Artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols: Many protein powders (and protein bars) contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols to add a bit of sweetness, but these compounds may cause GI distress, SELF previously reported, especially in the forms of bloating, gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Plus these artificial ingredients may not be great for your gut health, Brown says. Examples of artificial sweeteners include sucralose and aspartame, while sorbitol and xylitol are some sugar alcohols.
Artificial flavors: This one is a preference thing! Some artificial flavors in protein powder can test a little too…artificial, leading to a protein taste that’s way too cloying or has a not-so-great aftertaste. If you know you’re not a fan of certain artificial flavors, you may want to skip protein powders that use them but, in other cases, it might be more of a trial and error.
Dextrins/maltodextrins (fillers), vegetable oils, and gums: These ingredients are usually added for texture, but can cause discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract, Brown says. “In general, I don’t mind certain fiber additions like psyllium husk or acacia fiber, but they can cause GI tract distress for some.” If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to skip ones with these ingredients.
How to incorporate protein powder into your diet
Rather than a meal replacement, a protein blend powder can serve as a great supplement to other whole foods. “I love adding protein powder to smoothies, shakes, overnight oats, coconut or almond yogurt, and chia pudding,” Brown says. You could also add protein powder to baked goods, coffee (especially if you skip breakfast), or blend it into salad dressings or soups.
“While I typically recommend clients focus on real whole foods wherever possible, protein powders—when done right—are a super-easy way to get a protein boost at breakfast and also after a workout to rebuild muscle,” Brown adds.
The best protein powders
Still completely stumped when looking at the protein powder nutrition labels at your local grocery store? Don’t stress: The following protein powders have been vetted by RDs and are guaranteed to make meeting your protein needs as easy (and tasty!) as possible. As always, there are a lot of individual considerations in diets, so we recommend speaking with your doctor or RD about your specific protein intake needs. And, once you find the protein supplement powder that suits you, don’t forget to pick up a high-quality shaker bottle to blend it up.
1. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder
2. Welleco Nourishing Protein
3. Sano Plant-Based Organic Vanilla Protein
4. Vega Protein Made Simple
5. Four Sigmatic Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
6. Be Well by Kelly Vanilla Bean Protein Powder
7. Needed. Collagen Protein Powder
8. Naked Protein Powder Blend
9. Truvani Plant Based Protein Powder
10. Ka’chava Protein Powder
11. Now Sports Nutrition Pea Protein
12. Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel Vanilla Coconut
13. Garden of Life Organic Plant-Based Protein
14. Naked Whey Unflavored Whey Protein Powder
15. Vital Performance Protein Powder