Best Protein Powder Buyer’s Guide and Top 10 Proteins

When searching for the best protein powder, there’s not a single good resource out there.

Why are other ‘best of’ lists unhelpful?

The answer is simple – no one takes your needs into consideration.

Whether it’s a store’s top-selling list, an out-of-date blog post, or a vague write-up by some TV celebrity… nobody is asking the right questions nor do they have your best interests in mind.

Fact is, without knowing you and your preferences, it’s impossible to suggest the perfect protein.

This page solves that problem.

Choose your own adventure

So before we recommend anything, we’re going to ask you a series of questions in blue. We’ll then explain our question, and you can choose the answer in red.

After we get enough info, we’ll have the confidence to provide you with a few suggested protein powders and show you the best prices across the web. The rest is then up to you.

Consider this the ultimate protein buyer’s guide – customized just for you.

If you’re extremely new to protein powders, feel free to skip down to our explanation of the types of protein powders.

Get started below:

Question “0”: Take the personalized guide or see our top 10 list?

The guide begins below:

Question 1: Do you have a very strict dietary regimen (such as strict paleo, vegetarian, no artificial sweeteners, or severe digestion issues)?

Best Protein Powder

Looking for the Best Protein Powder with no artificial flavoring or proprietary blends?! Then check out The TRUTH!

Explanation: This question is to separate the “special needs” protein shoppers from everyone else.

Most users will say no here.

Answer yes if:

  • You want 100% pure natural sweetener,
  • You are a strict paleo dieter,
  • You are a vegetarian or vegan, or
  • You have severe digestive/absorption issues, possibly from disease.

Otherwise, answer no.

Note: If you’re lactose intolerant, we still suggest you answer no.  The next question will help you find some lactose-free protein.  You can always come back and look at the vegetarian options later.

  • Best Protein Powder: Best Milk-based protein powders

    Welcome to the milk-based protein section! Nearly every protein on this path is based off of cow’s milk. Most people will end up here.

    Question 2a: Are you extremely lactose intolerant?

    Explanation: We need to see if you need a pure isolate protein that has the lactose / milk sugars removed.

    If you’re new to protein powders, a fun way of rephrasing this question is, “will you be utterly destroyed if you drink a tall glass of milk?”

    If you’re not completely lactose intolerant, we suggest you say no.

    However, for those who are a bit lactose-sensitive, you should find a product that has whey protein isolate or milk protein isolate as the first ingredient. Cellucor and Optimum Nutrition are all popular for doing this, so keep a lookout for those.

    The reason this is important is because answering yes will lead you down the pure isolate path, which is typically more expensive (and part of our job is to find you value).

    Answering no (that you’re not extremely lactose intolerant) gives us more flexibility and saves you money.

    • Protein powder for lactose tolerant / moderately lactose tolerant individuals

      This is the area that most people should find themselves in.

      Question 3a: Low-Carb, Low-Fat, or Don’t Care?

      Explanation: This helps us fit the protein into your diet without causing big of adjustments to the rest of your dietary plan.

      What is our definition of a low-fat or low-carb protein?

      When we mention low-carb or low-fat, we mean less than or equal to 2 grams per serving.

      If you don’t care, we’re going for all out taste! This path has our favorite “dirtier” proteins that are downright delicious.  Not that the low-fat/low-carb ones will taste bad… but the don’t care section is just on another level.

      There’s a lot of overlap between the low-carb and low-fat sections, so you might want to check both of them out.

      • The best tasting protein powders

        Welcome to the fun section!  This is where the absolute best-tasting proteins are.  The others on this page are great… but these are beyond great.

        Problem is, you’re probably going to pay for that taste in terms of fats and carbs.  You will also get less protein per dollar.

        Question 4a: Do you want standard flavors (chocolate/vanilla/cookies & cream), or creative flavors?

        Explanation: This is our final question.  After this, we know enough to give you some good suggestions.

        If you want chocolate, vanilla, or cookies & cream, choose the standard flavors.

        If you want something fruity or something special and different (like cinnamon bun or cake confetti), choose creative.

        Question 4a: Do you want standard flavors, or creative / fruity flavors?

        • The best-tasting chocolate / vanilla / cookies & cream protein powders – calories and lactose be damned!

          Finally!  Below are the top chocolate / vanilla / cookies protein powders for the lactose, fat, and carb friendly… meaning… these are some of the best-tasting proteins you’ll find anywhere:

          1. 3. MTS Whey Protein

            Recommended Flavors: Vanilla, Cookies & Cream

            MTS Machine Whey Protein

            Machine Whey Protein has our absolute favorite take on vanilla!

            If you want a solid, solid cookies & cream flavor, MTS has it.  Marc Lobliner, the founder of MTS, spent a long time finding cookie bits that weren’t made from trans fats.  It was worth it, this stuff is downright phenomenal.

            However, it’s the vanilla that keeps us coming back for more.  Nobody has ever come close to putting out a vanilla that so perfectly suits our palettes.

            For being a pure whey protein (the rest of the recommendations on this list have slower-digesting casein / milk proteins mixed in), it can be made very thick.  You can even make it into a sludge, with minimal water, which has nearly a pudding consistency.

            MTS Whey Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal for 2lbs (includes coupon)
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal for 5lbs (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our MTS Whey page and sign up for price drop alerts
            Our MTS Whey Review on YouTube
            MTS Whey Protein Review

            Click to see our MTS Whey Review!

          2. 2. Animal Whey by Universal Nutrition
            Animal Whey Brownie Batter

            If you want an awesome chocolate flavor, Animal Whey Brownie Batter is unbelievable!!

            Suggested Flavor: Brownie Batter

            It took Universal Nutrition quite a while to come out with a protein powder for their extremely popular line of Animal products, but when they did, they knocked it out of the park with Animal Whey!!

            So far we’ve tried Salted Caramel and Brownie Batter, and the brownie batter flavor is one of the best chocolates we’ve ever had. It tastes just like brownies, and we’ve never tired of it.

            The one drawback is that it has just a minor dash of unhealthy fats that come from the tiny “brownie brittle” pieces in there, but those add a touch of welcomed crunch too. Since you’re in the taste section, we believe it’s worth it.

            Ultimately, given the macros in the other top tasting protein, this is our go-to. We need to try more of their flavors.

            Animal Whey Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 2lbs (includes coupon)
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 4lbs (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our Animal Whey page and sign up for price drop alerts

            See Sandy’s review where she hits it on the head:

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          3. 1. Xtreme Formulations Ultra Peptide
            Xtreme Formulations Ultra Peptide

            There is simply no beating this taste. Consider it our dessert protein, and compare prices below.

            Suggested Flavors: All of them

            It’s not really even fair.  Across the board, there’s no product that is more delicious.  You simply can’t go wrong with “XF UP”, as its users affectionately call it.

            Chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon roll… it doesn’t matter.  This stuff simply dominates.  You’ll even see the lemon cream pie and banana cream on the “fruity/creative” side of this guide.

            The caveat?  You’re going to pay for it in terms of protein and fat.   This is not the cleanest protein, and you’re not going to get the most “grams of protein per dollar”, but wow… that taste.

            Note that this is primarily micellar casein (slow-digesting and thicker), followed by whey protein isolate.  This combination is an uncommon one but yields a high-quality mix that isn’t going to upset many stomachs.

            XF Ultra Peptide Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our Ultra Peptide page and sign up for price drop alerts

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        • The best-tasting fruity / creative protein powders – calories, carbs, fats, and lactose be damned!

          You made it! Here are your best-tasting top fruity / creative proteins:

          1. 3.  Dymatize Elite Whey Protein
            Dymatize Elite Whey Protein

            Gourmet Berry is one of the more popular fruity flavors, and this is quite a clean protein. Dymatize often runs great deals, as you can tell below.

            Suggested Flavor: Strawberry Blast

            As one of the “healthier” options in this list, Elite Whey Protein is Dymatize’s answer to Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey.  The biggest difference, however, is that Dymatize actually does very well with their fruity flavors, including berry blast.

            If you cruise around this page, such in other low-carb sections, you’ll see Elite Whey listed elsewhere as well – it’s very versatile and is great for several reasons.

            Dymatize is one of the companies whose protein powders are completely trusted, and as long as you find the right one to fit your macronutrient goals (proteins / fats / carbs), lactose tolerance, and budget, you really won’t go wrong – the taste is great.  The difference is that Dymatize comes through with the fruity flavors, whereas other companies typically stink the joint up.

            Dymatize Elite Whey Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 2lbs (includes coupon)
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 5lbs (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our Dymatize Elite Whey page and sign up for price drop alerts
          2. 2. BSN Syntha-6

            BSN Syntha-6

            We consider Syntha-6 a ‘dessert’ protein… BSN is one of the few companies that really gets strawberry

            Suggested Flavor: Strawberry Milkshake

            At this point, most people have tried BSN’s delicious Syntha-6, seen it in a magazine, or at least heard of it.

            But have you ever tried the strawberry flavor?  Because this is one of the only strawberry proteins we find acceptable.  While other companies’ strawberry flavorings are just never right, BSN knocked every flavor out of the park with Syntha-6 – especially strawberry.

            This is the closest thing you’re going to get to a real strawberry milkshake.

            Syntha-6 Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal (includes coupon)
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our Syntha-6 page and sign up for price drop alerts
          3. 1. Xtreme Formulations Ultra Peptide
            Xtreme Formulations Ultra Peptide

            There is simply no beating this taste. Consider it our dessert protein.

            Suggested Flavors: Lemon Cream Pie, Banana Pie, Cinnamon Roll

            XF UP 2.0 dominates our chocolate/vanilla section, and it dominates even more when it comes to the creative flavors.

            These are truly phenomenal dessert proteins, and their high ratings at nearly every website back that up.

            The biggest issue is the carb and fat content.  To get taste this good, you have to pay for it.  However, when it comes down to all-out taste, Xtreme Formulations has the lock on deliciousness if you’re not watching the fats or carbs.

            XF Ultra Peptide Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our Ultra Peptide page and sign up for price drop alerts

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      • The best low-fat protein powders

        Welcome to the low-fat area!

        In this section, we suggest our favorite low-fat products that may or may not have high amounts of lactose, and they may or may not be high-carb.

        Question 4b: Do you want standard (chocolate/vanilla/cookies & cream) flavors, or creative flavors?

        Explanation: This is the final question to get you to some answers. We just need to know what kind of flavoring you’re interested in.

        If you’re a chocolate-lover, enjoy cookies & cream, or just want vanilla, choose the standard flavors.

        But for anything else, such as fruity flavors or something creative like cinnamon roll, go creative.

        Question 4b: Do you want standard (chocolate/vanilla/cookies & cream) flavors, or creative flavors?

        • The best chocolate / vanilla low-fat protein powders

          You made it!  Presenting the best low-fat protein powders in standard flavors:

          1. 3. Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein Gold Standard
            Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein Gold Standard

            The Gold Standard in whey protein supplementation. But is it time for a flavor and thickness revamp?

            Suggested Flavors: Extreme Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter

            ON 100% Whey truly is the gold standard in whey protein.  As the first company to mass-market a protein powder that contains higher-quality whey isolate as the first ingredient, they succeeded in bringing great protein to the masses.  In doing this, they also helped lower the fat and carb content.

            Double-rich chocolate is the standard, and has always been the best seller.  So if you want “ol’ reliable”, then go with that flavor.

            However, we’ve found two other flavors that we prefer much more: extreme milk chocolate and chocolate peanut butter.

            Five years ago or more, ON 100% Whey was literally alone on top of the field.  Nearly none of the other proteins mentioned on this page existed at that point, and definitely none that could mix the quality and taste.

            However, over the past few years, the competition has caught up, and the flavoring from other companies has vastly improved.  We find this product in an odd position – it’s definitely the best seller… but it’s slipping, because there’s simply better-tasting, thicker-mixing stuff out now.

            But when in doubt, if all else fails, you cannot go wrong with Optimum 100% Whey. End of story.

            ON 100% Whey Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 2lbs (includes coupon)
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 5lbs (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our ON 100% Whey Protein page and sign up for price drop alerts
            Mike and CJ Review Chocolate Peanut Butter ON 100% Whey
          2. 2. Dymatize Elite Whey Protein

            Suggested Flavor: Vanilla

            Dymatize Elite Whey Protein

            We just absolutely love the perfect amount of sweetness Dymatize puts into their vanilla flavors

            Dymatize and Optimum Nutrition (with their 100% Whey) have gone head to head with each other for quite a while.

            They both provide great value because they’re owned by massive food corporations (Glanbia owns ON, Post Foods owns Dymatize).

            In the low-fat department, we really side with Dymatize’s vanilla flavor.  It’s on the sweet side, but not overwhelming, and never gets boring or nasty (unlike ON’s).

            Each scoop yields 114 calories coming from 24g protein, 1.5g fat, and 2g carbohydrates (0 sugar).

            Whey protein isolate is the first ingredient, so it’s good for lactose sensitive individuals, and digestive enzymes are added to top it off.

            Dymatize Elite Whey Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 2lbs (includes coupon)
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 5lbs (includes coupon)
            • Read more on our Dymatize Elite Whey page and sign up for price drop alerts
          3. 1. PES Select Protein
            PES Select Protein

            This newcomer on the block is turning heads everywhere. Insanely good fat/carb numbers for such great taste!

            Suggested Flavor: Cookies & Cream (Snickerdoodle too)

            This product is mentioned all over this page for a reason – it’s downright fantastic, and is easily the best new protein powder from the past year or so.

            Cookies and cream is way too underrated, most notably because Snickerdoodle has been stealing the show.  That flavor wins recognition on the creative flavoring side of this flowchart.

            The majority of this protein is going to come from casein-based protein, so it’s much thicker than the Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey that you might be used to.

            The reason it’s all over the place on this page?  For every scoop, you get 24g of protein, 1.5g, and just 1 carb, making it both low-fat and low-carb.

            No other protein is doing it as right as PES Select in keeping the protein-fat-carb ratio solid, the ingredients clean, the flavor high, and the texture thick.  Welcome aboard, PES!

