Top 10 Protein Supplements
Protein is an essential component of our diet and plays a significant role in the post-workout recovery process.
While it is possible to receive the recommended amount through food itself, anyone with a busy schedule will know that this is easier said than done. Furthermore, if you’re also involved in a workout program, you’re recommended intake will be higher and even more difficult to achieve.
Therefore, protein supplements have become an essential part of the recovery process for those who exercise regularly. Before we jump into our list of Top 10 Protein Supplements, it’s a good idea to understand why we need protein, how it works, and how much is usually recommended.
What does protein do for you?
Protein is an essential building block of all life, but in the sense of exercise and training, the main purpose of protein supplements, such as casein protein powders, is to enhance recovery of the muscle tissue.
When you work out, especially in the form of resistance training or powerlifting, you are basically damaging your muscles and allowing them to recover, ultimately making them bigger and stronger as they are required to adapt to a heavier workload.
If you don’t have adequate protein intake, the recovery process could take longer and also be less effective overall. If you haven’t taken protein supplements before, then you may not notice this, but you will likely notice a difference between taking and not taking a protein supplement.
By taking a protein supplement shortly after your workout, such as a whey protein powder, you are supplying your muscles with the building blocks it needs to repair and make your muscles stronger. This means the benefits are two-fold; you will be more recovered/prepared for your next workout, allowing you to get the most out of that workout, and you will also facilitate the increase in strength after your workouts.
These two benefits combined make protein supplementation a no-brainer if you are looking to maximize your results.
How much protein do you need?
In order to know how much protein powder you should take, it’s best to understand how much protein your body needs normally, and how much more protein your body needs when you’re working out.
Remember, not all workouts are the same, and the amount of additional protein you need will depend on a variety of factors, but the main factor is how much work you’re placing solely on your muscles during the workout. For example, powerlifters will use protein supplements much more than frequently and in higher doses than marathon runners.
Protein Supplement Dose for Different Workouts
The following guidelines are provided by the American College of Sports Medicine:
Average Person (no specific exercise program)
For the average person who isn’t restricted to the couch 24/7, but also isn’t involved in any particular exercise programs, the general recommendation is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is the same as 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 75kg/165lbs, this would amount to a daily intake of about 60 grams of protein.
Regular Weight Training or High Intensity Activity
Assuming you’re considering protein supplements, chances are you are also involved in some form of regular exercise, in which case your protein intake will likely need to be increased in order to achieve the best results.
For those who are regularly lifting
Many athletes that place a major focus on building muscle strength, such as powerlifters and bodybuilders, will find increased benefits from
What are the best types of protein supplements?
The best type of protein supplement is typically whey protein, as it allows for much faster absorption of this highly pure protein. This is by far the most common type of protein supplement and usually comes in a powder form, which is why you may always hear the term whey protein powder a lot when looking into protein supplements.
Aside from making sure you’re getting a good whey protein powder, you should also consider any other dietary restrictions you may have. For example, those who are vegetarian or vegan may want to confirm that the product is manufactured in a manner that supports that.
Additionally, you should also consider any allergies that you may have and make sure that your protein supplements won’t aggravate those. You can usually find this information under the ingredients on the label, usually on the back of the container.
Lastly, there are other supplements that help with protein synthesis, and while they may not be as effective as taking a whey protein powder in that regard, they can help provide an extra boost. Branched chain amino acids are an example of this, whereby many athletes now take a protein powder branched chain amino acid stack.
When should you take protein supplements?
Protein supplements are most commonly taken after exercise, but the sooner you can consume protein after exercise, the better.
Ideally, you will eat a meal with high protein content or take your whey protein powder within an hour after exercise. This will help repair the muscle tissue that you damaged by working out, and subsequently, you are helping your muscles get bigger and stronger.
Lesser known are the benefits of taking protein supplements before a workout. While it may not have quite the effect as taking protein immediately after a workout, it certainly helps and can add to your results. Taking protein before a workout can improve overall body composition, allowing you to increase your lean mass (i.e. build muscle), while cutting fat at the same time.
What is the difference between whey protein and casein protein?
