No matter if you want to build muscle, shed fat, or simply be healthy, a protein powder can help you reach your goals. Our panel of certified nutritionists, athletes, and fitness editors picked the very finest protein powders for every goal based on ingredient quality, flavor, value for money, and customer testimonials.
Premium-quality protein supplements are more popular than ever, but they’re also being used by a more diverse range of people than ever. Gone are the days where elite athletes or bodybuilders trying to pack on muscle were the only ones chugging post-workout shakes! Regardless of where you’re at in your fitness journey – beginner or pro – you can benefit from adequate protein.
The only issue? You may get a headache from so many options on the market. In this guide, we’ll help you narrow down your options and hook you up with the best protein powder for your specific goals and needs. After reviewing dozens of the most popular proteins in the past year, we’ve whittled the list down to the 3 final contenders. And we can stand behind them, as well, because at Ookles, we take fitness supplements like it’s our job!
See the best protein powders of 2021 for yourself, learn what benefits they can offer, and see how much you should really be taking to build muscle, burn fat, and look great.
Performance Lab Oryzatein® Brown Rice Protein
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein
Advantages of a Protein Powder
A protein shake provides your body with the needed energy and vitamins to be able to push through strenuous workouts as well as feeding the body with the right nutrients while safely balancing appetite.
- Adding protein to a diet increases a person’s ability to build lean tissue. Protein powders also enhance your muscle’s ability to regenerate faster no matter how hard the workout. Although protein powders are commonly used immediately post-workout, they provide the maximum effect when taken with meals. Adding a protein shake to a balanced diet is beneficial if you’re looking to reap excellent overall health.
- Protein shakes are also beneficial for those trying to lose weight as they curb a person’s appetite and sugar cravings. One glass of protein shake provides you with a load of nutrients that tend to satisfy the body’s cravings quickly. This is in addition to protein’s heavy molecular structure which prolongs its digestion – resulting in you feeling fuller for longer.
- Studies show protein supplements have bioactivities that assist the body in reducing cholesterol. Long-term use of protein shakes is linked with a reduced chance of having elevated blood pressure which promotes performance and integrity of the heart muscle.
- Protein shakes also bolster the overall strength of your immune system. By having adequate levels of amino acids in your system you’re less likely to get sick, studies show.
- Protein shakes help prevent muscle wasting and reduce the risk of injury. This is why athletes and bodybuilders take protein supplements even when they’ve already achieved their ideal physique. A steady supply of BCAA-s and other amino acids hastens the recovery of the muscle fibers, reducing the likelihood of excess muscle strain and inflammation.
How Much Protein do You Really Need? (The Truth)
The amount of protein someone needs varies drastically. Depending on your sex, age, diet, and goals, you may need anywhere from 25 to 200+ grams per day.
While the protein supplement industry has drastically overhyped the amount of protein you should take, a common guideline for bodybuilders is to shoot for 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight – which most relevant studies agree with.
Every protein supplement differs in protein content and concentration. Protein shakes may also have carbohydrates. If you’re looking to lose weight you’ll want to pick a protein supplement that contains as few carbs as possible.
For those looking to gain mass, they might want to opt for a protein powder that has the greatest overall calorie content. These types of protein shakes may contain additional calories in the form of carbs and other nutrients, and are called “gainers”. If you’re just looking to maintain your current weight, then you should seek a protein powder that features just the right amount of carbs, normally the same kind of product that also works for weight loss.
Our Ranking Criteria
Protein shakes have become a staple in the dietary regimens of pro athletes and casual gym-goers alike.
These supplements serve as a convenient and highly bioavailable source of protein. Yet, with so many options to pick from, you may wonder which works best for building lean muscle.
The products in this guide were picked based on the following criterion:
We really go in-depth in our individual protein reviews, but to sum up the criterion we use:
- Quality. Ingredient effectiveness and safety is our #1 ranking factor – the product must have highly bioavailable ingredients and be free of unnecessary fillers.
- Taste. Not much to say here; a protein powder deserving of the year’s top 3 list needs to have excellent flavors.
- Value for money. Does the price reflect the quality of the product?
- Manufacturing process. Companies that were picked here all adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) and make their protein supplements in FDA-approved facilities.
The Year’s Best Protein Powders Supplements in 2021
1. Performance Lab Oryzatein® Protein Powder Review – The Cleanest Quality Protein Overall
From Performance Lab comes their latest innovation, the only patented organic-certified whole brown rice protein: Oryzatein®.
