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). But 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.
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 add costs to the product that end up being passed down to you.
Many times you can find a basic protein powder for over 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 in the trash anyways.
My Personal Choice
I’ll get to specific brands in a minute, but when it comes to type, my protein powder of choice is whey protein. Whey protein has a very favorable amino acid profile and is the most bio-available of all proteins.
I also make sure “whey protein” is the only ingredient on the package (lecithin is usually a second, but a majority of powders on the market have it). This means the protein powder is going to be unflavored.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to flavor it naturally using food. My favorite post-workout shake is:
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 scoop powder (about 25 grams)
- 1 frozen banana
- 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
- handful of spinach (can’t taste it)
- 1 tsp of Carlsons omega-3 oil
Makes a nice naturally sweetened, nutrient-packed, protein smoothie at 382 calories, 6g of fat, 50g of carbs, and 36g of protein.
My Top Protein Powder Rankings
I’ve gone through and done the research for you. The following are what I believe to be the best whey protein powders in the market. These powders are not heavily marketed nor do they necessarily have pretty packaging.
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. If you don’t see your favorite protein on the list, there’s a good chance it broke one of those “rules”. If not, let me know in the comment section and I’ll consider adding it to the list.
Here’s a quick explanation of some of the classifications of protein powders…
- Type: Concentrate vs Isolate – isolate is a more pure powder. It is filtered to remove extra fat, cholesterol, and lactose from the protein. Because of this it is more expensive. However, concentrate is still low in fat and carbs – typically only having a couple of grams per serving and costs a lot less.
- Grass-Fed: Foods coming from organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised sources tend to be more nutritious, and the animals are treated more humanely. Protein powder from grass-fed cows have more omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, although powder tends to be low in fat anyways.
- Additive-Free: Every powder on the list below is void of any artificial or natural sweeteners. However, some powders add lecithin, either from soy or from other sources, as an emulsifier to help mix better.
- Hormone-Free: Growth hormones are given to many cows to help them grow faster and make them meatier. Sometimes these hormones can be found in small quantities in the products that come from them – milk, cheese, protein powder, etc. If this concerns you, use a powder that comes from hormone-free cows.
- Undenatured: Whey is extracted from milk using many methods – heat (denaturing) being one of them. When heat is applied to protein it breaks it down and destroys many of the beneficial antibodies and enzymes. Undenatured protein is a little more expensive but keeps these nutrients in tact.
Note: you can sort any column by clicking on the column header. For mobile viewing you can scroll to the right to see the whole table.
|Muscle Feast||$12.00/lbBuy Now||I||1|
|Now Foods||$11.74/lbBuy Now||I|
|Muscle Feast||$13.20/lbBuy Now||I||1||1||1|
|Piping Rock||$11.36/lbBuy Now||I||1|
|Muscle Feast||$10.00/lbBuy Now||C||1||1||1|
|Now Foods||$8.79/lbBuy Now||C|
|Naked Whey||$17.10/lbBuy Now||C||1||1||1||1|
|TRUly NAKED||$13.79/lbBuy Now||C||1||1||1||1|
|Mike’s Mix||$11.16/lbBuy Now||C||1|
|BN Labs||$16.18/lbBuy Now||C||1||1||1|
The Overall Winner
The overall winner and the powder I personally use is Pure Label Nutrition’s Grass-Fed Whey Protein. At $11.79/lb it is competitively priced, and is hormone-free, additive-free, and undenatured. Buy it here for the best price.
Just remember that the best protein powder is going to be the one that helps you build muscle so that you are creating a better metabolic environment for weight loss.
Use the protein powder to supplement your diet, if needed, so 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.