Best & Worst

We Tested 10 Protein Powders, And This Is The Best!

protein powders

By April Benshosan

Got your protein in today, bro?

Protein isn’t just for bodybuilders—both bikini competitors and 9-5’ers alike need it to sustain muscle mass, keep tummies satiated, and maintain healthy hair, skin, and teeth. But sometimes it’s hard to get enough of this notorious macronutrient because, well, life happens. And that’s where protein powders come in. Either animal- or plant-based, they can provide a quick and easy boost during those missed-your-alarm mornings and days when you’re stuck in traffic post workout. But picking a powder can get excessively confusing, especially when there are so many brands, protein sources, flavors, and marketing ploys splattered across elaborate labels.

That’s why our top taster at Eat This, Not That! (ahem, me) powered through the trouble of taste testing ten popular whey and plant-based protein powders (mixed with water or organic unsweetened soymilk) and then ranked them based on four standards: Nutrition, Clean Ingredients, Appearance and Consistency, as well as Taste. Read on to find out which powdered protein ranked as our number one and which pick you should avoid like the plague next time you see it on a store shelf. And speaking of this stellar macro, check out these 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss pronto.

How We Graded Them

Here are the four metrics we used to determine each protein powder’s final grade.

Nutrition

Besides for ensuring your protein powder has enough (about 15+ grams) of... you guessed it… protein, it’s also vital to check for other nutritionals like fat, sodium, sugar, and fiber to ensure you’re not wrecking the body goals you hope to achieve by sipping on the stuff.

Clean Ingredients

Many tubs contain a slew of funky additives and unpronounceable ingredients that are bad news for your belly. We want to make sure the protein dust you’re scooping into your shake or baking into a cake is free of bloating artificial sweeteners, toxic metals, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), or any other culprit that shouldn’t burrow its way into a health supplement.

Appearance & Consistency

Because no one wants a gritty neon-colored shake that’s as dense as Duncan Hines cake batter.

Taste

Let’s be honest for a sec—protein shakes can do wonderful things to your body, but if they’re not up to par with our tastebuds, there’s no way they’ll be capable of working their magic.

From Worst… To Best

10
Quest Vanilla Milkshake

Nutrition: 1 Scoop (28 g), 100 calories, 0 g fat, 150 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 22 g protein

Ingredients: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Micellar Casein), Natural Flavors. Contains less than 2% of the following: Cellulose Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Steviol Glycosides (Stevia), Salt, Carrageenan, Sucralose.

Appearance & Consistency: Super velvety, indulgent consistency, which was unexpected considering we only used water. Onlookers would definitely mistake this protein-loaded blend for an vanilla ice cream-packed thickshake.

Taste: Quest’s vanilla milkshake rendition definitely smells and tastes like what it claims—but that should raise red flags warning you it’s too good to be true. This powder was severely sweet, thanks to both the added stevia and sucralose, which also resulted in a brief yet unappetizing aftertaste.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

Overall, this dessert-like drink was overwhelmingly sweet and actually tasted like the flavor it boasts on its bright blue ice cream-adorned label. But it ranks the lowest on our list because of its use of sucralose (the generic name for Splenda), which studies have linked to dips and spikes in blood sugar.

9
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Vanilla

Nutrition: 1 Scoop (32 g), 130 calories, 1 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 60 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 24 g protein

Ingredients: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolates, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Peptides), Sugar, Natural Flavor, Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Rebaudioside A, Lactase.

Appearance & Consistency: Upon cracking open this giant black and ivory tub, I was hit with an unpleasant whiff of the contents’ artificial vanilla scent, which only became worse after mixing it with ice cold water. The upside? The shake’s consistency was quite smooth and far from gritty.

Taste: If your nose can get over the odd smell enough to allow you to introduce it to your tongue, the taste isn’t as bad as expected. ON shake’s mild vanilla flavor wasn’t as sweet as Quest’s, but it still wasn’t pleasing enough to down a whole blender bottle’s worth.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

We weren’t impressed by the taste or the fact that this whey protein shake barely contains any vitamins, minerals, or benefits besides the 24 grams of protein it packs in. There are way better versions out there and you’ll get to them in a jiffy.

8
Amazing Grass Protein Superfood, Chocolate Peanut Butter

Nutrition: 1 Scoop (43 g), 190 calories, 7 g fat (1.5 saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 20 g protein

Ingredients: Green Food Blend (Organic Wheat Grass, Organic Alfalfa, Organic Barley Grass, Organic Spinach, Organic Spirulina, Organic Chlorella (cracked cell-wall), Organic Broccoli; Protein Blend (Organic Pea Protein, Organic Hemp Protein, Organic Chia, Organic Quinoa); Fruit & Vegetable Blend (Organic Acai, Organic Banana, Organic Beet, Organic Carrot, Organic Goji, Organic Pineapple, Organic Sweet Potato, Organic Raspberry, Organic Rose Hips). Other Ingredients: Organic Peanut Flour, Natural Flavors, Organic Cocoa, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Organic Stevia

Appearance & Consistency: The shake itself looked like a peanut butter-swirled blend, but was nowhere near as creamy as the dreamy nut butter we begged mom to spread on our sammies as kids.

Taste: Perhaps I was forewarned by the grassy smell, but for the sake of this experiment, I took a chug. My “this will be fun” experience quickly and darkly turned into a moment only Fear Factor contestants can empathize with. No, this does not taste like chocolate. No, this does not taste like peanut butter. What it does taste like is pulverized produce and crushed expectations.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

While this superfood blend does pack in 20 grams of complete protein as well as two servings of organic fruits and vegetables, we’re not impressed with its high sodium content. And taste wise, let’s just add that you won’t be singing “Amazing Grace” after taking a sip of this Amazing Grass shake.

Buy it now for $21.99 at Amazon.com

7
Vega One All-In-One Shake, French Vanilla

Nutrition: 1 Scoop (41 g), 160 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated), 240 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (6 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 20 g protein

Ingredients: Pea Protein, Flaxseed, Pea Starch, Organic Acacia Gum, Natural Flavor, Hemp Protein, Sacha Inchi Protein, Organic Gelatinized Maca Root, Organic Broccoli, Inulin (from Chicory Root), Organic Spirulina, Organic Kale, Organic Marine Algae, Dried Fruit and Vegetable Blend (spinach, Broccoli, Carrot, Beet, Tomato, Apple, Cranberry, Orange, Cherry, Blueberry, Strawberry, Mushroom), Chlorella Vulgaris, Papain, Probiotics (bacillus Coagulans), Stevia Leaf Extract, Citric Acid, Dried Antioxidant Fruit Blend (Grape Seed Extract, Organic Pomegranate, Acai, Mangosteen, Organic Goji, Organic Maqui)

Appearance & Consistency: Even though the flavor claims vanilla, this powder is green. So if you’re into the whole holding-a-green-shake-because-it-looks-cool vibe, then you’ll probably appreciate the Hulk-hued blend. Sadly, the powder’s grainy texture wasn’t as debatably impressive as its color.

Taste: Rather than tasting like French Vanilla, a sip of this tasted more like a wheatgrass shot… or the ocean. (After all, it does contain organic marine algae and spirulina.) When mixed with water, the vanilla flavor wasn’t as distinct as the stevia flavor, but it vastly improved when we subbed H2O for soymilk.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

The addition of soymilk to the powder allowed the vanilla to really shine through, but we couldn’t seem to get over that unusually strong stevia aftertaste or grainy mouthfeel. Hopefully the one billion CFU probiotics count, 12 vitamins and minerals, six grams of fiber, and 1.5 grams of omega-3s will help you get over the freaky flavor enough to down this thing.

