Editor's Note
  • May 2, 2018 - The chocolate and vanilla flavors for our best vegan powder pick, Garden of Life - RAW Organic Protein, now contain organic erythritol, an artificial sweetener we cut in our methodology. Garden of Life’s unflavored protein powder doesn’t contain this ingredient and is a good alternative if you’re looking for a smooth-textured powder to mix into smoothies. Upon testing, we noticed it had a strong papery taste when mixed with water, and that you need to add a few ingredients (we added cocoa powder, agave and peanut butter) to mask the flavor. We’ll re-evaluate all of our top picks in our next update.

Whether your goal is to build muscle or just hit your daily nutrition goals, the best protein powder is easy to mix and enjoyable to drink, all without relying on any unhealthy filler. We surveyed over 4,000 dieticians, consulted renowned fitness and health experts, and tasted 12 certified-safe powders to find our top picks.

The Best Protein Powder

Sports nutrition can be a tricky place for the average consumer to navigate. Since protein powders aren’t regulated by the FDA, manufacturers can get away with a lot of misleading information and marketing hype. We approached our search for the best protein powder like a doctor approaches a patient: “First, do no harm.” We sought out protein powders that are made from high-quality, safe, and third-party verified ingredients, without any artificial additives. And, of course, they had to taste great.

If your idea of the best protein powder is whichever one is the easiest to gulp down, check out Jay Robb's Whey Protein ($24 for 275 grams of protein). It was easily the top-performing powder in our tests, scoring the highest for both taste and texture. Jay Robb’s mixed beautifully, making it an ideal choice if you want something quick for the gym. The only downside is the price; at almost $0.09 per gram of protein, it was the second most expensive product we brought in.

Dymatize ISO100 trades a slight downgrade in taste for a higher protein content per dollar than any other powder we brought in ($30 for 600 grams of protein). If you’re after the best deal, Dymatize will get you the most for your money. But that’s not to say it didn’t make a tasty drink: Testers loved the chocolate flavor, comparing it to chocolate milk on nearly every comment card. The vanilla was a little more polarizing, but that was the case across the board — with the exception of Jay Robb’s vanilla.

If you’re looking for a completely vegan, organic, and GMO-free protein powder, check out Garden of Life - RAW Organic Protein ($38 for 440 grams of protein). While plant-based products tasted significantly worse than the whey proteins, our testers liked Garden of Life better than other options. We’ll be honest, it’s not the most pleasant thing to drink exclusively with water, as we did. However, blending it in with stronger ingredients like a milkshake should take the edge off.

Our Picks for the Best Protein Powder

Best
Tasting
Jay Robb's Whey Protein
Jay Robb's
The top performer in vanilla flavor, and a close second in chocolate — Jay Robb's is a solid choice for any taste preference.

You can count the number of ingredients in Jay Robb’s protein powder on one hand: whey protein isolate, sunflower lecithin, xantham gum, stevia leaf extract, and natural flavors. No artificial colors or sweeteners. No GMOs. No added sugars. On top of all that, it was the best-tasting powder we tried. And while it is one of the more expensive protein powders around at almost $0.09 per gram, we think it’s more than worth it.

Jay Robbs for Protein Powder

Our testers loved Jay Robb’s, ranking the vanilla flavor number one overall in taste tests and chocolate number three. This was especially impressive, considering vanilla flavors were otherwise universally hated by our testers.

Should you worry about GMOs?While the consensus among scientists is that GMOs aren’t harmful to humans, the specific hormone used on cows that produce whey protein, rBGH, is a little more controversial. The evidence is still inconclusive, but Canada and the European Union have both banned its use due to concerns about increased levels of growth hormones and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Jay Robb’s tied for first in our tests for texture, too. Its powders mixed up easily in the water, without leaving any off-putting protein particles floating around in our drink. One tester said, “It has a smooth, thin milk consistency. Non-fat milk — water’s burlier twin.” Another even went as far as “almost silky.”

Aside from its taste and texture, Jay Robb’s also goes above and beyond in sourcing its ingredients. It’s one of three powders we tested that doesn’t contain any GMOs, meaning Jay Robb’s takes the extra step to go through small farms to obtain rBGH-free whey. It also earned an 83.4 overall from Labdoor, with an impressive 93 score for nutritional value, making it one of the most accurately labelled protein powders on the market.

Most Protein
For Your Buck
Dymatize - ISO100 Natural Chocolate and Vanilla Flavors
Dymatize
At $0.05 per gram of protein, Dymatize is the cheapest of our contenders, but it still delivers a great-tasting chocolate flavor.

If you’re after the most protein for the best price, look no further. Dymatize delivers protein at a little under $0.05 per gram — the cheapest of any product we tested — and it does so without sacrificing taste or ingredient quality. At 600 total grams per $30 bag, Dymatize is your best bet for a great value.