            PES Select Protein Price Comparisons

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        • The best creative / fruity low-fat protein powders

          Finally, time for your answers:

          1. 4. Ronnie Coleman Signature Series – IsoTropic Max
            Ronnie Coleman IsoTropic Max

            Ronnie’s take on toasted almond is fantastic – these are the creative types of proteins we look for!

            Suggested Flavor: Toasted Almond

            Another unique protein, this time from the legendary Ronnie Coleman.  If you’re rocking low fat, and miss eating nuts more often, then this almond-flavored protein might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

            On top of that, there’s also some unique flavors in blue raspberry and pomegranate berry, which you normally don’t see in protein powders.  We haven’t had those though, so no comment there.

            This is a pure whey isolate, and is on the higher end of the quality spectrum — 0 carbs, 0 fat.  For many of you in this section, it might be overkill for your dollar, but the toasted almond flavor is worth trying if you’re bored with the standard stuff.

            The proteins below just provide far more value for most consumers.

            IsoTropic Max Prices and Alerts

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          2. 3. Cellucor COR-Performance Whey
            Cellucor COR-Performance Whey

            The exotic / specialty flavors of Cellucor’s COR-Performance Whey are literally untouchable!!

            Suggested Flavors: Red Velvet Cake, Cinnamon Swirl, COR-Fetti, S’mores, Peanut Butter Marshmallow, etc..

            About a year and a half ago, Mike did an early review of Cellucor’s COR-Performance Whey (cinnamon swirl and peanut butter marshmallow), and warned everyone that Cellucor was going to take it to Optimum Nutrition.

            How right he was.

            Cellucor has brought its best with this line, and the market has been dominated ever since.

            Both of those flavors are rock stars, and it has only gotten better.  Red Velvet Cake Batter is currently our favorite, and S’mores keeps it quite creative with little marshmallow bits.

            Cinnamon swirl tastes exactly like the milk left over when you’ve finished a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Peanut Butter Marshmallow is just like a “fluffer-nutter” sandwich that they love on the US East Coast.

            Meanwhile, several users swear by COR-Fetti (“funfetti” confetti sprinkles inside), but we find that it’s a bit too sweet for our palettes.  If you literally want the taste of cake in your mouth without feeling bad about it, though, this is the one.

            When it comes to creative proteins, Cellucor has something for everyone to try here.

            We can’t say enough good things, and they’re all under 2g of fat.

            Cellucor Whey Protein Comparisons and Alerts

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          3. 2. PES Select Protein
            PES Select Protein

            If you need a more robust cinnamon cookie, Snickerdoodle is the flavor for you. So good.

            Suggested Flavor: Snickerdoodle

            The top two spots here were a toss-up.  PES has been around for a while, but Select Protein is a newcomer on the street — and it’s been knockin heads left and right.

            Snickerdoodle is the main reason why.

            It tastes like a very robust cinnamon cookie, and if everything else is boring you, this will definitely smack you in the face.

            As a protein that’s primarily based upon casein, it’s going to be far thicker than the pure whey proteins.  This has allowed PES to avoid adding coffee creamers or other such nonsense while still keeping it thick and low-fat.

            If you’ve ever tried other cinnamon swirl / cinnamon bun style proteins from other companies (including Cellucor below), but thought they were too sweet and wanted something with more zing, then this is your protein.

            We’re excited to see what else PES cooks up, but for now, Snickerdoodle is grabbing all of the attention in the low-fat and low-carb creative areas.

            PES Select: Price Comparisons and Price Drop Sign-Ups

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            Update: Third party lab results for Select were released out, proving that it’s legit and has more protein than expected!

          4. 1. MuscleTech Platinum 100% Whey
            MuscleTech Platinum 100% Whey

            Chocolate Peanut Butter = WOW.

            Suggested Flavor: Chocolate Peanut Butter

            You’re either a chocolate peanut butter lover or you’re not.

            And if you are, then this is the product for you. Just stop reading right now and try this stuff. It’s absolutely fantastic.

            If you’re not a chocolate PB lover, then scroll on back up. But since we are, this is our top flavor in this section.

            The macro breakdown goes like this:

            • Scoop Size: 34g
            • Calories: 130
            • Protein: 24g
            • Fat: 1.5g (1g saturated)
            • Carbs: 4g (2g sugar)

            There is one alternative worth trying though – MuscleTech’s Platinum 100% Iso Whey, which is a pure whey protein isolate and runs “cleaner” with less carbs. It’s mentioned elsewhere on this page for users who either need less carbs or are lactose intolerant.

            But if that’s not you – you’re just low fat here – then this one will get you more bang for your buck.

            MuscleTech Platinum 100% Whey Prices and Alerts

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      • The best low-carb protein powders

        Welcome to the final part of the low-carb section.  All powders below will have 2g of less carbohydrates.

        A few of the products in this area are whey protein isolates, since you need to filter out more milk sugars (lactose) to get the carbs down.  Those powders will be more expensive, so we’ll try our best to keep things on the value scale, since you said you’re not overly lactose intolerant, and don’t need a pure whey isolate.

        The final question is about your taste preferences:

        Question 4c: Do you want standard (chocolate / vanilla / cookies & cream) flavors, or creative / fruity flavors?

        • The best chocolate / vanilla low-carb protein powders:
          1. 3. MuscleTech Platinum 100% Iso-Whey
            MusleTech Platinum 100% Iso Whey

            Opening a tub of peanut butter chocolate twist smells like you just walked into a Reese’s factory

            Suggested Flavors: Milk Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate Twist

            MuscleTech’s protein offerings are hit or miss, but they certainly made a splash hit with their new Platinum series!

            This is a pure whey protein isolate, so it’s not going to be as cheap as some others. But unlike other isolates, it doesn’t mix too thin either – enough thickeners have been added that you can get a thick drink with 6oz water.

            The breakdown looks very good too: Each 32g scoop provides 120 calories, based upon

            • 25g protein
            • 0.5g fat
            • 2g carbs (1g fiber, no sugar on the label!)

            We’ve yet to try all flavors, but rumor has it that peanut butter chocolate twist is Reese’s in a tub!

            MuscleTech Platinum Iso-Whey Prices and Price Drop Alerts

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          2. 2. PES Select Protein
            PES Select Protein

            SELECT is low fat and low carb and has both great-tasting chocolate, cookies, and creative flavors

            Suggested Flavors: Milk Chocolate, Cookies & Cream

            We’ve discussed PES Select elsewhere on this page because it’s a delicious newcomer that’s both low-fat, low-carb, mixes well, tastes great, and is a very high quality protein.

            Their Snickerdoodle flavor gets all the attention, but nobody’s mentioning how this is possibly the best cookies & cream flavor on the market!!

            But one thing that we didn’t mention anywhere else is that PES is one of the few companies to state the exact type of whey protein concentrate used in their blend:

            Muscle Targeted Protein Blend (Milk Protein Isolate, [comprised of casein protein, and whey protein], Whey Protein Concentrate 80%, Leucine Peptides)

            This is one of the awesome things that PES does – they always err in favor of a scientifically-sound formula.  Whey protein concentrate 80 (WPI-80) is 80% protein by weight, which is of far higher quality than other forms of whey protein concentrate (often 30-50% protein).

            So with this one, you’re getting more protein and less filler out of it.  That’s also a reason why it’s such a low-fat and low-carb mix.

            On top of that, the primary protein is milk protein isolate, which is also high quality, and leucine peptides, something we’ll take more of any day of the week (leucine is the amino acid that is most associated with muscle growth).

            This is our favorite chocolate one of this bunch.  The next two rock the vanilla side.

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            Update: Third party lab results came out for Select, proving that it’s not spiked and even has more protein than listed!

          3. 1. Dymatize Elite Whey Protein
            Dymatize Elite Whey Protein

            Dymatize knows vanilla – Elite Whey is very popular because of it.

            Suggested Flavor: Vanilla

            Dymatize is a major company with great value proteins.  Some of their cheaper protein is loaded with filler carbohydrates, but Elite Whey is not.  This is their answer to Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Whey Protein Gold Standard.

            The reason it’s on this list is because we simply love the vanilla flavor.  It’s sweet, mixes cleanly, and is exactly what you expect.  No foul aftertaste or drama included.

            Dymatize is owned by Post Foods, which is how they get such great deals on protein.  The cinnamon bun flavor is also great, but note that it’s over the 2g carbohydrate threshold.  Different flavors have different macronutrient breakdowns, so double-check it if you want to grab a different flavor than vanilla.

            Dymatize Elite Whey Deals and Alerts
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 2lbs (includes coupon)
            • Click Here to go directly to the best deal on 5lbs (includes coupon)
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          [This marks the end of the standard low-carb section. You can click the back button to see where other answers take you.]

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        • The best creative / fruity low-carb protein powders:

          Time to get creative here!

          But we’ll admit, we’re actually lacking in this department: We’d like to add a FRUITY one to this section of the list, and don’t currently have a great suggestion.  Perhaps the fruity variations of the products below will work, but we haven’t yet tried them.

          1. 3. Ronnie Coleman Signature Series – IsoTropic Max
            Ronnie Coleman IsoTropic Max

            Ronnie’s take on toasted almond is fantastic – these are the creative types of proteins we look for!

            Suggested Flavor: Toasted Almond

            At 27g protein, 0 carbs, and 0 fat, this one is also in our creative low-fat section.  Ronnie knocked the almond flavoring down like a champ, and it’s definitely a treat if you’re looking for something ultra clean and different.

            As a pure whey protein isolate and a celebrity brand, it’s definitely a bit more expensive.  You can (and should!) use our price comparisons to get the best deal, but it’ll still be more than most other proteins on this page.

            In our opinions, Ronnie is the man and has put his heart and soul into this company, and deserves the success, if only for bringing us a new flavor in the boring world of chocolates, vanillas, and cookies and creams.

            Thank you Sir Ronnie!

            Ronnie's IsoTropic Max Price Comparisons

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          2. 2. PES Select Protein
            PES Select Protein

            Everyone’s talking about this snickerdoodle flavor for a reason – it’s spot on!

            Suggested Flavor: Snickerdoodle

            With 24g protein, 1.5g fat (0 saturated), and 1g carbs, PES is all over the place on this page!

            Rightfully so.  Snickerdoodle is killing it, especially with such low-fat and low-carb numbers.  Think of this like an “aggressive”, more robust cinnamon cookie crunch protein powder.  It’s not for cinnamon haters.

            If you’re sick of the same ol’ same ol’, which we assume you are if you chose this path, you’ll be surprised to taste the zing that comes with this flavor.

            Unlike the others in this section, there is a good portion of casein protein in here on top of the whey (and even some leucine peptides), and we think it’s great to get a mix of all of these together.

            PES Select Price Drop Alerts

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            Update: Third party lab results for Select have been released, proving that it’s not spiked and even has more protein than listed!

          3. 1. Dymatize ISO-100
            Dymatize ISO-100

            ISO-100 was recently reformulated and has been winning awards ever since

            Suggested Flavors: Gourmet Berry, Pina Colada

            You want something creative?  You get it, and then some, with this pina colada.

            Just about everyone buys it on a whim, thinking “this sounds like an awful risk, but it looks clean… so screw it I’m sick of everything else and I’m gonna try it anyway”.

            And just about everyone is blown away by how dead-on the taste is!

            It goes something like this:  If you like pina coladas, you’re going to love this.  If you don’t, then you won’t.  There’s not much more to it than that.

            In terms of being low-carb and clean, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than ISO-100.  29.1g of product per scoop, and 25g of that is protein.  This is what happens with pure whey protein isolates like this one – you’re paying for nearly all protein and so little filler it’s unbelievable.

            Note that some of the sweetener is in the form of stevia extract, which means that it relies a bit less on the sucralose – bonus points for some consumers.

            Optimum Nutrition and Cellucor, whom we admire heavily, have had NO response to ISO-100.  If you want a clean isolate that has some unique flavors (rumor has it that orange dreamsicle is also amazing), then Dymatize has the lock on this section… for now, at least.

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      • The best protein deals

        This section is for those of you who don’t necessarily care about the macronutrient content – you just want to get as much protein per dollar as possible.

        Follow these steps and you’ll never miss another great protein deal again:

        MuscleTech Deals

        In early August of 2014, the PricePlow system caught 4lb tubs of MuscleTech Nitro-Tech and 2lb tubs of Nitro Isolate 65 for just $10 each!!! Do NOT miss out on deals like this – sign up for our hot deal alerts!

        1. Head over to our Supplement Deals page and scan for protein.

          Tip: you can do a search for protein (push Ctrl-F, then type protein).

        2. But more importantly, click on the Get Deal Alerts button.

          The PricePlow system will then email you anytime there is a new hot deal, so that you never miss an epic deal again (like the one to the right). We are very selective of our deals!!

        What makes a hot deal protein?

        When we see a price drop in our daily reports, we calculate the number of grams of protein per dollar, and if it’s significantly high for its type of protein, it gets the bump!

        Significant price drops on major trusted brands (like those mentioned on this site) are also given some extra consideration.

        At PricePlow, our slogan is “We do the Work, You do the Workouts”.

        Let our system do the grunt work for you.

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    • What’s the best whey protein isolate?

      Welcome to the lactose intolerant section!  In this section, we will only recommend products that are filtered so that you can handle them.

      But if you know that you are so severely lactose intolerant that you can’t even handle a whey isolate protein, you might need to head over to the “Severe Digestion/Absorption Issues” area or the “Vegetarian Area“.

      Question 3b: Do you want a low-fat protein / low-carb protein, or do you not care?

      Explanation: Now it’s time to decide your macronutrient goals.  The “don’t care” section is all about taste, but if that disrupts your diet, then it’s not worth it

      What is our definition of a low-fat or low-carb protein?

      By low-carb or low-fat, we mean less than or equal to 2 grams per serving.

      If you don’t care, we’re going to try to find you the best-mixing and best-tasting isolates, which sometimes have a bit of extra stuff in them.

      When it comes to the isolates, we’ve found that anything that is low-fat is also low-carb, so we are combining those two into the same section (we did not do this for the non-isolate section).

      Note that if you already have a protein with higher fat or higher carbs, you can still use it up – you just may need to adjust your diet.  But by choosing the proper protein, you shouldn’t have to cut fat or carbs out elsewhere in your diet.