Highly bioavailable and featuring 20g of premium brown rice protein per scoop, Performance Lab Protein is completely different from anything on the market right now.
Oryzatein® is a form of brown rice protein that offers a clean and fast way of protein delivery. In fact, The Oryzatein protein gets absorbed up to 30% faster than your standard whey (more on this in a second).
In addition to this highly bioavailable source of protein, Performance Lab Protein also includes probiotic Bacillus coagulans, which research links with enhanced protein absorption and health benefits. This supplement also contains 50mg of Himalayan pink salt for muscle hydration and electrolyte nourishment.
Performance Lab Protein is flavored and sweetened with vanilla bean, organic cocoa, cinnamon, yacon root, stevia and monk fruit, and is among the creamiest chocolate protein powders we’ve tried.
- Organic emphasis, 100% plant-based
- Shown to be as effective as whey at building muscle
- Boosts strength, power, recovery, and endurance
- Helps support natural appetite balance
- Assists in healthy immun system function
- Extremely absorbable and easy to digest
- Universal protein for men and women of all backgrounds
The only complaint we have is the premium price, which is understandable because of advanced manufacturing and Performance Lab’s patented ingredients. Still, at $2.50 per serving, Performance Lab Protein is significantly cheaper than most high-protein post workout meals.
In our opinion, they’ve knocked it out of the park with this product. The leucine in Performance Lab Protein absorbs 30% faster than your typical whey protein. Combining it with other supplements from the Performance Lab range, although quite pricy, can give you some amazing results for strength, performance, and recovery.
Performance Lab’s official website: https://www.performancelab.com/products/protein
Each scoop of Performance Lab Protein gives you:
- Protein (from Oryzatein® – Ceritified Organic Brown Rice) – 20 g
- Himalayan Pink Salt – 50 mg
- Vitamin A – 2.25 mcg
- Vitamin C – <1 mg
- Vitamin D – 0.025 mcg
- Potassium – 1.5 mg
- Calcium – 21 mg
- Iron – 2.1 mg
- Phosphorus – 96 mg
- Magnesium – 9 mg
- Manganese – 1.3 mg
And here are the macros of Performance Lab Protein:
- Calories: 100
- Total Fat: 1.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 g
- Carbohydrate: 2 g
- Protein: 20 g
At just 2g of carbs per serving, this is an ideal option for people looking to lose fat as well as maintain a strong physique.
The Oryzatein® protein in Performance Lab is certified brown rice protein sourced from organic rice farms. This rice retains its natural enzymes and is processed at a low heat.
This gives you a pure protein source without the drawbacks of a standard whey – such as bloating, gas, indigestion, and acne.
As a patented source of protein, Oryzatein® is backed by third-party studies linking it to:
- Effectiveness on the same level as whey protein for feeding and repairing your muscles.
- Complete protein nourishment, meaning it’s comprised of 20 amino acids
- 30% faster absorption of leucine (the most important muscle building BCAA) than the leucine from whey.
To be more precise, whey protein takes around 85 minutes to be fully utilized, whereas the leucine in Performance Lab Protein takes around 67 minutes.
Emerging research shows that Oryzatein® boosts:
- Muscle fullness
- Hunger reduction
Combined with the enhanced digestibility from Bacillus coagulans, the 30% faster leucine absorption means this is a powerhouse of a protein powder.
- 20g of high-quality bioavailable protein per scoop
- Absorbs up to 30% faster than whey
- Uses a patented form of plant-based protein known as Oryzatein®
- Only 2g of carbs per serving, making it suitable for a ketogenic diet
- Excellent reviews online
- Awesome deals when you buy in bulk (e.g. 3 tubs+1 extra tub for free + free tracked international shipping)
- Premium price bracket
- Only available on the official website
- Low carb content means it’s low in calories, and may not be ideal for those looking to bulk up
As a whole, Performance Lab Protein is an impressive product. Its makers went above and beyond to make sure it’s the cleanest protein powder you can buy on the market.
Performance Lab Protein is:
- USDA Organic Certified
- Free of stimulants
- cGPM approved
- Free of synthetics, unnecessary fillers, or dead weight
- Free of Gluten, soy, cholesterol, and banned substances
This organic protein powder is also completely safe and delicious, which leads us to our next point.
