protein powder guide

Protein Powder Guide

​So you need to know about protein powder but have no idea where to start? If this is your first time considering protein powder, you likely have a ton of questions. What does protein powder do? Do you actually need protein powder? What type is the best? How do you use ​it? The questions go on and on. That’s why I’ve written this protein powder guide for you.

In this guide ALL of your questions will be answered and you’ll know everything you need to know about protein powder. So let’s get started!

Why Protein Powders Are Popular

There’s no question about it. Protein powders are extremely popular in the health and fitness world.

Step into any gym in the world and you’re bound to see tubs of protein powder behind the counter and tons of avid gym-goers slugging down blender bottles full of colourful protein before, during and after their workouts.

But why is protein powder so popular?

The main reason for protein powder’s popularity is simply because it makes it super easy to hit your nutritional goals.

Protein is an extremely important part of every diet because it helps to build and maintain muscle and also lose fat. ​

​​The problem is that it can be quite difficult to get adequate or optimal amounts of protein from whole food sources alone. But protein powder makes it much easier. For the times when a sit-down meal isn’t possible, protein powders come to the rescue!

​​​Do I Need A Protein Powder?

The short answer is: probably not.

Very few people will need a protein powder. But having a protein powder can make your life so much easier.

Whether your main goal is to gain muscle, lose fat or just get in great shape, protein powder can vastly accelerate your progress.

​If you are struggling to get your required protein amount each day, I heartily recommend you invest in a protein powder to make things easier for yourself.

As a rule of thumb, you should get around 1-1.5g of protein per pound of lean body mass.

So someone weighing 180lb at 20% body fat (180 x 0.20 = 36lb of fat, leaving 144lb lean mass) would need 144g to 216g of protein depending on their goals (fat loss or muscle gain).

Could you get 200g of protein in your diet each day from whole food sources? What about 150g? 100g? Maybe if chomping through chicken breasts and steaks is your full-time job. But most of us have lives and don’t have the time or the money or the stomach to do all that eating.

That’s where protein powders come in! With protein powders, getting your required amount of protein for the day becomes very easy.

Why Use A Protein Powder?

There are lots of reasons for choosing to use a protein powder.  It can be a convenient way to make sure you are getting sufficient protein everyday and is particularly handy for those who struggle to eat enough or those who have very hectic schedules which result in very short lunch breaks.

It is always going to be better to try and get enough protein via whole foods, but life isn't necessarily accommodating all the time for this to happen.  Protein powder can also be very beneficial for other reasons too. Here is a list of just some ofreasons why you may want to incorporate

  • Fat loss is easier
  • Muscle gain is easier
  • Weight maintenance is easier
  • It can be cheaper than whole foods
  • It can help curb cravings (great for fat loss diets)
  • Easier to have pre workout, during a workout and post workout.
  • Protein powder makes it so much easier to hit your nutritional goals.
  • Improved recovery (because you're hitting your nutritional requirements)
  • Some of them taste amazing and can stop you from binging on junk food.

​How Much To Take?

A number of studies have arrived at the conclusion that 20-25g of high quality protein is sufficient enough to provide maximal muscle protein synthesis stimulation after exercise (​1, ​2).  Muscle protein synthesis is the process of building and muscle mass so is an important consideration here.

20-25 grams of protein seems like a reasonable number to shoot for based on the research and is easy to stick to without thinking too much about it. It will also generally be the recommendation that is on the tub.

It is also worth noting that protein consumption and exercise is a superior combination to stimulate growth and repair of muscles than protein consumption alone (​3).  So consuming your protein shake after exercise makes the most sense for maximal effect.

1-2 shakes a day seems pretty standard among those who workout.  You don't want to be completely reliant on protein shakes to meet your daily protein requirements.  Try to consume protein whole food throughout the day and make sure the protein shakes are only supplement rather than a replacement.

For women it is worth considering that serving sizes tend to be based on men.  You could opt for a brand that specifically targets women at first to feel comfortable with the recommended serving size.  But overall, 20-25g should be ok too. 

Remember also that more protein does not result in more benefits.  If you are getting plenty of protein in your diet, protein shakes will not add additional benefits to your workout goals.

However, having a protein shake after a workout can make you feel better and proactive in providing the nourishment your body needs quickly.  It can also be helpful on days where you haven't had the time be spot on with your meals.

Remember that protein powder is a supplement to your diet and shouldn’t replace whole foods. Protein powder is only there to help you hit your protein requirements each day.

When Should I Have A Protein Shake?

When you take your protein shake is going to depend on what your goals are.  Here we break down some of the most common goals and when it is best to get that protein shake in.

Losing Weight

Protein is fantastic for curbing cravings, reducing your appetite and keeping you satisfied for longer.  This means you are much less likely to over eat and ultimately will end up eating fewer calories.

Consuming it at meals and in between meals as part of a snack will be much more helpful to stop you overeating than to choose something high carb.  So if you want to use protein shakes to aid weight loss, you could use them for a snack break during the day or after a workout when you aren't quite ready for your next meal.

