If you take your training seriously, you’re going to need protein. A lot of it.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients—the other two are carbohydrates and fats—that make up the food we consume and give us energy to move, breathe, and, well, live.
Studies have proven that protein is essential to building lean mass and muscle. That’s because our cells need protein to kickstart protein synthesis, which is needed for hypertrophy, the process cells use to heal and grow bigger muscles after being broken down through exercise.
You probably get plenty of protein in your diet, especially if you eat meat. Still, you probably need more. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) general recommendation for athletes is 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg of body weight per day, with people training specifically for muscle growth needing even more—which means you’ll probably need to turn to supplements to get enough for your gains.
This isn’t just bro science, either. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that supplements can give your muscle mass and performance a boost when you put in the work, so those big tubs filled with the powder aren’t just for show—there’s a lot of good stuff in there. For people with lactose intolerance, other food allergies, or those who don’t consume animal byproducts, there are plenty of great options, too.
Check out these 10 varieties of protein powder that you can toss in recipes, smoothies, or just your trusty shaker bottle. Want a little more guidance to understand exactly what you’re chugging? Check out this helpful guide.
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Ascent Native Fuel Whey Protein Powder
Whey is the consensus-MVP protein for building muscle, so if you can swing it, make sure you’re taking the good stuff. Ascent’s powder is made using native whey, which the company calls the “least-processed” form. There are 25 g of protein per serving and 0 artificial ingredients, so you’re getting the good stuff.
Garden of Life Protein Powder
Garden of Life amazon.com
If you care about where your food comes from, this is the supp for you. The whey is certified organic from grass-fed cows — plus, there are probiotics to help fuel digestion.
BSN Syntha-6 Whey Protein Powder, Cold Stone Creamery
Hands down some of the best-testing protein powder on the market (the Coldstone connection isn’t just for the name), this supp from BSN is no slouch in the nutrition department, either. You’ll get 22 g of protein from six different sources along with just 3 g of sugar.
Nitor Elite HD Protein
This powder means business, adding a balanced amino acid profile to the 22 g per serving of protein. The supp is also free of any thickeners, dyes, or preservatives. The company claims that makes for quicker recovery times and faster gains.
MuscleTech Phase8 Protein Powder
Opt for this powder if you want a longer, more sustained result from your supplement. The company claims its affects are spread out over the course of 8 hours, since there are seven different sources of protein, including slow-digesting casein.
BodyTech Elite Hydrolyzed Whey Isolate
Go big with 30 g of protein per serving, the biggest number on the list. The company markets the supp as a choice for advanced athletes, since the higher concentration of protein means you’ll have faster digestion times for quicker recovery.
Dymatize ISO 100 Whey Protein Powder Isolate
You’re not out of luck if you’re lactose intolerant—you can still reap the benefits that come with whey protein with whey isolate. This supplement from Dymatize gives you 25 g of the good stuff per serving, low lactose and, best of all, a range of flavors to choose from.
Vega Sport Vegan Protein Powder
Protein isn’t just for the carnivores among us. There are still options for those that choose not to consume animal products, like this supp from Vega Sport. Its mix of peas, pumpkin, organic sunflower seeds, and alfalfa is vegan certified, and offers 30 g of protein per serving.
Bodylogix Vegan Plant Based Protein Powder
Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to make concessions for how things taste—at least in the case of this supp. The NSF-approved product offers 25 g of protein per serving from five different sources like chia and quinoa.
NOW Sports Pea Protein
NOW Foods amazon.com
Pea protein has made waves in recent years as another vegan-friendly alternative to whey, since the veggie is a rare non-meat complete protein (which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids). This best-selling option offers 24 g per serving.
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