      So what’ll it be?

      Question 3b: Do you want a low-fat protein / low-carb protein, or do you not care?

      • The best-tasting isolate based proteins – carbs and fats don’t matter

        Welcome to the “don’t care” isolate area – this means that you’re lactose intolerant, but don’t necessarily need a super healthy protein.

        Unfortunately, we’ve found that this area is slightly underserved in the market.  Reason being, it’s counterproductive for most consumers to go get a high quality whey protein isolate and then add a bunch of creamer and carbs to it to “lessen” the quality.

        With that said, there are a few products that still stand out, and some of them are still very clean (others are not).

        Our last question comes down to how you want your flavors:

        • If you want chocolate, vanilla, or cookies & cream, choose the standard flavors.
        • If you want something fruity or something special and different (like fruity flavors), choose creative.
        Question 4: Do you want standard (chocolate / vanilla / cookies & cream) flavors, or creative / fruity flavors?

        • Best-tasting chocolate / vanilla milk and whey protein isolate

          Finally! This area is a bit thin in products, but below are the smoothest and best-tasting isolates we’ve had, even if there are some additives.

          1. 3. MTS Machine ISO
            MTS Nutrition ISO

            Marc Lobliner and MTS Nutrition finally deliver their long awaited whey isolate supplement!

            Suggested Flavor: Vanilla

            Marc Lobliner’s long had one of the best vanilla flavoring systems for his Machine Whey Protein, but lactose sensitive users could never take it without taking some risk, and lactose intolerants definitely couldn’t!

            That is all solved now with Machine ISO, where Marc has taken his flavor systems to pure whey isolate form. It’s begun with just two flavors – chocolate and vanilla – but if it’s successful enough, you can guess that there will be a lot more coming down the pipe.

            The macro breakdown is quite solid, as expected. In a 32g scoop, you get:

            • Calories: 110
            • Protein: 25g
            • Carbs: 2g (1g fiber, 1g sugar)
            • Fat: 1.5g (0g saturated)

            Machine Mode indeed! We need to get this one up on YouTube.

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          2. 2. Blue Star Nutraceuticals ISO-Smooth
            Blue Star ISO-Smooth

            Chocolate Sin is the chocolate isolate protein powder that chocolate-lovers have been waiting for!

            Suggested Flavor: Chocolate Sin

            Before we begin, we must state that this isn’t a pure isolate, but just barely — there is a blend of four proteins, and the last one is micellar casein, which may provide just a hint of lactose:

            1. Whey Protein Isolate
            2. Milk Protein Isolate
            3. Egg Isolate
            4. Micellar Casein

            However, since there’s only 1g of carbs, and 0.6g of that is in the form of fiber, we think that this is so low-lactose that it’s worth trying for anyone but the most severely lactose intolerant (or casein allergy).

            What you end up with is a nearly picture-perfect isolate that’s far thicker than most others, and the chocolate sin flavor…

            Chocolate sin is a beast!

            This flavor is so much darker, richer, and more powerful than other chocolate isolates. If you’ve found other chocolate isolates to be too thin, runny, or downright weak, you have got to try ISO-Smooth. This is the chocolate that chocolate-loving isolate fans have been waiting for.

            Here’s the macro breakdown for chocolate:

            • Calories: 135
            • Protein: 30g
            • Carbs: 1g (0.6g fiber)
            • Fat: 1g (0g saturated)

            We’re seriously not sure how they packed so much cocoa in there and still kept it at 1g carb while 30g is protein. It’s just that good.

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          3. 1. Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro
            Magnum Quattro

            Quattro is also third-party lab-tested to be free of amino spiking – just PURE quality protein here!

            Suggested Flavor: Vanilla Ice Cream.

            Magnum Quattro isn’t just a boring, thin, whey protein isolate. It’s actually a 4-stage release isolate, and those other forms of isolates thicken things up without needing to add too many fillers.

            On top of that, there’s some organic flaxseed added to bump the fiber content up to 1g, as well as digestive enzymes.

            Just look at the fantastic macros you’ll get out of the 36g scoop:

            • Calories: 130
            • Protein: 30g!
            • Carbs: 2g (1g fiber, 0.5g sugar)
            • Fat: 1g (0 saturated)

            30g protein in one big scoop is fantastic! While other brands are disguising their heavy scoops in a bunch of junk, you’re getting a huge amount of protein with Quattro.

            This is a high end isolate, and it comes with high-end taste on both the chocolate and vanilla ends. But it also has the opposite — there’s even an unflavored version named “Pure & Simple” that’s a hit with anyone who cooks with their protein, or like making their own super-clean smoothies.

            Quattro is also the best-tasting vanilla we’ve ever mixed with Greek Yogurt – it’s nearly cake frosting and you don’t even need to add anything else to it! Definitely worth a try.

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        • Best-tasting fruity / creative isolate proteins

          On the creative side of things, we’ll present a couple of clean options, and then one “dirty” option that just smokes em all.

          1. 3. Ronnie Coleman Signature Series – IsoTropic Max
            Ronnie Coleman IsoTropic Max

            These are the creative types of proteins we look for!

            Suggested Flavor – Toasted Almond

            No frills, no nonsense, no fillers…. just awesome pure whey isolate from 8-time Olympia champion, Ronnie Coleman.

            A 31g scoop of this gives you 27g protein, 0 fat, and 0 carbs.  It seriously doesn’t get much cleaner than that.

            If you like almonds and want something a bit different, this is a great choice.

            However, since there’s no extras, it won’t mix as thick as the next one (but it’s far healthier).

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          2. 2. MuscleTech Platinum 100% ISO Whey
            MuscleTech Platinum 100% Iso Whey

            If you’re a Chocolate Peanut Butter lover, then look no further. This stuff is a absolutely perfect

            Suggested Flavors: Strawberry Shortcake, Peanut Butter Butter Chocolate Twist

            This is the 2015 entry to this page, and it blasted into our Top 10 because its the flavor system to check out for both strawberry and and chocolate peanut butter lovers.

            If you’re not into Chocolate PB, then maybe you’ll want to scroll back up, but we still think it’s worth trying because it’s that good. Mixes smooth and provides the best mix of these two amazing flavors we’ve ever had in an isolate.

            Here’s how the macro’s weigh in:

            • Scoop Size: 32g
            • Calories: 120
            • Protein: 25g
            • Carbs: 2g (1g fiber)
            • Fat: 0.5g

            We’ve mixed it with water, milk, oats, and Greek Yogurt. Put simply, it doesn’t matter, it’s game over with this stuff.

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          3. 1. Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro
            Magnum Quattro

            Quattro is third-party lab-tested and shown to be free of amino spiking – only top-notch protein here!

            Suggested Flavor: Chocolate Peanut Butter Addiction.

            What we love about Magnum Quattro is how thick it is, thanks to it being a four isolate blend. This gives it thickness (since it’s not just whey isolate), yet keeps it lactose-free — all without requiring too many thickeners.

            In terms of the flavors, we’re normally big fans of their vanilla, but in this section, if you need a chocolate peanut butter flavor, then your search is over.

            The scoop is quite large — 36g — but look how much of that is protein:

            • Calories: 130
            • Protein: 30g!
            • Carbs: 2g (1g fiber, 0.5g sugar)
            • Fat: 1g (0 saturated)

            As a high end isolate, but it’s been certified to adhere to those label claims.

            Something else that’s “creative”? You can build your own recipe or protein flavors by getting the unflavored version, which is named “Pure & Simple”.

            Quattro is also the best-tasting vanilla we’ve ever mixed with Greek Yogurt – it’s nearly cake frosting and you don’t even need to add anything else to it! Definitely worth a try.

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      • The best low-fat / low-carb isolate based proteins

        Welcome to the low-fat / low-carb section for lactose intolerant individuals.

        Last question – let’s talk flavors:

        Question 4d: Do you want standard (chocolate / vanilla / cookies & cream) flavors, or creative / fruity flavors?

        • Best low-fat, low-carb chocolate / vanilla whey protein isolates

          Here are your best three products:

          1. 3. MuscleTech Platinum 100% Iso-Whey
            MusleTech Platinum 100% Iso Whey

            A thick-mixing, yet low-fat and low-carb isolate!

            Suggested Flavors: Milk Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate Twist

            A great tasting and cost effective isolate, Platinum ISO-Whey is relatively new on the market and still gaining popularity and steam.

            It’s thick enough and has great mixability thanks to some added thickeners, yet maintains less than a gram of fat and 2g of carbs, which is impressive.

            We’re yet to find a negative review on it, which is hard to come by!

            Every 32g scoop yields 120 calories, coming from

            • 25g protein
            • 0.5g fat
            • 2g carbs (1g fiber, no sugar on the label!)

            Bonus: Multiple users have claimed this is the best chocolate peanut butter protein ever developed! We’ll need to check into that…

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          2. 2. Dymatize ISO-100
            Dymatize ISO-100

            ISO-100 was recently reformulated and has been winning awards ever since

            Suggested Flavor: Vanilla

            This is the fourth time we’re writing about ISO-100 here on this page — it’s everywhere and in many areas gets rated higher than products with way more carbs and fats.

            For us, it’s the vanilla that steals the show.  Perfectly sweet – it’s definitely on the sweeter end, which might be a bit too much for some of you, but we simply love Dymatize’s take on vanilla.

            Gourmet vanilla comes in at 25g protein, 1g carb, and 0g fat.  That’s in a 29.2g scoop, so you’re basically getting nothing but protein in there.

            On top of that, the sucralose is supplemented by stevia, so it’s not a pure sucralose based sweetener – great if you’re leaning towards natural.

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          3. 1. Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro
            Magnum Quattro

            Quattro is also third-party lab-tested to be free of amino spiking – just PURE quality protein here!

            Suggested Flavor: Chocolate Love, Vanilla Ice Cream.

            Magnum Quattro is on the higher end of the budget, but if you talk to anyone who uses it regularly, they’ll tell you that it’s well worth it. First off, only Quattro has been proven on this list to be third-party lab tested and free of amino acid fillers (which means the protein number is truly legit).

            Then, instead of a thinner isolate protein like the above products, Quattro uses a four isolate blend, which includes some thicker proteins that help make it taste better and last longer in your system – great for keeping the appetite down. This also allows it to have less fillers.

            A dash of flaxseed and digestive enzymes are also added, which round out the mix, allowing for better intake.

            The macronutrients are where we really get excited though – this is a big 36g scoop, and chocolate will yield:

            • Calories: 140
            • Protein: 30g!
            • Carbs: 2g (1g fiber, 0.5g sugar)
            • Fat: 1g (0 saturated)

            There’s a reason this is the #1 isolate!

            As far as taste, you can go anywhere from the un-flavored “Pure & Simple” to the decadent chocolate or vanilla flavors.

            The vanilla flavor is bar-none the best one to add to Greek yogurt. We use a fat-free Greek Yogurt, and it makes it taste like cake frosting — yet with basically no fat and very few carbs total!

            Quattro is more expensive, but it’s definitely trying when the budget aligns:

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          More info just for you

          Since you’re lactose intolerant, we suggested a pure isolate based protein. We then found the best products that were low carb and low fat (2g or less).

          These products are highly filtered for you, and they go hand in hand with low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie diets. The filtration process removes those milk sugars (the lactose), thus lowering the carbs and fats and giving you a higher percentage of protein by weight.

          You can see more pure isolates on our whey protein isolate page.

          Since there are many people who want this combination, the market has you well-taken care of.

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        • Best low-fat, low-carb creative / fruity whey protein isolates

          Here are your best products:

          1. 3. Ronnie Coleman Signature Series – IsoTropic Max
            Ronnie Coleman IsoTropic Max

            Ronnie’s take on toasted almond is fantastic – these are the creative types of proteins we look for!

            Suggested Flavor: Toasted Almond

            Yeah Buddy!

            You wanted creative proteins, and you get em from Ronnie.  We’re mostly excited about the toasted almond flavor, but there’s also blue raspberry and pomegranate berry – two flavors you probably never expected in a protein powder.

            If you’re bored with everything else, these answer the call.

            Each 31g scoop gets you 27g of protein, 0 fat, and 0 carbs.  It’s sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), which you might love or hate.  We find that Ace-K provides a great aftertaste to products.

            One most interesting inclusion is AstraGin, which is a trademarked compound that combines astragalus and ginseng.  It’s clearly in low doses since it’s after the citric acid, but the point is that it increases absorption of the other ingredients.  Whether or not this works for whey protein remains to be seen, but it does assist with some of the amino acids.

            Overall, this is a completely unique take on whey protein isolate, and we’re happy Ronnie joined the party with style.

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          2. 2. Dymatize ISO-100
            Dymatize ISO-100

            ISO-100 was recently reformulated and has been winning awards ever since

            Suggested Flavors: Gourmet Berry, Pina Colada

            For those of you looking for a very clean berry flavor, ISO-100 is the best one we’ve found to date, and it’s from the trusted experts at Dymatize who bring the most bang for your buck in this section as well.

            Pina colada also tastes exactly how it’s supposed to, so if you’ve been dieting and miss your “fru fru” drinks, this could help make up for it.

            Each 29.1g scoop will yield 25g of protein, 0 fat, and 1g carbohydrate.  There’s both sucralose and stevia extract, so even the sweetening is on the cleaner side.

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          3. 1. Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro
            Magnum Quattro

            Quattro is also third-party lab-tested to be free of amino spiking – just PURE quality protein here!

            Suggested Flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter Addiction

            A newcomer in our 2016 edition of this guide, Quattro’s chocolate peanut butter flavor is the best new thing we’ve had in a long time! Of course it goes without saying – if you’re not into Chocolate PB, you’re not going to be into this. But we are, so it’s #1. Besides, Quattro’s chocolate and vanilla are also phenomenal.

            Here’s what you get with each scoop:

            • Scoop Weight: 36g
            • Calories: 140
            • Protein: 30g!
            • Fat: 0g
            • Carbohydrates: 2g (1g fiber, 0.5g sugar)

            It doesn’t matter how you eat it or how you mix it – we’ve had it with everything (milk / water / Greek yogurt / oats)… 100% victory every time.

