10 Best Protein Powders for Women, According to Dietitians
Making sure you're getting the right amount of protein every day is obviously a major part of a healthy diet, but when you think about which foods pack the most, it's not always the most exciting options. Chicken, brown rice, broccoli, and eggs might be high-protein foods that immediately come to mind, but they aren't really grab-and-go meals. However, it's still important to make sure you're fueling your body with enough protein, and that is especially true for women. That's where finding the best protein powder for women comes into play.
Why do women need protein?
"Protein is essential to build and maintain muscle, especially for active women. [This macronutrient] is not only important for muscle-building and strength, but is used for a number of functions in the body, including hair and nail integrity, making hormones and enzymes, and immune system support," says Jordan Mazur, MS, RD, Coordinator of Nutrition for the San Francisco 49ers. "Protein powders can be a great way to get extra protein in throughout the day or around your meals."
How much protein do women need per day?
Let's back up a minute: Curious about what protein intake is right for you?
"Women need a recommended minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 150-pound woman, that is about 54-60 grams of protein, or 20 grams per meal, more if you are working out and moderately to very active or if you are recovering from an injury or sickness," explains Amanda Barnes, MS, RDN.
What are the benefits of protein powder for women?
OK, so are there benefits for women adding protein powder to their diets? The short answer: yes, it's a good thing, especially for those who have been hitting the gym or just find themselves not eating enough foods that are high in protein.
Women may want to include protein powders in their diet if they are:
- Diet supplementation: If women are not consuming enough protein from whole foods, protein powder is an easy way to supplement your diet.
- You're exercising: Women will have a higher protein need due to their activity level and mode of exercise (resistance training females require more).
- You want to lose weight: For women who would like to manage their weight, adding protein powder can help.
"Protein needs vary for each female based on their weight, activity level, and desire to maintain, lose, or gain weight," says Ashley Reaver, MS, RD, CSSD, owner of Ashley Reaver Nutrition.
What to look for in the best protein powder for women.
In general, dietitians recommend following some general guidelines when picking the best protein powder for women:
- Aim for 15 to 20 grams of protein per serving. Protein powders should have between 15 and 20 grams of protein per serving with no more than 25 grams.
- Generally, powders should have no added sweeteners. Dietitians recommend protein powders with no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
- Carbs are allowed if you're using protein powder after exercising. If you're consuming it post-workout, you'll want to make sure it has some carbs, especially if you're mixing the powder with just water. Before buying, scan the labels to make sure the product has less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
To help you cut through the bonanza of options available, we tapped top nutritionists to find out the 10 best protein powders for women. Grab your shaker cup and read on!
Bob's Red Mill Protein + Fiber Nutritional Booster Protein Powder
If you're vegan, you might struggle to get enough protein and omega-3s in your diet, but this protein powder makes it easy to get both from plant-based sources.
"It is vegan (made with pea protein), contains fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. The pea protein is high in iron, a nutrient women specifically require higher intake of, and it is sometimes hard to get enough in a vegan diet," says Barnes. "The protein is easily digested, and with the addition of fiber and probiotics, this protein powder is good for gut health, which can improve mood, reduce chances of UTIs, and increase fertility." Bonus: The fact that it has no flavor makes it extra versatile to add to various recipes.
Noosh 100% Almond Protein Powder
If you're already doing a solid job of consuming enough protein via your meals every day, that doesn't mean you should necessarily rule out adding a protein powder into your diet. You can find some that are minimally processed, too, if you're wanting to make sure you get as close to all natural as you can, like this one from Noosh.
"Though protein powders are not necessarily needed if one is eating an adequate diet, they can help women with maintaining muscle mass, as decreases in muscle is common with the natural aging process. Furthermore, the boost in protein can benefit post-recovery muscle repair," explains Rachel Fine, RD, who adds that you should pair protein powders with a carbohydrate to aid in absorption and usage. "[I like] this minimally processed option with just one ingredient (if using the unflavored version, which is recommended). Almond protein offers a neutral-flavored vegan option without artificial flavors. Since most protein powders come packaged with additional added sugars, it's beneficial to choose a minimally processed option such as this."
Sakara Life Source Super Powder
Finally, a protein powder for people who may often steer clear of protein powders!
