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Home/Blog/Best Protein Powders: What to Look For

Best Protein Powders: What to Look For

By Rachel Link, RD, MS

May 22, 2024

Best protein powder

Once considered to be a supplement mostly for bodybuilders and professional athletes, protein powder has come a long way. With dozens of types now available, protein powders have gained widespread popularity among anyone and everyone looking to gain muscle (including after the age 40) and generally increase their protein intake.

The potential benefits of protein powder extend way beyond the gym. Depending on what protein powder you choose, this supplement may help with everything from supporting skin health to healthy immune system function. And, frankly, too many people just don't get enough protein in their diet and protein powder is an easy shortcut to change that (and a popular wellness trend).

To get enough protein, it's pretty simple: 1) count your macros, particularly the protein grams (see below) and 2) use protein powders to meet your protein goals.

Produced from both plant-based and animal sources — such as bone broth, whey and seed blends — there’s now a protein powder available to suit just about any diet plan. Below we’ll take a look at some of the best protein powders options, their benefits and what makes each unique.

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

Probably not. Protein doesn't just help you with building lean mass (which in turn increases your metabolic rate), it also improves your satiety levels so your hunger stays under control.

So how much protein do you need each day? Here are general protein guidelines:

  • For most adults: At least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.36 grams per pound. This guideline is typically aimed at sedentary individuals and represents the minimum amount of protein needed daily to support overall health.

  • For active individuals: For those who engage in regular physical activity or exercise, protein needs may be higher to support normal muscle repair and growth. The range typically recommended for active individuals is 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.54 to 1 gram per pound.

  • For athletes: Athletes and individuals involved in intense resistance training may have higher protein requirements. The range often recommended for this group is 1.4 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.64 to 1 gram per pound.

  • For older adults: Older adults may benefit from slightly higher protein intake to counteract normal age-related impacts on muscles and bones. Some studies suggest a range of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.45 to 0.68 grams per pound.

Common Types of Protein Powders

Protein powder is a supplement that provides a concentrated amount of dietary protein from either plant or animal sources.

Some popular examples include:

  • Collagen

  • Bone broth

  • Whey

  • Casein

  • Egg

  • Mixed plant proteins (usually grains/seeds)

  • Soy

  • Brown rice

  • Pea

  • Hemp

Many people use protein powders because they are looking to build muscle mass and maximize fat burning, but they’re also a useful way to increase protein intake for those who may have difficulty meeting their needs, such as vegans, vegetarians or older adults.

You can also use protein powder to increase your caloric intake if you’re wanting to gain weight in a healthy way, such as by using it to supplement your meals and snacks.

There are also several different forms of protein powder, each of which vary based on their nutrient profile and the way that they are processed. The three most common types include:

1. Protein concentrates

Made by extracting protein from whole food sources, protein concentrates result in a final product that contains 60-80 percent of calories from protein with the remaining calories from fat and carbohydrates.

2. Protein isolates

Further filtered to remove much of the fat and carbohydrates, protein isolates result in a more highly concentrated form of protein powder. In general, protein isolates typically contain between 90-95 percent protein.

3. Protein hydrolysates

It undergoes a process that breaks the bond between amino acids, creating a type of protein that is thought to be more easily absorbable. Hydrolyzed collagen in one such example.

Best Protein Powders

The best protein powders not only provide you with protein in an easy-to-absorb form, but also supply other nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, herbs and other compounds. These can provide additional health benefits, such as a boost in exercise performance, healthy energy levels and more.

Here’s more about the best protein powders and how each can benefit you:

1. Multi Collagen Protein

As the most abundant form of protein in the body, collagen is found in the muscles, skin, bones and blood vessels. However, collagen levels naturally begin to slowly decline as you get older, so using a collagen powder such as Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein is a smart way to keep your collagen intake up.

Benefits include:

  • Offering support for your hair, skin, nails, gut and joints.

  • Supporting joint health (including support for healthy ligaments and tendons) and joint comfort.

  • Supporting gut health, including supporting a healthy intestinal lining.

  • Taking a hydrolyzed collagen peptides protein powder helps make the collagen easier for the body to use and absorb, so you can better experience the benefits of collagen.

Ancient Nutrition's Multi Collagen Protein formula is the only collagen supplement with a collagen ingredient and a probiotic ingredient backed by multiple human clinical trials and is proven to deliver real results.

This first-of-its-kind collagen formula …

  • Improves the appearance of crow's feet after 28 days and skin tone after 8 weeks.

  • Reduces knee stiffness in a week.

  • Reduces exercise-induced stiffness and discomfort.

  • Promotes healthy hair thickness and growth while reducing hair breakage

  • Improves exercise recovery by 56%.

  • Rapidly reduces joint discomfort in 7 days.

  • Improves stiffness and knee function at 30 days.

2. Multi Collagen Advanced

In the most advanced collagen formula yet, Multi Collagen Advanced is a premium line that targets those exact results — all from select clinically studied ingredients and history’s most powerful superfoods.

Each Multi Collagen Advanced formula is packed with 10 types of collagen from 10 food-based sources, including six premium grass-fed organs as well as a unique, clinically studied blend of superfood ingredients like ashwagandha, red cave salt, curry leaf, Indian globe thistle and more.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect from each Multi Collagen Advanced product. Please see (click the links below) the individual product page for expanded, specific details.

