By Dr. Josh Axe
Once considered to be a supplement mostly for bodybuilders and professional athletes, protein powder has come a far way. With dozens of types now available, protein powders have gained widespread popularity among anyone and everyone looking to gain muscle mass and generally increase their protein intake.
The potential benefits of protein powder extend way beyond the gym; this superstar supplement may help with everything from supporting skin health to healthy immune system function.
Produced from both plant-based and animal sources — such as bone broth, pea, 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.
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:
- Bone broth
- Mixed plant proteins (usually grains/seeds)
- Brown rice
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:
Protein concentrates: made by extracting protein from whole food sources, resulting in a final product that contains 60-80 percent of calories from protein with the remaining calories from fat and carbohydrates.
Protein isolates: further filtered to remove much of the fat and carbohydrates, resulting in a more highly concentrated form of protein powder. In general, protein isolates typically contain between 90-95 percent protein.
Protein hydrolysates: undergoes a process that breaks the bond between amino acids, creating a type of protein that is thought to be more easily absorbable.
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.
- 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.
The new Multi Collagen Protein formula is the only one 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. Collagen Peptides
Ancient Nutrition's new Collagen Peptides — which are made with clinically studied ingredients that provide several different types of collagen — can deliver results in as little as one day.
Peptides are made up of chains of amino acids. They have been especially noted for being small enough to help maximize absorption, so they can really make a difference when you supplement with them regularly. Due to their high bioavailability, they can be absorbed into the bloodstream more readily than regular collagen protein.
- Joint support, such as helping maintain healthy cartilage and reducing exercise-induced joint discomfort.
- Gut support, including an Immune formula that supports a healthy immune system and healthy digestion.
- Skin support, such as improving skin tone after 8 weeks and crow's feet after only 4 weeks.
- Support for hair and nails, including promoting healthy hair thickness as well as growth with a reduction in hair breakage.
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.
- 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 acid, 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.
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.
- Easily digestible and uniquely suitable for vegans/vegetarians, and those who avoid dairy/whey/eggs/peas — Keto Plant Protein is ideal for those on a low-carb, plant-based diet.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food and nutrition. He operates leading natural health website DrAxe.com and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health supplement company. He’s also author of the books Eat Dirt, Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, Keto Diet, Collagen Diet and Ancient Remedies.