One study looked at how a high protein snack between meals impacted satiety and appetite.  They found those who ate a high protein yoghurt snack during the afternoon consumed 100 less calories at dinner time than those who ate crackers or chocolate as their afternoon snack (​4).  All snacks provided the same amount of calories but it was the high protein content led to better appetite control.

So having a protein shake in the afternoon may be a great way to help you cut calories at dinner and is a better option for weight loss than a high carb snack.

Building Muscle

Protein is vital for building muscle and you need to consume enough of it to continue to build muscle and to improve strength after working out.

Some people believe that having a protein shake within an hour of exercise is the most beneficial time to take it for muscle growth.  This is considered the window of opportunity where your body is more receptive to the nutrients you consume.  However according to some research this window of opportunity is actually double the time.  According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition. you have 2 hours after a workout to consume protein if you want to maximum muscle protein synthesis and thus muscle mass (​5).

With that being said, you might want to read the next section to see that not all research agrees with this premise.

Should I Have A Protein Shake Before or After A Workout?

The most common time to drink a protein shake is after a workout, however this doesn't necessarily make it the best time to take. 

One study looked at the difference between taking protein before a workout and after.  This study had 2 groups each taking a protein shake containing 25g of protein either immediately after a workout or immediately before.  Everyone completed a full body workout 3 times per week for 10 weeks while consuming protein before or after depending on the group they were in.

The study found there to be no significant difference between the groups for muscle strength or size (​6). This suggests that as long as you consume protein near your workout you should be good to go to reap the benefits.

It's worth pointing out that if you prefer to workout fasted - for example you work out in the morning before you eat breakfast - it may actually be more beneficial to consume protein straight after a workout so you can get the calories in that you were missing from not having breakfast yet and not having eaten in a while (​7).

Another consideration is can protein help you perform better in your workout.  One study suggests that consuming protein with a source of carbs during as well as after a workout may improve performance and recovery.  One study looked at 11 cyclists and found that taking a protein and carb drinnk during training improved muscle soreness and recovery compared to a group who took a placebo (​8).

It's safe to say that this is probably more beneficial for a longer workout than a short one and is dependent on really what you are trying to achieve.

So pick when to take it based on your own preferences and lifestyle.  I would rather consume a protein shake straight afterwards than just before.  It works better for my digestion and I like getting some calories in quite quickly afterwards without having to prepare a meal first.

Overall Daily Intake May Be A More Important Consideration

Many studies have questioned whether it is important to consume protein around your workout or whether it ultimately comes down to daily intake.  These studies have been pretty mixed overall.  Some have suggested timing is beneficial (​9, ​10), while others suggest it doesn't matter (​11).

One study analyzed 23 different studies to determine what the concensus on protein consumption around exercise was.  They found that the strongest predictor of muscle strength and size was protein intake and this was regardless of whether protein was consumed close to exercise or not (​12).

Therefore if you don't get your protein shake in before or after a workout, don't worry about it.  As long as your protein intake via your meals is good you should be fine and you won't hinder your workouts.

Can I Have A Protein Shake Before Bed?


Main Protein Powder Types

There are loads of different protein powders on the market. And they all have different names. It can get confusing. But really it’s quite simple. Let’s break down what each of them are and I’ll make some suggestions for the best ones of their kinds. We’re going to look at the main protein powder types: whey, casein, egg white, paleo, plant-based, pea, soy, hemp, vegan, rice, and also blends and weight gainers.


Whey is probably the most popular protein type.  When people talk about protein powder, they are very often referring to the whey variety.

What Is It?

Whey is a fast absorbing milk protein with a great amino acid profile.  Milk contains two main protein types - whey (20%) and casein (80%). Whey is found in the watery part of milk.  During cheese production, the fatty part of the milk curdles (curds) and the whey becomes separated from this as a byproduct of the process.

Whey goes through several processed before becoming whey protein powder.  Like most protein powders it doesn't taste good on its own which is why you will find plenty of flavor choices when buying.

Whey is considered a complete protein because it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids that are necessary for optimal health.  It also happens to be specifically high in leucine which is a BCAA known for its role in improving exercise performance and muscle growth (13).

Benefits of Whey

The greatest benefit of whey is that it makes a superior protein source for directly after your workout.  It's fast absorption means that your body can use it to replenish depleted energy stores and start the rebuilding process immediately.

It's also readily available in countless different flavors and you have tones of options to choose from.  You can also get cheap whey protein very easily.  Whey protein is also usually easy to mix and can be quite versatile.

