The Best-Tasting Protein Powders, According to a Dietitian

Sprout Living Epic Protein is our number one tasty and effective protein powder.

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Best Tasting Protein Powders

Verywell / Chloe Jeong

Most people can meet their protein requirements through diet alone. However, those with increased protein needs, such as high performance athletes or those with dietary restrictions that can lead to low protein intake, may benefit from supplementing with protein.

Many people think protein needs to be eaten at very specific times around exercise. However, Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics Andrea Chernus says, “Most of the research shows that consuming enough protein, spread throughout the day in relatively even amounts, is more important than the specific timing around exercise.” She adds, “Know too that your body also needs carbohydrates in the recovery period, so adding a large banana or box of raisins to your shake is super helpful.”

When choosing a protein powder that is both delicious and effective, take your dietary restrictions into consideration, and look for products that are third party tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and that have as few other ingredients as possible aside from protein.

Verywell Fit Approved Best Tasting Protein Powders

  • Best Overall: Sprout Living Epic Protein Powder is slightly sweet but not overpowering, has 19 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, and is both vegan and a complete protein.
  • Best for Athletes: Thorne Chocolate Whey Protein has 21 grams of protein per serving from whey isolate and is NSF Certified for Sport, making it a safe choice for athletes.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Is Protein Powder Beneficial

We recommend a food first approach to nutrition, and protein is no exception. Most people can meet their protein needs from food alone and therefore do not need to supplement with protein powder. If it is feasible to you, try to get your protein from foods including chicken, fish, meat, dairy, soy, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

One easy way to do this is to include a protein source in each meal and one snack per day. However, if you have dietary restrictions that reduce your protein intake, struggle to eat protein-containing foods at certain times of day, or are an athlete with slightly higher protein needs that you are not able to meet using food alone, we recommend keeping a high-quality, third-party tested protein powder on hand.

Who May Not Benefit from Protein Powder

In general, the following populations may not benefit from protein powders:

  • Those that meet their protein needs from food: Adding protein powder is not necessary if you are able to meet your individual protein needs by consuming range of dietary protein sources. Consuming protein from whole food sources if preferred, as they contain additional beneficial components such as fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Those on protein restricted diets: Some medical conditions may require a protein restriction. For example, those with kidney disease should consult with a healthcare provider and registered dietitian to assess their protein needs, as protein restrictions may be indicated, depending on the stage of disease and treatment plan.

Best Overall: Sprout Living Epic Protein Vanilla Lucuma

Sprout Living Epic Protein Vanilla Lucuma
Pros
  • Third-party tested

  • Certified organic, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and kosher

  • Contains 4 grams of fiber

Cons
  • Contains inulin which may cause GI discomfort

If you’re looking for a slightly sweet protein powder that tastes great mixed with almond milk or in your favorite smoothie, Sprout Living’s Epic Protein Vanilla Lucuma is the top choice. The neutral vanilla flavor provides a hint of sweetness but doesn’t overpower the beverage it’s mixed into. Plus, the gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free plant-based protein powder checks all the nutrition boxes. 

Epic Protein’s protein blend is made from yellow peas and a mix of sunflower, pumpkin, sacha inchi, and cranberry seeds. Each 2-scoop serving provides 19 grams of complete plant-based protein, including 4 grams of dietary fiber. It is important to note that this powder contains inulin from Jerusalem artichokes which may cause digestive discomfort for some people.

Key protein sources: yellow pea, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed | Serving size: 2 scoops (35 grams) | Amount of protein per serving: 19 grams | Calories per serving: 146 | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-free: Yes | Additives: Yes - Stevia leaf

Best Vanilla Whey: Natural Force Grass Fed Organic Whey Protein Powder

Natural Force Grass Fed Organic Whey Protein Powder

Source: Natural Force

Pros
  • Grass-fed

  • Third-party tested 

  • Certified organic and non-GMO

Cons
  • Expensive

Flavored protein powders can come with a laundry list of ingredients, and it can be hard to know what some of them are or where they come from. We love that this Natural Force Protein Powder contains just three organic ingredients—grass-fed whey, monk fruit powder, and vanilla flavor—and is third-party tested and certified organic.