The main difference between whey protein and casein protein is the absorption rate. Casein protein thickens in the stomach due to the acidic environment and therefore takes longer to break down into its basic amino acid components.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a protein to take immediately before or after a workout, we would suggest whey protein, as you will provide your body with the protein it needs almost immediately. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something to have in the morning and keep you sustained throughout the day, or want something before bed, then casein protein could be a nice option. Lots of people take both depending on their schedules and how much protein they consume in their normal food diet.
A Review of the Top 10 Protein Supplements
In this section we will provide a list of our Top 10 Protein Supplements with an aim of providing a variety of different types of protein supplements. We will include whey protein, casein protein, and in different formats such as powder, bars, vegan, etc. Therefore, consider this a list of Top 10 Overall Protein Supplements in no particular order.
#1 best seller vegan protein powder
Top Organic & Vegan Protein Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~$1
If this were a list of the Top 10 vegan protein powders, the Orgain organic protein powder would be at the top. This is a great all-around plant-based protein powder that supplies you with 21 grams of protein per serving with a complete amino acid
In this case, the USDA-certified protein is derived from organic sprouted brown rice, hemp, sprouted chia, and peas. There is no added sugar (organic Stevia is the 2nd last ingredient), no gluten, no soy, no milk products, and no GMOs. This makes it a great option for those with aversions to milk protein and other allergies, or those who simply want to maintain their organic plant-based diet without concern.
While we always place a priority on function/effectiveness, one of the things we really like about this protein powder is the taste. Vegan protein powders are often known to be accompanied by a chalky or bitter aftertaste, but Orgain does a great job minimizing that as much as possible. Of course, this will also depend on what you’re mixing it with, but generally speaking, this protein powder has the best and most mixable taste for a vegan protein powder.
#1 best seller protein bars
Top Protein Bar
Cost Per Bar: ~$2
Number of Bars: 12
Quest Nutrition is a brand that many people find create high quality and reliable products. They are definitely among the Top 10 protein bars, and given their track record and constant goal of improvement, they belong in the Top 10 overall protein supplements list as well.
Most of the Quest protein bars will come with about 21 grams of protein and 4 grams of net carbs. Given the type of bar, the fat content is fairly low, usually around 9 grams, which isn’t a problem if you are routinely exercising (use it for fuel!).
Additionally, these bars are high in fiber and low in sodium, and only have 190 calories, so they do have some other healthy aspects aside from the protein.
The protein itself comes from whey and milk protein isolates, so they may not be the best if you have an aversion to milk protein. They don’t contain any gluten or soy ingredients, and they are also free of sugar, albeit some of their bars contain Erythritol, Stevia, and/or Sucralose as added sweeteners.
Protein bars can represent arguably the most convenient form of protein supplementation. Simply grab a bar, take it with you for later, and you can eat it whenever you want without having to mix anything.
The main thing about these bars that people either love or hate is their tendency to optimize the recipe. Over time, they have used various different sources of fiber in
Additionally, some of their new flavors can be weird, especially the pumpkin pie one, which is known to be pretty gross, but all of their staple flavors are actually quite good. If you’re not used to protein bars, any bar you eat will take a little getting used to, so don’t expect a Snickers. That being said, most people find these pretty tasty especially with the staple flavors that are more common across different brands of protein bars.
#1 best Seller in Whey Protein Isolate Powders
Top Whey Protein Isolate Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~$1
The Cellucor Cor-Performance Whey Protein Isolate is one of the best all-around whey protein powders on the market and would likely top the list of Top 10 Whey Protein Powders. It’s an effective protein supplement that provides great results, while still being tasty and having good overall value.
Furthermore, this whey protein powder contains 5.5 grams of branched chain amino acids as well as naturally occurring digestive enzymes.
While this protein powder is definitely effective and certified under Informed Choice, it may not be the best for those looking for a more plant-based option or those who have allergies. Cellucor Cor-Performance whey protein is technically gluten-free, but it does contain artificial flavors, milk, and soy. For those concerned about allergies, they do declare that it was produced in a facility that also manufactures products containing milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts.
Overall, this is an excellent all-around whey protein powder that gets the job done while also serving as a tasty treat, but has the downside of not being organic, vegan, or free of artificial flavors.
Top Whey Protein Isolate Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~ $0.85
The name says it all.