  • Promotes Muscle/Strength Gains - Whey is popular among bodybuilders, fitness professionals and anyone looking to improve their gains in the gym.  Whey provides the body with protein and essential amino acids which are the building blocks for increased muscle growth. It has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis more than other proteins.  Muscle protein synthesis is crucial for muscle growth.  This is due to its high leucine content and quick absorbability.  (​14).  Whey protein has been particularly helpful in increasing muscle strength and size when compared with resistance training. (​15, ​16).
  • Prevents Lean Muscle Loss For Those On A Calorie Restrictive Diet - Whey has been shown to stop the loss of lean muscle mass if you are on a caloire restrictive diet.  It was particularly helpful at maintaining lean muscle mass when participants exercised too. (​17).
  • Improves Satiety - Protein has been shown to be the most crucial macronutrient when it comes to feeling full for longer and feel satiated.  So it comes to know surprise that whey has ben show to he helpful in increase satiety for those consuming it as part of their diet. (​18)

Downsides Of Whey

Dairy is one of the most common food allergies and therefore there is a portion of society who can't tolerate it.  This usually comes down to the lactose within it.  If this is the case, you could opt for isolate over concentrate where there is little to no lactose present and see how you react.  Some products will specifically state they are lactose free.

Fortunately there are other proteins available on the market to accommodate you if you can't have dairy (scroll down!).

Whey is highly processed which can lead to a lot of nasty ingredient inclusions in to products.  Also as whey doesn't taste so good with any other flavor, you may find a lot of additional ingredients being added to a product to make it taste fantastic,  It's important to read labels and make sure you get a product that doesn't contain lots of additives and artificial flavors.  They aren't necessary for a nice tasting product.

Any Side Effects?

Whey protein has an excellent safety profile and most people will have no problems consuming it.

Some people, particularly those with a dairy allergy, may experiencing stomach issues such as bloating, cramping and diarrhea.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

Whey protein is an all-rounder.  If can benefit you if you want it to help you build muscle mass but can also be equally helpful to someone who wants to main lean muscle mass while trying to lose weight.  So whether you want to lose weight or gain muscle, whey has you covered.

Type of Whey: Concentrate vs Isolate vs Hydrolysate

If you've looked at a few different tubs of whey, you've probably noticed that some of them claim to be whey concentrate and others whey isolate and some a mixture including whey hydrolysate.

What's the difference?

Basically it all comes down to how the whey protein has been processed.

Simply put, isolates are purer forms of protein than concentrates. Concentrates are around 80% protein, whereas isolates are around 92% protein. Hydrolysate or hydrolyzed whey is pre-digested so that it gets absorbed faster.

If you are not lactose intolerant, whey concentrates are the cheaper and more commonly available choice. They also retain most of the beneficial nutrients found naturally in whey.

  • Concentrate - 70-80% protein and contains some lactose and fat.  Has the best flavour.
  • Isolate - 90%+ protein that contains less lactose and fat.  Also contains less of the beneficial nutrients found in concentrate.
  • Hydrolysate (aka hydrolyzed whey) - Pre-digested whey for faster absorption.

​Despite concentrate being the most popular form, it is also worth noting that most of the research on whey protein is done using whey isolate.

Recommended Whey Protein Powders

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

​This is the perfect whey protein powder because it’s affordable. It’s also tasty and simple. Many protein powders taste terrible but Optimum Nutrition tastes delicious (especially when you mix it with almond milk). I recommend the Chocolate flavor. Optimum Nutrition also has a respectable 24g serving of protein. This makes it perfect for people who need to gain muscle and also people who need to lose weight.

opimum nutrition gfold standard whey recommended

​Cellucor Cor-Performance 100% Whey

This is another one of my favorite whey protein powders of all time because it excels on taste and effectiveness. My favorite flavors are Peanut Butter Marshmallow, Raspberry Chocolate Truffle, and Cinnamon Swirl. Each serving gives you 25g of whey protein and 5.5g of BCAAs. It’s a bargain.

cellucor cor performance whey recommended


​After whey protein, the most common type of protein powder you’ll hear about is casein protein. You’ll often hear debates about whether whey is better than casein but I’ll give you the scoop right here.

What Is It?

Casein is a slow absorbing milk protein with a great amino profile.  Milk contains 2 protein types - whey (20%) and casein (80%).  Casein is the fatty part that curdles and coagulates during cheese production, which separates it from the whey (the watery part).​

​Once the watery part has been washed away, the remaining curds can be washed and dried to create protein powder.

Benefits of ​Casein

Casein is a complete protein source providing all the essential amino acids the body needs.  It also absorbs slowly so is the best protein source to take before bed or when going without whole foods for a while.  A slow absorption rate means your body received a steady supply of nutrients thus keeping you out of a catabolic state.  This aids muscle recovery and reduces break down.  It also can help with fat loss.

  • ​Takes Longer To Digest - ​Casein is known as a 'time-release' protein because it is absorbed slowly in your gut.  This means it feeds your body over a long period of time.  As a result it can help your muscles recovery and prevent them from breaking down if you haven't eaten for a while (19).  For this reason casein keeps you out of a catabolic state.  Studies have shown that when consuming casein, after a small initial peak, casein levels stay consistent over time (20). ​
  • ​Great For Muscle Growth - Casein​ contains all the essential amino acids and has a high amount of leucine which initiates muscle protein synthesis (21).  One study compared those who took casein with 2 other groups; one which consumed whey and one which took no protein.  They found that the casein group had double the muslce growth compared to the other groups.  They also found that more fat loss was seen - triple in fact - and more fat loss than the whey group (22).  Casein was also show to improve long-term muscle mass too by preventing protein breakdown.
  • Enhances Long Term Muscle Mass - Casein improves long term muscle mass by preventing protein break down.  Protein breakdown normallu occurs when you are low on energy or amino acids and the process is increased during exercise and weight loss.  As a result casein is the perfect protein to use at night to prevent protein breakdown occurring and conserving your muscles.
  • Can Take Before Bed For Positive Effects - One study found that consuming a casein shake before bed helped men who strength train increase their type 2 muscle fiber size (​23).  They also found their strength increased by 20% more compared to a control group.
  • ​Fat Loss - Casein has been shown to be beneficial in losing weight.  One study showed the average fat loss for a group of people taking casein compared to a control group was 3 times greater (24)​.

