Want to choose the best protein powder for weight loss?
Learn about the simple formula to follow when you’re selecting a protein powder to support your weight management goals, and check out my top recommendations!
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What Does the Science Say?
For a more in-depth discussion of the science behind the benefits of using protein shakes for weight loss, check out this post, which also provides my top recommendations for protein shakes that are pre-made!
To recap, the key reasons I recommend integrating protein shakes into your eating plan are that they…
- Make a convenient, calorie-controlled snack or meal replacement
- Can encourage you to eat protein when you would have otherwise skipped a meal
- Serve as post-workout fuel to help with muscle development (Mettler et al., 2010)
- Help keep your blood sugar stable, which can improve insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (Flechtner-Mors et al., 2010)
- Come in delicious flavors that can help you manage sweet-tooth cravings
Simple Formula for Picking Protein Powder
When you’re looking for a protein powder that will support your weight management goals, there are a few key components to look for on the nutrition label.
Your top three priorities when selecting the best protein powder for weight loss should be:
- Fewer than 5 grams of sugar per serving
- More than 15 grams of protein per serving
- Fewer than 180 calories per serving
These guidelines will help you maximize the weight management benefits you experience from integrating protein powder into your eating plan!
How to Use Protein Powder
Before we dive into specific brand recommendations, I want to share my favorite ways to prepare shakes using protein powder! The two biggest benefits to using protein powder over ready-made shakes are…
1. Protein powder is often lower calorie than prepared shakes if prepared by mixing into water.
My go-to is using a Blender Bottle to mix one serving of protein powder with water, and my secret is to add one tablespoon of cacao powder for a rich chocolate taste (like this 20-calorie one). There are so many brands that taste delicious when served this simply, and you’ll be enjoying a shake with 20 grams of protein for as low as 120 calories!
2. You can easily add protein powder to other foods.
Protein powder is so versatile, so you can mix it into foods for a bonus that will help keep your blood sugar more stable! Some ideas include oatmeal (here’s my favorite 100-calorie oatmeal), spinach and berry smoothies, and pancake mix (or just buy a high-protein mix like Kodiak cakes).
The Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss
There are many protein powders on the market, so use this simple formula when making your choice:
>20g protein, <5g sugars, <180 calories
Here are some of my favorite brands that fit these nutritional benchmarks!
Milk Protein Powders
#1: My top recommendation is Levels 100% grass-fed whey. The taste of their products mixes incredibly easily into water or other foods, and the quality is superior. This protein powder contains no hormones, no GMOs, no added sugars, no soy, no gluten, no bleach, no fillers, and no artificial flavors or sweeteners! I firmly believe in paying attention to the quality of the food you eat as much as it is possible for you.
- Calories: 130; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 24g
#2: For another grass-fed source of whey, Orgain Clean Whey is my top choice. This brand consistently makes delicious and high-quality products. I encourage you to purchase grass-fed when possible (protein powder or meat generally!) for more vitamins in the food you eat and less saturated fat!
- Calories: 140; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 21g
#3: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder is one of the most popular brands on the market, with almost 100,000 reviews and a near-5-star rating on Amazon. This brand is also appaulded by my patients for its taste and excellent nutritional information to support muscle building and weight management.
- Calories: 110; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 24g
#4: Isopure Zero Carb protein powder shines by having ZERO grams of sugar while remaining a 100% whey isolate source. This product even includes vitamic C and zinc for additional immune support.
- Calories: 100; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 25g
#5: Another popular brand I recommend to my patients is Muscle Milk 100% whey isolate. This brand stands out for having a significant amount of leucine (2.6g), which is one of the amino acids most important for muscle recovery and metabolism.
- Calories: 130; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 25g
Plant Protein Powders
#1: My pick for the top plant-based protein powder is the Naked Pea’s 100% pea protein powder. This product contains just one ingredient: yellow pea protein! I appreciate that this vegan protein has no artificial sweeteners or coloring, no soy, and is non-GMO! The Naked Pea provides a complete source of protein, including BCAAs, so this is a plant-based protein without any sacrifice!
- Calories: 120; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 27g
#2: Another high-quality plant-based protein powder is by Garden of Life. In addition to pea-protein, it contains a blend of raw probiotics and enzymes to aid with digestion and gut health! As another bonus, this product contains ZERO grams of sugar!
- Calories: 110; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 22g
#3: KOS plant-based protein powder is slightly higher in calories but is a notable addition to my recommendation list because it contains five types of organic plant-based proteins, a digestive enzyme blend, and vitamins that may be difficult to obtain through our typical diets (like selenium!).
- Calories: 160; Sugar: 3g; Protein: 20g
#4: For a high-dose of the amino acid, leucine, that compares to milk-based protein powders, I recommend Vega Sport, which has been specifically formulated to help vegan athletes with muscle recovery.
- Calories: 160; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 30g
#5: Lastly, I’ll give a shout out to the most popular plant-based protein powder on the market, Orgain. While I appreciate that this brand has high-quality ingredients, the taste has always seemed a bit grainy to me, which makes it more difficult to mix into pure water or other foods. Do you have a different opinion? Let me know in the comments!
- Calories: 150; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 21g
Dr. Schulte’s Summary
Protein powder can be your go-to for a convenient, calorie-controlled meal or snack replacement. Mixing protein powder into water can be lower in calories compared to ready-made protein shakes, and you can also add protein powder to other foods like smoothies, oatmeal, and pancakes! Remember to pay attention to the calories, sugar, and protein of the shake you select. I hope you have fun trying out different types of protein powder, and please let me know in the comments which brand you like the most!
Questions? Drop a comment below or send an email to email@example.com!
Flechtner‐Mors, M., Boehm, B. O., Wittmann, R., Thoma, U., & Ditschuneit, H. H. (2010). Enhanced weight loss with protein‐enriched meal replacements in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews, 26(5), 393-405.
Mettler, S., Mitchell, N., & Tipton, K. D. (2010). Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 42(2), 326-37.
Disclaimer: all opinions are my own and are not affiliated with my employers. Please seek medical guidance before pursuing weight loss or making significant changes to the way you eat or your physical activity routine.