In each serving of this whey protein isolate, you will receive 24 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, only 1.5 grams of fat, and a mere 130 grams of sodium, that latter being one of the lower amounts you will find in a protein powder. Additionally, this all amounts to 120 calories, which quite low considering the amount of nutritional benefit you will be receiving from this protein powder.
The Optimum Nutrition whey protein
The main downside of this whey protein powder is that it contains milk and soy ingredients, as well as artificial flavors. If you’re vegan or sensitive to those ingredients, then you may be wise to look elsewhere. However, for those who are fortunate enough to not have to worry about that, this is an excellent and reliable whey protein powder.
Top Natural Whey Protein Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~$0.9
This may not be the most popular whey protein powder out there, but it turns out to be a great protein supplement. It’s widely available and bridges the gap between standard protein powders and organic vegan protein powders. It usually comes in a smaller quantity of 1.85 pounds, but it’s also cheaper than a lot of other options as well.
This natural whey protein is sourced from grass-fed cows, so while it contains milk, it is also free of bovine growth hormone and any antibiotics. It’s also gluten free, and what we really like is that it’s tested by a third party to ensure no toxic heavy metals or pesticide residues. So to recap, there is milk and soy, but there is no gluten, hormones or antibiotics, and no toxic metals or pesticide residues.
There are about 27 servings per container, with each serving containing 24 grams of protein. With only 120 calories, it’s a great option for those looking to supplement while cutting weight, and there’s also only 65mg of sodium, 1 gram of fat, and 3 grams of carbs. This is excellent in terms of the nutritional value in each serving, especially when compared with some of the other whey protein isolates.
Overall, this is a good all-around protein powder that comes in a smaller quantity and provides some naturally sourced protein, but isn’t vegan.
Consumers Pick for Natural Protein Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~$1
While this protein powder isn’t vegan, it would likely be #1 on a Top 10 Natural Whey Protein list. The reason it isn’t vegan is because it contains milk ingredients, but aside from that it’s an incredibly effective and clean protein powder that, and even when considering the milk ingredients, they are 100% Grade-A and free of any bovine growth hormone.
Here is a list of what the TSG all natural whey protein powder does NOT contain: soy, salt, corn, yeast, GMOs, fillers, wheat, starch, gluten, added sugar, preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.
The one thing to note about the soy is that while this protein powder doesn’t include any actual soy ingredients, it is made in a facility that makes other products containing soy.
In one zip-lock pack you will get 2 pounds of this all natural protein, which amounts to 30 servings per pack. In each serving you will find 25 grams of protein and only 125 calories, 2 grams of fat, 55mg of sodium, and 1.5 grams of carbs.
The fact that this whey protein powder is unflavored doesn’t necessarily mean it’s tasteless. Whey has a natural flavor inherent to it, so it’s pretty hard to strip it of its natural flavor while maintaining the integrity of the product. That being said, as far as unflavored protein powders go, this is the best tasting in our opinion, and you can really make a delicious drink simply by adding it to your smoothie or mixing it with something else that you like.
Overall, this is a great all-natural unflavored protein powder that provides excellent nutritional value in each serving. It is a little more expensive compared to some other popular brands, but it’s a great choice for those looking for pure protein and nothing else.
Top Casein Protein Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~$1
Once again, Optimum Nutrition is on a list of Top 10 Protein Powders, but in this case, it comes in a 100% pure casein form. As we mentioned above, the main difference between whey protein and casein protein is that casein protein is absorbed at a slower rate. This makes it ideal as a supplement between meals, in the evening before bed, or at breakfast for a sustained protein intake throughout the morning.
These tubs of Optimum Nutrition casein protein powder usually come in a 4 pound size, and while they’re a bit larger quantity, they offer good value considering how much you get.
There are 55 servings in each of these 4 pound tubs, with each serving containing 24 grams of slow-digesting micellar casein protein, as well as 5 grams of naturally occurring branched chain amino acids and 5 grams of glutamine and glutamic acid. Additionally, each serving contains about 60% of your recommended daily intake of calcium, as well as 120 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and 240mg of sodium. Allergen information includes the use of milk and soy ingredients, and there are also artificial colors and sucralose.
Overall, this is a great bang-for-your-buck casein protein powder. It is great in terms of effectiveness, but doesn’t represent a good option for those who need to avoid milk or soy ingredients.
