The 10 Best Protein Powders, According to Registered Dietitians

If you’ve ever considered adding a protein powder to your daily routine, but aren’t sure what the best protein powder is then we’ll give you the inside scoop (pun intended). From vegan protein powder options to whey, flavored to natural, or gritty to soft, the protein powder world is complicated enough to make anyone’s head spin. SELF spoke to registered dietitians to determine the best tips on how to choose the right protein powder.

Do you really need a protein powder?

First off, how much protein do you really need? It really depends on the person, their activity levels, and any other health concerns that they might have. “The majority of people get enough protein in their diet, but some individuals may need help in getting more protein, especially if they have specific dietary needs or a health condition,” says Valerie Agyamen, RD. “For example, vegans and vegetarians may find it difficult to get enough protein in their diet, so a protein powder may be helpful. Also, if you have had recent surgery, exercise a lot, or are postpartum, you’ll likely have increased nutrient needs where a protein powder might be helpful.” Plus, certain exercise goals—say, if you’re trying to build muscle mass—might require additional protein, too.

The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. An easier way to think about it? Carolyn Brown, MS, RD says a general rule of thumb is looking at 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. Most protein powders come with about 18 to 20 grams per serving.

What to look for in a protein powder

There are many different types of protein powders, from vegan to whey protein, and how they work for you depends on your dietary preferences and intolerances. “Essentially, one isn’t much better than the other, but it all depends on your goals and what you’re looking for,” says Brown. “Ideally, the simpler the better.” She recommends the following types:

Grass-fed collagen protein powder: If you’re looking to soothe your digestive tract or joint pain, or improve your skin, you may want to look for grass-fed collagen protein powder.

Grass-fed whey protein powder: Whey protein works especially great after a workout to repair and build muscle.

Plant-based protein powder: These protein powders are made with a combination of organic brown rice, pea protein, and hemp protein. They’re great options if you’re looking to go more plant-based or simply don’t like the taste of animal-based protein powders.

What to avoid in a protein powder

When thinking about which protein powder ingredients to avoid, there’s no one clear answer. Like many things in the nutrition world, the answer to this question is very individualized and depends a lot on which ingredients may not make you feel your best—or ones that simply don’t make your protein shake taste great to you. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at the ingredient list.

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