Best Protein Powder for Building Muscle

Today I’m going to tell you about the best protein powder for building muscle. In fact, I’m going to make 5 protein powder suggestions that I have personally found to be the best muscle builders over my years of training myself and others. However, before I tell you what the best protein powder for muscle gain is, it’s extremely important that we talk about how to actually gain muscle in the first place. Just taking a protein powder on it’s own won’t do very much for your muscle gains. But if you incorporate a top quality protein powder (like the ones I am about to recommend) alongside a good diet and exercise regime, you can be assured that your muscle growth will accelerate.

If you already know how to gain muscle, please feel free to scroll past my guidance and get straight to the protein powder recommendations. But I do recommend you read the guide. You never know, even if you’re an intermediate lifter, you might learn a thing or two or you might remember something that you’ve forgotten. So let’s dive into the guide and then find out what is the best protein powder for building muscle!

Top 5 Protein Powders For Gaining Muscle Comparison Table​

How To Actually Gain Muscle

best protein powder for building muscle

The two major requirements for gaining muscle are:

  1. Eating the right foods (and a lot of them)
  2. Lifting Weights

If you’re skinny, it’s almost always as a result of diet. A lot of people call themselves “hardgainers” but the problem is really because they aren’t eating a lot or eating the right things. The same is true from those suffering from “skinny-fat syndrome”. That’s where your arms, shoulders, chest, back, and legs are all super skinny but you’ve got an unsightly pot belly. So what’s going on here? Well, the main reason is because hardgainers and skinny fat people are not eating much food and the food they do eat is mainly poor quality carbohydrates.

If you’re having a hard time building muscle, it’s typically because you aren’t getting enough protein, healthy fat and complex carbohydrates in your diet. It’s rarely because you’re not exercising well enough. There’s a saying that goes: “You can’t outlift a poor diet”. That’s very true, so before we talk about weightlifting advice, we need to sort out diets out.

How To Eat For Muscle Gain

best protein podwer for muscle building

There’s no question about it. If you want to gain muscle, you have to eat a lot of food and you have to eat the right foods. Basically, you need to take in more calories than you burn on a day-to-day basis. Personally I’m not a huge fain of calorie counting but that is one method you can track your intake. Get an app like My Fitness Pal ( and track how much you’re actually eating. If you think you’re eating a lot, you might be surprised to find that you’re actually eating below your maintenance calories.

When I first started out trying to gain muscle, I kept a food diary for a month. I diligently tracked everything that went into my mouth. After that month, I didn’t have to track macros or calories any more and intuitively understood how much I needed and what the macro contents for each food were. It’s going to take some trial and error to figure out what the best amount of food is for you but my recommendation is to track your diet as it is right now for a week. Then, after that week, bump up your calories by 500 and see if you gain weight (on the scale and in the mirror) over the next week. After that week, you might need to bump it up again until you reach your sweet spot.

For a skinny “hardgainer”, I recommend around 1g of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you’re 150 pounds, that would be 150g of protein a day. For reference, a tin of tuna or chicken breast is typically around 30g. A great way to get your protein in is to have five meals a day (2 of those can be protein shakes).

In addition to this amount of protein, I would recommend having 300g of carbohydrates per day and adjusting based on how your body responds. Two thirds of this should be in the form of high quality complex carbohydrates and the other third can be simple sugars consumed post-workout. On top of this, you’ll need around 50g of high quality fat per day and can adjust from there.

Here’s a sample diet that will get you hitting your macros each day:

  • Meal 1 (Breakfast) – 5-egg omelette with 2 pieces of whole wheat toast
  • Meal 2 (Pre-Workout/Lunch) – Tuna and rice with vegetables
  • Meal 3 (Post-Workout) – Protein shake with fruit
  • Meal 4 (Dinner) – Steak with sweet potato, coconut oil and vegetables
  • Meal 5 (Pre-Bedtime) – Cottage cheese, protein shake and oatmeal

You need good quality sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats. I recommend the following foods to make sure what you are consuming is of high quality:

  • Protein: This is what helps build muscle (in fact, your muscles are made out of protein). Foods like tuna, chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, salmon, and pork will help you get good quality protein in. It can be hard to get 30g of protein per meal (or more) so I recommend supplementing with 2 protein shakes a day (at 30g per shake).
  • Carbohydrates: Carbs give you energy to workout and also help transport protein to your muscles. These are an absolute must for gaining weight. If you’re skinny and want to put on some size, you should not be on a low-carb diet. I recommend rice (white and brown are both good), beans, wholemeal bread, vegetables, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal. If you need 300g of carbs a day, you can divide this into 50g of carbs per meal if you eat five times a day (remember, two of those meals can be liquid replacement so it’s not that hard).
  • Fats: Good fat helps boost testosterone levels, which will help put size on your frame. Forget that trash about low-fat diets and make sure you’re getting some quality fats in your body in order to help your recovery. I recommend eggs, meat with fat (pork fat is delicious and good for you), butter, cottage cheese, and coconut oil.

Make sure that you get protein in every single meal. You can have a meal made of protein and carbs or protein and fat or protein and carbs and fat but never have just carbohydrates and fat (that is the recipe for a sloppy physique).

How To Workout For Muscle Gain

best protein powder for gaining muscle

The name of the game when working out for muscle gain is weightlifting. If it’s your first time picking up the iron, you can expect some insane results within your first year of training. People you know will think you’ve started taking steroids. After your first year, your rate of muscle gain will slow down considerably so make the most of it! For me, after over a decade of training, I’m lucky if I can get a few pounds of quality muscle gain a year. But in my first year, I put on 30 pounds and still stayed lean. Others have put on twice that amount.

Before you start weight training, make sure you can accomplish some basic tests of fitness with a few bodyweight exercises. Make sure you can do at least 10 push-ups in a row with good form. You also want to be able to do a couple of pull-ups, 10 bodyweight squats and 10 crunches. If you can’t do those, work on them first before picking up the weights. If you can do that already, you can move on to a basic strength and muscle-building workout.

When trying to build muscle, you need to focus on compound movements. These are movements that involve many parts of your body. The best compound movements are the bench press, squat, pull-ups, overhead press, deadlift, dips, and bent-over rows. If you’re a beginner, you need to spend time mastering perfect form for these exercises because these are the movements that will slap slabs of muscle on your body.

Here is the simple weightlifting routine that helped me gain muscle as a beginner, also known as the 5x5 routine because you have to do 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise:

  • Monday: Squat 5x5 Bench Press 5x5 Overhead Press 5x5 Pull-ups  -  5 sets of as many as you can do
  • Wednesday: Squat 5x5 Bench Press 5x5 Overhead Press 5x5 Pull-ups - 5 sets of as many as you can do.
  • Friday: Deadlift 3x5 Bench Press 5x5 Overhead Press 5x5 Pull-ups - 5 sets of as many as you can do.

If you’re a beginner, you will need to start off with an empty bar for these exercises and gradually add weight while making sure your form is perfect.

How To Use Protein Shakes For Muscle Gain

A lot of beginners think that protein shakes are a magic pill and will make them gain lots of muscle with ease. That’s not quite correct. You have to understand that protein shakes are just a way to make sure that you are getting adequate protein (the building block of muscle) in your diet in order to gain weight. You can’t just sip a protein shake and then skip dinner if you want to gain muscle.

Protein shakes have to be a strategic supplement to your diet, not a complete replacement for real food. As long as you are eating at least three whole food meals a day with protein in them (like the sample schedule above), supplementing with protein shakes will be very beneficial.

When gaining weight, I find that it’s best to have 2 protein shakes a day. You could have one in the morning as part of a balanced breakfast or one while you’re out and about. For example, as a student, I kept a protein shake in my locker so I could get my calories and protein in between classes. When I worked at an office, I kept a shaker full of protein at my desk and had it in the afternoon. Another option is to have a shake before bed so that your body stays in an anabolic (muscle-building) state throughout the night.

You should definitely have a protein shake immediately after your workout. Your workout breaks your muscle fibers down so your body is primed for being built back up. A protein shake is the fastest way to get the adequate nutrition to your muscles right when you need it most.

So, What Is The Best Protein Powder For Building Muscle?

