The Best Protein Powders of 2022

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While our diets should meet the majority of our protein needs, regularly supplementing with protein bars or protein powder has been shown to support recovery from strenuous exercise, as well as promote healthy muscle mass. Plus, supplements are great for buying in bulk, while other sources of protein may go bad. That said, not all protein powders are created equal. In recent years, new protein sources have emerged, some of which lack scientific backing. With so many options on the market, it's difficult to choose which one best aligns with your specific goals. In this roundup, the ACTIVE Reviews Team does the heavy lifting to help you select the best protein powder to maximize your recovery and performance.

What to Consider When Shopping for Protein Powders

Protein Source

For many people, this will be the most important factor when selecting a protein powder. The protein source determines where the protein is derived from. The most common protein sources include:

  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Soy
  • Pea
  • Brown rice
  • Egg
  • Beef

Serving Size

The typical protein powder serving size is anywhere from 25-40 grams, which usually contains around 10-30 grams of actual protein depending on the brand. Research suggests a protein dose of 20-40 grams to maximize protein synthesis, depending on your body size. If the serving size is too large, it may be impractical to consume around workouts.

Price

Another factor to keep in mind when purchasing a protein powder is the price per serving. Not everyone has unlimited funds to spend on supplements, so keep an eye on the price tag when shopping around. We've made this simple for you by providing a price rating for each product reviewed.

Taste

Not all protein powders taste great—plain and simple. That said, it's much easier to consume a protein powder on a regular basis that does taste good. You may want to purchase a sample size of several proteins to try them out before committing to a larger size. Some of the plant-based protein powders may have a slight gritty texture, though they have improved significantly in recent years. When shopping around, be aware of how many flavors a protein powder comes in, so when you get tired of one you can try some others.

Type of Sweetener Used

Traditionally, many protein powders have used artificial sweeteners to enhance the flavor without providing any additional calories. That said, some people choose to avoid artificial sweeteners for various reasons. Many companies have responded by swapping out artificial sweeteners for more natural versions such as monk fruit, stevia leaf, and fermented sugar cane. If you are concerned with artificial sweeteners, keep an eye on the nutrition label when shopping.

Additional Ingredients

In most cases, protein powders will contain a protein source, an emulsifier (for mixing), a sweetener, flavoring, and some sodium. Some powders will contain additional ingredients such as maltodextrin (to provide bulk or texture), enzymes (to assist with digestion), or even vitamins or minerals for extra nutrition. Beware of protein powders that seem to have an excessive ingredient list, as a good protein powder should have relatively few ingredients, often 10 or less.

Manufacturing Standards

Protein powders are manufactured in facilities all around the world, thus not all facilities have the same standards. To ensure a protein powder is of high quality and free of contaminants, we recommend purchasing one that is manufactured in a GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility and is third-party tested. GMP facilities have high standards when it comes to cleanliness, equipment, employees, and operating procedures. Third-party tested supplements are sent to an outside company and tested to ensure they contain the stated amount of ingredients and are free from contaminants.

Why Trust Us?

The health and safety of ACTIVE's readers is of the utmost importance to us. To ensure your well-being when consuming protein powders, we prioritize products that are independently tested by a third party. Additionally, we consulted with ACTIVE's Advisory Board, which includes nutritionists, competitive athletes, coaches, and certified trainers to make certain that the products we feature are of the highest standards. The ACTIVE Reviews Team is passionate about bringing you products that we trust and would personally use.

Our Rating Scale

Price/Affordability:

Prices depend on a number of factors, and tend to fluctuate over time, so we’ve kept our affordability rating scale simple so you can easily see how products compare.

$ = under $1 per serving
$$ = $1-2 per serving
$$$ = over $2 per serving

Flavor Options:

When it comes to dietary supplements that you take frequently, or even daily, options are important. And while your protein powder or pre-workout doesn’t have to taste good to be effective, having several flavors to choose from can make it easier to stick with your fitness and health goals.

N/A = Unflavored
1 = 1-2 flavor options
2 = 3-4 flavor options
3 = 5 or more flavor options

The Best Protein Powders - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall Protein Powder - Ritual Daily Shake Protein Powder

Ritual Daily Shake Protein Powder

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 1
  • Protein type: Pea
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Serving size: 30g
  • Calories per serving: 115
  • Protein per serving: 30g
  • Carbs per serving: 3g
  • Fats per serving: 2g

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What makes Ritual Daily Shake Protein Powder our pick for overall best protein is its unique combination of pea protein with L-methionine to provide a complete amino acid profile necessary to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. The research-backed formula also contains choline, a compound your brain and nervous system use to regulate memory, mood, and muscle control.