Whey is a complete protein source, making it optimal for supporting muscle growth and repair. Each serving of this powder contains 20 grams of protein, perfect for post-workout smoothies and shakes. You can also try it in your favorite pancake, waffle or baking mix for a protein boost.

Key protein sources: Organic Whey protein concentrate | Serving size: 1 scoop (26.67 grams) | Amount of protein per serving: 20 grams | Calories per serving: 110 | Vegan: No | Gluten-free: Yes | Additives: Yes - Monk fruit

Best Vegan: Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate

Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Includes 6 milligrams of iron

  • Certified organic

  • Third-party tested

Cons
  • Higher in sodium

The USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate takes the top pick for plant-based chocolate protein with 17 grams of protein per scoop and a creamy chocolate taste. Sunwarrior uses organic flavorings, including cocoa, chocolate flavor, stevia extract, and ground coconut to create a sweet, nutty, and chocolatey flavor.

The proprietary protein blend is made up of pea protein, hemp protein, and goji berry. While peas and hemp are good sources of plant-based protein, goji berries are a rich source of iron. Each scoop of this powder provides 6 milligrams of iron, a bonus for vegetarians and vegans whose diets may be low in this important nutrient. The high protein blend is also free of soy, gluten, and dairy.

If you are watching your sodium intake, please note that this protein powder does contain a substantial amount of sodium—348 milligrams per serving.

Key protein sources: Pea, Hemp, Goji Berry | Serving size: 1 scoop (25 grams) | Amount of protein per serving: 17 grams | Calories per serving: 100 | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-free: Yes | Additives: Yes - Guar gum, steviol glycosides (stevia extract)

Best for Athletes: Thorne Chocolate Whey Protein Isolate

Thorne Chocolate Whey Protein Isolate

Source: Thorne

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • Contains antioxidants

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Not certified organic

Made using alkalized cocoa powder, the rich, dark chocolate flavor of Thorne’s protein powder is hard to beat. The antioxidant-rich cocoa provides great flavor and boosts the overall nutrition of the protein powder. Research shows that cocoa contains beneficial antioxidant polyphenols called flavonoids that fight inflammation.

One serving provides 21 grams of protein from whey isolate and is NSF Certified for Sport, making it a safe choice for athletes. Compared to whey concentrate, whey isolate contains a higher protein concentration per ounce and is lower in fat and carbohydrates. It also contains less lactose, so it may be more desirable for those who struggle with lactose intolerance. Try this powder blended with milk or a milk substitute, frozen banana and nut butter for a tasty protein shake that is almost as good as a chocolate peanut butter dessert.

Take note that this powder is sweetened with stevia and contains a two different gums which are added to thicken and stabilize the powder.

Key protein sources: whey protein isolate | Serving size: 1 scoop (30.2 grams) | Amount of protein per serving: 21 grams | Calories per serving: 100 | Vegan: No | Gluten-free: Yes | Additives: Yes - stevia leaf extract, evaporated cane juice sugar, xanthan gum, carboxy-methylcellulose gum

Best Single Ingredient: Sunwarrior Brown Rice Protein Powder

Sunwarrior Brown Rice Protein Powder

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Only one ingredient

  • Certified organic

  • Third-party tested

Cons
  • Not considered a complete protein

Sunwarrior’s Classic Protein is a clean and simple brown rice protein powder with no added flavor. It’s made up of only one ingredient: organic brown rice protein. This plant-based powder subtly boosts the protein content while seamlessly blending into the beverages it's mixed with. This also makes it easy to use as an ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes. One scoop provides 20 grams of protein with no added sugar or alternative sweeteners. It is also free of gluten, soy, and dairy.

The brown rice powder is sprouted and fermented, meaning that the brown rice is soaked for a period of time and then allowed to germinate. The sprouting and fermenting process makes it easier for your body to access and use beneficial nutrients.