            We love this stuff and it’s basically becoming an office fight for it. We’ll be extremely sad when the current tub is out – one of those times where you’d wish you bought more when it goes on sale (sign up for deal alerts below!)

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          More Information

          The products you chose are very versatile, and are listed in several places on this page.

          Since you’re lactose intolerant, we had to go with a pure isolate based product. We then looked for low fat and low carbs, and finally found the most interesting and unique flavors for you to try.

          To see more pure isolate products, see our whey protein isolate page on PricePlow.

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  • Best Protein Powders: The special needs area

    Welcome to the “special needs” section!  As you’re likely already aware, the vast majority of protein powders are insufficient for your needs.  The good news is that we have you covered, and will be expanding this area over time.

    There are four paths to take from here, so choose the one that suits you best:

    1. Do you want all-natural sweetener?

      In this section, we’re going to lean towards whey protein based products, but they won’t have any sucralose or other artificial sweeteners inside.

      Also note that the paleo section listed next also has all-natural sweeteners, but those cost more (due to needing grass-fed cows and such). If you don’t care about grass-fed whey (and we honestly don’t think you should), but you do care about the sweetener, then this is the section for you.

      We’ll have one more question after this one to help separate the lactose intolerant users from those who can handle lactose from whey protein.

    2. Are you on a strict paleo diet?

      Users in this section are going to get the most primal protein, which is going to consist of 100% natural whey protein from grass-fed cows, egg white / egg white protein, or vegetable-based protein.

      As paleo dieters know, it’s best to keep your proteins diverse, so we’ll provide some options.

    3. Are you a vegetarian looking for pure vegetarian-based protein?

      The vegetarian-based proteins that we most frequently recommend are based on rice protein and pea protein.

      Many vegetarians are also looking for hemp protein, so we’ll discuss those as well.

    4. Do you have severe digestive/absorption issues?

      Users in this area typically suffer from some type of disease, and need the easiest-to-digest protein possible that will not upset their stomach.

    So choose your destiny:

    1. I just want natural sweeteners
    2. I’m Paleo, give me the most paleo-friendly protein
    3. I’m vegetarian, give me vegetarian-friendly protein
    4. I can’t digest most of this stuff, help me with my severe absorption issues
    • The best protein powder with only natural sweeteners

      Sucralose, aspartame, and ace-k are out, but stevia (and maybe fructose) are in!

      Final question:

      Question 2b: Are you very lactose intolerant?

      Explanation: This question is to find out if you need a pure isolate based protein that’s had the milk sugars (lactose!) removed, or isolated out.  In general, the pure isolate products are more expensive, so we’ll want to avoid them unless you really need them.

      Another way of asking this question is, “If you drank a tall glass of milk, would your digestive system get absolutely devastated?”

      If you’re not totally lactose intolerant, you should probably answer no to this.  If you’re semi-lactose-intolerant, a product that has whey protein isolate or milk protein isolate as the first ingredient might be smart.  Optimum Nutrition and Dymatize both work well for that.

      • Best naturally sweetened whey protein isolates

        Finally, you’ve come to the top three naturally flavored whey isolates:

        1. 3.  ALLMAX IsoNatural
          ALLMAX IsoNatural

          IsoNatural also comes in unflavored, which is great if you can’t handle flavorings or just want to make smoothies

          IsoNatural comes in chocolate, vanilla, and unflavored versions.  The unflavored version has literally nothing but whey protein isolate inside.

          Vanilla and chocolate, on the other hand, are sweetened with stevia, and the thickening agents are guar gum and lo han guo (monk fruit extract).  There’s also some acerola extract and grape seed extract, both great antioxidants.

          Every 30g scoop yields 27g of protein, 0 fat, and about 1 carb (coming either from the cocoa in chocolate or fiber from the natural thickeners).

          IsoNatural rates very high, and ALLMAX is well-trusted in the protein arena – their other product, IsoFlex, is all over this page due to some really delicious creative flavors.

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        2. 2. About Time Whey Protein Isolate
          About Time Whey Protein Isolate

          About Time is 100% All Natural and Extremely Clean

          About Time is slightly less natural than the proteins above and below it, since it uses xanthan gum as its thickening agent.  However, with that you get better mixability, and 25g of protein out of 28.4g of powder is still rock solid.

          We love how About Time has the amino acid profile on display, and 2616mg of leucine means that this is a very high quality protein.

          Stevia is the only sweetener, yet there was no “stevia aftertaste” in the flavors that we tried (chocolate).  There’s only 4 ingredients – can you beat that?

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        3. 1. Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
          Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

          Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate uses the latest stevia extract, and it’s seriously getting good!

          Transparent Labs stormed the market in 2016 and are doing incredibly well with their 100% open formulas. They don’t use artificial colors or sweeteners in any of their products and have gotten really good with stevia.

          Their Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate uses the latest stevia extract, and it makes a serious difference – if you haven’t tried a new stevia-based product lately, then this is the one to get. The bitterness is going away more and more each year, and this is currently by far the best on the market.

          In fact, this is nearly as good as a sucralose-based protein, just a notch down in taste. Natural eaters will appreciate it – it’s no longer a total pain to get sucralose-free products thanks to Transparent Labs’ latest extract.

          In a 32g scoop you get the following extremely clean macros:

          • Calories: 112
          • Protein: 28g
          • Carbs: 0g
          • Fat: 0g

          Does it get much better than that?

          Our Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate Review

          CJ and Amin reviewed this product on our YouTube channel below. They enjoyed it, and they’re not even stevia guys. The one issue to beware of is that the scoop contains more than 32g. This means you’ll be getting more than 28g protein, but more importantly, your tub will be empty before you planned. So use a food scale:

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      • Best natural whey protein

        You’ll definitely recognize the first two of the three, but you might be surprised to see the #1.

        1. 3. Dymatize All Natural Elite Whey Protein
          Dymatize All Natural Elite Whey Protein

          Dymatize’s All-Natural Elite Whey Protein

          Dymatize just runs the show on this page – they basically have a protein for everyone.  As is usually the case for Dymatize, the vanilla flavor rates the best.

          When it comes to natural flavoring, you’re going to get stevia, but to balance that out, there’s some sea salt added as well, which is unique to most proteins.

          An enzyme blend has been added, so even if you are slightly lactose intolerant, you’ll enjoy this one (note: whey protein isolate is the first ingredient, so that’s good news).

          The one setback for some of you is that xanthan gum is the thickening agent.  Some consider this to be natural, while others think it’s too processed.

          Macro-wise, a 35.2g scoop of Natural Elite Whey yields 25g protein, 2.5g fat (1g saturated), and 3g carbs (2g sugar), so we honestly think there are still a couple of better options.

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        2. 2. Optimum Nutrition Natural 100% Whey
          Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein Gold Standard

          For regular protein, we like Dymatize better than ON’s Gold Standard. But for natural, ON wins for us.

          ON’s 100% Whey Protein Gold Standard has indeed long been the gold standard of protein supplements.  They were also the first major manufacturer to produce a naturally flavored product, and it’s dominated this side of the market for years.

          While this protein is a bit “cleaner” than Dymatize in that a 32.4g scoop gets you 24g protein, it also has lecithin and xanthan gum as thickeners.

          Rebaudioside A is the sweetener — this is the actual component from stevia that adds the sweetness, so it’s nice to see the label stating exactly what you’re getting.  You also have some added digestive enzymes, which will help anyone who is lactose sensitive.

          Also like Dymatize, whey protein isolate is the first ingredient, further helping in the quality for lactose sensitive individuals.

          Alongside the 24g protein, vanilla provides 5g carbs (3g sugar) and 1g fat (0.5g saturated).  So for low-fat dieters, this is better, but for low-carb dieters, Dymatize might be a pinch better.  At this point, we’re splitting hairs, but that’s what we do around here!

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        3. 1. Muscle Elements TRUTH
          Muscle Elements TRUTH

          You won’t beat this chocolate bar flavor, and vanilla wafer rocks in fruit smoothies!

          There are so many things going right with this protein, it’s hard for us to keep track. This powder is unlike any other product on this entire page.

          Let us count the ways:

          1. All protein is rBGH free (growth hormone free)
          2. It lists exactly the kind of protein you’re getting. Almost nobody does this. Here, we know that we’re getting the following:
            • 9g of WPC-80 – the high quality form of whey protein concentrate that is 80% protein.
            • 6g of WPI-90 – that’s 90% whey protein isolate by weight, and it’s definitely not “pixie-dusted” as we can see here.
            • 4.5g micellar casein – also certified hormone free. This is the slow-digesting protein so that it sustains in your system longer.
            • 4.5g milk protein isolate – which provides an extra bit of whey protein isolate (20% of milk protein isolate is whey isolate) and more micellar casein (the other 80%). This stuff provides phenomenal, thick taste.
          3. It mixes incredibly well
          4. It includes a patented probiotic, GanedenBC30 (34mg of it), which will support digestion and immune health, and supposedly increases absorption of the amino acids from the proteins above!
          Why are those percentages important?

          Compare this to other products using whey protein concentrate with as little as 34% protein (the rest of which being a ton of filler). Of course those other companies wouldn’t put that on their label, though! Chances are, if your label doesn’t state WPC-80 and just puts “whey protein concentrate”, you’re not getting WPC-80 and you’re getting some extra junk in there that you don’t need.

          Let’s talk TRUTH’s taste
          Protein Powder Absorption Rates

          The Protein Powder Absorption Rates in TRUTH

          Now here’s where we’re going to be honest with you. We like the Chocolate Bar flavor about 10x more than Vanilla Wafer. We love dark chocolate, and chocolate bar is dark. It works perfectly with the dash of bittersweetness that is provided by the stevia.

          Vanilla wafer, on the other hand, is a favorite with some friends at local retailers, and smells exactly like a ‘Nilla Wafer cookie. But for us, the stevia adds a touch too much bitterness when drinking it solo with water.

          The good news? Vanilla dominates in a smoothie. Add a banana or berry, and this is an absolutely phenomenal naturally sweetened protein powder.

          But when drinking a protein shake straight up with water, we’ll take chocolate bar any day of the week.

          Either way, for users of stevia, none of this should be news. It’s just worth mentioning that dark chocolate lovers will devour the Chocolate Bar flavor – the cocoa product they used is amazing, clearly didn’t go cheap on that ingredient like some powders do.

          The macros

          In terms of the macronutrients, things are a bit worse than the products above, but we believe the pros listed above are worth it.

          With The TRUTH, you get:

          • 24g protein (lab tests coming soon show it’s actually higher!)
          • 9g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 4g sugar alcohol
          • 4g fat, 1g of which is saturated

          When it comes to openness in the labeling, and proven third-party testing, Muscle Elements has everyone beat. They’re a company to look out for – if this is your first time seeing them, it won’t be your last.

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    • Best paleo protein

      There are different levels of “paleo-ness”, so it’s tough to make true recommendations here.  What’s acceptable to one person is unacceptable to another. Because of that, the following proteins aren’t really in any order.

      1. 4. Egg Whites

        Egg Whites

        Nothing is more paleo and clean with pure protein than egg whites!

        Egg whites are one of the cleanest, easiest, and most natural ways to get protein in.

        Sure, you can eat the whole egg, but the problem we’ve found with Paleo dieters is that the high fat in your diets kills your appetite for protein, oftentimes forcing you to miss your desired protein number (just because you’re paleo doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be counting your calories and monitoring your macronutrients).

        Ultimately, research has found that high protein consumption is more important than any other parameter when it comes to the whole “low carb vs. low fat” debate in terms of weight loss.[1]

        So using bulk egg whites is an easy way to not ruin your diet while adding a clean, paleo-friendly protein source.

        Egg Whites

        • See our Egg Whites page to compare prices and sign up for price drop alert notifications
      2. 3. Garden of Life – Raw Protein

        Garden of Life RAW Protein

        This is a non-soy, non-dairy protein, but it does include rice, so some paleo dieters may be turned off. But the amino acid range is great.

        This is a vegetarian based protein, but is completely natural and both friendly to paleo dieters and vegans alike.

        The sources are mostly rice protein, but there’s also some sprouts as well. Some paleo dieters may not like rice (if that’s you, then keep scrollin’), but it contains just the good stuff from the rice, so is a good non-dairy alternative.

        Flavor-wise, you can choose from unflavored (the cleanest of the bunch), chocolate cacao, vanilla spiced chai, and regular vanilla.

        In a 23g serving, you get 17g of actual protein – a very good ratio.  The rest comes from the sprout mix and added flavoring, brewer’s yeast, and some probiotics.

        There are 4g of total carbs, 6g of fiber (4g soluble), and less than one gram of sugar.  Oddly enough, fat is not on the label, leading us to believe that it’s fat free.

        Natural enzymes have been added to help with digestion as well.

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      3. 2. MRM All Natural Egg White Protein

        MRM All Natural Egg White Protein

        Egg white protein is a natural, dairy-free alternative, and MRM’s has natural sweeteners

        You’ve heard it before, “eggs are nature’s perfect protein”.  We agree with that, but when you want a product that is sweetened well and isn’t an awful deal, this house brand comes through.

        Each scoop weighs 33g and provides 23g protein, zero fat, and 1.5g carbs — none of it coming from sugar!  The protein comes from egg whites (labeled as Instantized Egg Albumin).

        The sweetener is stevia-based, and that’s it!  However, this one may be disqualified, since lecithin and xanthan gum are included, and may not be paleo enough for you – so you’ll need to decide where that lands on your scale. Most protein powders require at least a bit of these, and technically they are natural…

        So as you can see, there’s different strokes for different folks.  If you’re truly paleo, the egg whites up top are probably the only perfectly realistic thing.

        But eventually, you’ll likely come to realize that smart concessions can be made, and most of the products on this entire page are perfectly acceptable to keep your protein intake high alongside your otherwise-natural diet.

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      4. 1. Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

        Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

        Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate uses the latest stevia extract, and it’s seriously getting good!

        Transparent Labs is a company that’s stormed the market in 2016 with resounding success thanks to their open formulas and all of their products being free of any artificial coloring and sweeteners.