Downsides Of ​Casein

​Casein protein’s slow absorption means that it is definitely not the best protein for after a workout. Seeing as most people want a protein supplement for after their workout, casein is probably not the most logical choice. A lot of people end up buying two tubs, one of whey protein and one of casein so they can have a powder after their workout and before bed. Another downside is that, like with whey protein, a lot of people have allergic reactions to casein protein. Casein protein also tends to clump and it harder to mix.

Any Side Effects?

​The main side effects are pretty much the same as whey protein and are magnified if you are lactose intolerant. Potential side effects include stomach issues such as cramping, bloating and gas. Casein protein could also raise your cholesterol levels and interfere with blood pressure control. Though that probably won’t be much of a problem if you have your lifestyle and diet in check.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​Casein protein powder is best before sleeping because of its slow absorption. It’s also good throughout the day if you think you won’t have whole food sources for a while.

​Types of Casein

​​Recommended ​Casein Protein Powders

Optimum Nutrition ​100% ​Casein

​For 4 pounds of top quality casein protein, Optimum Nutrition is a real bargain that can’t be beat. I always have a tub of chocolate or vanilla lying around the house. When I’m bulking, I’ll have a big scoop before bed every night. When I’m dieting, I’ll do the same but only have it 3 times a week.

optimum nutrition gold standard casein recommended

​Naked Casein

​If you’ve got a little more money to spend, I really recommend you try out Naked Casein because their product is super healthy. The casein is completely GMO-free, gluten free, soy free and preservative free. It’s also one of the tastier options on the casein protein powder market.


​Egg whites are a basic yet tried and tested form of protein. Before protein powders came on the scene, athletes were cracking eggs into a glass and drinking them to get their protein in.

What Is It?

​Eggs are one of the best protein sources known to man. The egg whites specifically are the parts that contain the protein (the yolk contains the fat) and are what is typically in egg protein powder.  Egg

Benefits of ​​​Egg

​If it’s from a top quality source, egg white protein is some of the best nutrition your body can get. Eggs are lactose free so anyone with stomach issues from whey or casein, will find that egg white protein is much easier to consume. Egg white protein powders typically have little or no carbohydrates, which makes it a great option for those wishing to lose fat or gain lean muscle.

​Eggs like all animal products, ​provide all the essential amino acids your body needs. Eggs are also the 2nd highest  source of leucine (after whey).  Leucine is important for muscle health.

  • ​Increases Lean Muscle Mass & Strength - Studies on egg white protein are quite limited but so far some are quite promising.  One study s​howed that egg white protein significantly increased strength in resistance training ​females (​25).  It has also been shown to help reduce body fast mass by accelerating​β-oxidation in the liver ​(26).  ​

Downsides Of ​​Egg

​​​Some people might not tolerate eggs very well. It can cause stomach issues in certain individuals. It can also trigger allergic reactions that result in diarrhoea and nausea.

Eggs, in and of themselves, are one of the best foods for decreasing appetite and for staying full for longer.  However this is because of the high fat yolk.  With egg protein powder you are only getting the egg white, so many experience less fullness.  In one study it was found to have less ability to reduce appetite than pea ​or casein protein when consumed before a meal.

In one study, it demonstrated less potential to reduce appetite than casein or pea protein when consumed before a meal (​27).

There have also been safety concerns in regards to raw eggs due to bacterial contamination. Salmonella could be found inside raw eggs and cause food poisoning. Luckily that downside can be avoided if you choose a reputable company.

Any Side Effects?

​​​The main side effects occur in those that already have an established egg allergy. Allergic reactions could take the form of diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, hives, rashes, runny nose, sneezing and coughing.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​Egg white protein is good for those who want a more natural source of protein or those who can’t stomach whey or casein. It’s also good for those who want to feel like Rocky.

​​Recommended ​​Egg Protein Powders

​NOW Foods Egg White

​NOW Foods is one of the best companies for egg white protein powders. In fact, you can’t really call it a powder because it’s just egg whites. But at least you know there are no other nasty chemicals hiding inside. It doesn’t mix too well but it’s great for making healthy treats like paleo cupcakes. It also will make you feel great (if you don’t have an egg allergy). It’s also a bargain.

now foods egg white protein powder

​Naked Egg

​If you’ve got a bit of cash and want the best egg white protein supplement on the market, Naked Egg is for you. It’s fairly pricey but the price is well worth it. This supplement uses non-GMO eggs, is paleo-friendly, dairy free, gluten free and soy free. Each scoop gives you 25g of the best egg protein and 5.8g of BCAAs.

naked egg protein

Plant Based Protein Powders

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian or you just like the way plants make your body feel (I know I do), then plant based protein powders might be the best option for you.