The main ingredient in Ritual protein powder is pea protein, an organic, non-GMO, vegan-friendly source of protein. It contains 20 grams of protein per serving, making it an ideal source of protein to stimulate muscle growth and repair after putting in some miles on the track or treadmill. The addition of fermented sugarcane (Reb-M) and monk fruit provide an all-natural sweetener. Not only does Ritual use transparent labeling, but every batch of protein powder is tested for banned substances, heavy metals, major allergens, and microbes. Furthermore, their protein powder contains no sugar alcohols, artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, and has been formulated to be free from soy and gluten.

What We Like

  • Uses a combination of pea protein and L-methionine to form a complete protein source
  • Contains choline to support brain health
  • Third-party tested
  • No sugar alcohols, artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners

What We Don't Like

  • The inclusion of thickeners makes it hard to mix without a blender
  • The taste of pea protein can be a bit too much for some people

BUY: Ritual Daily Shake Protein Powder

Best Protein Powder for Triathletes - Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Protein type: Whey protein isolate
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Serving size: 33g
  • Calories per serving: 120
  • Protein per serving: 28g
  • Carbs per serving: 1g
  • Fats per serving: 0g

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Formulated with easily digestible and fast-acting whey protein isolate, Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate is our top pick for best protein powder for triathletes. With only one gram of carbohydrates, zero fat, and minimal lactose per serving, this product is a great choice for anyone looking to build strong muscles and speed up the recovery process between training sessions.

Protein intake for triathletes can play a huge role in the training and recovery process. It's recommended to consume between 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, with protein shakes consumed between meals or after workouts an effective way to reach these goals. What makes Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate the best protein powder for triathletes? For one, it's manufactured in a facility compliant with Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines, which significantly reduces the chances of cross-contamination occurring. Secondly, it contains zero grams of fat or fiber per serving. Although these nutrients are important in a triathlete's diet, when consumed too close to a workout they can slow down digestion rate and cause gastrointestinal distress—not ideal in a training session!

What We Like

  • Manufactured in a GMP-certified facility
  • Contains no artificial flavors or sweeteners
  • Mixes easily in water or milk
  • Lactose free
  • Gluten free
  • Low in carbohydrates, fat, and fiber

What We Don't Like

  • One of the more expensive protein powders on the market
  • Only comes in 2.14-lb. jug

BUY: Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

Best Protein Powder for Cyclists - Ladder Premium Whey Protein

Ladder Premium Whey Protein

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 1
  • Protein type: Whey protein isolate
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Serving size: 37g
  • Calories per serving: 140
  • Protein per serving: 26g
  • Carbs per serving: 5g
  • Fats per serving: 1g

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While having the proper equipment plays a huge role in cycling, what you put in your body will also determine your performance. Ladder Premium Whey contains high-quality whey protein isolate to help promote recovery and repair muscle following strenuous exercise. A high-intensity sport such as cycling puts a great deal of stress on the body, thus proper recovery is essential to perform at the highest level. To that point, Ladder Premium Whey contains tart cherry fruit as an added ingredient, which has been shown to improve exercise recovery and performance. This is a valuable addition for cyclists looking to maximize recovery following training sessions or races.

This product is NSF certified for sport, stating that the protein powder is free from contaminants and banned substances. In addition, Ladder Premium Whey is soy free, gluten-free, and contains no artificial flavors or sweeteners. This fast-digesting protein with added tart cherry makes an excellent option for post-workout recovery, or simply to boost your protein intake throughout the day.

What We Like

  • Includes tart cherry for added recovery
  • No artificial flavors or sweeteners
  • NSF-certified safe for sport

What We Don't Like

  • Only available in 2 flavors
  • Expensive price point per serving

BUY: Ladder Premium Whey Protein

Best Protein Powder for Swimmers - BiPro Elite Whey Protein Isolate

BiPro Elite Whey Protein Isolate

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 2
  • Protein type: Whey protein isolate
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Serving size: 23.5g
  • Calories per serving: 90g
  • Protein per serving: 20g
  • Carbs per serving: 1g
  • Fats per serving: 1g

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BiPro Elite is formulated with a high-quality whey protein isolate which is made using an ion exchange process. Ion exchange is a manufacturing process used to remove unwanted fats and carbs, resulting in this protein powder containing less than 1 gram of carbs and fats. In a competitive environment where every gram of carbs, fat, and protein has a purpose, this is a convenient option for athletes looking to consume only protein. What's more, BiPro whey is sourced from local U.S. dairy farms in Idaho and Minnesota.