        In the case of their popular Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate, you get the same: pure stevia-based flavoring. What’s better is that since this is a new formula in 2016, we are seeing stevia get better and better every year, and this is nearly as good as a sucralose-based protein.

        Stevia is really getting there, and you need to keep up with the newest products using the newest and best-extracted raw materials. Right now, this is that product.

        Here are the macros, coming from a 32g scoop:

        • Calories: 112
        • Protein: 28g
        • Carbs: 0g
        • Fat: 0g

        Does it get much better than that?

        Our Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate Review

        CJ and Amin reviewed it on our channel, and one thing you need to watch out for is the heavy-handed scooper — use a food scale to make sure you’re getting 32g, because if you don’t, you’ll be using too much product, you’ll get more than 28g protein, and your tub will be empty before you know it:

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        But even with those heavy scoops, this is still the protein for paleo people — and PricePlow has the best coupons:

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    • Protein for severe digestion issues

      Let us preface this by saying that if you have a medical condition, you must speak to your doctor and get written consent before using any supplement.

      However, one thing we’ve found is that patients of certain disorders do far better when they use hydrolyzed whey protein.  Hydrolyzed whey, or whey hydrolysate is “pre-digested” by enzymes and acids, which make for extremely fast and easier absorption.  In short, the larger protein bonds are already broken down.[2]  This may play well for those with disease.

      However, hydrolyzed whey is also bitter tasting, so care needs to be taken in terms of masking that flavor.[3,4]  Our top product does an incredibly good job of this, but it comes at a price of carbs, artificial sweeteners, and extra fillers.

      If you’re in this category, buy as small of a tub as possible at first.  Results cannot be guaranteed, so you don’t want to be stuck with 5lbs of protein that you cannot handle.

      1. 3. Optimum Nutrition HydroWhey

        Optimum Nutrition HydroWhey

        Platinum HydroWhey is very popular for those who want fast-acting protein but can still handle coffee creamers inside

        Optimum Nutrition is the leading protein manufacturer, and Hydrowhey is their answer to those who need the most pure and advanced protein for various reasons, such as digestibility.

        The main ingredients are hydrolyzed whey protein isolates, with extra branched-chain amino acids added, so this is great for anyone who needs to keep protein synthesis but has issues doing so (includes the elderly).

        Despite coffee creamer being added to the mix, it still maintains an incredible ratio of macronutrients:  Each 39g scoop contains 30g protein, 1g fat (0.5g saturated), and 2g carbohydrate (0 sugar).  This totals 140 calories per scoop for the vanilla flavor.

        To make matters better, additional digestive enzymes are added in the form of amylase, protease, cellulase, beta-d-galactosidase, and lipase.

        If all other proteins have failed, buying one pound of this for yourself is an easy no-brainer, since it won’t break the bank and you’ll be able to determine if you can handle it relatively cheaply.

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      2. 2. NOW Whey Protein Hydrolysate

        NOW Whey Protein Hydrolysate

        NOW Foods is one of our favorite vitamin manufacturers. Low-cost, no nonsense marketing BS… and high quality.

        NOW Foods is the company that produces those great value products in orange labels.  They don’t advertise much, but they do make some great products.

        For those with ultra sensitive stomachs, their whey protein hydrolysate has fewer ingredients than Optimum Nutrition’s HydroWhey and is a better value, but has a worse ratio of protein-to-powder:

        A 42g scoop has 25g protein, 6g carbs (2g sugar, 1g fiber), and 3g fat (1g saturated). This comes to 150 calories per scoop.

        It’s sweetened naturally with sea salt and stevia, and xanthan gum and soy lecithin are the thickening / emulsifying agents.

        Meanwhile, like nearly everything else from NOW Foods, the price is right – this is about half the cost of HydroWhey.

        Due to the lack of creamers and artificial sweeteners, it won’t taste as good, but that might be good for those of you who are in this area.

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      3. 1. BNRG Power Crunch Proto Whey

        BNRG Proto Whey

        Proto Whey has SUPER small molecules for insanely high absorption rates. Extremely sweet too!

        If you want some sweet protein that absorbs quickly, Proto Whey is the one.

        BNRG employs a special hydrolysis process that yields extremely small protein molecules – 3X smaller than the above two products, they state – which gives you faster absorption and easier digestibility than anything else.

        This is a PricePlow house favorite, and the vanilla flavor is so sweet that it can make anything taste great — incredible for vegetable-based smoothies!

        The downsides are that you pay a price in terms of the macronutrient content:  A serving consisting of two scoops weighs 37g, and with that you get only 20g of protein.  That comes with 3.5g fat (2.5g is saturated, 2g of the saturated comes from beneficial MCT oil), and 7g of carbs (3g fiber, 2g sugar).

        Most consumers love it because the added fats are actually healthy – MCT oil is the good saturated fat from coconut oil, and the fiber comes from psyllium husk, which is great for Proto Whey customers who need to keep their digestive tracts clear.

        The rest of the added carbs are from maltodextrin, which adds to “filler/nonsense” carbs, but it does taste incredibly awesome.  There is absolutely no bitter taste from this whatsoever.

        Surprisingly, chocolate is our least favorite flavor of the bunch – cookies & cream is our favorite, followed by the uber-sweet vanilla, then the phenomenal cafe mocha, and finally the chocolate comes after that.

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    • Best protein powder for vegetarians and vegans

      Welcome aboard, vegetarians and vegans!

      Our biggest goal for vegetarians is to get your total protein number up in any number you’re willing to take it.  Protein is what rebuilds strong muscle, and nobody is attracted to weak muscles.

      A note on hemp protein:

      One thing you’ll notice is that we do not recommend any hemp proteins below.  The main reason is because it simply isn’t cost effective when you start looking at the amount of protein you’re getting per dollar compared to other options such as pea and rice based proteins.

      Meanwhile, we take issue with the omega-3 content that is advertised with hemp protein.  While it is high in omega-3, it’s only high in ALA, which is not nearly as beneficial as DHA, and doesn’t convert to DHA either.[5,6,7]

      It is incredibly important to get DHA in your diet, whether it’s from supplements or fish (see our PricePlow’s DHA page for the research).  If you refuse to eat fish, you can consider algae-based supplements. Just beware that the ALA content of hemp is not adequate to make this happen.

      1. 3. AI Sports Nutrition NO WHEY

        AI Sports Nutrition NO WHEY

        NO Whey is a mix of pea protein and rice protein with some interesting seasonal flavors like Pumpkin Pie

        NO WHEY is just as billed – it contains no whey protein!  Instead, it’s a mixture of pea protein and rice protein, and comes at some incredible prices.

        We did a review on the seasonal pumpkin pie flavor, and while Mike thought it was acceptable (he actually wanted more pumpkin flavor), CJ could distinctly taste the pea, and did not enjoy it.

        However, this is a great value and a far better option than many of the other vegetarian proteins on the market.

        Each serving of 2 scoops contains 52g of powder, which provides 30g of protein, 2g fat, and 8g of carbs — 5 of which are sugar.  There’s also a great amount of vitamin and mineral support in case you’re one of those vegetarians who doesn’t really eat many real vegetables.

        This is an extremely thick tasting product.  The sugar content comes from fructose and some non-dairy creamer.

        At the end of the label, there’s some added taurine and branched-chain amino acids — something that all vegetarians could certainly use — however, being at the end of the label, we doubt they’re in huge dosage.  Either way, we’re happy to take more BCAAs anytime we can, especially from non-whey based products.

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      2. 2. Garden of Life – Raw Protein

        Garden of Life RAW Protein

        A pure vegetarian protein with great vitamin support from veggies

        Whether its greens powder, multivitamins, or this protein, Garden of Life is well known in the vegetarian world for their incredible natural product line.

        This protein is “Beyond RAW” has reviews through the roof, and for various reasons – not all of the users are even vegetarians.  Non-vegetarians love it as well, which is a great seal of approval considering the other great powders out there.

        Each 23g scoop yields 17g of protein, most of which is from rice protein and a mix of sprouts (from amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and then garbanzo beans).  Beyond that, you have 4g carbs (3g is fiber, less than 1g is sugar).  Oddly enough, fat is not listed on their labels — so perhaps it is fat free?

        Added into the mix is an all-natural digestive enzyme blend, and some mixed tocopherols which provide incredible Vitamin E support.

        This is vegan friendly and put simply, we’re unable to find too many bad things written about it.

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      3. 1. Jarrow Formulas Brown Rice Protein

        Jarrow Formulas Brown Rice Protein

        Brown Rice Protein provides great amino acid profile and flavor, and Jarrow is a trusted value brand

        When it comes to getting the most protein bang for your buck, Jarrow Formulas has the lock on vegetarian protein.  This product has very little additives and is fat free.

        Brown rice protein is also tastier than the pea and sprouts added to the proteins above, and it has a good amino acid range.

        The scoops are smaller, but the ratio is still pretty good – a 17g scoop will net you 11g of protein, 0g fat, and 3g of carbs (1g fiber), with no sugar.  The thickeners are organic gum acacia, organic guar gum, and xanthan gum.

        Some users have found that adding a touch more sweetener (in the form of stevia or a banana) makes it even better.

        While the above proteins may have extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber, the reason Jarrow Formulas is #1 is simple:  you get nearly twice as much protein per dollar.

        So if you’re shooting for overall health benefits, you might want the other two.  But if you already do well in the diet area and just need to boost your protein number, this is the one for you.

        Jarrow Brown Rice Protein

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      [This marks the end of the vegetarian protein section. Compare prices with the links above, or check out our entire vegetable protein section on PricePlow.]

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Thanks for reading our best protein powders guide!

That wraps up our “choose your own adventure” of protein powders.  Please leave a comment below – we hope we helped un-confuse your decision, not the other way around!

You can also keep reading, our personal Top 10 Protein Powders list is next.

Top 10 Protein Powders

Below is our Top 10 Protein Powders. Your tastes may differ, but here’s our criteria:

Top 10 Protein Powders

We’re picky about our proteins. Read what our criteria is for our top 10 list

  • Lactose sensitive

    Although not lactose intolerant, we’re slightly sensitive. This means that products with more whey protein isolates are generally going to do better.

  • We’re price sensitive. This is PricePlow, after all.

    To be specific, we’re looking at grams of protein per dollar, not “pounds” or “servings”, since those can be manipulated.

  • Taste is important, but if gets in the way of macros or the grams of protein per dollar, it won’t fare as well.

  • All of the below products are milk-based because we like cows and it brings the best taste/value mix.

    • On that note, we like full milk proteins than pure whey proteins. Milk protein has casein protein added, which is richer, thicker, and also lasts longer in your system / keeps you fuller and may be more effective according to some research.[8,9]

  • We’re fine with artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame K. If you’re not, there are still a few alternatives provided. These sweeteners do not induce insulin responses like sugar or even sugar alcohol does.[10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18]

  • Major bonus points to any company that has allowed for third-party lab testing in order to prove that they are not engaging in amino acid spiking.

Here’s the list. PricePlow’s price comparisons are displayed below each write-up:

  1. 10. Xtreme Formulations Ultra Peptide

    Xtreme Formulations Ultra Peptide

    There is simply no beating this taste. Consider it our dessert protein, and compare prices below.

    Ultra Peptide is even better tasting than the “best tasting proteins” out there – but also brings even less protein per dollar. This is the most ridiculously flavored line of protein out there, without question.

    It’s more of a dessert protein than anything, and if you’re dieting, you’ll really need to calculate the macros in. But if you want to try something out of this world, try any flavor that suits your palate and be prepared to be amazed.

    • Calories: 184
    • Protein: 18g
    • Fat: 9g (1.5g saturated)
    • Carbs: 8g (1g fiber, 4g sugar)

    After this product, we start getting into some of the more “serious” protein powders.

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  2. 9. MTS Whey Protein

    MTS Machine Whey Protein

    Machine Whey Protein has our absolute favorite take on vanilla!

    Marc Lobliner’s flagship product, MTS Whey has been exploding on the scene due to their fearless leader’s charismatic YouTube presence and tirades against amino acid spiking in the industry.

    This is our favorite vanilla protein out there – nobody does it better than MTS – but since the original chocolate and vanilla launches, Lobliner has put out a fantastic variety of other flavors, from Caramel Sutra to Mint Cookies and Cream.

    This is primarily a whey protein concentrate, however, so if you’re lactose intolerant, it’s going to get you.

    • Calories: 150
    • Protein: 25g
    • Fat: 4g (2.5g saturated)
    • Carbs: 5g (1g fiber, 2g sugar)

    Using the PricePlow system below, you’ll get the best deals from anyone else, thanks to our exclusive Tiger Fitness Coupon.

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  3. 8. Muscle Elements TRUTH

    Muscle Elements TRUTH - The Best Naturally Flavored Protein

    “Build a better YOU with Me” – Our favorite naturally-flavored protein

    T.R.U.T.H. protein has a lot of things going for it that no other products do:

    • It’s been certified clean, and in fact tested 1g over specification with protein!
    • It’s naturally flavored with some support from stevia
    • It is 100% open formula in terms of the quantities of protein:
      • 9g WPC-80 Whey Protein Concentrate
      • 6g WPI-90 Whey Isolate
      • 4.5g Micellar Casein
      • 4.5g Milk Protein Isolate
    • It has added digestive enzymes

    The dark chocolate bar flavor is seriously thick and potent for those of you who like dark chocolate. It’s by far our recommendation, especially if you want a trusted, proven, natural protein powder.

    • Calories: 160
    • Protein: 24g (but tests showed 25g!)
    • Fat: 4g (1g saturated)
    • Carbs: 9g (1g fiber, 1g sugar, 4g sugar alcohol)

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    Muscle Elements is one of those companies to watch over the next few years.

  4. 7. USPLabs Modern Protein

    This protein is the successor to “OxyELITE Protein”, but USPLabs is moving on front that franchise, and has focused on high-quality protein (rather than added weight loss ingredients).

    USP Labs Modern Protein

    NO Spiking! We believe this too, because USPLabs does things extremely by the books now

    This comes with a “Triple Isolate” combination of “(Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate, and Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate)” (these three count as one ingredient), followed by whey concentrate and then micellar casein to thicken things up.

