The Best Protein Powder
WE TESTED THE BEST PROTEIN POWDER
In our search for the best protein powder, we analyzed reviews from Outside Online, Livestrong, Nerd Fitness, Gear Patrol, The Wirecutter, and Runnerclick. In total, we compared 23 products and narrowed it down to three winners: Best Whey Protein Powder, Best Plant-based Protein Powder, and Best Budget Protein Powder. We focused on whey and plant-based protein powders because these are the most reviewed options. Whey powder and plant protein powder are also suitable and effective for the greatest number of people.
THE BEST WHEY PROTEIN POWDER: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein
Reviewers found Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein to be a good value, to mix easily into drinks, and to offer a variety of flavors. Nerd Fitness chose this whey protein as the go-to for those on a “tighter budget.”
Wirecutter chose this powder as their top choice due to the pleasant taste, texture, variety of flavors, and safety profile. Top Amazon reviewers noted the cost, taste, and “mixability” as their reasons for choosing this product over others. The top complaint about this protein powder is that some reviewers found it “too sweet.” It’s available in a more flavors (17!) than any powder we considered.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
THE BEST PLANT BASED PROTEIN: Garden of Life Sport
We selected Garden of Life Sport as the Best Plant-based Protein Powder because it offers a complete amino acid profile and multiple review sites found it to mix easily into drinks. Outside Online chose this powder as their favorite plant-based protein powder because “it mixed smoothly into frozen-fruit shakes and with water, and the cocoa flavor is subtle and not too sweet.”
It has ⅘ stars on Amazon, which is similar to the most popular proteins and gets an A-rating on Fakespot for having real reviews. Amazon reviewers tended to specifically praise it for being suitable for vegans, a great taste, and its high-quality ingredients.
Garden of Life Sport
THE BEST BUDGET protein powder: MuscleMilk 100% Whey
We chose MuscleMilk 100% Whey Protein as the Best Budget Protein Powder. At $0.03 per gram of protein, it's the least expensive on our list while still meeting our criteria (like third-party certification for “clean ingredients”). Outside Online liked this protein powder (which previously was sold under the name “Cytosport”) because it “mixed to a nice consistency in cold water” and it’s “generally stomach-friendly.” We suspect Outside and others find that it is more stomach friendly than other powders because MuscleMilk uses a mix of whey isolate and concentrate. Whey isolate has less fat and lactose than concentrate, so is easier for most people to digest.
MuscleMilk 100% Whey
THE BEST grassfed whey protein powder: Jay Robb 100% Grassfed Whey Protein Powder
For best whey protein, our runner up was Jay Robb 100% Grassfed Whey Protein Powder. Grassfed dairy is popular among many health-conscious diets. Some evidence shows it may have health benefits over conventional dairy and that grassfed cows may be “happier.” Among the grassfed options we considered, Jay Robb 100% whey protein powder offered the best balance of flavor and price. Nerd Fitness liked it for being high-quality, meaning it lacks many fillers found in other powders. Livestrong mentioned it for being “made from pasture-grazed, grass-fed cows free of rBGH hormones.” Although we were initially skeptical of this product because Jay Robb is a celebrity, we were impressed by its highly credible A-rating on FakeSpot, a site noted for identifying fake customer reviews on Amazon. This is impressive given that it has 4.5 out of 5 stars in over 2,000 Amazon reviews. However, Jay Robb 100% Whey is more expensive than other powders. If you don’t mind spending a little more for a grass-fed protein powder, this is a good option.
Jay Robb 100% Whey protein powder
best budget plant-based protein powder: Vega One
We think Vega One is a good option if you’re looking for a budget plant-based protein powder. This option topped runnerclick.com’s list for being “loaded with vitamins, minerals, fruits, and veggies,” but Amazon reviewers found that other plant-based powders tasted better. In terms of quality, Vega also ranked inferior to Garden of Life on Clean Label Project. Still, it ticked enough of the criteria we were looking for in a protein powder that we think it is a good option if you’re looking for a plant-based protein, especially since it is less expensive than others on the market.
[Note that Vega One comes in a “shake” variety (shown in the photo above) and a pure protein variety. Our research focused on the pure protein.)