If you're embarking on a weight loss journey, a super potent ingredient that has been shown to help you lose (and maintain) weight is protein. And opting to get more of it through a clean protein powder is an easy way to do it. But with so many options out there, which protein powders are best for weight loss?
"Protein plays a big role in weight loss because it keeps us full and satisfied so that we make it to our next meal without snacking in between," says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD. It can also help you increase and maintain muscle mass—something necessary to burn fat, even when you're not working out, says Zeitlin. But, not all protein powders are created equal, and you want to make sure you're choosing one that will support—not derail—your weight loss efforts.
Zeitlin's main suggestion? Focus on the unsweetened kinds. "They won't add in sneaky sugars that could actually be sabotaging you."
And remember, protein powders shouldn't be used as a meal replacement, says Megan Byrd, an RD in Oregon. "Protein powders don't have enough calories or nutrition to be actual meals," she says. Instead, protein powders can be used to make snacks like baked goods and smoothies healthier and more filling, while adding to their nutritional content.
Still, it can be hard to sort through everything on the market, so here a few tips to narrow down your options.
What should I look for in a protein powder if I'm trying to lose weight?
First things first, Byrd suggests looking for a protein powder that is high in fiber, high in protein, and low in carbs. "These types of protein powders will help keep you full longer, curb cravings, and help prevent sugar highs and crashes during the day," she says.
Some other things to keep in mind when making your pick:
Check the label. Make sure you look for something with at least 20 grams of protein, less than 10 grams of total carbohydrates, and at least 3 grams of fiber per scoop. You should also look for protein powders that are naturally-sweetened using ingredients like monk fruit extract, stevia, and natural flavors. "Avoid protein powders that use sucralose, sugar alcohols, aspartame, Splenda, and other artificial sweeteners," says Byrd. She also suggests avoiding milk powders, milk solids, and gluten, since they are unnecessary fillers that can cause bloating and gastrointestinal issues.
Opt for a protein blend if you're going plant-based. Whey, casein, or egg-based proteins are complete proteins, meaning they have all nine essential amino acids that allow your body to better absorb and make the most of your protein source. If you're opting for a plant-based protein, look for a blend (like pea and rice)—these can also feature a complete amino acid profile.
Look for something with at least 100-150 calories per serving. This range is typically average for a protein powder, says Bryd. "Anything lower and I would question the ingredients and [satiety]. Anything higher and I would assume there are more fats and carbs than needed in that protein powder," explains Byrd.
Consider the flavor. If you're new to protein powder, start with classic flavors, like vanilla or chocolate, says Byrd, and if you don't enjoy them, you can use them up by mixing them into foods like pancakes, waffles, protein donuts, smoothies and baked items, too.
Opt for a powder made with natural ingredients and added benefits. "It's always a bonus when protein powders have extra health benefits, such as added greens, prebiotics, probiotics, essential vitamins and minerals, and electrolytes," says Byrd.
Keeping that in mind, we asked nutritionists for their picks of the best protein powders for weight loss. Here are 17 awesome options.
1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Isolate
"This protein powder is a mixture of whey protein and hydrolyzed isolate, which means it is not only quick digesting, but also contains a higher amount of protein per serving than regular whey protein which is great for building lean muscle," says Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "It is also low fat and contains only a gram of carbohydrates for anyone watching their carb intake."
What's more, since the supplements aren't closely regulated, you can feel secure using Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard because the ingredients have been verified by a third party called Informed Choice, Valdez adds.
Per serving (serving size: 1 scoop/31 grams): 110 calories, 0.5 g fat, 190 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 25 g protein
2. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
Not only is Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides packed with 18 grams of protein to stimulate lean muscle growth and help combat cravings, but it also contains 20 grams of collagen peptides, which promote joint health as well as hyaluronic acid to keep your skin glowing, says Valdez. "The peptides are the perfect addition to your morning coffee or afternoon smoothie to get that extra protein boost and they’re NSF verified, so you can be confident in the ingredients you're choosing with each sip," he says.
Per serving (serving size: 2 scoops/20 grams): 70 calories, 110 mg sodium, 18 g protein
3. Garden of Life Meal Vanilla Powder
"This vegan protein powder is made from a blend of pea protein, brown rice proteins and a combination of whole grains including millet, quinoa, amaranth as well as seeds like chia, flax and lentil," says Valdez.
Per serving (serving size:1 scoop/36 grams): 130 calories, 2 g fat, 190 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 20 g protein
4. RSP Nutrition AvoCollagen Protein Powder
"People tend to forget that fat is very satiating, so adding a fat-based product like AvoCollagen can [provide] the satiety one needs to prevent overeating later," says Monica Auslander Moreno, RD, founder of Essence Nutrition. Plus the oleic acids in the avocado oil help fight inflammation, and the collagen peptides go easy on the gut, and repair damaged tissue and muscles post-workout, she says.
Per serving: 90 calories, 4 g fat, (1 g sat fat), 4 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 10 g protein
5. Quest Multi-Purpose Protein Powder
Adding powder to smoothies is nice and all, but this powder can be baked into peanut butter bars, tossed into tomato sauce, and mixed right into oatmeal.
Plus, "One scoop has only 100 calories and no sugar since it’s simply pure protein which makes it a perfect addition to any recipe to increase its nutrient density," says Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD.
