products such as Natural Force’s Organic Whey Protein Powder contains high levels of branched chain amino acids as well, such as isoleucine, valine, and leucine, which are particularly beneficial for muscular growth. Additionally, whey protein has been shown to boost overall immune function, attributed largely to such compounds as lactoferrin. Another tremendous benefit of Whey Protein is in it’s benefit to Cancer patients. Part of the process involved with cancerous cell growth is the reduction in a compound found in your body called Glutathione. This ‘mother of all antioxidants’ is a crucial compound for reducing damage from free-radicals and oxidative stress, and whey protein has been shown to boost overall levels of glutathione  It’s important to know Whey protein powders are still considered dairy products, and therefore not recommended if you have any issues with milk, casein, or other dairy products. The best protein powders in this category will be from grass-fed sources, labeled as USDA Organic, and be processed through non-denaturing methods.
Hemp Protein Powder
Hemp protein powders have been rising stars in the supplement and nutrition world over the past few years. Research detailing the potential of hemp proteins is still pretty sparse due to the stigma of all things related to Cannabis. While hemp isn’t quite regarded as the best protein powder by many traditional nutritionist, several studies illuminate very promising aspects of the green plant have begun to emerge. The amount of available amino acids present in hemp are the most impressive among plant-based protein powders, and offer a tempting alternative to whey protein. In addition to the many essential and non-essential amino acids, hemp contains isoleucine, leucine, and valine branched-chain amino acids. Hemp protein, similar to whey, has shown a remarkable ability to increase serum antioxidant levels in tests. Specifically, hemp protein has been shown to cause an increase in Superoxide Dismutse and Catalase . Both of these compounds are regarded as highly important natural anti-oxidants, and have been shown to exhibit powerful anti-aging effects and cellular repairing action when used in conjunction with stem cell therapy .The best hemp protein powders are the Organic ones, which is more commonplace among Cannabis related products than typical consumer products. While these products do not contain any active THC molecules, and will NOT cause any form of inhibitory effects, they are prohibited for many government employees, such as members of the ARMY. Hemp is a suitable Vegan protein powder for those abiding by Vegan ideologies in their use of dietary supplements.
Rice Protein Powder
Many regard rice proteins to be the best protein powders for several reasons. Firstly, they contain a fuller profile of essential amino acids than many other protein powders. Research has shown total amino acid composition of rice protein powders to be approximately 78% by weight, with 36% essential amino acids and 18% branched-chain amino acids. This robust presence of amino acids marks rice protein as one of the more popular plant-based protein powders. In recent years however, hemp has been giving rice a run for it’s money. Additionally, rice protein powders have a slightly higher fiber content then many other protein powders, and is thought to help with overall digestive cycles and work to improve overall gut health. Compared to several other proteins found in this list, Rice protein powders have a slightly sweeter flavor, which make them preferred by many. Overall, rice protein powders are a favorable choice for Vegans or Vegetarians, provides a robust profile of amino acids, and provides healthy dietary fiber.
Egg white Protein Powder
Eggs were the original source of extra protein for athletes and bodybuilders before the explosion of the supplement market. Eggs exist as a means to provide all the most-essential nutrients to a developing chicken, and are present in highly bioavailable forms. Researchers have found that chicken eggs contain nearly 80 unique protein structures, offering a comprehensive nutritive profile. Data like this makes it understandable why many feel eggs to be the best protein powder sources available for general nutrition. Typically, most protein supplements made from eggs are egg white protein powders, made from chicken eggs. The yolk-free form of these supplements were no-doubt birthed from the notion that egg yolks count increase the risk of heart attacks, although research has now proven that sentiment completely discredited . Commercial chicken farms are notorious for their use of antibiotics, hormones, and GMO-laden foods. If you are looking to buy egg white protein powder, it is recommended to buy from brands that use eggs from free range chickens fed non-GMO feed at least—and optimally buy powders labeled as USDA Organic. The best egg protein powder will fall into all of these categories, and ideally be sourced from local farms. A common misconception about eggs are that they are bad for people with a dairy intolerance or dairy allergy. This is not true, although you should avoid these protein powders if you have issues with eggs.
Soy Protein Powder
Soy protein powders are made from isolated protein compounds found within soy beans. Soy beans are first dehulled, then removed of any fat content. The next step is to break the remaining plan matter down into three different forms; soy isolates, soy concentrates, and soy flour. All these different compounds are used in food products, but soy isolates are the most common among protein powder supplements. Soy is commonly sold as protein powder for women because it’s known to contain phytoestrogen compounds—which mimic the sex hormone estrogen. Soy is regarded as the best protein powder for women by many for this reason, and this reason alone. These types of hormone-mimicking compounds have been shown in research to cause unwanted feminization in younger children . However, soy protein powders are often recommend as the best choice for women seeking to help counter-balance the lower levels of estrogen after going through menopause. Another benefit of soy protein powders is that they have been shown to drastically reduce the chances of heart disease, by acting to lower risk factors associated with lipoproteins. Overall, soy protein powders offer some very attractive benefits over other proteins, but should be taken with caution since they have the potential to increase feminizing traits.