What are plant based protein powders?

Plant based protein powders, as the name suggests, are protein powders that take their protein from plants rather than milk or animal products. The most popular plant based protein powders contain soy, pea, hemp or rice. We’ll give a run down of what each of these means now.


​Soy is a pretty controversial topic. To be honest, I actually recommend that most people don’t take it because it can really play havoc with your testosterone levels. However, some people believe soy is a super food.

What Is It?

​​​Soy is the soya bean, a legume found in East Asia and commonly used in dishes like miso soup.

Benefits of ​​​​​Soy

​Soy protein is thought to reduce the risk of colon, breast and prostate cancer. It’s also an option for vegans who are feeling like their diet is limited.

Downsides Of ​​​​Soy

​The main downside is that, for most people, soy protein really isn’t the optimal protein source. It has estrogen-raising effects, which in turn make testosterone plummet. This makes it very bad for muscle gaining purposes.

Any Side Effects?

​Soy contains goitrogens, which lead to hypothyroid problems. Consumption of soy protein could lead to thyroid issues and weaken your immune system, making it easier to catch a cold.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​Vegans who have exhausted all other sources of protein and are left with soy.

​​Recommended ​​​Soy Protein Powders

​Bob's Red Mill Soy Protein

​If you have to go for a soy protein powder, I recommend Bob’s Red Mill. It’s gluten free, dairy free and full of amino acids. Each serving gives you 17g of protein and it is really tasty, making it a great choice for a breakfast smoothie.

bob's red mill gluten free soy protein


​When you’re looking for a super healthy protein source, pea is one of the best around. It’s popularity is still in its infancy but I see pea protein set to grow a grow.

What Is It?

​Pea protein comes from those green vegetables that our parents always tried to make us eat as children. It’s a great source of protein with lots of nutrients and little chance of causing an allergic reaction.

Benefits of ​​Pea

​Pea protein is fantastic for those who can’t have whey or casein or beef. It’s also one of the best choices for vegans and vegetarians. It is filled with nutritional goodies such as BCAAs and is high in arginine, lysine and phenylalanine. Pea protein powder also doesn’t have to break the bank like many other healthy options.

Downsides Of ​Pea

​​There really aren’t any downsides of pea protein unless you’re allergic to peas. The main downside that I can think of is that pea protein powders aren’t as tasty as some of the other options but that is because they usually only have peas as the ingredient and no artificial flavors (which is a good thing).

Any Side Effects?

​​Unless you specifically have an allergy to peas, there aren’t any common side effects. It’s also very rare that you’ll have an allergy to peas (dairy allergy is much more common).


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​Pea protein powders are great for pretty much anyone. They are especially good for vegans, vegetarians or those who have allergies to the traditional protein sources. Pea protein powder is a great choice for fat loss, muscle gain and overall health.

​​Recommended ​​Pea Protein Powders

​Naturade Pea

​Naturade uses the highest quality pea proteins available. It specifically uses pea protein isolate, which means more readily available protein and a better quality protein. It’s super healthy, all natural and contains no animal by-products, making it perfect for vegans and vegetarians. There are no artificial flavors, sweeteners or colors and it’s very easy to mix and digest. It also tastes delicious and is very cheap. I personally recommend the Vanilla flavor.

naturade pea protein

​Naked​ Pea

​​I love the products from the Naked company and their pea protein powder is no exception. This one is on the more expensive end but that’s because it’s crammed with the best quality pea protein. It’s not the best tasting (although it doesn’t taste bad either) but that’s okay when you consider what’s inside. There is only one ingredient: 100% yellow pea protein. There is nothing artificial and it’s completely GMO-free, soy free and gluten free. Each serving has 27g of protein and 5.7g of BCAAs.

naked pea


​When looking for healthy protein alternatives that suit a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, hemp is always high on the list. It’s filled with nutrients and is a great source of protein if you can’t touch the other options.

What Is It?

​Hemp actually comes from the cannabis plant, the same one that produces marijuana. However, hemp has little in common with the psychoactive substance and is actually just a super healthy plant food. It contains 21 amino acids (9 of which are essential) and high amounts of bioavailable protein.

Benefits of ​​Hemp

​​The main benefit of hemp protein is that it’s one of the best protein options for vegans and vegetarians and anyone who has allergies to dairy or gains. It’s loaded with essential amino acids and is easy to digest. It’s also rich in fiber and can improve kidney function and reduce inflammation.

Downsides Of ​Hemp

​Hemp could be said to have a high fat content, with almost 6g of fat per serving. Likewise, the high fiber content could be seen as a negative because it could make you need to use the bathroom more.

Any Side Effects?

​​​Some people might suffer from gastrointestinal distress after hemp consumption. This could include bloating, gas and diarrhoea. It’s not too common though and symptoms are usually quite mild.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​​Hemp protein powder is best for vegans and vegetarians or anyone who can’t stomach whey or casein.

