How To Choose The Best Protein Powder

By Adrian Oaks / January 16, 2016

​Choosing a protein powder in today’s market can be a daunting task. There over 1000 competing brands and each of them offers something different. Some contain just protein powder, while others have added vitamins or supplements in them. Selecting the right protein powder will depend on the reason you need to supplement with protein. For instance, if you are a body builder, you may need a powder that is fortified with creatine and several different types of vitamins to ensure maximum recovery. Someone who is less active may only require a basic whey isolate to supplement their protein intake. If you are a vegan you will want a non-animal based protein powder. Luckily, there are protein supplements on the market today to suit almost anyone’s need.

Protein powders guide

Below we have created a table with easily sortable 6 categories to help you find the right supplement to suit your lifestyle and needs. What follows is a rundown of each category.

Protein type

There are many different types of protein on the market. There is a wide variety to choose from, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Generally, protein powders are processed in one of 3 ways:

A protein isolate is exactly what it sounds like. They are mostly comprised of protein and almost nothing else. Most of the lactose, carbohydrates, cholesterol, and fat solids have been processed out. This may be beneficial to those who are lactose intolerant (in the case of whey) or trying to avoid certain carbohydrates. Isolates are about 90% protein volume.

Protein concentrates are slightly less refined than isolates. They still have some of their compounds intact but can still be low in fat and cholesterols. Some whey concentrates have moderate to high levels of carbohydrates in them. Concentrates can be anywhere from 60-80% protein by volume.

Protein hydrolysate is a highly processed form of protein. Hydroxylation refers to the process of adding water molecules to a substance to degrade it down to a base property. This is done to protein to make it more digestible. You will often see the term “predigested” in place of the word hydolysate. There is some debate as to effectiveness of this method. In general the cost will of these products will be slightly higher.

Protein Source

To further complicate things there are quite a few sources that protein powders are created from.

Whey is the common and most basic type of protein powder. Whey protein is created from cows milk. It is a byproduct of cheese serum production. Due to this process whey protein typically has a low amount of lactose, which can be beneficial to those who are lactose intolerant. Since it is sourced from an animal product, whey protein has a complete branched chain amino acid profile. This is important if you are on an intensive weight training program. A full amino acid profile will stimulate protein creation and will be beneficial to post workout recovery.

Casein protein is another component of cows milk. Manufacturers will often add this to whey powders due to the synergistic effect it has on protein release. Casein is a slow burning form of milk protein. When combined with the faster burning whey it will allow for a sustained release of amino acids over time. You can also elect to go with a casein only blend. This type of protein is better as a post workout/before bed shake. The catch is that casein can be more difficult to break down than whey. You may want to avoid this type of protein if you have digestive issues.

As an added bonus, casein is very high in calcium and phosphorus.

Soy protein is created from processed soybeans. Soy is mostly used as a food additive in many vegan dishes as a substitute for animal proteins. Soy based product are often marketed as a healthy alternative to animal based ones, and rightly so. Soybeans are low in LDL (the bad cholesterol) and contain a small amount of ALA. The phytochemicals present in ALA have been found to have a positive effect on controlling blood sugar in diabetics. It has also been shown to reduce the risks of certain cancers. Soy is a good alternative to animal based powders because it is one of the few vegetable foods that contain all eight essential amino acids. For these reasons, soy based protein powders have recently gained popularity as a healthy vegetarian protein powder.

Unfortunately, soy has recently come under much controversy. Some people can have a bad reaction to soy due to its high phytic acid content. Phytic acid is an “anti-nutrient” that is found in great quantities in soy. If you have never had soy before you should start with small doses to ensure you can tolerate this type of protein supplement.

Green or plant based powders are so named due to their green color. They are the most diverse of the protein powders and are mostly comprised of vegetables and nuts or seeds. They can contain: chia seeds, hemp, peas, chlorella, and various sprouts like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, garbanzo beans and flax seeds. Those who are most concerned about their overall health should probably stick to this category. Plant based protein generally tends to be very high in micronutrients which will help to support your overall health. The only downside to this type of protein is the incomplete (unless your powder contains chlorella, of course) amino acid profile. Those who are on a rigorous weight training program should opt for a more complete protein supplement.

Rice protein is somewhat rare. Typically it is very easy to digest. This type of protein is good for people who are gluten intolerant or have issues with soy and lactose. However unless additional amino acids have been added to it the profile will be incomplete. We have noticed that it doesn’t provide as much protein assimilation as other types of powders. Oftentimes this type will be mixed with the green powders.

Added vitamins

Many manufacturers will add additional supplements in the form of vitamins to their protein powders. For the majority, a simple protein only mix should suffice. However, if you are an athlete or weightlifter, these additional supplements may be of benefit to you. Here are some of the most common type of added vitamins and their functions:

Creatine is a popular supplement that helps the body produce energy and form muscle tissue. Creatine increases the amount of ATP in the body. ATP is a coenzyme that is responsible for much of the energy movement and DNA creation throughout the body. This supplement can provide weight lifters with a slight increase in muscle strength and mass when taken regularly. Creatine has a synergistic effect with carbohydrates and amino acids, so you will often times see this supplement included in whey based protein mixes.

Superfoods can provide the body with mega doses of needed vitamins and nutrients. For example, one product we looked at contained over 6 different berries and green sea vegetables. Powder with this type of vitamin profile will be beneficial to long term health. To read more about superfoods check out this article here.

Beneficial herbs such as milk thistle, astragulas, ginseng, or ginger. These herbs can provide a wide range of benefits, from additional boosts to overall energy levels or improved immune function. Some herbs are added simply to improve the taste. Others are added to improve digestion and protein assimilation. You will mostly find added herbs in the green protein powders.

Non-essential amino acids are often added to many protein mixes. These can provide additional benefits in the form of faster muscle recovery or cardiovascular support.


Organic products are produced using sustainable farming practices. They contain ingredients in them that are only produced under tightly controlled conditions. Products bearing this designation are produced without using chemical pesticides or genetically modified seed. Organic farms are not allowed to use hormones or antibiotics on their livestock. We have included this category for those who are concerned about their long term health.


This category is for simple notes about the product. Some products offer unique benefits that are typically not found among other products of the same type. For example, one product we tested was a protein powder and coffee mix.


We elected not to include a price row due to the simple fact that many of these products come in varying sizes. There is quite literally a size to suite almost any budget. Amazon will have a size selector on most product pages or offer the same product in a smaller/larger size.


Below we have a created a simple list with many different sortable categories. This list is by no means all inclusive, as that would make it over 1000+ columns long. Our aim in creating this list was to ensure that there was a protein product to match every type of consumer. Here are the categories: