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Protein is key for building, repairing muscle, and minimizing muscle loss with age—and while you can easily get protein from food like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, some people might turn to protein powder to obtain adequate amounts of the essential nutrient. “Supplementing with protein powder can be a great way to increase protein content in a women’s diet,” says Kristen Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic and founder and president of KAK Consulting, LLC. The best protein powder for women (or anyone, regardless of gender) can make it much easier to obtain the ideal dosage of your preferred protein source, whether from animal or plant origins, without unnecessary additives.

It’s important to note that protein powder is a supplement; it isn’t a substitute for a well-rounded diet that is rich in protein, and it should only be used to help fill in any nutritional gaps. And as, if not more importantly, you’ll also want to talk to your own physician before taking a new supplement. With this in mind, I spoke to Kirkpatrick to help you make an informed decision when choosing your ideal protein powder. Below are expert tips for selecting protein powder along with seven of the best options for women.

Best protein powder for women, at a glance

What to look for when shopping for a protein powder for women

Protein source

First, consider whether you want an animal- or plant-based protein powder. “I recommend finding a protein type that works based on preference,” says Kirkpatrick. If you consume or can tolerate dairy, she suggests protein powder made with whey, which typically comes from cow’s milk. Whey protein is rich in amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and studies have shown that it can help support muscle health when paired with exercise.

If opting for whey powder, you might come across several types, the most common of which are whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and hydrolyzed whey protein. According to registered dietitian nutritionist Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, in a previous interview with Well+Good, whey protein concentrate has a larger percentage of protein concentration (approximately 70 to80 percent protein) compared to whey protein isolate, which has about 90 percent protein. Hydrolyzed whey protein, albeit a more expensive option, also has about 90 percent protein, but Ehsani tells us that it can be easier on the stomach than whey protein concentrate and isolate.

Vegans, vegetarians, and people with dietary restrictions have the option of supplementing with plant-based protein powders, which can be made from legumes, seeds, or grains. Soy and pea protein powders are among the most popular choices, both of which can provide a substantial amount of protein, as well as fiber—keeping in mind that these options can cause stomach distress in some individuals, registered dietitian Christina Manian, RDN, previously wrote in Well+Good.

Whether you opt for an animal- or plant-based protein powder, consider an option with a short ingredients list. “The simpler the ingredients, the better,” says Kirkpatrick. She also suggests avoiding protein powders that contain artificial sweeteners, a sentiment echoed by Lauren Harrius-Pincus, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition You. “Personally, I prefer using naturally derived, zero-calorie sweeteners including monk fruit, erythritol, or allulose,” she told Well+Good.

Dosage

Typically, the recommended daily dietary allowance for protein is 0.36 grams per pound for people 19 years of age and older. For a 130-pound woman, this would translate to 46.8 grams of protein per day. However, the recommended amount can differ from person to person, based on factors like activity level, age, overall health, and whether a person is pregnant or breastfeeding, says Kirkpatrick. Also note that too much protein can do you more harm than good. Experts have cautioned that a high-protein diet can lead to kidney damage, and diets high in red meat could lead to higher risk of heart disease and colon cancer. To avoid consuming too much protein, it’s best to consult your physician who can determine the correct dosage for you.

Another thing to consider: third-party certifications

It’s important to keep in mind that most protein powders aren’t regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration, but there are third-party testing organizations that offer certifications that signify products have met certain safety and efficacy standards. If you want to be fully confident in your purchase, Harrius-Pincus previously suggested looking for third-party certifications from the National Science Foundation (NSF) International and Informed Sport. According to Manian in her previous article, a certification from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) can also help ensure that a given product meets its rigorous standards for supplement quality.

Shop the best protein powder for women


Quest Protein Powder

A dietitian-recommended whey protein powder: Quest Protein Powder — $30.00

Protein per serving: 24 g

Kirkpatrick recommends the Quest protein powders, citing its high its high-quality ingredients. “It offers high-quality whey as its main ingredient,” she says, adding that it’s low in sugar and tastes great. The featured pick has one gram of sugar from sucralose and stevia to lend it sweetness, but otherwise, its ingredients list is short and simple. You can select from a variety of flavors, including vanilla (pictured above), chocolate, salted caramel, peanut butter, cinnamon, and cookies and cream. It also comes in an unflavored version that you can add to smoothies as well as baked goods for a protein boost.

Cost: $1.74 per serving (23 servings total)

Serving size: 1 scoop

Protein source: Whey

Flavors: Vanilla Milkshake, Chocolate Milkshake, Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Crunch, Cookies and Cream

Pros:

  • Low in sugar
  • Variety of flavors, including unflavored version

Cons:

  • Made with sucralose, which is an artificial sugar


Mt. Capra Clean Whey Protein

A one-ingredient whey protein powder: Mt. Capra Clean Whey Protein — $41.00

Protein per serving: 24 g

The Mt. Capra Clean Whey Protein has only one ingredient, whey protein from the milk of grass-fed goats, which contains all nine essential amino acids and is purported to be easier to digest than whey protein from cow’s milk. What’s more, the ingredient contains more branched-chain amino acids—essential nutrients that help muscle recovery—than its counterpart, and the overall formulation is non-GMO as well as gluten- and soy-free. You can choose from two flavors, vanilla and unsweetened, the latter of which you can add to a variety of foods without altering their taste so much.

Cost: $2.93 per serving (15 servings total)

Serving size: 2 scoops

Protein source: Whey

Flavors: Unsweetened, Vanilla

Pros:

  • Made with only one ingredient—whey protein
  • Available in an unsweetened version

Cons:

  • Pricey


Vega Original Protein Powder

A dietitian-favorite pea protein powder: Vega Original Protein Powder — $47.00

Protein per serving: 25 g

If you want a plant-based protein powder, opt for this pick from Vega. It comes recommended by Manian, who listed it as one of the best vegan protein powders in her previous Well+Good article. Two scoops deliver 25 grams of protein from peas, as well as vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s from flaxseeds. Plus, it’s sweetened with stevia, making it ideal for people who want an option that’s made without artificial additives. Manian attested that it lends itself well to smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes, and more, and proclaimed that it “tastes great” without the chalky aftertaste. Plus, the protein powder is available in three classic flavors—vanilla, chocolate, and berry.

Cost: $2.61 per serving (18 servings total)

Serving size: 2 scoops

Protein source: Peas

Flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, and Mocha

Pros:

  • Non-GMO Project verified
  • Made without artificial sugars
     

Cons:

  • Limited flavor options

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KOS Vegan Protein Powder

A weightlifter-approved plant-based protein powder: KOS Vegan Protein Powder — $45.00

Protein per serving: 20 g

For a well-rounded and delicious protein powder, spring for this pick from KOS, which also made our list of the best-tasting protein powders. W+G contributor and weightlifter Kayla Hui called the chocolate peanut butter-flavored option (pictured above) the “fraternal twin” of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—and the other flavors are equally delicious. Two scoops of the stuff offer 20 grams of protein from humble peas and zero grams of sugar. The sweetness (which Hui says is “not too overpowering or cloying”) comes from stevia and monk fruit, and if you prefer your powders unflavored, KOS also has an option for you.

Cost: $1.61 per serving (28 servings total)

Serving size: 2 scoops

Protein source: Peas

Flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Vanilla, Salted Caramel Coffee, Unflavored

Pros:

  • Made without artificial sugars
  • Variety of flavors, including unflavored version

Cons:

  • Contains two grams of added sugar


Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein

A USDA organic-certified plant-based protein powder: Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein — $34.00

Protein per serving: 22 g

Garden of Life’s protein powder is made with peas, sprouted grains, and seeds, and it offers 22 grams of protein in one serving, including branched-chain amino acids from USDA-certified organic ingredients. The formulation is also non-GMO, free from gluten and added sugar, and NSF-certified. Along with protein, it also includes probiotics and digestive enzymes, too. Natural sweeteners stevia and erythritol lend to the chocolate and vanilla options’ flavor, but Manian previously mentioned that they can lean too sweet for her liking and she prefers the unflavored version. Regardless of your preference, it has a “smooth texture,” she says.

Cost: $1.70 per serving (20 servings total)

Serving size: 1 scoop

Protein source: Peas

Flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Unflavored

Pros:

  • Made with USDA-certified organic ingredients
  • NSF-certified

Cons:

  • Flavored options might be too sweet for some people


Naked Pea Protein Powder

A budget-friendly plant protein powder: Naked Pea Protein Powder — $58.00

Protein per serving: 27 grams

This plant-based protein powder keeps things simple. The formulation delivers 27 grams of pea protein—and that’s theonly ingredient included in the unflavored version pictured above. It’s non-GMO and dairy-, soy-, and gluten-free, and made without additives, too. If you opt for any one of its flavored versions, just note that it contains additional ingredients that contribute to its taste. (For reference, the chocolate-flavored option is made with coconut sugar and cacao, in addition to peas.) Plus, the powder is Informed Choice-certified so you know that it’s free of unwanted additives.

Cost: $0.74 per serving (78 servings total)

Serving size: 2 scoops

Protein source: Peas

Flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Double Chocolate, Unflavored

Pros:

  • Only made with one ingredient (unflavored version)
  • Informed Choice-certified

Cons:

  • Large size only

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Ritual Daily Shake Pregnancy and Postpartum

A vegan protein powder for pregnant people: Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake Pregnancy and Postpartum — $32.00

Protein per serving: 20 grams

Protein is an essential to any diet, but it’s especially important for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding, who may require twice as much protein, and Ritual’s protein powder can help you obtain adequate amounts of the essential macronutrient. One scoop offers 20 grams of protein, as well as 250 grams of choline, a nutrient that is important in embryonic neurodevelopment. This option is also Informed Sport-certified and formulated with USDA-certified organic ingredients. Plus, it’s free of GMOs, artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, as well as stevia, sugar, and sugar alcohols. Just be sure to consult your physician before use.

Cost: $2.13 per serving (15 servings total)

Serving size: 1 scoop

Protein source: Pea

Flavors: Vanilla

Pros:

  • Made with USDA-certified organic ingredients
  • Informed Sport-certified

Cons:

  • Only one flavor option

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