This product is formulated for high-performing athletes and includes everything most active people look for in a protein powder without any unnecessary extras. Many high-level swimmers undergo testing for banned substances depending on their federation. This protein powder is third-party tested by the NSF to ensure it doesn't contain banned substances or other contaminants, so athletes can rest assured when using it. In addition, BiPro Whey contains no fillers and is soy-free, gluten-free, and suitable for those with lactose intolerance.

What We Like

  • Produced with ion exchange to remove carbs and fats
  • Locally-sourced dairy
  • Small serving size packs 20g of protein

What We Don't Like

  • Limited number of flavors
  • Slightly expensive compared to other options

BUY: BiPro Elite Whey Protein Isolate

Best Budget Protein Powder - Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate

Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Protein type: Whey protein concentrate
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Serving size: 32g
  • Calories per serving: 130
  • Protein per serving: 25g
  • Carbs per serving: 2g
  • Fats per serving: 2.5g

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There's no question that protein supplements are not cheap, especially when on a tight budget. However, we found that Nutricost's Whey Protein Concentrate struck a good balance between cost and quality—which is why it's at the top of our list for the best budget protein powder. This product is a no-frills whey protein concentrate that checks all the boxes for price, amount of protein per serving, and flavor offerings. Nutricost's Whey is a great option for adding to shakes, oats, or simply drinking on its own to promote recovery following a tough workout.

There are no added unnecessary ingredients, the flavors are naturally derived, and it's soy and gluten-free. As an added bonus, Nutricost Whey is manufactured in a GMP-certified facility and third-party tested by Analytical Research Laboratories to ensure safety for athletes. For those looking for a quality whey protein without breaking the bank, this may be a good option.

What We Like

  • Budget-friendly
  • Gluten and soy free
  • Third-party tested
  • Naturally flavored

What We Don't Like

  • No added nutrients
  • Contains artificial sweeteners

BUY: Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate

Best Vegan Protein Powder - Orgain Organic Protein

Orgain Organic Protein

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Protein type: Organic pea, organic brown rice, and organic chia seed
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Serving size: 46g
  • Calories per serving: 159
  • Protein per serving: 21g
  • Carbs per serving: 15g
  • Fats per serving: 4g

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If you're following a vegan diet and find it difficult to meet your daily protein needs from whole food sources alone, there are plenty of vegan-friendly protein powders on the market. Orgain Organic Protein gets our top pick for the best vegan protein powder with 20 grams of plant-based protein per serving, including all the essential amino acids necessary for protein synthesis.

Orgain Organic Protein is made from ingredients like organic pea protein, brown rice protein, and chia seeds and is free from soy, dairy, gluten, and lactose. Each scoop also provides 6.4mg (35 percent of the recommended daily intake) of iron. This is a huge win for vegans, as plant-based diets can be lacking in this essential mineral. Iron is a central part of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood to working tissues and muscles. Adequate iron intake can promote increased energy and better athletic performance. Available in eight different flavors, Orgain Organic Protein makes a great addition to shakes or smoothies and you can even bake with it.

What We Like

  • Creamier than most plant-based protein powders
  • Provides 6.4mg of iron
  • Gluten, soy, and lactose free
  • Option to subscribe and save 10% on all future orders

What We Don't Like

  • Higher carbohydrate content compared to other protein powders
  • Erythritol, an all-natural sweetener, can cause digestive issues in some people

BUY: Orgain Organic Protein

Best Whey Protein Powder - Legion Whey+ Whey Protein Isolate

Legion Whey+ Whey Protein Isolate

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Protein type: Whey protein isolate
  • Artificial sweeteners: None noted
  • Serving size: 32g
  • Calories per serving: 110
  • Protein per serving: 23g
  • Carbs per serving: 3g
  • Fats per serving: 1g

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Whey protein powders are some of the most popular when it comes to supplementing with protein. They provide a high-quality protein source that research shows can help boost muscle protein synthesis, the process through which muscle is built. Legion Whey+ stands out as our best whey protein powder for a few reasons, including the fact that it contains 90 percent whey protein isolate, one of the purest forms of whey.