Protein Powder Mixes
This category is likely the most prevalent among plant-based consumer products, especially Vegan & Vegetarian protein powders. Pound for pound, the best protein powder for you will likely be found in this category. Plants offer a wide range of available proteins, which your body can use as robust sources for amino acids. However, there are few plant-based sources of protein that offer as complete or as bioavailable a source of protein as animal-based proteins like egg and whey protein powder. This dynamic is what has given many the impression that whey protein products are somehow superior to any plant based protein powder. While this impression may be true for any single plant-based protein, it’s just flat out wrong once your start mixing several different plant sources together. Raw Green Organic’s Vegan Protein Powder, for example, is a blend of pea, hemp, sacha inchi proteins. This novel blend allows for more different amino profiles to be combined into a single more-comprehensive nutritive profile. This category also encompasses all the general ‘nutrition’ powders out there that are packed full of many different types of vitamins and minerals as well. Take Thorne Researche’s MediClear plus protein powder for example, which is a rice and pea protein blend at it’s core. However, this product includes some 30+ other beneficial ingredients that range from vitamin A to Zinc. Products such as these are often regarded as the best protein powder option for those seeking a total nutritive solution rather than only building muscle.
The Best Protein Powders
Take into consideration the wide array of information surrounding proteins, as well as the different advantages of different types of protein powder. Having a better understanding of how these compounds can assist your body in maintaining a healthy protein balance can greatly benefit your health. The best protein powder option for you will help address your nutritional needs, and accommodate any food sensitivities you may have. If you’re looking for Vegan protein powders, you’ll likely want to take a closer look at some of the hemp, soy, and rice protein powders. The most popular protein powder is still whey, but with deeper understanding often comes shift in sentiment. Organic whey protein powder is the ideal choice for this category, and most of our recommendations here (and anywhere else for that matter) favor those products that contain only Organic and Non-GMO ingredients. The products listed below are also given favor for their integration of grass-fed whey sources, sustainable harvesting, non-damaging processing, and overall company merit. Below you’ll find a list of what we feel to represent the best protein powders currently available on the market, in no particular order.
Natural Force Organic Whey Protein Powder
Natural Force operates under the mission statement of providing ‘BS Free’ supplements and nutrition products, and their organic whey protein powder represents that mission well. The Natural Force Organic Whey Protein is made with the utmost care to ingredients and quality of manufacturing that you can ask for. It contains 20g of protein per 26g serving, and is loaded with essential, non-essential, and branched-chain amino acids. Natural Force sources the ingredients in their whey protein from cows that are pasture-raised and are grass-fed only. This product is free of any gluten, soy, and is certified Non-GMO and Paleo-friendly! Natural Force offers this product in Vanilla , Chocolate, or an Unflavored variety with only a single ingredient—organic whey protein! While you might not yet have heard of this brand, their Organic Whey Protein Powder has been getting rave reviews, and we’re officially their latest fans!
Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein Powder
Nutiva is a company that needs little introduction, and if you’re eating a mainly Organic diet it’s likely you’ve already got some of their products on your shelf. While Nutiva offers a wide selection of products such as coconut oils and hazelnut spreads, one of their most notable products is the Organic Hemp Protein Powder that is certified USDA Organic and Project Non-GMO certified as well. This is certainly one of the best protein powder options for Vegans, and also one of the most robust single-ingredient protein powders available. This product is also available in a high-fiber variety as well, and is served up in a BPA-free container. Nutiva’s Organic Hemp Protein Powder is available for a very reasonable price online, and can also be found in many local stores such as Whole Foods, The Vitamin Shoppe, and most local health food stores.
NorCal Organic Whey Protein Powder
NorCal Organic might not be on your radar yet, and if that’s the case you need to pay attention. This company defines what it means to be a responsible manufacturer, and pays astute attention to every detail of their truly unique product line. The NorCal Organic Whey Protein is sourced from Jersey cattle, on local family-owned farms in Northern California, that are grass-fed year round. Many protein powder manufacturers opt to use horribly-denaturing processing practices that can greatly reduce the bioavailability of the active amino acids in whey protein. NorCal is well-aware of this, and uses a low-temperature process that allows the naturally-potent nutrient profile to remain as powerful as ever when it hits the shelf. NorCal’s Organic Whey Protein Powder is truly a unique product, as are all of their products. This is one of the best protein powder supplements on the market and if you’re looking to try something new, you should definitely give it a try!