    So while it’s not a pure isolate, there’s definitely more isolate than concentrate, making it a quality blend for anyone lactose sensitive.

    But where it really shines is with the vanilla flavor — just like with OxyELITE Protein in the past, this has an excellent, thick, “custard-like” flavor that we just can’t get enough of!

    Also note that USPLabs was one of the first to publicly rage against amino acid spiking – one thing we’ll always appreciate since they advanced the fight and were able to educate so many consumers with their platform.

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    Macronutrients

    Here’s the macro profile of that vanilla flavor

    • Calories: 130
    • Protein: 23g
    • Fat: 3.5g (1g saturated)
    • Carbs: 2g (1g sugar)

    Our Modern Protein Review

    CJ and JP reviewed Modern Protein, and as expected, vanilla came through with flying colors:

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  5. 6. Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey

    Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein Gold Standard

    The Gold Standard in whey protein supplementation. But is it time for a flavor and thickness revamp?

    Optimum Nutrition still holds the “throne” on protein sales, but that has been seriously slipping in the community. The simple fact is that it’s good, but the flavor systems of other brands have simply passed it by, and new formulas also provide thicker and richer textures.

    However, Optimum Nutrition, a company owned by the dairy conglomerate Glanbia, is a trusted source for protein, and it’s always available at no-nonsense pricing.

    ON was the first company to make whey isolates as their primary ingredient, and also has added digestive enzymes like lactase in case the whey concentrate might affect you. They’ve done great things for the market.

    However, we’d like to see a pure isolate available to consumers online, and the flavors are eventually going to need to be overhauled before it’s too late for ON.

    The breakdown for double-rich chocolate, the top-selling flavor:

    • Calories: 120
    • Protein: 24g
    • Fat: 1g (0.5g saturated)
    • Carbs: 3g (1g sugar)

    Note that while double-rich chocolate is the top seller, we believe that extreme milk chocolate is tastier.

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  6. 5. MuscleTech Platinum Series

    MusleTech Platinum 100% Iso Whey

    Opening a tub of peanut butter chocolate twist smells like you just walked into a Reese’s factory. This is a pic of the isolate one.

    MuscleTech (and their parent company Iovate) has been in the protein game for quite some time, but we wanted a pure protein that brought flavor and value.

    If you haven’t been following what MuscleTech (and their parent company Iovate) have been up to lately, it’s time to take another look – gone are the days of nonsensical marketing claims and roided up bodybuilders as their sponsored athletes. MuscleTech has grown up, and now they have a quality protein powder to go along with their newfound message.

    In 2014, they delivered, and it forced us to reshape many of our selections on the top half of this page.

    The main reason? Chocolate peanut butter! Not only is this a great-quality protein from a now-trusted brand, but the PB chocolate twist flavor is at the top of its class.

    • Calories: 130
    • Protein: 24g
    • Fat: 1.5g (1g saturated)
    • Carbs: 4g (1g fiber, 2g sugar)

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    And if you need an isolate, you have that option as well (and the flavoring is still just as good). Both are shown below:

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  7. 4. Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro

    Magnum Quattro

    From cooking to Greek yogurt to fantastic shakes to successful lab tests… Quattro has you covered!

    Magnum Nutraceuticals is a high-quality brand from Canada whose protein has been successfully third-party lab tested to prove that it is not amino acid spiked.

    It’s the basis of many of our protein powder recipes, and even comes with an unflavored version that’s uncommon for the big label names, yet is great for custom recipes and smoothies.

    Highly isolate formula good for nearly everyone!

    This is a nearly pure isolate based product, in that Magnum Quattro’s “4-Stage Matrix” consists of Whey Protein Isolate 90%+, Milk Protein Isolate 90%+, Micellar Casein 85%+, and Egg Protein Isolate — all top quality proteins!!! You will only get a dash of lactose from the casein 85%, but not enough that we’ve noticed any problems whatsoever. Quality stuff!!

    Magnum Quattro Lab Test

    Magnum brings home another winner. Click the image to read their press release regarding a perfect lab test!

    Best of all, however, we’ve noticed that nothing mixes better with Greek Yogurt than the vanilla flavor – it practically makes frosting without adding anything else – we’re not kidding here!

    Quattro Macronutrients

    But even better, look at these macros! Normally, you get 2-4g carbs per 23-25g protein… here 2g carbs comes alongside 30g protein!

    The macros for that vanilla flavor are as follows:

    • Calories: 140
    • Protein: 30g
    • Fat: 1g (0 saturated)
    • Carbs: 2g (0g sugar)

    The only downside? Quattro, in all of its high quality glory, is quite pricey, which is why it doesn’t crack the top three:

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  8. 3. Cellucor COR-Performance Whey

    Cellucor COR-Performance Whey

    The exotic / specialty flavors of Cellucor’s COR-Performance Whey are literally untouchable!!

    If you haven’t tried Cellucor’s COR Performance Whey Series yet, then you’ve definitely been missing out and it’s time to get out from whatever protein rock you’ve been living under.

    This primarily-isolate based whey protein has some of the most intense flavors you’ll find, but maintains quality pricing and macronutrient content. Cellucor’s got the flavor game down.

    For us, the most notable flavors are the cinnamon bun, red velvet, and s’mores. However, other readers will argue that molten chocolate and cor-fetti are the way to go (if you like it intensely sweet, Cor-Fetti is indeed for you).

    • Calories: 130
    • Protein: 25g
    • Fat: 1.5g (1g saturated)
    • Carbs: 3g (2g fiber, 1g sugar)

    Make no mistake – although this isn’t our #1 protein, this is the protein that’s single-handedly knocking Optimum Nutrition off of its perch.

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  9. 2. Dymatize Elite Whey / ISO-100

    Dymatize ISO-100

    ISO-100 is all over the place on our guide part of this page

    Owned by the Post Foods conglomerate, Dymatize’s protein selections are the top competition to Glanbia’s Optimum Nutrition offerings. Both are trusted and bring lots of value, but Dymatize is almost universally a better deal, updates their flavor system more often, and has ISO-100 to top out the line.

    If you’re lactose intolerant, go with ISO-100, which is all over the place on our guide on the top of this page. For everyone else, you can look at Dymatize’s Elite Whey.

    • Calories: 130
    • Protein: 25g
    • Fat: 2g (1g saturated)
    • Carbs: 4g (2g fiber, 1g sugar)

    The vanilla flavors are nice and light, and chocolate ISO-100 is as good of a chocolate isolate we’ve had, but if you’re a coconut lover, you can venture out and even try the pina colada flavor, which our readers have enjoyed!

    Dymatize Elite Whey Deals and Alerts
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    And some ISO-100 for the lactose-intolerant and carb-cutters:

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    We haven’t really taken much interest in most of Dymatize’s other supplement offerings, but when it comes to protein, they don’t mess around.

  10. 1. PES Select Protein

    PES Select Protein

    This newcomer on the block is turning heads everywhere. Insanely good fat/carb numbers for such great taste!

    Three words: cookies and cream.

    Actually, there’s a lot more to it than that, but out of all of the cookies and cream flavors out there, none of them ever really seemed to taste like C&C ice cream – until PES came out with Select Protein.

    There are too many incredible things going for this protein:

    • NO fillers – basically 80% protein by weight .
    • Both low-fat and low carb.
    • Certified amino acid spiking free – see the PES Select Lab Tests.
    • Although it’s not pure isolate  based, the fact that there’s less than 1g carbs means there’s less than 1g of milk sugars (lactose), making it okay for lactose sensitive individuals (your mileage may vary
    • Snickerdoodle, blondie, and cookies & cream make for some insane flavorings
    • Added leucine peptides for an even better response from your muscles

    PES gets away with all of this because of a great blend of milk protein and WPC-80 (the good type of whey protein concentrate), which allowed them to avoid adding fillers.

    The casein in the milk protein does provide a dash of grittiness (as casein always does), but given the profile, it’s well worth it. And nearly everyone agrees.

    • Calories: 110
    • Protein: 24g
    • Fat: 1.5g (0 saturated)
    • Carbs: 1g (<1g fiber, <1g sugar)

    If you want a trusted protein, we can’t say enough good things about PES Select – especially that Cookies & Cream.

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Thanks for reading our list! You can go back to the guide, or leave comments below.

Disclaimer

In case you’ve never been on this site before, PricePlow is a price comparison site for supplements. Our goal is to send you to the best deal on whatever product you choose to buy.

Unbiased selection

Although we communicate with nearly every brand listed on this page, we are not formally affiliated with any of them.  They don’t pay to be listed on PricePlow, they don’t pay us commissions on sales made, and they don’t pay to be listed on this page.

This keeps us completely unbiased, and we will remain that way for as long as we’re here.

You have no clue how serious we are about this. We’d rather starve than let someone influence this page with money.

On supplement testing

We have access to lab tests on some, but not all of the protein powders listed on this page.  Unfortunately, we cannot release them to the public or anyone else for that matter.

This has been a major concern since the amino acid spiking scandals and subsequent class action lawsuits have erupted over the past few years.

So while we try to stick with the brands that are most trusted in the industry, we simply do not have test data on all supplements – it is an extremely expensive process.

Your feedback is appreciated

There are literally thousands of proteins out there, and obviously we can’t try them all.  So if you have feedback, get in touch with us and leave a comment below.  We could always use more suggestions on better fruity flavors, for instance.

If you work for a brand, then also contact us – we’d love to try your protein and see if it’s better than any of the others.  This list is not set in stone, and as better proteins come out, they can easily displace others on this list.

If you liked this page, then check out our Best Pre Workout guide and Best Fat Burner list!

Common Types of Protein Powder

In this section, we’ll break down the various types of protein powders on the market. First we start with the non-vegetarian sources, so if you’re a vegetarian, skip down to our vegetarian protein powder area.

If you’re interested in the common additives, we also have a section for that. You can skip down to the additives section to read about those thickening agents, emulsifiers, and other “fillers”.

  • Non-vegetarian Protein Powders

    While this category might sound rather strange, it’s far and away the most common category of protein powders on the market. Non-vegetarian (i.e. animal-based protein) sources encompass all the glorious whey, casein, milk, and beef protein powders you’ve been chugging since your high school lifting days.

    But if you’re a vegetarian, you should skip down to the vegetarian protein section and skip the milk- and beef- based powders.

    Here is a little bit more detailed info about all of your favorites:

    • Milk-Based Proteins

      The vast majority of animal-based proteins are derived from milk. No doubt you’ve been drinking the nutritious cow juice since childhood and still to this day. However, there’s more to the protein in milk than just the amount. There’s actually different types of protein contained within each glass of white or chocolatey goodness.

      • Milk Protein Concentrate / Milk Protein Isolate

        Milk protein actually contains two different types of protein, whey and casein. Milk typically contains 80% casein protein and 20% whey protein.[19]

        The benefits to consuming milk protein powder is that it already has the advantage of being blend since it contains both forms of proteins, and gets the benefits of both This not only helps provide a better texture for the powder when mixed in liquid or yogurt (as the casein part is much thicker), but also gives it a sustained release in the body thanks to the casein as well.

        However, you’ll rarely encounter a protein powder that is solely milk protein powder. More often than not, it’s included as part of the blend in various powders and will be listed as “milk protein concentrate”, or preferably, “milk protein isolate”. The milk protein isolate version will have the lactose removed from the powder (similar to how whey protein isolate is below).

      • Whey Protein

        Whey protein accounts for 20% of milk protein and is the most common and widely purchased type of protein on the market. Part of the reason is that it’s an incredibly affordable source of protein. The other, and more important, reason is that whey protein provides the full spectrum of all 9 essential amino acids required for building muscle and is rapidly absorbed by the body.[20]

        Furthermore, it boasts one of this highest biological values (BV) of any type of protein a human could consume. Regular milk protein has a BV of 91, very respectable, and egg protein has a score of 100 (making it the “ideal” source of protein). However, when reviewing whey protein on its own isolated from milk, whey protein powder has a BV of 104![21]

        Basically, there isn’t a more bioavailable and readily absorbed protein by the body than whey protein. If you’re physically active and trying to build muscle, you need and WANT this protein.

        But not all whey is the same. There are several grades of it available, and it may make a world of difference to you:

        Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)

        It would be easy if there was only type or class of whey protein to purchase, but like most things in life, it’s a tad more complicated. While you can just purchase a plain whey protein powder, if you look at the ingredients panel, it may list a few different kinds of whey protein.

        Put simply, whey protein concentrate is the lower-quality form, but even that depends on the grade of whey concentrate used.

        Whey protein concentrates (WPC) can range anywhere from 35-80% protein, with the remaining percentages composed of carbs (from lactose) and fats.[22]

        Typically we like to see companies list the quality of their whey concentrates (such as PES Select Protein, which lists WPC-80 and is discussed in various places on this page. This shows you’re getting the highest quality whey protein concentrate with less carbs and fats to take away from all the protein gains!

        With all that said, whey concentrate is usually thicker and better-tasting than pure isolates, discussed next.

        Doesn’t specify the exact type of concentrate? Then buyer beware

        As a general rule of thumb, if you’re getting whey protein concentrate, but the label doesn’t tell you what kind of whey protein concentrate, then there’s a very high chance you’re getting the cheap stuff – likely 35-55% protein. What’s in the other 45-65%? Anything from milk sugars (lactose) and other carbs to fats to impurities like ash or extra moisture.

        So the main drawback to WPC is that users who don’t tend to digest dairy all that well experience some GI upset or bloating from concentrates due to the higher lactose content. Don’t worry though, if you’re one of these unfortunate souls, there are still other whey options for you to come.

        Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

        Whey Protein Isolates are a more “refined” source of whey protein, and a considerable step up in terms of protein content and digestibility. WPI have been processed to remove all carbs (lactose) and fats from the concentrate powder, as such, they must contain at least 90% protein. [22]

        Compared to casein, isolates have been shown to significantly improve strength gain over its slower digesting counterpart.[23]

        Put simply, if you are lactose-sensitive or lactose intolerant, the only whey protein you should ever touch is a whey protein isolate.

        Those who are only lactose sensitive, but not completely full-blown lactose intolerant, could most likely get away with a product that has whey protein isolate as the first ingredient on the label (potentially followed by whey concentrate, milk protein concentrate, or casein protein after that).