The best protein powder for muscle gainwill often differ depending on your unique needs and personal preferences. However, I have found 5 great protein powders that never fail whenever I need to build muscle. If you’ve got a great diet and you’re training hard with weights 3 times a week, these protein powders will make great supplements to your muscle gaining regime.

optimum nutrition gold standard whey

1. Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey

This is the perfect beginner muscle building protein powder for many reasons. Number one: it’s affordable. Optimum Nutrition is under $35. Number two: it’s tasty. A lot of protein powders taste terrible. What then ends up happening is that you don’t want to drink them. But Optimum Nutrition tastes great. The Chocolate flavor tastes just like chocolate milkshake, especially if you mix it with milk or sweetened almond milk. Number three: it’s effective. Each serving gives you 24g of protein. That’s around how much protein you’ll need in a meal if you eat 5 meals a day. You can always bump up the protein content by adding another half-scoop or eating a handful of nuts with the shake. You really can’t go wrong with Optimum Nutrition. It really is the best protein powder for building muscle.

mts nutrition machine whey protein

2. MTS Nutrition Extreme Whey

A company owned by Marc Lobliner, who has a great YouTube channel, develops this protein powder. If you have any questions on any aspect of muscle gaining, you should definitely check out his channel. The protein, just like his helpful videos, is top quality and certainly a great choice for muscle gain. Each serving has 25g of protein and a bunch of essential amino acids that help improve your recovery. If you want a truly tasty protein shake, this is the one for you. It comes in 11 flavors and I recommend Banana Cream Pie, Birthday Cake, Key Lime Pie, and Red Velvet Cake. If price isn’t an issue (it’s $58), definitely pick up a tub of MTS Nutrtion Extreme Whey.

cellucor cor performance whey protein

3. Cellucor Cor Performance 100% Whey Protein Powder

The next best protein powder for building muscle is one that excels on taste, is super effective and comes from a great company. The hardest thing about gaining muscle isn’t working out (for most people) but just getting enough protein in. And if your protein powder tastes like gross chalk, it’s going to be even harder for you to keep your protein intake high. But drinking two protein shakes a day is extremely easy when you have Cellucor. My favorite flavors are Peanut Butter Marshmallow, Raspberry Chocolate Truffle, and Cinnamon Swirl. Each serving gives you 25g of whey protein, which makes it best consumed straight after your workout (when your muscles are primed for protein). You also get 5.5g BCAAs, which will reduce your muscular soreness and make it easier for you to stay committed to hitting the weights. Cellucor is definitely a top option for anyone looking to gain more muscle.

muscle milk protein powder

4. CytoSport Muscle Milk Lean Muscle Protein Powder

Muscle Milk, just like Optimum Nutrition, is one of the most popular options for those looking to build muscle. The reason is because the taste makes it easy to adhere to a 2-protein-shake-per-day requirement and also makes you look forward to it after your workout (like a treat). In addition to this, each 2-scoop serving gives you 32g of protein. Muscle Milk is also made with lactose free whey protein, functional fats, and 20 different vitamins and minerals, which makes it easy to consume and effective for gaining muscle. It has two types of protein: the fast-absorbing whey and the slow-digesting casein. It also has MCTs and fibrous carbohydrates, along with glutamine. My favorite flavors are Chocolate, Cookies ‘N Crème, Banana Crème, or Chocolate Caramel Pecan. 

cytosport cyto gainer

5. CytoSport Cyto Gainer Protein Drink Mix

If you’re really underweight and need to gain some serious mass quickly, I think that Cyto Gainer is one of the best protein powders for muscle gain. Here’s another great option for the hardgainer men reading this. You get a huge 54g of protein per serving, which makes it so much easier to hit your protein and calorie requirements for the day. You also get 560 calories per serving, which makes it great for post-workout nutrition.Along with whey protein, Cyto Gaineralso has glutamine, which makes protein synthesis much quicker than other protein powders and will make your muscles look and feel noticeably fuller after a workout.

Wrapping Up

Now you know the best protein powder for building muscle. Anyone one of the five protein powders listed above will definitely help improve your muscle gaining abilities. Just make sure you are getting adequate calories and protein in the form of real food and ensure that you are following a consistent weight-training regime and then these protein shakes will really help you build muscle.

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