Buy it now for $47.49 at Amazon.com

6
Orgain Organic Protein, Sweet Vanilla Bean

Nutrition: 2 Scoops (46 g), 150 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 180 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (5 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 21 g protein

Ingredients: Orgain Organic Protein Blend (Organic Pea Protein, Organic Brown Rice Protein, Organic Chia Seed, Organic Hemp Protein), Orgain Organic Creamer base (Organic Acacia Gum, Oroganic High Oleic Sunflower OIl, Organic Inulin, Organic Rice Dextrins, Organic Rice Bran Extract, Organic Rosemary), Organic Erythritol, Organic Natural Flavors, Natural Flavor, Sea Salt, Organic Acacia Gum, Organic Guar Gum, Organic Stevia, Xanthan Gum

Appearance & Consistency: This powder’s smell is quite reminiscent of pancake mix and the texture was as smooth as batter—two factors we’re fans of.

Taste: Excessively sweet and long lasting stevia aftertaste.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

We really can’t imagine chugging a whole shaker cup of this mix because of its strong sweet flavor—hello, five grams of sugar alcohols! Though, we do like the impressive five grams of fiber per serving and that it’s made with a blend of organic plant proteins including pea, rice, chia, and hemp (minus a mind-altering high).

Buy it now for $25.49 at Amazon.com

5
Garden of Life Sport, Chocolate

Nutrition: 2 Scoops (44 g), 170 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 180 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 30 g protein

Ingredients: Organic Performance Protein Blend: Organic Pea Protein, Organic Sprouted Navy Bean, Organic Sprouted Lentil Bean, Organic Sprouted Garbanzo Bean, Organic Cranberry Protein (seed). Organic Flavor Blend: Organic Cacao, Organic Carob, Organic Chocolate Flavors, Organic Vanilla Flavor, Sea Salt, Organic Stevia Extract (leaf). Organic Muscle Recovery Blend: Organic Apple (fruit pulp), Organic Tart Cherry (fruit), Organic Turmeric (root), Organic Blueberry (fruit), Organic Goji Berry (fruit)

Appearance & Consistency: The consistency of this chocolate protein powder was quite thick, so you’ll definitely want to add a few extra splashes of water or your favorite milk to the mix. Once more liquid was added, it was delightfully smooth.

Taste: This is where Garden of Life lost us. We tasted the stevia way more than any promising chocolatey flavor notes, and the aftertaste was just as harsh. In addition to that, this shake was oddly saltier than a handful of pretzels.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

We really wanted to love this pick since it packs in a two billion CFU probiotic count, 5.5g BCAAs as well as 5g glutamine (which can help minimize recovery time after your workout), and 30 grams of organic plant protein. But, if you’re able to get over the distractingly salty and chalky flavor, definitely give this tub a go!

Buy it now for $33.76 at Amazon.com

4
Designer Whey, French Vanilla

Nutrition: 1 Scoop (31 g), 110 calories, 1.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 20 g protein

Ingredients: Designer Whey Full Spectrum Peptides (rBGH-free Whey Protein Concentrate, rBGH-free Whey Protein Isolate, L-glutamine, L-leucine, Taurine, L-phenylalanine), Digestive Health Blend [Non-GMO Prebiotic Vegetable Fiber, Probiotics (lactobacillus Acidophilus, B. Longum, L. Plantarum), Vegetarian Protease Enzymes], Natural Vanilla Flavor, Sunflower Lecithin, Electrolyte Blend (Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide), B-vitamin Blend (Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin), Zinc Gluconate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Alginate, Stevia Leaf Extract, Cinnamon, Annatto, Monk Fruit, Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Contains Milk.

Appearance & Consistency: When mixed with water, the texture was incredibly smooth; but when mixed with cold soymilk, the consistency became sensationally silky.

Taste: Although this protein powder boasted a slight artificial taste and stevia aftertaste, fortunately, the overall sweetness didn’t overpower the balanced vanilla flavor.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

We approve of this protein powder because of its stellar nutritionals and the fact that it provides 20 grams of unadulterated rBGH-free whey—which means no artificial growth hormones. Unlike most animal-derived proteins, this pick packs in a solid three grams of prebiotic vegetable fiber fiber to prevent any awkward mid-afternoon tummy rumbles. We also like that it contains a blend of B-vitamins to help the body convert protein to energy, as well as calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Plus, the taste is significantly more tolerable than the both Quest and ON’s whey-based powders. The only reason Designer Whey can’t be deemed the Prada of whey proteins is because of its addition of taurine—an amino acid abundantly found in the brain and in many popular energy drinks that—according to research by Neil Harrison, PhD, a professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College—may behave more like a sedative than a stimulant.