"I've had a number of patients say that they can't tolerate protein powders and that they end up with GI discomfort," says Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Maya Feller Nutrition, who is also on the Eat This! Advisory Board. "I've found that the plant-based proteins in the Sakara Life Source along with B vitamins are great for people who are strict vegetarians or vegans. They have also added a digestive enzyme that can be helpful for people who generally don't tolerate protein powders well."
RSP Nutrition's Grass-Fed True Fit Protein Shake Powder
"Females, in particular, will enjoy this product. Not only is it creamy and not chalky like many others on the market, but it is really a nutritional one-stop shop. It contains a whopping amount of protein and fiber, both of which contribute to satiety, and the fiber serves as prebiotic fuel to power the probiotic complex it contains, which all nourish the gut, immunity, and digestion," notes Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, founder of Essence Nutrition. "Layered on top of that are 16 essential vitamins and minerals, including the often elusive vitamin D. The protein comes from grass-fed whey protein concentrate that is made from an ultra-filtration process that separates fat, removes most of the lactose and other impurities, and achieves a carbohydrate count that satisfies many women's desires for powders lower in carbohydrates." Even better, this protein powder contains no added sugars and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It comes in chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon churro varieties, too.
Cocoa Elite Vegan Complete Body Protein Powder
The main source of protein here? Pumpkin seeds!
"Cocoa Elite is a good pick for females because it naturally contains a high amount of iron from quality cocoa that is high in iron and antioxidants. It is vegan and contains a biologically useful amount of protein per serving," says Reaver. This selection may also prove especially beneficial for premenopausal women: "Many premenopausal females, especially those who are very active, have low iron levels. This can contribute to fatigue, loss of focus, and poor athletic performance," Reaver explained." Particularly for active women [this powder] is also high in antioxidants, which can help to combat inflammation caused from endurance activities that stress the joints."
NatraTech Super Food Protein Powder
Protein powders can even come in handy when you're trying to reach your daily fruit and veggies servings, too.
"[Making a shake from this powder] is a great option because it has quality fruit and vegetable extracts to ensure we are getting in enough nutrients and antioxidants, especially if we do not get in the recommended 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily," says Dr. Keith Kantor, CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking (NAMED) program, which makes this supplement. "The high-quality brown rice protein is soy- and dairy-free, which promotes healthy digestion. It contains fiber, which helps prevent constipation, a common issue women face as they age, along with helpful digestive enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics," says Kantor, who adds that women should aim to get about 20 percent of their daily calories from protein, while taking care not to go overboard, as that can strain the kidneys and cause weight gain.
Momentous AbsoluteZero 100% Plant-Based Protein Powder and Momentous ArcFire Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate Powder
Plant-based pea protein version: SHOP NOW ON AMAZON
Grass-fed whey protein version: SHOP NOW ON AMAZON
"Momentous prides itself in having the cleanest and most transparent protein powders on the market. They have a whey protein isolate that is easy to digest due to [the] addition of prohydrolase, an enzyme to help aid in protein digestion and absorption. Their whey protein isolate is grass-fed and cold-processed, making it the most bioavailable and highest quality of all whey protein powders," says Mazur, who also sings the praises of their plant-based version, thanks to its perfect ratios of pea protein isolate with rice protein concentrate.
"If a woman chooses a plant-based protein source, you really need to make sure that it contains all of the essential amino acids for building protein in the body. The combination of pea protein and brown rice makes it the perfect blend."
Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins Protein Powder
"The [Genuine Health] fermented vegan proteins are organic, so for the consumer who wants an organic product, this would be a good option," recommends Feller. "The product is also gluten- and wheat-free for people that have the need to have those components omitted from their diets. And it's also free from artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners." Want to learn more about how to fit fermented foods into your diet? We've got you covered.
Growing Naturals Pea Protein Gold Standard Pea Powder
"Growing Naturals Pea Protein is plant-based, and is an excellent source of iron, phosphorus, and magnesium. Additionally, it keeps you full and has no artificial ingredients," shares Scarlett Full, RD, who is also the food scientist for the company. "For women, studies have shown that the risk of breast cancer and other cancers increase with high blood levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), which have been attributed to diets high in animal protein," she adds. Bonus: No artificial ingredients to boot!
Julian Bakery Paleo Thin Egg White Protein Powder
Paleo fan? Perk up your ears: "This [powder] provides you with minimal ingredients and lots of protein. It's free of soy and non-GMO and contains a wide variety of amino acids that can help promote lean muscle development," says Dara Godfrey, MS, RD at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York.