Close up of a man holding a scoop of chocolate protein powder

Looking for a New Protein Powder? Here Are 10 of the Best

For everyone from keto dieters to plant-based eaters.
By Alicia Tyler
May 21, 2024

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There’s not much that causes supplement shoppers’ overwhelm quite like protein powders. With countless protein types, loud labels, endless claims, nutrient additions, and dirty ingredient omissions, it’s a dizzying mix of things to consider. According to Grand View Research, in 2021 the global protein supplement market was 20.47 billion. Protein powders held 60 percent of the revenue share, and it is likely to continue to grow.

That’s why we’re taking the complex world of protein powders and breaking it down to the ten best protein options for your goals and nutritional needs. But first, let’s start with a few basics.

What Does Protein Powder Do for the Body

Protein is a powerhouse for the active, male body. Not only is it necessary for building tissues (1) (think muscle, bone, and connective tissues like cartilage and skin and hair), it’s also needed to produce peptide hormones (growth hormone, leptin, insulin, glucagon), and it supports the immune system (2).

It’s also the most filling macronutrient, which helps keep hunger at bay throughout the day. And because it’s so transportable, it’s a quick and easy meal on the go with nothing more than a quick shake of a cup.

What Should You Look for In a Protein Powder?

This may sound obvious but look for a protein powder that is made of mostly protein, not filler ingredients. Look at the serving size, which will list a gram number (usually around 25 to 30 grams of powder in a serving), and see how many grams of that are made up of protein (typically 20 to 25 grams).

“Your protein powder should be about 70 to 85 percent protein,” explains Brian St. Pierre, Director of Nutrition at Precision Nutrition, one of the world’s largest private coaching and education companies. “Plant-based protein powders are usually at the lower end of this range, perhaps a tad below, since they are inherently less protein-dense. Animal-based protein powders should be at the higher end of this range. This ensures you are getting mostly protein, rather than fillers.”

St. Pierre says it’s helpful to seek out protein powders that contain protease enzymes (enzymes that break down protein) but as far as added vitamins and nutrients, “If you need other supplements, it is generally best to get them separately, so the right dosages can be consumed.”

Always seek out reputable, well-established brands and look for third-party testing verification to ensure the protein you’re purchasing isn’t laden with cheap fillers. Third-party approvals such as NSF International, Informed-Choice, and ConsumerLab are good ones to seek out.

What Should You Avoid?

Steer clear of products with undisclosed “proprietary blends,” products with a low percentage of protein and aren’t third-party tested in some way.

There is one exception for plant-based shoppers: Some companies combine plant-based proteins like rice and pea or hemp and pea to ensure a complete and high-quality amino acid profile.

What Is the Best Protein Powder for Men to Build Muscle?

Historically, whey protein was touted as the best protein for building muscle, but it’s not quite that simple. “Some research (3) shows casein to be equally or more effective,” explains St. Pierre. “Other research shows plant proteins like soy to be equally or almost as effective. However, most of these studies look at short-term markers like muscle-protein synthesis, not actual outcomes like pounds of muscle gained.”

For muscle building, it’s important to get enough protein, well spread out across meals. A systematic review of studies published in 2021 found that animal protein tends to have a more favorable effect on lean mass compared to plant protein, and the benefit appears more pronounced in younger adults. But, the good news for opening up options based on your diet style and any potential allergies is that protein source is not likely to have an impact on muscle strength.

Whey, casein, egg, and blends like pea and rice (or pea/hemp, pea/pumpkin) for plant-based eaters “are excellent choices,” says St.Pierre, “as the mix fills in the amino acid gaps of each individual source.” Soy is another solid option, though he recommends limiting intake to 1 to 2 scoops at most, especially if you’re eating other soy-based foods.

“It’s important to note that plant protein is generally not as well absorbed as animal protein. So while it can build muscle effectively, you do tend to have to consume just a bit more of it, about 10% more,” says St. Pierre.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t address the shiny object in the room: collagen. Despite its popularity and benefits for joints, skin, and hair, it’s not a complete protein, so on its own, it wouldn’t have the same muscle-benefitting tributes. Instead, look for protein powders that contain added collagen but are not the sole protein source.

How Much Protein Should You Consume In a Day?

According to various goals and lifestyles, Brian St. Pierre offers guidance in protein requirements per day. This includes your daily servings of protein powder as well as what you’d obtain from food. The numbers below are for an animal-based or ominivore diet. Add 10 percent to the numbers below only if your diet is fully plant-based or vegan.