        Whey Protein Hydrolysate (Hydrolyzed Whey Protein)

        Hydrolysates represent the final “refinement” of whey proteins. Here, whey protein has basically been “predigested” or hydrolyzed. Basically, this takes the already rapid digestion rate of regular whey and cranks it up to 11.

        The thinking behind using hydrolyzed whey is that the ultra-fast digestion would further improve muscle protein synthesis since it would flood the bloodstream with tons of essential amino acids faster than whey or casein, but looking at two studies that each compared whey and hydrolyzed whey to casein, the differences are negligible at best.[24,25]

        Furthermore, since even more processing is needed to create hydrolyzed whey, it also means it’s the most expensive of the whey options available. So, unless you absolutely can’t tolerate whey concentrates or isolates then go for hydrolysates, but by this point it may be cheaper to invest in one of the alternate forms of protein powder.

        The honest truth is that most athletes don’t need to worry about getting such super-fast digestion. There isn’t that much of a race to make this type of protein worthwhile. And to add to the extra cost, hydrolyzed whey typically tastes a lot worse and is tough to flavor.

        So who should look at hydrolyzed whey protein?

        Those who have severe digestive issues or absorption issues will do well to look at whey protein hydrolysates. Anecdotally, this works far better for patients with diseases such as AIDS or certain forms of cancer, but if you have such an ailment, you should talk to your doctor about the best way of getting a boost of protein.

      • Casein Protein

        Ever hear the phrase “curds and whey”? Well you know the whey… the slower-digesting casein comes from the curds![26]

        Micellar casein, or casein, is the other 80% of protein contained in milk. While whey gets most of the spotlight for being the golden child of post-workout nutrition, casein protein deserves some love as well.

        While whey is best thought of as a rapidly digesting protein, casein is the polar opposite – it makes for a far thicker and slower-digesting shake.[27] Casein protein powders are typically used by the “bros” as their last meal of the night to prevent their body from going catabolic while they sleep. The reason for this is that casein protein is very slowly broken down by stomach acids, providing a steady, controlled release of amino acids into the bloodstream.

        In terms of post workout nutrition, whey usually gets the glory, but recent research has shown that casein is just as effective as whey in terms of boosting performance and decreasing body fat.[28]

        Casein usually mixes us VERY thick in sludges and shakes and as such helps to give a fuller, more satiating “mouthfeel” to powders. Additionally, casein has been shown to be more filling as well compared to whey,[20] probably another reason many like to consume it before bed to kill off any midnight munchies that may hit them.

        Casein vs. Whey?

        So what’s better, whey or casein?? The answer is both – there’s research showing that a milk protein concentrate or milk protein isolate that has both whey and casein brings the best of both  worlds.[8,9] This is likely due to the higher quality amino acid profile of whey, but the slower digesting casein that makes the effects last longer.

    • Beef Protein

      You would think beef would be a great source to use for protein, as it delivers a complete amino acid profile, including BCAAs, plus other muscle-builders like creatine and glutamine.[29,30]

      But sadly, your beef protein powder likely isn’t made from dehydrated, pulverized and filtered steak.

      The vast majority of the beef isolate supplements on the market are made from the inferior protein source collagen to boost the protein content. You’ll often find it labeled as “hydrolyzed gelatin” or involving other such gelatin-based label trickery.

      This is the same gelatin that you’ll see on a box of Jell-o that says “Not a significant source of protein” – something the FDA states manufacturers have to use because this is an incomplete protein:[31]

      “When the protein quality in a food as measured by the Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) is less than 40 percent of the reference standard (casein) for a food represented or purported to be for infants, the statement “not a significant source of protein” shall be placed adjacent to the declaration of protein content.” — US Food and Drug Administration – Code of Federal Regulations (Title 21)[31]

      Basically, the manufacturers take gelatin, turn it into a powder, then “fortify” it with doses of BCAAs and creatine to make it resemble the real amino acid profile you’d find in a side of beef.

      Long story short? Stay away from beef protein powders until further notice

      Beef protein supplements are, on average, complete and total garbage in our minds. There are much cheaper, and far more effective, options on the market that we simply can’t justify wasting money on these products.

    • Egg Protein

      Eggs are nature’s ideal source of protein. They rank #1 on the biological value ranking scale with a score of 100, meaning that the protein contained in eggs (particularly the whites) is an extremely bioavailable form of whole food protein on the market.[32]

      Egg protein powders are made from egg whites that are dehydrated, pulverized, and processed into a fine powder that makes them perfect to add to smoothies, shakes, oats, pancakes, and much more (a high protein alfredo sauce perhaps?).

      Furthermore, egg protein provides a great option to those are have dairy allergies and can’t digest dairy, even the trace amounts included in isolates and hydrolysates.

      The issue with egg protein powder

      The issue with pure egg protein powders is that they mix horribly and smell quite bad. So we personally prefer to just buy our egg whites and use them in various forms of cooking. If we see egg protein on a label, we normally hope that it’s coming along with other types of protein powders.

  • Vegetarian Protein Powders

    If you’re here, then realize that you’re part of a rapidly-growing movement, and several companies are doing their best to provide you with options that are not only well-rounded protein sources, but also tasty ones too!

    Vegetarian proteins encompass all of those options that come from plant sources. These are the go-to options for vegetarians who avoid dairy products, those with dairy allergies, or vegans who eschew any and all animal products.

    Their textures mix up rather thick and chalky at times, which can affect the taste, but they still contain loads of protein, which is ultimately what vegans and vegetarians need a lot more of to look aesthetically pleasing and possibly even keep general reproductive rates higher.[33]

    • Rice Protein

      Many eschew plant proteins for lacking all of the essential amino acids in order to build muscle. However, rice protein contains all of the EAAs required by the body to facilitate muscle protein synthesis and get the anabolic engine running.

      As effective as whey

      For those brosefs who bash plant proteins as not being as effective as whey in terms of muscle growth and recovery, research has proven this to be completely false.

      A double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing the effects of whey versus rice protein on markers of performance and lean mass gains. After 8 weeks of supplementation, rice protein was found to provide gains in lean body mass, strength, and power as well as decrease body fat comparable to whey protein.[34]

      Additional research into rice protein has shown that it’s also beneficial for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.[35]

    • Pea Protein

      As a vegetarian, hopefully this isn’t your first time encountering pea protein. If it is, you can probably guess where pea protein comes from… the humble vegetable pea.

      Like all the plant-based proteins you’ll encounter pea proteins are a great alternative if you don’t do dairy, either by choice or allergy. While you may think this puts you at a disadvantage compared to the moo juice crowd, nothing could be further from the truth.

      When pea protein is compared to whey protein, pea proteins are just as effective as whey with resistance training on increasing muscle.[36] That’s not all though, pea protein also helps fill you up and keep you that way as it’s proven to be just as satiating as the ultra-slow digesting casein.[37]

      Where pea proteins really shine though are in terms of overall health benefits. Research has shown that it lowers cholesterol and triglycerides.[38] Plus, pea protein lowers blood pressure and supports heart health. [39]

      The glaring issue with pea protein

      The one downside to pea protein is that if you’ve ever had it on its own, it literally smells and tastes like peas. For this very reason, it’s usually blended along rice protein and other plant-based proteins you’ll find on the list to make a more pleasant tasting and smelling product.

      The first company to cost-effectively fix the taste problem but keep the amino acid profile is going to be a huge winner in this industry.

    • Hemp Protein

      Hemp seeds contains all nine essential amino acids required by the body to synthesize muscle along with a healthy dose of essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3 and 6.[40] As an added bonus for you conservationists out there, hemp is one of the most sustainable plants around, making it an ideal source to harvest for use in protein powders.

      Not the best amino acid profile

      The first downside to hemp protein is that it’s a little low in leucine, lysine and tryptophan. While that may not be a nail in the coffin for hemp, it also only has a mediocre protein digestibility rating (PDCAAS) of 48.[41] When compared to eggs with a score of 100, and whey with a 104, hemp just doesn’t deliver in terms of maximizing bioavailability and protein synthesis.

      Also even not the best form of omega-3

      Hemp protein powder manufacturers love to tout the high omega-3 content inside their products. And while that’s there, there’s a big “but” that goes along with those claims.

      The issue with hemp protein’s omega-3 content is that it’s nearly all ALA, which is decent, but not even close to as beneficial as DHA — the omega-3 fatty acid chain with the most beneficial research behind it — and our bodies are awful at converting ALA to DHA too.[5,6,7]

      This means that vegetarians counting on hemp protein to bring their omega-3 fats are getting the short end of that stick, and need to find other sources of diet. The best option is seriously to eat fish like the most healthy humans do, and “a dietary (ie, food-based) approach to increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake is preferable”.[42] But if you refuse to do so, then you can consider algae-based DHA supplements.

      Maybe it’s a good value?

      But can the protein be cost-effectively separated from the other fats? At this point, it doesn’t seem like it, as most hemp protein powders are high in fat and relatively low in protein, and provide a very low number of “grams of protein per dollar”, a metric we use to find good deals on powders in general.

      In conclusion: overrated

      Sure, it’s great if it’s part of a blend of proteins, but as your sole source of powdered protein, there are far better and cheaper options.

    • Soy Protein

      Much a fuss has been made about soy proteins and whether or not they have a place in any bodybuilder or athlete’s diet, particularly men. Initial reports on soy protein consumption had the masses believing that consuming any amounts of soy would lead to gynocomastia (man boobs) or the proliferation of estrogen in the body.[43]

      However, more recent research into soy proteins show it to be a high-quality protein that contains all of the essential amino acids in the proper ratios needed to support muscle growth and strength development.[44,45]

      Other studies have refuted the previous alarmism surrounding soy negatively impacting hormone levels in men and show that it has no effect on serum T level.[46]

      Does this mean you should only eat soy protein and have no worries? Of course not. All this demonstrates is that if you happen to have some soy isolate in your protein powder or bars, you won’t see your T levels plummet or moobs grow out of control.

      Additional Benefits of Soy Protein

      In case that’s not enough to convince you, consumption of soy also has several other benefits to tag along with its muscle building perks. It can lower serum triglyceride and lipid levels, [47] Furthermore, soy also boasts a PDCAAS score of 100 making it just as bioavailable and well utilized by the body as whey and egg proteins![48]

      Stop (totally) fearing the soy protein – a little bit per day is a good thing

      So the point being, if you eat a protein bar made from soy, or have a scoop of soy protein in a day, it’s not a big deal. Just don’t eat pounds and pounds of tofu and soy protein powder to be careful. But ~25g a day is going to provide far more benefits than side effects.

Common Protein Powder Additives

Many consumers who are avid label-readers tend to dislike too many additives – but they’re not all bad, nor are they all unnatural. Additives range from flavors to thickening / dispersion agents to texture agents (such as added fats / creamers) for a better “mouthfeel”.

Some powders even contain artificial or natural colors, but those are ultimately completely unnecessary and can easily be avoided.

Pro-Tip: How to avoid too many additives in the top protein powders

If you’re interested in staying away from too many fillers, here’s the trick when comparing proteins:

  1. Look at the total serving size weight. For instance, 1 Scoop = 35g.
  2. Look at the total number of grams of protein per serving. For instance, 1 serving yields 24g protein.
  3. Divide the number in step (2) above by the number in step (1) above and you’ll arrive at your protein ratio. In the example above, it’d be 24/35 = 0.686 = 68.6% protein by weight. Not terrible, but not the best either.

A popular protein that both tastes good and has a high “protein-to-powder ratio” is PES Select Protein, shown above in our Top 10 list.

Back to business – Below we discuss common additives to protein powders:

  • Thickeners, Emulsifiers, and Dispersion Agents

    • “Natural” Thickeners

      • Guar Gum

        Guar gum consists of ground reproductive tissue taken from guar beans. It’s a very common shelf stabilizer that has been in use for decades and is extremely well-studied. It’s a natural soluble fiber, and the only consistent health issue ever seen with it is some gas and bloating in those who have an existing digestive issue.[49]

      • Soy lecithin

        Soy lecithin is an ubiquitous additive in both food products and supplements these days, and that ubiquity has led to some controversy.

        First, the basics — it’s an emulsifier, or a substance that binds oil and water together. It’s also a shelf stabilizer that not only extends the “use by” date on products, but also reduces sticky resistance in canned foods.[50]

        For the purpose of supplements, however, it’s most popular as a surfactant — it reduces the surface tension of liquids that are added to the mix, which helps to prevent clumping when mixed into a shaker.

        The soy lecithin controversy

        So what’s the controversy? The legitimate concerns are more around the way it is processed than the direct effect it has on health.

        Lecithin is a naturally-occurring substance found in a number of protein sources, including eggs and meat. Soybeans are the cheapest source to extract it from, however.

        The concerns center around said extraction — pesticides used on the soybeans and chemical solvents used to extract the lecithin being chief among them. Those methods will vary greatly between products, of course, but you more often than not don’t get access to that information.

        There’s also some mistaken conflation out there between soy lecithin and soy protein isolate. Some users still believe in potential health effects of soy protein isolate and are wary of using it, but they don’t carry over to soy lecithin — they’re two distinct products.[51]

        Long story short — the small amounts of soy lecithin used in supplements are extremely unlikely to contain anything that can hurt you unless you have a soy allergy.

        If you’re concerned about the soybeans being genetically modified or about pesticides, look for products that use organic lecithin.[52]

      • Carrageenan

        Carrageenan is an extract from edible seaweed that gels in water to increase viscosity in various food products. It’s also a shelf stabilizer and binder.

        There are some legitimate concerns about degraded carrageenan, or “poligeenan”, as it appeared to cause intestinal tumors in a number of animal studies.

        The FDA does not allow degraded carrageenan in food products, however, and study of non-degraded carrageenan thus far has not shown any evidence of tumors, cancer or any other sort of negative health effects.[53]

        Some people [reasonably] feel they should err on the side of caution and avoid it given that it’s possible it could be degrading more on the shelf than the industry claims. That said, there’s simply no hard evidence that there’s any reason at all to worry about non-degraded carrageenan right now, or that it’s degrading to dangerous levels in supplements or other food products.[54]

        There are also plenty of protein powders on this page without carrageenan, so if you don’t want it, you should follow through our guide at the top of this page and you’ll get by just fine.