​​Recommended ​​​Hemp Protein Powders

​Na​tiva Organic Hemp Protein

​​The great thing about this hemp protein powder is that it has all the health benefits of hemp and yet still manages to taste amazing. If you like a big serving of fiber with your protein, this is the protein powder for you because it’s 37% protein, 43% fiber and 9% healthy fats. It’s super easy to mix into other drinks so you can make a healthy smoothie. It’s also a good mid-range price.

nutiva hemp protein powder


​Rice protein powder is another great healthy protein option that is currently gaining more and more popularity.

What Is It?

​Rice protein powder is made from brown rice, is loaded with amino acids and nutrients and is perfect for those needing to gain muscle or lose fat while following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Benefits of ​​​Rice

​Brown rice protein has a pretty high protein content for a natural protein source, with most rice protein powders delivering around 24g of protein per serving. It’s also highly unlikely that you’ll be allergic to it so it’s really gentle on the body. It’s naturally low fat and low calorie, which makes it perfect for fat loss or lean muscle gain. Rice protein also has lots of amino acids and is particularly high in cystine and methionine.

Downsides Of ​Rice

​​​Unless you are allergic to rice (which is unlikely), there aren’t any downsides to rice protein aside from the fact that many of them aren’t the best tasting and they aren’t the most optimal protein source for muscle building.

Any Side Effects?

Rice protein is highly unlikely to trigger an allergic response. So, unless you are allergic to rice, you probably won’t experience any side effects.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

Rice protein powder is best for vegans, vegetarians and those who cannot have the other kinds of protein powder.

​​Recommended ​​​​Rice Protein Powders

​Growing Naturals Rice Protein

​​Growing Naturals is one of the cheaper quality rice protein powders around. It uses rice protein isolate (90%), which means more protein availability and better protein quality. You get 24g of protein per servings and it’s also pretty tasty and easy to mix.

growing naturals rice protein

Other Protein Powders


Protein powder blends contain a combination of different protein sources in order to reap the benefits of all of them. Common blends include whey, casein, and egg protein. On the plant-based spectrum, many protein blends contain hemp, pea and rice protein.

Benefits of Blends

​​Recommended ​​​​Blends

​Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein

​Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder is 100% natural and made with organic brown rice protein, organic chia seed, organic hemp protein, and organic pea protein. You get 21g of high quality plant-based protein per serving and only 5g of carbs with no added sugar. It’s gluten free, soy free, dairy free and non-GMO. It comes in two amazing flavors: Vanilla Bean and Creamy Chocolate Fudge. It’s also perfect for those who want to stay healthy on a budget.

naturade pea protein

​MusclePharm Combat Powder

​MusclePharm is a super effective and really tasty. Each serving gives you 25g of protein from multiple sources. You get a first-class blend of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate, micellar casein, egg white albumen, L-glutamine, L-leucine, L-valine, L-isoleucine. You also get a digestive enzyme blend to keep stomach cramps at bay. It’s under $30 and every single flavor is great.

naked pea

​​Weight Gainers

Weight gainers are a little different from normal protein powders because they have the primary aim of helping you put on mass. They do this with high amounts of protein but also high amounts of carbohydrates. If you’re trying to lose fat, a weight gainer is not for you. But if you’re really skinny and you desperately need to put on mass and don’t mind gaining some fat, I’m going to tell you the best weight gainers you should try.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​For those who struggle to put on weight or gain.

Recommended Weight Gainers

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

You better believe them when they call this product ‘Serious Mass’. Seriously, use this supplement if need to build mass of any kind fast. This is also good if you simply can’t get enough calories in to meet your expenditure. Each serving gives you 1,200 calories, 50g of protein and250g of carbohydrates. You also get creatine, glutamine, glutamic acid and 25 vitamins and essential minerals.


CytoSport Cyto Gainer Protein Mix Drink

Cyto Gainer gives you a monster 54g of protein per serving and 560 calories. The formula includes whey peptides that and glutamine, which will leave your muscles feeling full and tight. I recommend the Chocolate flavor mixed with almond milk after a workout. Once again though, I must stress that this should only be used by the super skinny or underweight and probably shouldn’t be used indefinitely.


Recommended Protein Powder Blends

​​Recommended ​​​Hemp Protein Powders

​Naturade Pea

​Naturade uses the highest quality pea proteins available. It specifically uses pea protein isolate, which means more readily available protein and a better quality protein. It’s super healthy, all natural and contains no animal by-products, making it perfect for vegans and vegetarians. There are no artificial flavors, sweeteners or colors and it’s very easy to mix and digest. It also tastes delicious and is very cheap. I personally recommend the Vanilla flavor.

naturade pea protein

​Naked​ Pea

​​I love the products from the Naked company and their pea protein powder is no exception. This one is on the more expensive end but that’s because it’s crammed with the best quality pea protein. It’s not the best tasting (although it doesn’t taste bad either) but that’s okay when you consider what’s inside. There is only one ingredient: 100% yellow pea protein. There is nothing artificial and it’s completely GMO-free, soy free and gluten free. Each serving has 27g of protein and 5.7g of BCAAs.

naked pea


Beef protein powder has a short history, having only been available in the last few years.  It's popularity and formation is most likely as a result of the paleo lifestyle and it's popularity in recent years.