Raw Organic Whey’s Organic Whey Protein Powder
This company really made their intention clear when they chose a name, and they’ve been nailing it every since! Raw Organic Whey sells a single product in several different sizes, allowing them to truly hone in on their whey protein skillset. By focusing solely on their whey protein, Raw Organic Whey has been able to produce one of the best protein powder supplements we’ve see yet. Their protein powders are certified USDA Organic, contain no GMO ingredients, and are made from the milk of grass fed pasture-raised cattle. In addition to using the best quality of ingredients, Raw Organic Whey also uses a cold-press technique process their whey, which helps to preserve the full amino acid profile of the protein. A full amino acid profile is the mark of the best protein powder supplements, and Raw Organic Whey has ensured every last one is well-preserved. This product is loaded down with essential and non-essential amino acids, and can offer great benefits if you are strength training or endurance training. If you’re into small-batch type nutritional products that offer an extra bit of personalized love during processing, Raw Organic Whey’s Organic Protein Powder may very well be the best protein powder you’ve every tried.
Raw Green Organic’s Vegan Protein Powder
Raw Green Organics is a company built from the ground up on the idea of conscientiousness and sustainability. Their products are some of the best protein powder concoctions we’ve ever seen. The Organic Vegan Protein Powder from Raw Green Organics is an stellar example, illustrating the many benefits that the modern availability of plant-based proteins can afford to nutrition. Many that have argued that whey protein powder is the best protein powder, but they have largely been silenced with the rise of these plant-based protein blends. RGO’s Organic Vegan Protein Powder is a blend of organic pea protein, organic hemp protein, organic flaxseed and organic sacha inchi seed protein. This potent blend of superfoods offers a robust amino acid profile along with healthy omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9 oils. Hemp and plant-based proteins are rapidly gaining favor among health-conscious buyers, and if you are a fan of Vegan-friendly plant based supplements, Raw Green Organic’s Organic Vegan Protein Powder might be the best protein powder option for you.
Sprout Living Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder
Sprout Living is an exciting company that produces protein powder and other nutrition products made from truly unique ingredients. If unique sources of nutrition are you goal, this will be one of the best protein powder options for you. Sprout Living’s Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder is made with Organic ingredients, and contains a rich profile of amino acids, as well as high levels of healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc, which is a powerful immune system booster. Maintaining adequate levels of zinc has been shown to be closely-related to testosterone levels, so this product may afford an advantage in maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. In addition to being certified USDA Organic, Sprout Living’s Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein powder is processed using a cold-press method to preserve it’s powerful nutritive profile and allowing it to remain highly bioavailable. Sprout Living offers many truly unique nutrition products, and their Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder is one of the best protein powders you’ve never tried before.
‘Naked’ Organic Rice Protein Powder from Naked Nutrition
Naked Nutrition is a popular new supplement brand that has some really unique products to offer. They pride themselves in making products with non unnecessary ingredients, and while all their products aren’t Organic, they are GMO free, sourced from US-based farms, and are processed in nutrient-preserving ways. Their Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder is loaded with essential and non-essential amino acids, made even more nutrition and dense from Naked Nutrition’s use of sprouted brown rice. Sprouted foods are much less starchy, and are considered to offer more dense nutrition. Naked’s ‘Naked’ Rice protein powder is Vegan friendly, dairy free, contains no GMO ingredients, and offers 4.9 grams of branched-chain amino acids per 30 gram serving. Plant based protein powder often comes under fire for lacking the total nutritive profile that many whey protein powders offer. While this is true to a large extent, rice protein powders are one of the most well-rounded on the market.
The products listed in this article are all Non-GMO, Gluten Free, and most USDA Certified Organic. Armed with this knowledge and selection, you can begin to consider what may be the best protein powder for you. Food intolerance and allergies play a huge role in many people’s lives, and if you suffer from either—we don’t need to tell you how important reading labels is. Most of the brands listed here are produced in facilities separate from contaminants, and are devoid of any ingredients not listed on their labels. In addition, these products are all well-reviewed, and in some case have thousands of positive reviews. There are certainly some smaller companies out there making quality protein powder products, but most of them haven’t yet stood the test of time. The best protein powders, such as the ones listed here, will focus on the demands of health conscious buyers and stand in contrast to most popular protein powder supplements.
You will be able to find some of these products in stores, although many are only available in specialty shops or online
For some of the less-popular types of protein powders, such as egg white and soy, there aren’t as many high-quality options available. If you are dead-set on buying a product from these categories, you should carefully research the product before buying, as most contain possible GMO ingredients. You will be able to find some of these products in stores, although many are only available in specialty shops or online. The use of protein powders for their unique health benefits is not new, but the awareness of the advantages of Organic non-GMO products is. This means the majority of protein powders you’ll find in stores such as GNC, The Vitamin Shoppe, and Grocery Stores aren’t Organic and likely contain GMO ingredients. To find the best protein powder for you, take into account all the different options and what you know about yourself, and your personal goals. Pay close attention to the labeling of these products, and don’t assume anything about them that isn’t clearly stated.
This article was updated on 1/13/2017 to provide a different format based on reader suggestions
7. http://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/3/3/394/pdf (pdf download)