A quick look at the best protein powders for building muscle
- Best whey: Legion Whey Plus
- Best casein: Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein
- Best vegan: PlantFusion Complete Plant-Based Protein Powder
- Best grass-fed: Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Whey
- Best budget: NutriCost Whey Protein Concentrate
- Best taste: Ghost Whey Protein
- Best low carb: Isopure Low Carb Carb Whey Isolate
- Best egg white: NOW Sports Egg White Protein
- Best unflavored: Naked Whey
- Best for weight gain: Core Nutritionals Grow
Protein powders have become a staple in the nutritional regimens of competitive athletes and recreational gym-goers alike.
These products serve as a convenient and high quality source of protein. Yet, with seemingly endless options to choose from, you may wonder which is best for building muscle.
The products in this list were selected based on the following criteria:
- Quality. The product is formulated with high quality ingredients and free of unnecessary fillers.
- Taste. The product offers a variety of flavors to suit different preferences.
- Price. The quality of the product aligns with the cost.
- Manufacturing standards. Companies adhere to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They may also utilize third-party testing.
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Best whey protein option
Legion Whey Plus is a whey isolate produced with milk from small dairy farms in Ireland.
Legion Whey Plus lists all ingredients on the label and doesn’t use fillers. In addition, it’s third-party tested by Labdoor and cGMP-certified, ensuring that it’s free of banned substances and contaminants.
This product comes in 11 flavors, as well as an unflavored option.
One scoop (28.9 grams) provides:
Best casein protein option
Ascent Native Fuel Micellar Casein is a high quality protein powder that claims to use only natural ingredients.
Casein comprises 80% of the protein in milk, whereas whey makes up around 20%. Your body digests casein significantly more slowly than whey due to its protein composition, so people tend to take it before bed for sustained protein digestion throughout the night (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Notably, Ascent processes grade A milk in the company’s own facilities to turn it into protein powder, whereas most manufacturers buy preprocessed protein.
In addition, this product is third-party tested by Informed Sport to ensure suitability for athletes and recreational gym-goers.
It comes in three flavors — chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, and vanilla bean.
One scoop (36 grams) provides:
Best vegan protein option
If you’re vegan, it may be challenging to meet your daily protein needs. One way to get enough is to include a plant-based protein powder in your diet.
Although vegan protein powders were initially criticized as flavorless, their palatability has improved significantly in recent years.
PlantFusion Complete Plant-Based Protein Powder is highly rated for quality and taste. It blends vegan proteins, including pea, quinoa, and algae, with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to make a complete protein.
BCAAs comprise the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are the only amino acids that can be broken down within your skeletal muscle (5Trusted Source).
In addition, PlantFusion Complete Plant-Based Protein Powder includes enzymes to aid digestion and is free of major allergens like dairy, soy, and gluten. It comes in four flavors (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Lastly, it’s organic, produced in a cGMP facility, and third-party certified by NSF International.
One scoop (30 grams) provides:
Best grass-fed protein option
Garden of Life sources its whey protein for this product from Truly Grass Fed, an animal welfare-friendly and 95% grass-fed dairy farm in Ireland.
Grass-fed dairy has been shown to be higher in certain beneficial nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), than conventional dairy (8Trusted Source).
Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Whey is certified organic, free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and carries two third-party verifications from NSF International and Informed Choice to ensure that it’s free of banned substances.
It comes in traditional chocolate and vanilla flavors with no artificial flavors.
Best budget-friendly protein option
NutriCost Whey Protein Concentrate is a no-frills protein powder that provides the muscle-boosting benefits of whey protein for cheap.
Its minimal ingredient list includes whey protein concentrate, natural flavorings, sodium chloride (salt), sucralose, and acesulfame potassium.
What’s more, this product is produced in a cGMP-certified facility and third-party tested by Analytical Research Laboratories to ensure safety for athletes.
It comes in unflavored, as well as vanilla, chocolate, and chocolate peanut butter, varieties.
Best tasting protein option
To make unique flavors, Ghost partners with popular brands like Chips Ahoy and Nutter Butter to include cookie pieces in some of their protein powders. The company offers eight flavors in total.
Using a blend of whey isolate and whey concentrate, Ghost supplies the amino acids your body needs. Additionally, this product boasts a blend of digestive enzymes to aid digestion (11, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Ghost Whey Protein is produced in a cGMP-certified facility and third-party tested by NSF International to confirm ingredient safety.
Since there are so many protein powders on the market, it can be difficult to determine which is best for building muscle.
Here are a few factors to consider:
- When will you consume it? Whey is best on either end of a workout, whereas casein is preferable when you desire a sustained release, such as before bedtime.
- What’s your budget? Protein powders vary greatly in price. Determine your budget, then find options within that range.
- Does it come in flavors you like? If you have specific taste preferences, do your research to see if a given protein comes in the flavor you want.
- Does the company use third-party testing? Third-party testing ensures that the product is free of banned substances and harmful contaminants.
- Is the product manufactured in a cGMP-certified facility? This label ensures adherence to high manufacturing standards set by the FDA.
- Do you have any dietary restrictions? Some protein powders contain potential allergens or substances you may be sensitive to, so it’s best to read the label carefully before purchasing.
- Are all ingredients openly listed? Some companies use proprietary blends to hide specific ingredients and amounts used. It’s best to avoid these products due to this lack of transparency.
- Is it properly dosed? A good rule of thumb is to look for a protein powder with at least 20 grams of protein per serving to promote muscle gains in combination with resistance exercise .