Protein Powder Review

Ah, the protein powder aisle. One of the most confusing and complicated to navigate with just SO MANY CHOICES. So I’m breaking down some of the most commonly seen on the market. Detailed post below!

I decided to stick to the 10 that were the most commonly asked about after taking a poll on Instagram.

Before jumping in, let’s break down protein powders and their different categories.

Types of protein powders:

whey protein

Milk is made of two proteins, casein and whey. Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by-product of cheese making. It is considered a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is low in lactose content, however, since it is made of milk it is not dairy free.

There are three types of whey protein.

  • Whey protein concentrate – The least processed version, has some fat and lactose (carbohydrate). Due to added fat, it tends to taste better, though if you have a lactose sensitivity this may not be a good option.
  • Whey protein isolate – processed to remove all the fat and lactose. Whey in its isolate form means that it’s highly processed and altered in protein structure, so it’s not a whole food.
  • Whey protein hydrolysate – whey protein hydrolysate is processed a step further from isolate by exposing the protein to enzymes that break the bonds holding the amino acids together. This ‘predigested’ form is the easiest to digest and absorb protein. This may be helpful for higher level athletes given the immediate level of absorption.

collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It serves as the building blocks for bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth. While it is a large molecule, researchers found that supplemental collagen was able to pass across the mucosal barrier in the small bowel as a complete peptide. It also can help improve bone loss, joint pain and inflammation, and skin care (wrinkles and hydration). For more on collagen and its benefits, check out this post.

Collagen, however, is not technically a complete protein —it only contains 8 of the 9 essential amino acids. Further, these amino acids aren’t equally balanced, as the ratio is skewed towards glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

vegan protein powder

Composed of plant based ingredients. Usually this includes: hemp seeds, chia seeds, peas, brown rice, spirulina, flax seed, soy. When choosing, know a few different things – plant proteins on their own typically do not have a complete amino acid profile.

  • Hemp: complete amino acid profile, high in glutamine (helpful for gut healing) as well as lots of other vitamins and minerals.
  • Flaxseed: not complete, though nearly complete, high in branched chain amino acids for muscle growth promotion, also high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Chia seed: complete protein with added omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber
  • Pumpkin seed: all necessary amino acids for a complete protein with added minerals and healthy fats
  • Pea: contains all nine EAAs, but it’s not officially a complete protein because it’s an inadequate source of methionine+cysteine. However, great fiber source!
  • Soy: complete protein
  • Brown rice: not a complete protein, so other protein sources of lysine (lentils, pumpkin seeds) will be needed

what is a complete amino acid profile?

A food is considered a complete protein when it contains the nine essential amino acids that our body cannot produce on its own. There are 20 different amino acids that bond together in a chain to form a protein. Eleven of those amino acids are produced by our bodies. The other nine – the so-called essential amino acids – we need to get through food.

Plant sources of complete amino acid profiles include: quinoa, tofu, tempeh, edamame, amaranth, buckwheat, Ezekiel bread, spirulina, hemp, and chia seed.

Daily protein needs

I typically consume a diet ~20-25% protein. Some experts suggest even going up to 35% of energy coming from protein. The RDA, however, recommends that a sedentary adult should consume 0.8g/kg per day (1.1 g/kg if you’re more active). I’m decently active and find that I feel more satiated when I have a bit more protein, so I aim for ~20-25% of my energy coming from protein. Please note: this is all a general estimation. I do not count macros or calories. And everyone is different! Your protein needs likely fluctuate by age and even by day! This is why an intuitive eating approach is so importance.

Studies have shown that protein intakes up to 35 percent of calories (or even higher) are safe for people without pre-existing kidney problems—especially if you make sure to get enough glycine in your diet. And there’s no evidence that high protein diets increase the risk of cancer, as long as you’re eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet ( 1 ). It may be beneficial to increase protein consumption if you’re: an athlete who trains hard, have metabolic/blood sugar dysfunction, prepping for surgery, >age 65, are chronically ill, or are under a lot of stress.

The most your body can absorb in one sitting is around 25 grams of protein. Consuming 30+ grams of protein in one sitting won’t give your muscle any extra boost — if your muscles receive more than 35 grams of protein at a single time, they already have more than enough of the building materials they need.

Everyone is different, of course, which means different protein preferences and needs. As above, my choices are just what feel best for me. More on how I build a meal here.