Legion Whey+ is also third-party tested by Labdoor for ingredient accuracy and purity to ensure it's safe for athletes. It's naturally flavored and sweetened with stevia leaf and monk fruit extract, making it a good option for those avoiding artificial flavors or sweeteners. In addition, Legion Whey+ is lactose-free, making it a fitting option for those intolerant to lactose. This protein is an excellent option for pre- or post-workout nutrition, baking, or protein smoothies.

What We Like

  • It's sourced from grass-fed cows from small Irish dairy farms
  • It contains all-natural ingredients
  • Comes in a wide variety of flavors
  • Lactose, gluten, and soy free
  • Produced in GMP facility and third-party tested by NSF

What We Don't Like

  • On the expensive side at $1.60 per serving
  • Some users report slight lumpiness when mixing

BUY: Legion Whey+ Whey Protein Isolate

Best-Tasting Protein Powder - GHOST Whey Protein Powder

GHOST Whey Protein Powder

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Protein type: Whey protein blend
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Serving size: 34.5g
  • Calories per serving: 130
  • Protein per serving: 25g
  • Carbs per serving: 4g
  • Fats per serving: 1.5g

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Let's admit it—not all protein powders taste particularly great. There is a lot of trial and error that goes into making a good-tasting protein powder. When looking for the best-tasting protein powder on the market, GHOST appears to hold the top spot. They've taken a unique approach to flavoring their proteins, such as by using small bits of well-known cookies such as Chips Ahoy, Oreo, and Nutter Butter.

Not only does this protein hold a solid reputation for its good taste, GHOST provides a transparent label that reveals everything that the product contains. They use a blend of whey protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. With around 130 calories per serving, 25 grams of protein, and only 4 grams of carbs, this protein powder makes a great option for pre- and post-workout nutrition, or even just to boost the protein content of a meal. GHOST protein powders are manufactured in a GMP-certified facility and are third-party tested by NSF International to ensure ingredient safety.

What We Like

  • Full disclosure label
  • No artificial colors
  • NSF certified for sport
  • Low fat
  • Gluten and soy free

What We Don't Like

  • Higher side of the price scale
  • Contains artificial flavoring

BUY: GHOST Whey Protein Powder

Who Should Take Protein Powder?

Many people struggle to meet their protein needs from diet alone. If you feel that you are having a tough time getting enough protein from your diet, supplementing with a protein powder may be an efficient way to fill in the gaps. If you are physically active, whether competitively or recreationally, getting enough protein is even more important. So, if you regularly participate in intense exercise, regardless of the type, you will likely benefit from taking a protein powder.

How to Use Protein Powder

Protein powders are meant to be included as a supplement to your diet and should not replace meals. You can start by adding in a scoop of protein powder before or after you work out. Most protein powders are meant to be mixed with 8 ounces of some kind of liquid, usually water or a milk of your choice. We recommend you use a shaker bottle for best results. In addition, you may choose to make a fruit smoothie and add in a scoop of protein powder. Others enjoy adding protein powder to their oatmeal to boost their nutrition. There are many ways to add protein powder into your diet.

How to Choose a Protein Powder

When shopping for a protein powder, you'll have to keep a few things in mind. First off, what are your goals? If you are looking to simply add more protein into your diet, you may benefit from a plant-based protein, whereas if you are looking to maximize performance and muscle recovery a whey-based protein may be superior. Also, keep in mind your food preferences. If you avoid dairy or follow a vegan diet, plant-based protein is probably a better option for you. Lastly, think of how much you want to spend, as your budget will certainly help you choose which protein powder you can afford.

FAQs about Protein Powder


When is the best time to take protein powder?

Generally speaking, the best time to take a protein powder is before or after working out, in the morning after fasting overnight, or when eating a meal that is low in protein. Most people supplement with protein after a tough workout, as it can be put to good use rebuilding muscle and aiding in recovery. Others choose to take protein powder to fuel up before a big workout.

Is protein powder safe?

The majority of the protein powders on the market are very safe. Most manufacturers follow stringent quality control procedures to ensure their products are clean and safe to consume. That said, it's always important to do a bit of research before buying a protein powder since it's something you are putting into your body. Look for products that are produced in facilities that follow good manufacturing practices (GMP) as well as products that are third-party tested for contaminants, both of which will often be found on the label.

How much protein do I need a day?

To maximize lean body mass and performance, research suggests consuming 0.6-1.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For a 150-pound person, this is 90-210 grams. While this may seem like a lot to some people, keep in mind that protein is an important nutrient that plays a vital role in maintaining the structures of our body, including building muscle. Aim to eat 20-40 grams of protein with each meal, filling in the gaps with protein powders as needed.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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