What Is It?

​As you may have guessed, beef protein powder gets its protein from beef.

Beef protein powder is normally labelled as hydrolyzed beef protein isolate.  Generally this will be made from throwaway parts of the cow including hooves, bones, skin and joints.  This lends itself to a much cheaper price than if it were from beef meat cuts.

Some beef protein powders are made from bone broth while others are focused on the collagen - bones and skin - of beef. 

There is not a lot of transparency with beef protein powder products so it is worth contacting the company you may want to buy from to understand what exactly you are buying.

The jury is still out on whether beef or whey are the superior protein sources but one thing’s for sure is that beef protein powder can certainly help your gains. Make sure to get grass-fed and organic beef though!

Benefits of ​​Beef

Regardless of whether the beef protein is meat or another part of the cow, it still has a rich nutritional profile (or can do depending on the product).  Check the nutritional profile of the product in order to see this. 

Beef protein has a rich nutritional profile with high levels of vitamin A, C, B6, B12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Beef protein is fantastic for supporting lean muscle growth and can help with restoring energy levels. Many beef protein powders also have little or no fat, cholesterol, lactose or carbohydrates. In addition to these benefits, beef protein is also the superior choice for those with lactose intolerance and can’t stomach the traditional whey or casein varieties.

  • Increase In Lean Muscle Mass & Strength - One study looked at the effects of whey protein and beef protein isolate on muscle mass and strength when taken after resistance training.  The study found that both whey and protein (separately) significantly increased lean body mass and strength when consumed after resistance training (​25).
  • Low In Fat & Cholesterol - Beef gets a bad rap for being high in saturated fat and cholesterol.  Beef protein powder allows you to enjoy the benefits of beef without those elements.
  • Little To No Sugar - Many protein powders contain a lot of sugar but because beef protein os most marketed to a paleo lifestyle, they tend to have very little or none at all.
  • No Bloating - Many people find they experience bloating after consuming whey protein.  This could be because they do not have the ability to digest lactose properly.  As beef protein contains no lactose, the likelihood of bloating is minimal.  If the beef protein you are buying is hydrolyzed, this process also breaks down the amino acids into smaller peptide chains making it easier and faster to absorb and digest.

Downsides Of ​Beef

​​The main downside is for vegetarians and vegans because, as expected, beef protein powder is sourced from bovines. Another downside is that, unless you do your research, many of the beef protein powders will use inferior beef sources like gelatin.

Any Side Effects?

​​As long as you have a high quality supplement and you’re not allergic to beef, I can’t think of any possible side effects with beef protein powder, though of course that is not to say side effects aren’t possible.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​​Beef protein powder is best for helping you to build or maintain muscle without suffering the intestinal distress that could arise from whey and casein protein powders.

​​Recommended ​Beef Protein Powders


​​PurePaleo Protein is expensive but you certainly get what you pay for. This is one of the best beef protein powders on the market. You get 21g of top quality beef protein per serving. If you suffer from stomach issues, you’ll immediately notice the difference between this beef protein powder and whey and casein protein powders. It is also delicious.

purepaleo protein powder


​If you’re following the paleo diet, you might feel that protein powders are not a possible part of your diet. But that’s just not true. These days, paleo-dieters are spoiled for choice.

What Is It?

​​Paleo protein powder is protein powder that fits in with the philosophy of following a paleo lifestyle. There are no strange chemicals or artificial ingredients. Everything is naturally sourced and good for you.

Benefits of ​​​​Paleo Protein

​The main benefit of paleo protein powder will be to those trainers that are following the paleo lifestyle. The second main benefit is that paleo protein powders are often the supremely healthier option because they use naturally sourced products and make you feel fantastic.

Downsides Of ​​​Paleo Protein

​The main downside is the price tag. It’s not cheap producing high quality paleo protein products. But if you are willing to invest a little extra cash, you’ll definitely be rewarded by a body and mind that feels much healthier.

Any Side Effects?

​There is no one ingredient that goes into all paleo protein powders. As such, any side effects are likely to be due to allergies to certain ingredients. For example, if your paleo protein powder is made primarily from hemp and you have intolerance to that, then you might experience side effects. Generally speaking, however, paleo protein powders often have very few side effects due to their natural and organic ingredients.


1-2 scoops are recommended which is around 20-40g of protein.  Each tub you receive will have a suggested serving size which you can adapt to your preference.

Best For?

​Paleo protein powders are best for those following the paleo lifestyle or anyone who wishes to reap the health benefits associated with following the paleo lifestyle.