Top 100% Micellar Casein Protein Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~$1.20
If it weren’t for the cost, this would be at the top of almost everyone’s Top 10 Casien Protein Powders, but as they say, you get what you pay for. In this case, you’re getting pure high quality casein protein powder with no other ingredients!
The only ingredient in this tub is 100% micellar casein protein, with no growth hormones, no rGBH, and no rBST. This protein powder does not contain any GMOs, soy, gluten, artificial colors, artificial flavors, or artificial sweeteners. Additionally, it’s cold processed, so there isn’t any contamination from chemicals, additives, or toxic heavy metals.
The tubs are usually 5lbs and provide 76 servings per tub. In each serving of Naked casein protein powder, you will receive 26 grams of protein and 5.4 grams of branched chain amino acids. Additionally, there are only 2 grams of sugar, zero carbs otherwise, 110 calories, zero grams of fat, and only 20 mg of sodium!
The main downside with this casein protein is the taste and texture. The natural taste of casein protein isn’t good, and it’s quite powdery, so it can clump up easily when you’re trying to mix it. While you can mix it with water, it will taste much better if you mix it with something like almond milk. The reason the taste isn’t at the same level as other brands is because they keep this protein powder so clean and pure, so they are really prioritizing health and effectiveness over taste, which in our opinion is a great thing (just too bad it can’t be both)!
Overall, this is a great form of clean and pure casein protein powder. It’s definitely on the more expensive side of protein powders, but you’re getting the absolute most out of every serving, so it’s definitely up there as one of the most effective, and you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re purchasing a clean and reliable product. However, please keep in mind that this does use rBGH-free skim milk in the process, so it’s not vegan and is not ideal for those sensitive to milk products.
Top Vegan Superfood & Protein Powder
Cost Per Serving: ~$0.4
This is another vegan protein powder that would be found high on any list of Top 10 vegan protein powders. The protein comes primarily from organic brown rice and also comes with Vitamin B-12 and Spirulina Protein. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and GMO-free. It’s also certified in many manufacturing and safety regards, so you can be sure that this isn’t a gimmick.
Each pouch of Raw Vegan protein powder is about 2.5 pounds and contains 54 servings. In each serving you will receive 21 grams of protein, 74 calories, 3 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of fat. While it doesn’t contain any added sugar, there is a bit of Stevia.
The protein content per serving is a little on the lower end compared to many other brands, but you can adjust this by increasing your serving size or taking a little more at some other point in the day. However, this will also mean that it won’t last as long.
In terms of taste and texture, most people are fine with the taste, especially if they mix it with something else that is flavored. If you’re just mixing it with water then it may take a little getting used to. The texture is pretty bad when mixed with water, but if you have it in something like a smoothie, or cereal where there is a wide range of textures, then you won’t notice it nearly as much.
Overall, this is a very healthy alternative to most protein powders and is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to stick to a vegan diet. The taste and texture aren’t great, but you can play with this to make it more appealing, and your body will certainly thank you!
Chocolate Protein Bars
Cost Per Serving: ~$1.3
I’ve always been a fan of CLIF bars. They are always great at creating quality all-around products at good value, and as a bonus, they’re usually pretty tasty too. Their protein bars are no different. Each CLIF Builder’s protein bar contains 20 grams of protein, but compared to protein isolates, they contain higher amounts of all other ingredients. For example, there are 29 grams of total carbs (2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of insoluble fiber, 21 grams of sugar, with 6 grams remaining).
It isn’t necessarily a bad thing that these protein bars contain lots of other ingredients as well. If you’re looking for a general workout recovery snack, then these are perfect as you need lots of other nutrients to refuel as well. The carbs will help get you prepared for the next workout, there is a low but usable amount of fat (10 grams), and there are 280 total calories per bar. So while you’re not necessarily just targeting muscle growth and muscle strength, you are instead consuming something for all-around recovery.
Most of the CLIF Buildr’s protein bars contain nuts, soy, and may also contain traces of milk, wheat, and tree nuts. They taste great, but the potential inclusion of allergens limit these protein bars to those who aren’t sensitive to any of those types of foods, and those who are not maintaining a vegan diet.
Overall, these are good protein bars that offer all-around workout recovery support at a decent cost and good taste, but fall short in addressing issues surrounding potential allergens or vegan diets.