First things first – I will always recommend that you try to get the majority of your nutrient intake in through eating whole foods. Protein powders just can’t compare to all the known (and unknown) vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that whole foods provide.
That being said, protein powders are one of only a few supplements that I recommend to go ahead and take (omega-3s being another). With all the various protein powders on the market, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
What is the Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss?
If you are buying a specific protein powder with the hopes that it’s better than some other protein powder in helping you lose weight, your efforts will be in vain. Can you lose weight eating/drinking protein powder? Of course you can, but it’s your calorie intake that is going to determine your weight loss – not the protein powder.
If you ever see a protein powder that makes a claim that it’s a weight loss protein, you should run the other way. That is pure marketing to unsuspecting buyers. In addition, some of the more popular powders (I won’t name names) are built on a multi-level marketing business model, which usually makes them overpriced and over-hyped.
Keep it Simple
Many of the branded protein powders contain all kinds of ingredients. I’ve seen some that have dozens of them. Why? The idea behind them is that they are supposed to be better than other protein powders.
However, many of them are so heavily artificially sweetened and loaded with other unhealthy ingredients that it turns a health food product into a highly processed food. When picking a protein powder, keep it simple.
Look at the ingredients on the back. Ideally, there should be one or two ingredients on the food label. Adding a bunch of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants makes the protein look better, but they are unnecessary and add to the cost of the protein powder. You don’t get the same benefits when you isolate nutrients as compared to eating whole foods.
Cheaper Actually Tends to Be Better
Because of the added ingredients and flavors for many protein powders, they tend to be more expensive than their simple counterparts. In addition, many companies brand their protein powders with spokespeople and models which adds cost to the product, which ends up being passed down to you.
Many times you can find a basic protein powder for half the price of a popular brand, and the differences are negligible. The simple protein powder will still have the same main ingredient – protein powder, but it will be in very simple, plain, inexpensive packaging. If this bothers you, feel free to spend twice as much on fancy packaging. It’s just going to go in the trash anyways.
My Personal Choice
My protein powder of choice is whey protein isolate. Whey protein has a very favorable amino acid profile and is the most bio-available of all proteins. I choose the isolate over the concentrate because the isolate has a bit less lactose in it. The isolate is basically a purer form of whey protein.
I also make sure “whey protein isolate” is the only ingredient on the package (soy lecithin is usually a second, but nearly every protein powder on the market has it). This means the protein powder is going to be unflavored. But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to flavor it naturally yourself. I recommend mixing powder with solid food (slows down digestion, adds bulk, and lessens glucose response).
Various Protein Recipes
You can do all kinds of things with protein powder. Not only can you drink it, but you can mix it into food too. Here are just a few ideas.
- My favorite is mixing 25 grams of protein, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen berries, a handful of spinach (can’t taste it), a teaspoon of Carlsons omega-3 oil, and a cup of milk into a blender. Makes a nice naturally sweetened protein smoothie.
- You can also mix some protein powder, all natural peanut butter, cocoa powder, and ice into a little water and blend. Makes a nice low-carb peanut butter chocolate slushy.
- Last but not least, you can add it to food products as a food enhancer. Add it to milk for more protein. Add it into your baked goods for a little extra protein (not that I recommend you rely on baked goods). There are also many healthy baking recipes that use protein powder as an ingredient. Protein pancakes, and protein muffins/brownies are just a couple (google them).
My Top 10 Protein Powder Rankings
I’ve gone through and done the research for you. The following is my ranking of the top 10 protein powders. These powders are not heavily marketed nor do they have pretty packaging.
If you want protein, this is exactly what you’re going to get without the added price markups. They all contain zero or limited added ingredients, are cheap, and are unflavored so you can flavor them yourself using frozen fruit or through other means.
Now Foods Whey Protein Isolate
First up is Now Foods Whey Protein Isolate. At $10.79/lb I think this powder is a steal and is my go-to powder when I want to “splurge” on an isolate. You aren’t going to find an isolate much cheaper than this that doesn’t contain a bunch of added ingredients.
Jarrows Whey Protein Concentrate
Next on the list is Jarrows Whey Protein Concentrate. The cost is $9.26/lb, which is a bit cheaper than Now Foods, but that’s simply because it’s a concentrate, which isn’t quite as pure. For the budget conscious person this is my top pick. It doesn’t get much cheaper than this for a concentrate. I actually have a few containers of this powder in my home.
Isopure Whey Protein Isolate
Another good middle-of-the-road power is Isopure’s Whey Protein Isolate At $12.82/lb it’s on the low side price wise. There are others that are cheaper, but if you’re looking for a bigger brand powder, Isopure is the way to go.
Naked Grass-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate
If you’re looking for a “healthy” alternative to the typical powders, Naked Grass-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate is a good option. It’s a grass-fed powder, which means there could hypothetically be more natural vitamins and minerals in the power. If you want a more holistic powder, Naked brand protein is a good choice at $18/lb.
TGS Nutrition Whey Concentrate
Another good powder that’s void of added ingredients is TGS Nutrition Whey Concentrate. It’s $15/lb, which is kind of high for a concentrate, but it’s chemical free, which is the ultimate goal.
Piping Rock Whey Protein Isolate
Next up is the 3rd cheapest isolate on the list – Piping Rock Whey Protein Isolate. At $11.36/lb it’s a great price. Not as cheap as Now Foods’, but still a good price for what you’re getting.
Muscle Feat Whey Protein Isolate/Concentrate
If you’re looking to save a little money you can buy an isolate/concentrate blend. This makes it a little cheaper than the typical isolate, but it’s more expensive than the cheapest concentrate. Muscle Feat Whey Protein Isolate/Concentrate Blend, at $11.80/lb is a great deal if you’re looking for a blend.
Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Isolate
When it comes to cheap supplements at a great price, Bulk Supplements puts out a great product. Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Isolate at $10.90/lb, is the second cheapest isolate powder I’ve found behind Now Foods’. Both brands put out great products and you really can’t go wrong here.
Mikes Mix Whey Protein Concentrate
Next up is the cheapest concentrate on the list.Mikes Mix Whey Protein Concentrate is priced at $11.75/lb. I still think you’d be better off getting one of the cheaper isolates. After all, they are a more pure form of whey. But if you want a cheap concentrate, it won’t get much better than Mikes Mix.
Promix Grass-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate
If you’re a health-conscious person who demands a premium product, Promix Grass-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate is the perfect fit. At $16/lb it is the cheapest grass-fed powder on the market. If you want that added benefit of your powder coming from a grass-fed source, then Promix is going to be your cheapest option.
The best protein powder is going to be the one that helps you build muscle so that you are creating a better metabolic environment that is conducive to weight loss. Use the protein powder to supplement your diet, if needed, so that you can build muscle and recover faster. Then once you create a calorie deficit, the majority of your weight loss will be fat loss – which in the big scheme of things, should be your ultimate goal.