Stacking Performance Lab Supplements
As mentioned, you can get even better results from Performance Lab Protein by combining it with other supplements from Performance Lab. Here are some of the Performance Lab’s supplements that synergize well with Performance Lab Protein:
- Carb – for bulking up
- NutriGenesis® Multi – for overall health support
- BCAA – for preventing muscle loss on a calorie deficit
- Post – for additional muscle growth and recovery support
The bottom line: we recommend Performance Lab Rice Protein to anyone who want to maximize their health, recovery and performance.
The ingredients in Performance Lab Protein are state of the art. The formula’s been created in a way that allows your body to get more of its nutrients in an efficient and intelligent way.
From 30% faster l-leucine absorption to superior timed-release of the protein itself, which creates fullness without bloating or discomfort – we can say that we’re impressed.
With all of our years using supplements (and it’s been many) we’re yet to come across such an advanced and innovative-thinking supplement producer as Performance Lab.
It’s clear that the team behind Performance Lab Protein care about enhancing human performance and health. Overall, it’s a big thumbs up from us.
Sound interesting? Learn more on Performance Lab’s official website:
2. Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate – The Best Whey Protein
To make it on our top list, a protein powder must be truly outstanding on all levels. The 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate by Transparent Labs is by definition, a truly outstanding protein powder. With 30 servings per bag, it gives you 28 grams of high-quality protein per scoop – if you’re in a market for a whey type of protein specifically, this product is second to none.
One serving of Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein isolate contains:
- 28g 100% whey protein isolate – sourced from grass-fed cows in New Zealand. Featuring the purest and most digestable form of whey protein.
There’s no fillers or unnecessary junk in this product, what you see is what you get. We wouldn’t expect any less from a company called Transparent Labs!
The protein quality in Transparent Labs Whey Protein is exceptional. The animals from where this supplement is sourced are eating their natural diet high in omega-3 fats which are anti-inflammatory. Compare this to standard cheap whey proteins which are extremely high in omega-6s that lead to bloating and gut inflammation.
- Featuring 100% pure whey isolate from grass fed cows
- There are no hormones, pesticides, or other harmful chemicals – just how it should be!
- A massive 28g of quality protein, 0gcarbs and 112kcal per scoop (32g)
- Protein by weight ratio is an amazing 88%
- Naturally sweetened with stevia, there are no synthetics, preservatives, dyes, or gluten
- One of the very cleanest whey proteins on the market – in our eyes, the best whey protein overall
- Promotes muscle recovery and post-exercise nourishment
- Pricey at $59 per tub
- Stevia might not be some people’s favorite sweetener
- Not for vegans or milk-intolerant
We think Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate is a excellent product. It’s premiumly priced, but if you can afford it, you’ll be getting every penny’s worth. The flavor is excellent, and we like the design of the formula, which is streamlined and focused on just one big key ingredient – protein.
Want to know more about Transparent Labs Protein? Visit its official website:
3. National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein – The Most Affordable Quality Protein
Full Prep 100% Plant-Based Protein is streamlined yet highly effective protein powder from the respected National Bodybuilding Co.
This product is an amazing choice for fitness athletes and bodybuilders. Although it’s only recently come out, National Bodybuilding Co. Vegan Protein has already amassed a number of prestigious awards, including the Protein of the Year 2020 Award from Generation Iron.
It’s not only highly effective but also among the best tasting protein powders we’ve tried. Most user reviews tend to agree with this.
The only potential drawback compared to its competitors is the use of Sucralose – but if you don’t mind it, National Bodybuilding Co. Vegan Protein offers an excellent value for money overall.
Ingredients and Highlights:
- 20g of vegan protein per scoop
- 20 servings per tub
- Attractive deals and discount codes on the official website
- Advanced protein synthesis for bulking up and growing muscle fast
- Easy smooth digest formulation
- Lean protein source to minimize fat gain
- Exclusive delicious chocolate flavor
- High quality vegan protein
- Excellent digestability, no bloating or other side effects
- The most affordable of the bunch at $40 per tub
- Trustworthy manufacturer with a fast-growing reputation
- Featured as #1 Protein Powder in Generation Iron 2020 Supplement Awards
- Uses a mix of natural and artificial sweeteners
- Only available direct over at Nationalbodybuildingco.com
If you’re on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice quality, National Bodybuilding Co. Vegan Protein is one of the best options on sale right now.
Although it doesn’t use all-natural sweeteners, the quality and effectiveness of protein itself is on par with other products on this list.
No matter which of these protein powders you pick, all three are effective at promoting muscle growth and recovery without the common protein side effects – making them healthy for daily use.