Muscle growth: 1.6-2.2 g/kg (or about 0.75-1.0 g/lb) per body weight/day
Sedentary lifestyle: 0.8 g/kg (0.35 g/lb) per body weight/day
Ages 65 & over: 1.2-2.0 g/kg (0.55-0.9 g/lb) per body weight/day
For performance & recovery: 1.2-2.2 g/kg (0.55-1.0 g/lb) per body weight/day
Healthy & active looking to lean while maintaining muscle: 1.6-3.3 g/kg (or 0.75-1.5 g/lb) per body weight/day
Plant-based eaters: Add ten percent to any of the above

Can You Consume Too Much Protein Powder?

While adverse effects of too much are unlikely, 1 to 2 scoops (20 to 40 grams of protein) are generally well processed by the body, while 3 to 4 scoops start to approach the upper limit of supplement protein in a single day.

“For most, 80 grams per day (about 3-4 scoops) is an upper limit of supplemental protein intake,” explains St. Pierre. He adds, “Getting more than 80 grams from protein powder is excessive for most people, as it displaces whole-food sources that are more filling and provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients”.

The 10 Best Protein Powders for Men

1. Best Whey: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey protein powder

With 24 grams of whey protein per serving, this powder was formulated to dissolve with an effortless stir of a spoon so you can skip blender clean-up or a blender ball. This clean formulation contains just a handful of ingredients and comes in 20 flavors to try. Each serving contains more than 4 grams of glutamine and glutamic acid; and 5.5 grams of BCAAs for streamlined recovery.

2. Best Casein: Legion Casein + Protein Powder

Casein and whey have a lot in common: they both derive from dairy (milk is basically about 20 percent whey and 80 percent casein) and they are the stars some of the most popular protein powders on the market. The primary difference? Casein is the slower digesting of the two, which translates to a slower release of protein in the body (which is great before bedtime). With 100 percent micellar casein sourced from reputable grass-fed dairy farms in Ireland, this powder contains so few ingredients you can count them on one hand—and sugar is not one of them.

3. Best Egg Protein: Julian Bakery, Paleo Thin, Egg White Protein

An ideal substitute for dairy protein, egg white protein is one of the most digestible proteins on the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) (4) and is a safe choice for paleo and keto eaters. High-quality egg white protein may promote performance, muscle conditioning, and recovery, doesn’t clump, and works well in baked goods for a protein boost.

4. Best Soy Protein: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Soy Protein Powder

Free of dairy, gluten, and sugar, this pure soy protein is vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, and ideal for keto eaters. Each serving packs 17 grams of complete protein and thanks to its neutral flavor, it’s the perfect high-protein base for much more than just shakes and smoothies. Try it in pancakes, bars, soups, hot cereals, and basically anything that can use an extra boost of protein.

5. Best Collagen Addition: Vital Proteins Vital Performance Protein

A combination of collagen peptides and lactose-free protein isolate, this protein blend packs 25 grams of high-quality protein to help support healthier bones and joints, gut health, hair, and skin in addition to complementing your fitness routine. Because collagen on its own is not a complete protein, a blend that combines an isolate with collagen, like this one, is a preferred choice for maximum muscle protein synthesis.

6. Best Vegan Blend: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Rice & Pea Protein

This vegan protein powder is USDA-certified organic. The blend is about as clean as they come with zero artificial sweeteners or flavoring. The 2:1 rice-to-pea protein isolate ratio bumps this plant-based protein count up to 24 grams per serving, making it a good choice for omnivores and plant-based eaters alike. This formulation mixes well and tastes great.

7. Best Pumpkin Protein: Sprout Living Simple Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder

Pumpkin seeds have a complete amino acid profile. This protein powder is packed with essential fatty acids. It’s USDA-organic certified, third-party tested, and free of artificial ingredients. Pumpkin seed protein is great for vegans and vegetarians as well as anyone working to keep inflammation in check. This protein powder is filling and will help keep you satiated for hours .

8. Best Plant-Based Blend: Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein

As a raw vegan protein blend made up of ingredients such as organic pea protein, sprouted grains, and legumes, this blend is creamy and delicious. What we love about this clean formulation is that it has both a raw probiotic and enzyme blend right in it for added nutrition and ease of digestion.

9. Best for Ages 18 to 49: Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+

An innovative protein geared towards more than just protein with a focus on building lean muscle mass, satiety for weight loss, brain and bone health, this formula is also formulated without major allergens and it’s easily digestible. Each serving of this delicious pea protein powder contains 20 grams of high-quality protein.

10. Best for 50+: Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 50+

Tailored specifically for the 50+ crowd, in addition to ticking all the boxes of their 18+ formula, (helps support lean muscle building, satiety, brain and bone health) this rigorously-tested pea protein is also formulated with the addition of calcium HMB to help support lean muscle maintenance as you age.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re an omnivore or eat plant-based, protein is a critical nutrient for everything from muscle development to hormone production to immune support. If you choose to supplement your protein intake with a protein powder, it is important that it is well-spaced out throughout the day for optimal absorption and benefits. There isn’t one protein type that trumps all, so try a few based on your lifestyle and dietary needs.