    • “Unnatural” Thickeners

      As you see, we put the word unnatural in quotes, since the naturalness of these ingredients can be debated.

      • Xanthan Gum

        Xanthan gum is a very common stabilizer/emulsifier/thickener that, according to all long-term animal studies done on it, passes harmlessly through the digestive system with no effect other than possibly softening stools from time to time.[55]

        Many argue whether or not it’s “natural” – it’s at least derived from a natural substance, as it’s produced by letting bacteria ferment a natural food source — in this case corn, soy, dairy or wheat are used.

        Mostly harmless

        In the few human studies that have been done, some people’s gut flora was unable to adapt to it and break it down, possibly causing some gas and bloating. But it otherwise passes harmlessly through the system and is regarded as a safe additive by the FDA.[56]

        Pregnant / Breastfeeding Women Beware!

        The one area to watch out for it is if you’re a woman breastfeeding an infant or administering a formula that contains it. There is a lone study that was not conclusive, but raised the possibility that xanthan gum intake caused necrotizing enterocolitis in infants. While the amounts taken were much larger than you would get in most supplements, it’s always best to err on the side of caution where deaths were involved.[57]

      • Cellulose Gum

        Cellulose gum is an anti-clumping agent that keeps moisture out of the products that it’s in. It’s taken something of a beating in the media and the “natural foods” blogosphere because it’s sometimes made up of miniscule bits of wood pulp, leading to sensationalist headlines about wood chips or sawdust being in food.

        While it’s true that it’s sometimes made of wood pulp, it’s also made from plants, and in all cases it’s basically just an insoluble fiber that can be added to foods that don’t normally have fiber in them. The wood pulp is basically identical to the plant pulp and is just as harmless and digestible.  The FDA approves of its use and sets limits for how much can be in protein products like cheeses and meats.[58]

  • Creamers / Texture Agents

    • Natural

      • Coconut Oil

        Coconut oil is almost entirely made up of saturated fat, with only a relatively small proportion of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. There’s no protein in it.

        People sometimes get it confused with MCT oil, which is the healthy saturated fat extracted from palm or coconut oil. The two are quite different — coconut oil is extremely calorie-dense and likely to raise bad (LDL) cholesterol when consumed regularly or in large amounts.

        As a saturated fat (which means the carbon atoms are fully bonded, or saturated), it is extremely stable and non-reactive. This means that there are far less concerns of a protein powder with coconut oil or MCT oil going rancid if kept out or improperly stored too long (unlike with oils such as sunflower oil).[59]

      • Medium Chain Triglycerides

        As mentioned above, MCT oil is made from coconut oil, but it’s quite different. It provides the same creamy mouthfeel and sense of satiation as a saturated fat does, but minus some of the taste and caloric density. It can be metabolized for immediate energy, and can even help the body increase fat oxidation and energy expenditure![60]

        These are quite underrated fats, and many dieters like to use them. Being “relatively soluble in water”,[60] they can help with the mouthfeel of the product, but cannot be too heavily relied upon. It has a lower smoke point than coconut oil, but has still been approved for use as a cooking oil,[61] although we’re not typically worried about that in our protein powders.

      • Sunflower Oil

        Sunflower oil is composed of a mixture of the three major categories of fats — it’s about 60% polyunsaturated fat, 30% monounsaturated fat and 10% saturated fat. It’s still dense in calories (about 120 per tablespoon) and you don’t want to overdo it on polyunsaturated fats.

        The issue with polyunsaturated fats is that they are less stable by nature. When heated, sunflower oil breaks down (oxidizes) more than other polyunsaturated fats, and can lead to rancidity when the PV (peroxide values) get too high.[62]

        There are some different compositions of sunflower oil that increase the amount of monounsaturated fat in proportion to polyunsaturated fat. These are labeled as mid-oleic and high oleic. Oleic acid is the source of the monounsaturated fat content.

        Best avoided in protein powders

        Sunflower oil is well-known for its stability issues, and a lot of research has been put into making it more stable and removing the odors.[63]

        For our purposes, we typically avoid protein powders with sunflower oil, especially if they are expiring soon or we’re not sure how well it was stored. It’s simply not worth the risk of any rancidity when there are plenty of great protein powders on this page that don’t use it.

    • Unnatural

      • Corn Syrup Solids

        Corn syrup solids are made from dextrose, which is slightly less sweet than the sucrose or fructose more commonly found in food products. The caloric load isn’t much different, however — about 12 calories per teaspoon of dextrose versus about 15 for fructose and sucrose.

        There is still some debate about the relative health dangers of different types of sugars, but there’s no clear evidence to back any particular viewpoint as of yet. All we can say with certainty as of now is that it’s all empty calories, corn syrup solids included. If you can fit food sweetened with it into your diet’s macronutrient goals, it’s probably no great harm, but it shouldn’t be displacing needed nutrients.

        In terms of the inclusion in protein powders, we don’t see a purpose of having these around, but if they’re buried deep in the formula and the overall carbohydrate load isn’t too high, we’re not going to be upset. We just don’t want to pay for a tub full of carbs when buying protein.

  • Best protein powder sweeteners

    • “Natural” Sweeteners

      • SUGAR and Fructose

        As mentioned with corn syrup solids and maltodextrin, sugar (in all its forms) provides you with empty carbs that can immediately be burned for energy, but otherwise will just convert to stored body fat.

        Fructose is simply the naturally occurring form of sugar found in fruits, vegetables and honey. Traditional gym wisdom has held that the insulin spikes that empty carb loads bring on help improve protein synthesis, but studies to the contrary have been chipping away at that belief in recent years. The issue is that most studies compare carbohydrate+protein to just carbohydrate, but never carbohydrate+protein to just protein alone[80] — that’s the well-performed study we’d like to see.

        There are theories that high sugar consumption is behind the spike in all sorts of diseases, including cancers and cardiovascular disease, but slam-dunk evidence is still lacking. Moderate sugar consumption that fits your macros is probably not going to hurt anything, but there’s a wide variety of very good zero-calorie sweeteners available now that make things just as palatable as regular sugar does.[66]

        Sugar and Fructose in your Protein

        With respect to inclusion in protein powders, this can be considered “natural”, but in order to make most protein powders sweet enough, you really need a lot of sugar, and honestly prefer sucralose for our athletic and physique goals. We also typically don’t like the taste of fructose, but that’s subjective.

      • Stevia

        Stevia is an extract from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant. It’s considerably sweeter than sugar, doesn’t spike insulin and is zero-calorie.

        Recent studies indicate it may actually have all sorts of side health benefits — improving insulin sensitivity, reducing high blood pressure and even reducing arterial plaque among them.[67,68,69]

        Still, there are some legitimate concerns about its effects on reproductive health, and women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant may want to avoid it to be on the safe side (though evidence is limited to rat studies right now).[70]

        Bitterness

        The biggest issue with stevia is that it’s a bitter-sweet leaf. Over the last five years, companies have gotten better and better at refining this flavor, but it’s still not as simple or easy to sweeten as using artificial sweeteners such as sucralose.

        On the positive side, stevia has one of the cleanest bills of health of any artificial sweetener out there — it appears to not only be safe for use but might actually make you more healthy, at least if the results of initial studies hold up to further research!

        Beware of additives when buying “stevia” at the store

        Note that this discussion is for pure stevia, however. Many “stevia” products you can buy on the store shelves are actually cut with all sorts of things, including maltodextrin (a caloric sweetener) and more controversial zero-cal sweeteners. It’s very important to check the label and make sure getting nothing but stevia, and maybe some added insoluble fiber if you want it.

        So even though a packet of “stevia sweetener” with maltodextrin or sugar alcohols may say zero-calorie, there’s a chance you’re actually getting a few calories, they’re just less than 0.5g, so it’s not technically to be labeled as a carbohydrate. Splitting hairs really, but just beware that many of those “calorie-free sweeteners” aren’t truly calorie-free if there’s caloric stuff in there!

      • Lo Han Guo

        Lo Han Guo (or Kuo) is an extract from monk fruit. In the United States this sweetener is not very common, and usually on the pricey side when you do see it sold. Like stevia, it’s zero-calorie and does not spike insulin levels. It appears to have a positive effect on blood cholesterol levels, but the extract (which is subject to a fair amount of processing) isn’t all that well-studied as of yet.[72]

      • Sugar Alcohols

        Sugar alcohols are about the most inappropriately named substance there is, since they are neither a sugar nor alcohol!

        That’s a good thing, though, as they don’t contribute calories to the diet or rot teeth the way sugar does, nor do they have any of the caloric load or intoxicating effects of alcohol. They don’t spike insulin either, and they’re actually usually significantly less sweet than artificial sweeteners.

        There are a wide range of sugar alcohols. Some of the more instantly recognizable names are xylitol, erythritol and sorbitol.

        The main knock against them is that certain types have really individualized interactions with people’s gut flora. Some types can cause serious gastric distress in some people, but it’s almost impossible to predict who will be affected until they try them. Erythritol and xylitol seem to be the most widely well-tolerated of the bunch, which is probably why you see them so often.[72]

    • Artificial Sweeteners

      • Sucralose

        Sucralose is a super-sweet, non-caloric sugar substitute. The biggest brand name it’s sold under is Splenda, but there are a variety of others. As with the other artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes, it doesn’t spike insulin either.

        Sucralose may be listed as “low calorie” if it has caloric fillers such as dextrose or maltodextrin. It’s becoming increasingly popular in food products, with Pepsi switching all of its diet drinks over to it from aspartame in mid-2015.

        You’ll see dire warnings about it pop out from the more fringe of the alternative health / medicine scene, but sucralose is actually one of the most well-studied sugar substitutes there is, and all evidence to present is that it’s safe to use.[73]

        The king of protein powder sweeteners

        This is by far the most popular sweetener in protein powders, and we enjoy it and fully support its use until further noted. For nearly all people, there don’t seem to be any cons to using it, yet there are plenty of pros.

      • Aspartame

        Aspartame is most commonly known under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal. Like sucralose, it’s been thoroughly studied since the 1970s and is thought to be safe, although there are several people who will argue with that assertion.

        It’s starting to lose ground to sucralose because it can’t be heated without losing its sweetness and only lasts for about half as long on the shelf, but it’s still a commonly used sugar substitute.[74]

        Never / rarely used in protein

        Yet in protein powder, it’s completely lost ground to sucralose. We can’t think of a single protein powder in existence that contains aspartame (although there are likely a few).

        For the simple reason that the supplement industry has completely avoided aspartame, we simply stay away from the whole aspartame argument. It simply doesn’t affect us due to its near-zero usage rates here.

      • Acesulfame Potassium (Ace K)

        Ace K is roughly as sweet as aspartame, but it’s relatively rare to see it as a lone sweetener in any product. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste that is usually masked by combining it with aspartame or sucralose.

        Some concerns have been raised about it being cytotoxic in mice at very high doses,[75] but rat studies have not shown any evidence of this and the FDA considers it safe for use.[76]

      • Maltodextrin

        At one time maltodextrin was recommended in bodybuilding circles as the go-to simple carb source for bulking, but it seems to have fallen out of general favor as of late. Although labeled as a “non-sugar carb”, it’s really a simple sugar derived from corn. There’s really no special harm to it as compared to other sugars.

        But like other sugars, it’s basically empty calories, and products that use it as a sweetener tend to pile it in because it’s really cheap and wastes space in the tub of protein (that could be better used for actual protein powder!)

        Recent studies have busted the longtime gym bro-science belief that insulin spikes improve protein synthesis, so piling on maltodextrin after a workout really just means you’re piling on simple carb weight.[64,65] There’s still a lot of debate over whether simple carbs actually are a good option for gains, but it’s undeniable that maltodextrin has no real nutritional value.

        Completely unnecessary in your protein powder

        Regardless of the above debates, we typically don’t recommend powders with maltodextrin anywhere high up on the label. This is nothing more than wasted space – after all, we’re paying for protein, not carbs. It’s also cheap filler in most weight gainers.

        Remember, 2lbs of protein isn’t always two pounds of protein! Read the label and remember to calculate how many grams of protein *per dollar* you’re getting, just like we do on our supplement deals page.

      • Polydextrose

        Polydextrose is unique among the sugar substitutes as it is a man-made type of glucose, but also a soluble and prebiotic fiber. It’s typically been used in products for diabetics but is finding its way into more general food products and protein powders.

        While a sugar that also acts as a healthy dietary fiber sounds amazing (and can actually reduce appetite![77]), there’s one big problem with polydextrose — many people have serious issues digesting it and get major gas and bloating from it.[78]

  • Flavors

    • Cocoa

      Undoubtedly you’ve seen Willy Wonka at some point and are well aware that the cocoa bean is ultimately responsible for chocolate. Chocolate-flavored supplements usually use cocoa powder or extract, which is typically rather bitter in taste. The unhealthy component of chocolate actually comes from the sugar and saturated fat that the cocoa is mixed with; in supplements, chocolate flavor is usually replicated in a more healthy way by using one of the zero-calorie sweeteners listed above.

      There are actually several beneficial flavonols in cocoa, such as epicatechin,[79] but we’re never sure how much of anything is in chocolate protein powders. It’s probably negligible, but cocoa (without the added sugar and fat) is definitely not a bad thing.

    • Vanilla

      Like cocoa, vanilla is another bean extract that does not taste palatable at all in its natural form, and has to be added to a recipe containing a sweetener to become delicious. As with cocoa, flavored protein powders and other supplement products will usually mix their vanilla extract with some sort of zero-calorie sweetener.

    • Salt

      When a product claims that it has “electrolytes”, that primarily means it has salt and potassium. While overconsumption of salt is thought to be bad for health, you do need to take in some amount each day as a dietary necessity.

      One of salt’s chief roles is to maintain internal pH balance so that the electrical signals that direct our movements can transmit properly, and when you sweat you lose a lot of salt, so it needs to be replenished during and after workouts. Seeing salt low in a protein powder’s list of ingredients is never a big issue. Sometimes it helps balance the flavor quite well.

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