Key protein sources: Brown rice | Serving size: 1 scoop (25 grams) | Amount of protein per serving: 20 grams | Calories per serving: 100 | Vegan: No | Gluten-free: Yes | Additives: No

Best Unflavored: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

4.9
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder
Pros
  • Grass-fed, pasture-raised source

  • Certified non-GMO

  • Third-party tested

Cons
  • Not certified organic

  • Not considered a complete protein

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is a great option for those looking to boost their collagen intake. Each 2-scoop serving provides 18 grams of grass-fed, pasture-raised, bovine collagen protein that is almost 100 percent tasteless.

The dynamic product can be mixed into both hot and cold liquids, including coffee. It dissolves quickly and doesn't clump when mixed properly. The versatile protein supplement is free of gluten, dairy, and sugar.

Collagen peptides provide a great protein boost, and research suggests that collagen peptide supplementation may improve skin health. The supplement contains complementary ingredients, including vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is known to help preserve skin moisture, while research shows that vitamin C boosts the body's ability to produce collagen and also plays a key role in skin health.

Key protein sources: Collagen Peptides | Serving size: 2 scoops (20 grams) | Amount of protein per serving: 18 grams | Calories per serving: 70 | Vegan: No | Gluten-free: Yes | Additives: No

Final Verdict

For a vegan vanilla protein powder that also contains fiber, try Sprout Living's Epic Protein Powder. If you are an athlete looking for a delicious whey protein powder that is NSF certified for Sport, we recommend Thorne Chocolate Whey Protein.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look for in a Best Tasting Protein Powder

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  • Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  • Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  • The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLabs, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  • Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  • Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Protein powders can contain heavy metals in trace amounts, however, recent studies show that the amount of heavy metals found in protein powders are unlikely to cause adverse effects when consumed in moderation (up to three servings per day).

Trace amounts of heavy metals are found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables and grains, from the environment in which they are grown, as heavy metals are found in soil, water and air. They only become a concern when consumption exceeds safety levels. Purchasing a third-party tested powder can help ensure that the product is below FDA established thresholds for heavy metal contamination.

Form

Protein powders can be made using various protein sources, including plant-based and animal-derived sources. Examples of animal-derived proteins include whey, casein and collagen. Plant-based proteins may come from foods such as pea, hemp, soy, pumpkin seed, or brown rice. There are benefits to each type of protein, so look for a protein powder that will meet your nutritional and health needs while also appealing to your individual taste buds.

That being said, we want to highlight a few things you might want to look for when it comes to protein form. Most animal-derived protein sources (such as dairy and egg) are complete proteins, but many plant proteins are not. If you are considering a plant-based protein, shoot for one that is a complete protein, as complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids and are considered higher quality protein forms. Also, protein from dairy sources, including whey protein, may better support muscle repair and growth than other protein sources.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Additives: In addition to considering the protein source, look at the ingredient list and aim to choose powders without artificial ingredients, including colorings, flavorings, or sweeteners. Also, some protein powders contain added dietary fiber, MCT oil, probiotics, digestive enzymes, herbal blends, vitamins, and minerals, some of which may not be backed by adequate research and may not be suitable for all.

Food allergens: Some protein powders contain common food allergens such as milk proteins, so be sure to check the label and choose one that meets your dietary needs. If you have highly sensitive allergies, check to make sure the product is made in a facility that practices cross-contamination precautions. 

Drug-nutrient interactions: Those taking medications that interact with common ingredients in protein supplements should avoid protein powders. For example, whey protein can decrease the effectiveness of certain antibiotic medications as well as bisphosphonates, used in the treatment of osteoporposis. Also, certain herbal ingredients can interfere with medication—for example, ginseng can reduce the effects of Warfarin. Additionally, antioxidant supplementation, like vitamins E and C, can interfere with certain cancer treatments. If you are taking any medication or undergoing medical treatment, consult your healthcare provider before taking any protein powder supplements to ensure that it is safe.

Performance enhancers: Certain ergogenic aids, or performance enhancers, may be added to protein supplements, especially those marketed towards athletes and muscle building. These can include BCAAs, caffeine, creatine, glutamine and others. The efficacy and safety of these ingredients vary and studies are generally limited. Refer to the NIH guidelines when considering supplements with these ingredients.