Protein powder brands

Plant-based

  1. Ritual

    • Type of protein powder: plant-based (pea protein)
    • complete amino acid profile: Yes. Our pea protein is complemented with L-Methionine to provide a complete amino acid profile. Choline is included in Essential Protein because it is an L-methionine helper and an essential nutrient that helps fill the dietary gap common across life stages.
    • Dietary friendly: vegan, gluten and major allergen free, non-GMO, sugar-free, third party tested, grown in the USA, regeneratively farmed
    • protein amount: 20g protein
    • Ingredients: Organic pea protein, Natural flavor, Organic coconut medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, Xanthan gum, Salt, Sunflower lecithin**, Reb-M (from fermented sugarcane), Mixed tocopherols, Organic monk fruit (Luo han guo) extract.
    • Nutrition panel:
    • Taste: taste was good! soft vanilla without being too powerful
    • Texture: chalky and a bit too thick
    • Overall: The taste was decent, though a bit chalky. It also left my smoothie a bit too thick after letting it rest a bit. If you have a sensitive stomach, the added xanthum gum and sunflower lecithin may leave you feeling bloated.
    • Other options/flavors: Daily Shake 18+ (18-49 to support satiety and help build lean muscle mass), Daily Shake 50+ (with Calcium HMB for adults 50+ to help support the maintenance of lean muscle mass for healthy, active aging), Daily Shake Pregnancy and Postpartum (essential Choline to help support women’s heightened nutrient needs during pregnancy and lactation)
    • Price: $40 (15 servings) – $2.67 per serving
    • Link
  2. Nuzest

     Clean Lean Protein – Vanilla

    • Type of protein powder: plant-based (pea)
    • Ingredient breakdown: complete with all nine essential amino acids
    • Dietary friendly: Vegan, Gluten free, Soy free, Lectin free, Non-GMO
    • protein amount: 20g per serving
    • Ingredients: pea protein isolate, natural vanilla flavor, thaumatin
    • Nutrition label:
    • Ingredients: pea protein only – contains all nine EAAs, but it’s not officially a complete protein because it’s an inadequate source of methionine+cysteine (though only fractionally under the recommended amount by 1 mg in total).
    • Taste: really liked this one! Rich and chocolatey that added a nice flavor.
    • Texture: Blended smoothly!
    • Overall: Really enjoyed it, would buy again, though one of the more expensive options.
    • Other options/flavors: vanilla, natural, coffee, chocolate, strawberry, coconut + MCTs, vanilla matcha, chai turmeric + maca
    • Price: $44.95 (20 servings) – $2.25 per serving
    • Link
  3. Orgain

    • Type of protein powder: plant-based (pea, brown rice, chia seed)
    • added chia seeds, which is a complete protein
    • Dietary friendly: gluten free, kosher, no sugar added, vegan, non-GMO, USDA organic, soy-free, dairy-free, lactose-free
    • protein: 21g protein
    • Ingredients:
    • Taste: a bit too artificially sweet for me
    • Texture: did blend smooth though, not too chalky
    • Overall: if you have a sensitive stomach, this may not be the best option. Especially with the added ingredients and gums like guar/xanthum and sunflower oil.
    • Price: $22.49 (20 servings) – $1.12 per serving
    • Link

Vega One Organic All-in-one shake

    • Type of protein powder: plant-based (pea protein)
    • Dietary friendly: gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, USDA organic
    • protein: 20g
    • Ingredients:
    • Ingredient breakdown: omega-3s, 2 billion probiotics, 4-6g fiber, tons of added fruit/vegetable powders
    • Taste: definitely one of the sweeter options with a ton of added ingredients that I’m not sure you really need in a protein powder.
    • Texture: not bad – blended pretty smoothly!
    • Overall: While the taste wasn’t bad, it was quite sweet. And I’m not sure all these extra ingredients make it worth it, especially with the price (one of the most expensive options). In my mind, save on price and instead add in your own fruits and vegetables to a smoothie!
    • Other options/flavors:
    • Price: $59.99 (18 servings) – $3.33 per serving
    • Link
  1. garden of life Raw Organic Protein 

    • Type of protein powder: pea, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, chia, flax, sunflower, pumpkin
    • Dietary friendly: vegan, organic, non-GMO, vegan, dairy free, soy free
    • protein: 22g
    • Ingredients:
    • Ingredient breakdown: complete protein, real, Whole Foods ingredients, no sugar, includes some digestive enzymes as well to ease digestion. And even has a bit of caffeine in it.
    • Taste: rich and chocolatey without overwhelming the smoothie
    • Texture: a bit chalky overall
    • Overall: Good ingredients though was a bit chalky. With added gums that may be a bit on the tough side for some to digest. Also beware that there is some caffeine in this! Further, one of the more expensive items.
    • Other options/flavors: many, see link below
    • Price: $47.99 (20 servings) – $2.40 per serving
    • Link 
  2. Four sigmatic Vanilla