Per serving: 100 calories, 0.5 g fat, (0 g sat fat), <1 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 115 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 23 g protein
6. Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein Powder
With this bone both protein powder, you'll get in 20 grams of protein per serving. Not only that, but the blend also contains hydrolyzed collagen, so you'll be giving some extra support to your gut and skin too. Byrd also loves that the powder is made with natural ingredients. "This protein powder has minimal ingredients that are all-natural, which is amazing. It also has 20 grams of protein per scoop, is gluten-free, and doesn't have any added sugars." With nearly 6,000 positive reviews on Amazon, this powder is a fan-favorite, and you don't have to stick with your basic vanilla flavor. It's available in chocolate and turmeric too, unless you prefer the unflavored option.
Per serving: 90 calories, <1 g fat, (n/a g sat fat), 2 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 150 mg sodium, n/a g fiber, 20 g protein
7. Isopure Whey Protein Isolate Powder
Instead of adding a spoonful of honey or cocoa powder to your morning oatmeal, Leah Kaufman, RD, suggests sprinkling a serving of this powder on top instead since it's sweetened with monk fruit, rounding out its sugar count to only three grams. It packs a huge punch of protein (25 grams, to be exact), in addition to satisfying even the pickiest sweet tooth.
Per serving: 120 calories, 0 g fat, (0 g sat fat), 4 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 240 mg sodium, 25 g protein
8. Orgain Grass-Fed Whey
It's simple: Tasty protein powders are often hard to come by. But "Orgain is a superior option," says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CEO of The NY Nutrition Group, a private New York City-based nutrition practice. Snag this one when you want a good protein powder with zero artificial ingredients or sweeteners.
Per serving: 150 calories, 3.5 g fat, (1.5 g sat fat), 14 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 140 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 21 g protein
9. Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein
“Ascent uses only natural ingredients and it has 25 grams of protein for only 110 to 130 calories, depending on the flavor," says Tara Collingwood, RD, team dietitian for the Orlando Magic. "It’s also an excellent source of all essential amino acids.”
Per serving: 110 calories, 1 g fat, (0 g sat fat), 2 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 30 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 25 g protein
10. Naked Nutrition Egg White Protein
“Naked Nutrition uses clean ingredients and non-GMO eggs, and the only other ingredient is sunflower lecithin," says Collingwood. "It doesn’t have any added sweeteners or colors, and it packs 25 grams of protein for 110 calories.”
Per serving: 110 calories, 0 g fat, (0 g sat fat), 2 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 380 mg sodium, <1 g fiber, 25 g protein
11. Navitas Organics Cacao & Greens Essential Blend
"This is a great vegan blend that consists of pea, pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds, flax, and hemp," says Lauren Antonucci, RD. She also adds that it has added greens for fiber, as well as probiotics for gut health, which solidifies its place on the list of best protein powders for weight loss.
Per serving: 100 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g sat), 200 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 12 g protein
12. Vega Protein & Greens
“I like Vega because it includes many nutrients that I’m interested in,” such as pea protein, brown rice protein, and organic kale powder, says Sharon Palmer, RD. It's a tasty vegan option, as well.
Per serving: 120 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g sat), 270 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 20 g protein
13. NOW Sports Nutrition Soy Protein Isolate Unflavored Powder
This unflavored soy protein power offers 20 grams of protein, which is helpful for keeping you full, says Starla Garcia, RD, owner of The Healthy Shine in Houston. She recommends adding this to a smoothie with fruits and veggies blended in to increase the duration of fullness and bump up fiber.
Per serving: 90 calories, 0.5 g fat, 170 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 20 g protein
14. Momentous Essential Plant-Based Protein Powder
This plant-based protein powder comes with 5 grams of fiber per scoop and 20 grams of protein. It's brown rice and pea protein blend give it more vitamins, minerals, and fiber per scoop than other plant-based options, making it a well-rounded option for those wanting to go the vegan and gluten-free route, says Garcia.
Per serving: 140 calories, 3 g fat, 350 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 20 g protein
15. NOW Sports Nutrition Pea Protein Unflavored Powder
“Pea protein powders are great because they don't cause a lot of GI issues to pop up for those that use them,” says Garcia. “They’re also super easy to blend and leave minimal after-taste.” Bless.
Per serving: 120 calories, 2 g fat, 320 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 24 g protein
16. OWYN Vegan Plant-Based Protein Powder
“The protein powder is made up of a blend of pea, pumpkin, and chia and is a great option for those with issues like IBS or IBD,” says Garcia, since it's easy to digest. Available in flavors like chocolate and vanilla, one scoop of this powder offers 20 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat (from the seed blend).
“This kind of heart-healthy fat is great for overall taste, satiety, and texture. This brand is also free of all allergens,” she says.
Per serving: 140 calories, 3 g fat, 240 mg sodium, 7 g carbs, 4 g sugar, 20 g protein
17. Klean Athlete Whey Protein Isolate
This option is also high in protein with 20 grams per scoop, and also offers electrolytes for athletes, which can come in handy as a replenishing drink post-workout, says Garcia.
“This would be best used for recovery to reduce the likelihood of sugar cravings and energy crashes that lead to excessive snacking or overeating at meal times later in the day,” she explains. Mix one up and drink right after a sweat session for max benefit in the muscle-building and craving-crushing departments.
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