Buy it now for $42.74 at Amazon.com

3
Organic Valley Organic Fuel Chocolate

Nutrition: 2 Scoops (35 g), 140 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 55 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 26 g protein

Ingredients: Organic Whey Protein Concentrate, Organic Fair Trade Dutch Cocoa, Organic Fair Trade Unrefined Cane Sugar, Organic Sunflower Lecithin, Organic Stevia

Appearance & Consistency: Just one scoop of this stuff was pretty hard to mix and we experienced some difficulty trying to achieve the desired consistency. After investing some elbow grease, the grainy texture only slightly improved, which means you’ll probably enjoy this one shaken not stirred.

Taste: Fortunately enough, Organic Fuel’s chocolate powder had a pleasing milk chocolate taste and mild sweetness to it, which was somewhat reminiscent of a cold glass of chocolate milk. Another upside? No overpowering aftertaste. YAY.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

This protein-packed pick is our one of our favorites… all the whey! That’s because it’s loaded with 26 grams of muscle-building protein, minimal sodium and sugar, and it’s USDA-certified organic. Sneak this into homemade brownies or even whip up a batch of guilt-free cocoa waffles for a delicious start to your day.

2
Sunwarrior Classic Protein, Chocolate

Nutrition: 1 Scoop (21 g), 80 calories, 0 g fat, 45 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 16 g protein

Ingredients: Raw Whole Grain Brown Rice Protein, Raw Organic Cocoa, Natural Flavor (Vegan), Chocolate Extract, Rice Oligodextrin, Stevia, Xanthan Gum, Ancient Sea Salt, Pectin

Appearance & Consistency: This does have a slight grainy texture and chalky feel, but nothing too major to write it off. Shaking it up with some soymilk improved the consistency by leaps and bounds.

Taste: Despite its odd smell, Sunwarrior’s version does taste like real chocolate—which really pulls on a chocoholic’s heartstrings.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

We’re really obsessed with this pick because of it’s got an abundant amount of amino acids, and its free of GMOs, soy, gluten, and dairy, yet chock full of flavor. Even if you double up and add an extra helping, your shake will clock in at a reasonable 160 calories, and you’ll get more bang for your protein buck with 32 grams of the building block.

Buy it now for $44.99 at Amazon.com

1
ALOHA Chocolate

Nutrition: 2 Scoops (37 g), 150 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 18 g protein

Ingredients: Protein Blend (Pea Protein, Pumpkin Seed Protein, Hemp Seed Protein), Cacao Powder, Coconut Water Powder, Coconut Sugar, Madagascar Cinnamon, Xanthan Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Monk Fruit Extract, Vanilla Bean*, Pink Sea Salt

Appearance & Consistency: Unlike many of the plant-based protein powders, Aloha didn’t have a revolting grassy scent or overly grainy texture. Opting for soymilk rather than regular ol’ H2O endowed it with a silkier texture that required zero effort to gulp.

Taste: If you’re a true chocolate nut like we are, you’ll love this powder’s rich, indulgent cocoa flavor that the Madagascar cinnamon helps highlight. The natural, low-glycemic coconut sugar adds a mild sweetness without an unpalatable aftertaste. Mix this with some unsweetened soymilk and it transforms into a perfectly sweet and significantly smoother bev that we wanna lap up on the reg.

Eat This, Not That! Verdict:

Say Aloha to our favorite protein powder! This vegan concoction is made with organic hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peas that provide 18 grams of protein per serving—with 200 milligrams of omega-3s and zero chemicals or artificial fillers. Its true dark chocolate, sans stevia, flavor drove it home, deeming Aloha our most eligible bachelor yet. Purchase a tub of this stuff and sprinkle it into any one of the 100+ recipes in Zero Belly Smoothies for a delicious boost!

Buy it now for $25.64 at Amazon.com


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