Multi Collagen Advanced Lean Capsules:

  • Burn up to 15% more calories at rest†*

  • 6x more weight loss†**

  • 3x more waist and hip reduction†**

  • Blocks, breaks down and burns fat†**

  • Promotes healthy fat loss†**

  • Increases metabolism†*

  • 4X better body mass index (BMI) improvement†**

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

*Due to key ingredient. Results achieved by day 7 in a 7-day human clinical trial with healthy normal weight and overweight individuals — at rest with no changes to diet or exercise.

**Due to key ingredient. Results achieved in a 16-week human clinical trial with healthy overweight individuals who used this ingredient and followed a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise — compared to diet and exercise alone.

Multi Collagen Advanced Lean Powder:

  • Promotes healthy weight management

  • Promotes fat loss

  • Reduces body fat percentage

  • Supports a healthy, lean body composition

  • Increases muscle mass and strength

  • Boosts energy and reduces fatigue

  • Helps reduce stress-induced food cravings

Multi Collagen Advanced Muscle Capsules:

  • Boosts lean body mass

  • Promotes overall body strength

  • Promotes muscle endurance

  • Promotes healthy body composition

  • Helps promote a healthy response to stress

  • Helps alleviate the effects of stress and tension

  • Helps reduce stress-induced cravings

Multi Collagen Advanced Detox:

  • Supports healthy detoxification

  • Supports healthy liver function

  • Supports a healthy immune system

  • Supports healthy fungal and microbial balance

Multi Collagen Advanced Hydrate (Lemon Lime) or Mixed Berry Flavor:

  • 2x electrolytes vs. leading sports drinks

  • Provides skin and body hydration

  • Hydrates rapidly — faster than water alone

  • Provides rapid absorption of water and key nutrients

  • Provides a real food source of balanced electrolytes

3. Bone Broth Protein Powder

Bone broth is made by simmering different parts of animals, including bones and connective tissues, into a nutrient-boosted broth, which can then be dehydrated and concentrated into a protein powder.

Not only is Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Protein powder highly nutritious, but it’s also available in an assortment of flavors, which is why it’s often dubbed the best tasting protein powder for baked goods and other recipes.

Benefits include:

  • Provides collagen (which is naturally found in bone broth) and 20 grams of protein per serving.

  • Supporting a healthy immune system, thanks to 19 amino acids that support gut health (and the gut houses 70 percent to 80 percent of the immune system).

  • With glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid and 19 amino acids, it offers support for your hair, skin, nails and joints.

Provides a simple-to-mix, on-the-go, no-big-soup-pot-required powder rather than trying to stew true stock from the connective tissue and bone marrow of animals like our ancestors did. There's also a savory, sipping bone broth powder available.

4. Plant Protein (made with hemp and other seeds)

Seeds including hemp, flax, chia, pumpkin and others are jam-packed with protein in addition to beneficial fats and minerals.

Seeds combined with herbs and botanicals, which you’ll find in Ancient Nutrition’s Plant Protein+, together make an easily digestible form of protein, meaning your body is able to metabolize and utilize amino acids to get you closer to your goals.

Benefits include:

  • Easily digestible and uniquely suitable for vegans/vegetarians, and those who avoid dairy/whey/eggs/peas.

  • Containing heart-healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Completely plant-based and can be enjoyed on nearly any diet.

  • With 15 grams of protein per serving, it can help support healthy muscle mass, exercise recovery and performance, and healthy energy levels.

  • Promoting healthy body composition and fat metabolism.

  • Helping to reduce stress-induced food cravings.

5. Whey Protein

Whey is a type of protein found in milk. More specifically, it is the liquid that separates from the curds during the cheese-making process, resulting in a final product that is high in protein.

However, it may also contain lactose, a type of sugar found in milk that can be difficult for certain people to digest. Whey protein isolate is the best whey protein option if you have lactose intolerance, as the lactose content is significantly decreased during processing.

Whey protein may be the right choice for you if you’re looking to increase muscle mass and improve muscle recovery after an intense workout. Whey protein is also sometimes considered a top protein powder for healthy weight management because it can help curb cravings and improve body composition.

Other Considerations

Not all protein powders are created equally, as many are pumped full of fillers, additives and sometimes sugar/artificial sweeteners.

So how can you make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck?

Take a closer look at the ingredients label and skip the supplements that add extra amino acids or fillers like maltodextrin or artificial sweeteners.

Instead, opt for organic or Non-GMO, naturally sweetened protein powders with minimal ingredients and be sure to always purchase from reputable retailers.

It’s important to keep in mind that more is not always better when it comes to protein powder. Always read and follow label directions when using a protein powder.

How much protein per day? Stick to a single serving right before or after working out to maximize muscle gain, or enjoy it throughout the day in your favorite snacks if you’re looking for support in controlling hunger. Additionally, you can add some to your routine if you want to increase your caloric intake for help with weight gain.

Final Thoughts

Protein powder is a common supplement that delivers a convenient and concentrated amount of protein in each serving.

These supplements can be derived from both plant and animal sources, including collagen, bone broth and seeds. Each type of protein powder offers a unique set of nutrients and health benefits and can be used to cater to your specific diet and goals.

Protein powder can be added to many recipes, including smoothies, baked goods or sweets. Coupled with a healthy diet and lifestyle protein powder, using a few of these best protein powders help you reach your fitness goals, increase your protein intake, manage your weight and appetite, and enhance your overall health.

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