    • Type of protein powder: plant-based
    • Dietary friendly: plant-based, gluten free, organic, lab tested
    • Ingredients:
    • Ingredient breakdown: IS a complete protein, looks good to me! I’m not convinced that the added adaptogens have any sort of clinically significant effects.
    • Taste: I really liked the taste of this! It was a smooth vanilla without being overpowering.
    • Texture: not chalky!
    • Overall: Really enjoyed, though one of the most expensive options. Price likely comes from the added adaptogens, which I’m not sure have any significant clinic effect in small quantities (I’d have to do more research). Would definitely have this again, though probably wouldn’t purchase looking at the price breakdown compared to others.
    • Price: $50 (15 servings) – $3.33 per serving
    • Link
  1. Care of

    • Type of protein powder: plant protein (pea, pumpkin seed, hemp)
    • Dietary friendly: vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, diary free
    • protein: 18g
    • Ingredients:
    • Ingredient breakdown: IS a complete protein, great ingredients! Love the whole food ingredients.
    • Taste: I feel bad but one of the worst flavors I’ve ever experienced. The smoothie I had it in had dates, bananas, and mixed berries and this flavor ruined the smoothie. All I could taste was the dense powder.
    • Texture: VERY chalky.
    • Overall: Nearly inedible, would not recommend. This was my least favorite of the bunch.
    • Other options/flavors:
    • Price: $28 (15 servings) – $1.87 per serving
    • Link

Collagen

  1. be well by Kelly

    • Type of protein powder: collagen
    • Dietary friendly: keto, paleo, gluten free, dairy free
    • protein amount: 24g per serving
    • Ingredients: Grass-fed beef isolate, organic cacao powder, organic monk fruit powder.
    • Ingredient breakdown: complete with all essential amino acids. ncluding all 3 BCAAs and naturally occurring collagen amino acids like glycine and proline. With a whopping 23g of protein per serving, you can build muscle and curb your sugar cravings
    • Nutrition label:

    • Taste: light, not overpowering
    • Texture: smooth!
    • Overall: really liked, would buy again. Especially because it’s a female founded small business! Love the simplicity of ingredients and the taste – this was my favorite of the bunch and the one I continued using after trying one of each of the bunch.
    • Other options/flavors: chocolate, vanilla, unflavored
    • Price: $60 (30 servings) – $2 per serving
    • link 
  1. Ancient nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder – Vanilla

    • Type of protein powder: collagen
    • Dietary friendly: Keto, Paleo, Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Made Without Soy, Non-GMO, Kosher Friendly, Raised Without Hormones, Raised Without Antibiotics, Pasture Raised, Grass Fed, Sustainably Sourced, BPA Free
    • Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Bovine Collagen Peptides, Fermented Eggshell Membrane Collagen, Chicken Bone Broth Protein Concentrate, Bacillus coagulans (2 Billion CFU), Hydrolyzed Fish Collagen Peptides, Natural vanilla flavor, stevia leaf extract.
    • Ingredient breakdown: real ingredients with added probiotics.
    • Nutrition panel:
      • Taste: Subtle flavor that adds some sweetness without being overpowering.
      • Texture: not chalky!
      • Overall: I’ve purchased this for years prior to this review. Seems expensive, though with the price per serving breakdown, feels more realistic and actually one of the most affordable of the bunch.
      • Other options/flavors: multiple – unflavored, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry lemonade, cucumber lime, cold brew
      • Price: $49.95 (45 servings) – $1.11 per serving
      • Link
  1. Vital proteins

    • Type of protein powder: collagen
    • Dietary friendly: whole30 approved, paleo friendly, gluten + dairy free, no added sugars
    • protein: 20g per serving
    • Ingredients: Bovine hide collagen peptides
    • Ingredient breakdown: one single ingredient – can’t go wrong with that!
    • Taste: flavorless. If you want something that adds some flavor, this isn’t the one for you.
    • Texture: blends in seamlessly, adds a bit of thickness
    • Overall: Recommend! More on collagen here.
    • Price: $25 (14 servings per container) – $1.79 per serving
    • Link

Whey

  1. Chocolate whey shakeology

    • Type of protein powder: whey
    • Dietary friendly: gluten free, contains dairy
    • protein: 17g
    • Ingredients:

    • Ingredient breakdown: has sugar, SO MANY EXTRA INGREDIENTS
    • Taste/texture: truthfully didn’t buy this one or taste it. Seems so expensive with so many added ingredients that are likely in such small amounts that I’d be shocked if they added anything from a nutritional standpoint. The price wasn’t worth it to me.
    • Other options/flavors: chocolate, vanilla, cafe latte, barista pack, many more on their website (linked below)
    • Price: $129.95 (30 servings) – $4.33 per serving
    • Link

share this post

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on email
Email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

You might also like these...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Extra, extra!

Unlike guac, it won't cost you another $2.

Subscribe for free and receive useful integrative health tips straight to your email.