​​Recommended ​​Paleo Protein Powders

Ultimate Paleo Protein

Ultimate Paleo Protein is made with a revolutionary protein source called HydroBEEF which is a protein derived from an infusion process of beef to preserve critical and essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  It's completely free of hormones and is 100% hypoallergenic.

ultimate paleo protein


This is one of the best paleo protein powders around. It has 26g of protein per serving and is free from hormones and antibitiocies.  It is made using pastured grass-fed beef which means its a quality and nutrient rich product.  It also includes egg white too to get the best of both protein sources.


What Else Is Usually In Protein Powder?

Protein powders come in so many varieties. That’s why I’ve split this guide down into the different types below. But here are some of the common things you can find in different protein powders:

  • Natural sweeteners: stevia, erythritol, xylitol, yacon syrup, naturally derived fruit extracts.
  • Artificial sweeteners: sucralose, agave nectar, aspartame, acesulfame.
  • Branched chain amino acids: like leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are naturally occurring because of the protein content but some companies add extra BCAAs to their mix.
  • Creatine: this is a substance that occurs naturally in the body and helps with improved strength, energy, recovery and muscle mass. Creatine is most often sold as a separate supplement but some companies add creatine to their protein powder. If this is the case, they will state it in their nutritional information and label.
  • Carbohydrates: unless you specifically get a no-carb protein powder, your protein powder will probably have some carbs in it. Some protein powders contain simple sugars, whilst others contain complex carbohydrate formulas. Having simple sugar with your protein is often a good thing when taking it post-workout.
  • Fats: some protein powders will contain essential fatty acids in order to improve the overall nutritional level of the supplement.
  • Fiber: protein powders that contain added fiber can be a great resource if you’re dieting hard and not getting enough fiber from whole foods.

As always, make sure you read the labels so you know exactly what you’re consuming.

What To Avoid

If you take a look at the label of a protein powder, you’ll probably see a bunch of ingredient names that you don’t recognize and cannot pronounce. That’s often the first clue that the protein powder isn’t exactly the healthiest thing on the market. But let’s look specifically at the main offenders. If you’re super vigilant about what goes into your body (and you should be), you might want to avoid protein powders that contain the following ingredients:

  • Soy protein isolate:This is a super cheap form of protein and is manufactured from GMO soy. It can wreak havoc on your hormonal profile (low testosterone, guys?) and most people are going to have an allergic reaction to it. If you enjoy high levels of inflammation and stomach pain, go for it. But I personally hate those things and make sure to stay away from soy protein isolate.
  • Sugar: If you care about your fat levels, you’ll want a protein powder that doesn’t have high levels of sugar (even if it’s naturally occurring). Of course, the exception is post-workout when sugar paired with protein can be very beneficial. Although I would personally prefer to get my protein powder without sugar and have some fruit instead. Sugars to watch out for include: dextrose fructose, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane syrup, sucrose, glucose, cane sugar, brown sugar, palm sugar, corn syrup solids, and maple syrup.
  • Gluten: There’s a reason why the whole world is making a fuss about gluten-free. That’s because most people’s bodies (mine included) simply cannot handle gluten. Humans were never really meant to consume it. So if you see gluten on your protein powder label, you’ll probably want to stay away (especially if you already know you have an intolerance).
  • Hydrogenated stuff: If you see the word ‘hydrogenated’ in the ingredients, you’ll probably want to choose a different protein powder. For example, I would personally stay away from ‘hydrogenated whey protein’. It will play havoc on your gut.

How To Find A Quality Protein Powder

I’ve made a ton of suggestions for healthy protein powders in other articles and I’ll also suggest some of the best protein powders here. But, as with everything, it usually comes down to unique individual preferences. You might need to experiment a little bit here and find out what works for your body.

A protein powder that makes me feel amazing might trigger an allergic reaction in your body and give you stomach cramps. Meanwhile, you might be fine with another protein powder but I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot barge pole.

The best thing to do is to read the suggestions below and experiment. If you already know your body well, you should know what things it can handle and what things it can’t.


Final thoughts

You now know everything the average person needs to know about protein powders. You know how and when to use protein powder, the benefits of protein powder, and the best kinds of different protein powders. This was a huge guide so make sure you refer back to it whenever you find yourself needing to recap the basics or whenever you wish to try a new protein powder.

If it’s your first time purchasing a protein powder, I would personally recommend picking up 2 or 3 protein powders from the different categories to see how your body responds. For example, I would pick up a whey version, a plant-based version and a paleo version. But your choices might vary depending on why you need the protein in the first place. Good luck and I hope you can find the best protein powder for you!

Additional resources

The subject of protein powder is a big one and much has been written about it. I’m including my top resources here if you’re interested in exploring this topic further.

Protein Powder Cooking by Courtney Nielsen

Once you’ve got to grips with protein powder and found one that you love, you can begin experimenting with different recipes using protein powder. This book will help you make some delicious meals, snacks and desserts using protein powder.


Protein Intake Calculator has a fantastic protein intake calculator. Just put in your details, like age, sex, height, and fitness goal, and you’ll know exactly how many grams of protein a day you need. It’s a super useful tool!

Protein Food Shopping With A Fitness Model

If you’re interested to see what protein sources a fitness model typically eats, check out this YouTube video with Troy Adashun.

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