Protein Powder Dosage

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and to understand which dosage to take.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine define the DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) for protein as 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults. However, individual protein needs are dependent on many factors including height, weight, age, physical activity level and overall health status. For example, some athletes may need anywhere from 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends regular spacing of intakes of modest amounts of high-quality protein (0.3 g/kg body weight) after exercise and throughout the day. Consider speaking with a healthcare provider or working with a Registered Dietitian to assess your individual protein needs.

While you can meet your daily protein needs through whole foods, including both animal and plant-based proteins, protein powders can help to meet your goals. Assess how much protein you are getting from food and supplement with protein powders as needed to reach your desired intake.

How Much is Too Much?

While there is no upper tolerable intake established for protein powder, it is not recommended to exceed the RDA ranges for protein, as there does not seem to be perceived benefits associated with excess protein intake. While there seems to be very low risk associated with high levels of protein intake from food (excluding high saturated fat proteins), there is limited long-term research on the potential adverse effects of excess protein intake from supplements.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Over supplementation of protein powder may lead to an imbalanced diet and potentially inadequate intake of the other macronutrients—carbohydrates and fats. Depending on the individual and their nutritional needs, excessive intake of protein powder can also lead to exceeding energy (or calorie) needs, which can lead to weight gain. 
  • Eating more than 40 grams of protein in one meal will not lead to greater muscle growth, rather, your body will use the excess for energy or pee it out. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends protein intake of 0.25 to 0.3 grams/kilogram of body weight or about 15 to 25 grams protein within two hours after exercise. Protein intake should be spread throughout the day, and total intake should not exceed RDAs adjusted for your individual needs.
  • Do not exceed three servings of protein powder per day to ensure no adverse health effects from the trace amounts of heavy metals that can be found in protein powders.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are protein powders safe?

    Protein powders are considered a dietary supplement, and the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. However, protein powder consumption has not been shown to cause adverse effects and is generally recognized as safe. 

    Some protein powders contain ingredients that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort such as sugar alcohols and other artificial sweeteners. Try one serving and test for tolerance. 

    Additionally, protein powders can contain common food allergens and triggers including lactose, soy, and nuts, so it's important to check the label to ensure it meets your dietary needs.

  • How many types of protein powders are there?

    Protein powders can be made using various protein sources, including plant-based and animal-derived sources. Examples of animal-derived proteins include whey and collagen. Plant-based proteins may come from foods such as pea, hemp, soy, pumpkin seed, or brown rice.

  • Are protein powders good for weight loss?

    Weight management is dependent on energy balance, meaning calories in versus calories utilized. Weight loss is a result of your body burning more calories than you consume. While it may seem like a simple equation, bodies are dynamic and unique. Factors that you cannot manipulate, including genetics, age, natural metabolism, and disease status, also affect your weight. Additionally, it is common for your metabolism to naturally slow down when you consume fewer calories, making it difficult to keep weight off.

    Rather than focusing on weight loss and cutting calories, you might want to shift your focus to getting in touch with your hunger, fullness, and overall health. Getting adequate protein at meals helps to keep you satisfied, which can help regulate your appetite and help you eat in a way that better supports your health. This may or may not lead to weight loss, depending on your metabolism and natural body size.

    In general, a balanced diet where we incorporate many fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods, as well as lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats, supports overall health.

  • Do protein powders help you build muscle?

    No, not necessarily. Strength training builds muscle, including weight lifting, resistance training, and body weight exercises. Consuming enough protein (in whole food or supplement form) provides your muscles with the nutrients needed to repair tissue and support muscle growth.

    Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics Andrea Chernus says, “For athletes and those training hard on a daily basis, consuming protein after a tough workout helps with muscle repair”—whether from food or protein supplements. Chernus recommends focusing on consuming adequate protein spread throughout the day. She adds, "If you haven't eaten anything prior to training or your last meal was more than 3 hours, it would be a good idea to have a post-exercise snack that includes .25 g/kg (or about .12 g/lb) protein."

    Adequate protein intake also helps preserve muscle if your appetite decreases due to illness or you reduce your calorie intake. However, just taking a protein supplement alone will not increase the size of your muscles.



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