Dymatize Offers the Cheapest Protein

Price
Protein per Scoop
Scoops per Container
Total Protein
Dollars per Gram
AllMax
$39.99
27
29
783
0.051
Dymatize
$29.99
25
24
600
0.049
Garden of Life
$37.59
22
20
440
0.085
Jay Robb's
$23.75
25
11
275
0.086
Optimum Nutrition
$29.99
24
24
576
0.052
Vega
$49.99
30
19
570
0.087

Dymatize was one of the tastiest protein powders in our tests, coming in a close second to Jay Robb’s. Our testers had nothing but good things to say about the chocolate flavor; one remarked that it was “the most like chocolate milk of the three chocolates I’ve tasted” and another compared it to hot chocolate, saying “I could drink this happily.” Like every other brand besides Jay Robb’s, vanilla was a little more polarizing. One tester said it was “very sweet, like marshmallows,” while another concluded that it was “a total bummer… Very artificial vanilla with strong ‘protein’ undertones.” Dymatize was still the second highest-rated vanilla flavor in our tests; it just wasn’t as universally beloved as Jay Robb’s.

Texture drew all-around positive responses, too. The tester who slammed the vanilla Dymatize as “a total bummer” had to admit that it did succeed in one area, calling it “smooth and well-dissolved, but also quite creamy — the best consistency I’ve tested.” Other testers liked its smoothness, too, with one saying it would be “great for those who want to drink their protein fast.” Because it was one of the thinner consistencies we tried, you could even add a little extra power if you’re looking to get in more than its standard 25 grams per serving.

Dymatize for Protein Powder

We were also seriously impressed by the quality of Dymatize’s ingredients and the accuracy of its labelling. It earned the highest score on Labdoor of any of the products we tested with an 83.8 overall, narrowly edging out Jay Robb’s. And while its taste wasn’t quite as popular as Jay Robb’s, it was still easy to gulp down and is worth the bargain price.

Best
Vegan Powder
Garden of Life - RAW Organic Protein
Garden of Life
The best tasting and easiest to mix of our vegan contenders.

If you’re on a vegan diet, Garden of Life’s offerings fit the bill. We’ll be honest, it isn’t nearly as tasty as Jay Robb’s or Dymatize, but with its organic and non-GMO certifications, it’s the best plant-based protein powder around.

Garden of Life for Protein Powder

It was a close call between Garden of Life and the other vegan powder we tested, Vega, but Garden of Life had the edge in a few key areas. It received a slightly higher score overall on Labdoor (82.9 to 80.8), but it had a decidedly wider margin when it came to nutritional value: Labdoor awarded Garden of Life a 95 and Vega just 82. It is also the only product we tested that has been certified organic by the USDA, meaning it has to meet strict production requirements. To top it off, Garden of Life was a slightly better value at just over $0.08 per gram of protein, compared to Vega’s almost $0.09 per gram.

In general, the taste tests weren’t kind to our plant-based offerings. Garden of Life came in second to last, with Vega only a hair behind. Testers compared Garden of Life’s chocolate flavor to chalky water, a chalky melted milkshake, and the last beer in a keg. The vanilla didn’t fare any better: One tester said it tasted like “someone dropped a scoop of cake batter into a glass of water” and another compared it to “vanilla grass.” Nearly every tester also commented on the drink’s unusual thickness compared to other options, making it more inconvenient to mix into milkshake-consistency liquids.

Garden of Life (left) had a much more syrupy consistency than that of other options like Jay Robb's (right).

The truth is that plant-based proteins just aren’t as tasty as whey. But there are several things you can do to minimize the flavor, like blending it with other ingredients — banana is a good masker — or adding more liquid to thin it out. And while it was syrupy, we appreciated how Garden of Life dissolved completely without using a blender, making it a good option for your drive home from the gym.

How to Stay Safe with Your Supplements

Protein powder isn’t a replacement for a balanced diet.

In the explicit words of bodybuilder Rich Piana, “Any competitive bodybuilder isn’t getting what they need for a show at GNC; they’re going to the grocery store. Bodybuilders are not made on supplements; they’re made on f*$&ing good, healthy, wholesome food.” Whether you’re a competitive athlete or not, it’s important to treat these products as supplements, and not meal replacements.

Granted, if your full-time job isn’t training for the Olympics, you probably don’t have time to buy yams, bake them for a couple of hours, cool them overnight, and haul them to the gym wrapped in foil every day. For those who can’t prioritize meal planning, protein powders are a great way to bolster overall health – as long as the supplement is consumed as directed. Consider the following words from the International Sports Science Association: “The biggest advantage of protein supplements is not that they can build more muscle; the biggest advantage is convenience.”

Sports nutrition marketing is full of misinformation.

Supplement brands want your money, and they’re notorious for using bogus tactics to get it. Keep an eye out for gimmicks like these:

  • Myth: Undenatured whey protein
    Fact: This does not exist. The FDA requires that commercially sold milk is pasteurized, so all whey protein has been denatured in some way. Even cold-filtered whey has been flash pasteurized, and that has nothing to do with whether a product is denatured or not.
  • Myth: Grass-fed whey
    Fact: There are zero studies that conclude that grass-fed whey protein makes better athletes. No protein powder should be valued over another because its whey came from grass-fed cattle.
  • Myth: The more protein, the better
    Fact: Only 10% to 15% of the calories you need come from protein, and the maximum acceptable protein level for a healthy athlete is 0.9 grams of protein per pound.

Our Protein Powder Review: Summed Up

Protein Powder
The Best
Jay Robb's Whey Protein
Tasting
Dymatize - ISO100
On a Budget
Garden of Life - RAW Organic Protein
Vegan Powder