Protein is king when your goal is to build muscle, which is why you need to use a high-quality supplement from the very start of your fitness journey.
I learned from my clients and fellow gym-goers that they found choosing the right protein powder very difficult when they were starting out because there were so many options and so little reliable guidance available.
So, I set out to make this quest easier for fitness newbies and called up a dietician, with whom I thoroughly researched a variety of protein powders, many of which I tested myself over the years. Finally, I compiled a list of my top choices for beginners based on first-hand experience, the scientific literature behind protein sources, and their quality and effectiveness.
Let's dive in.
The Best Protein Powders For Beginners
- Best Overall Protein Powder for Beginners: Transparent Labs
- Cheapest Protein Powder for Beginners: Transparent Labs
- Most Natural Ingredient Protein Supplement for Starters: Naked Protein
- Best Vegan Protein Formula for Beginners: Future Kind
- Most Trusted Brand Protein Powder for Beginners: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
- Best Tasting Protein Powder for New Users: BSN SYNTHA-6 Protein Powder
- Best Keto-Friendly Protein Powder for Beginners: Isopure Whey Isolate Protein Powder
- Best Value Protein Powder for Beginners: Dymatize ISO 100 Protein
Top 7 Protein Powders for Beginners Reviewed (December 2023)
1 - Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate (Best Overall and Cheapest Option)
“You are what you eat eats” is Transparent Labs’ mantra for their protein powder and is backed up by its short list of natural ingredients.
Transparent Labs promises a high quality protein powder from 100% grass-fed cows not treated with Bovine Somatotropin (bST) or other steroid hormones.
I was pleased to see a simple list of 5 ingredients, meaning no additives or fillers: 100% grass-fed protein, cocoa powder, natural flavor, sodium chloride (salt), and stevia.
This simple and pure ingredient make-up makes it perfect for beginners because that lowers the chance of them experiencing stomach upset or some other common side effects with people who are introducing these supplements to their system for the first time.
I decided to put this product to the test when my goal was to shed some weight while still preserving muscle mass, I found that it also had an impact on expediting my post-workout recovery process.
One scoop (32 gram) serving of the milk chocolate flavor contains:
- Protein: 28 g
- Sodium: 160 mg
- Carbs: 1 g
- Fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Calories: 120
- Sweetened with Stevia, a natural calorie-free sweetener
- No artificial preservatives, sweeteners, or colors
- Bundle and save option on Transparent Labs website
- Many positive reviews for a creamy texture and easy to mix
- Must hit $150 order to receive free shipping
2 - Naked Protein (Most Natural Ingredients)
Naked Nutrition presents a protein supplement with whey protein concentrate, organic coconut sugar, and organic cacao powder.
Grass-fed cows from family-owned farms in California contribute to this soy, gluten, and GMO-free protein powder.
Naked Nutrition states the protein powder is cold-processed to avoid contamination from chemical detergents, synthetic additives, or heavy metals.
While trying this product, I observed enhancements in both my physical performance and post-exercise recovery. What truly stood out was the absence of any bloating, a common issue often associated with other products available in the market. As it doesn't contain any unnecessary additives, I was able to add it to various foods and beverages without adding off flavors.
Two scoop serving (38 gram) of the chocolate flavor contains:
- Protein: 25 g
- Sodium: 75 mg
- Carbs: 8 g
- Fat: 3 g
- Cholesterol: 50 mg
- Calories: 150
- Three ingredients, no additives or fillers
- Cold-processed to avoid contaminants
- No artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors
- Premium price for protein per serving
3 - Future Kind Vegan Chocolate Protein Powder (Best Vegan)
If you are new to protein powder and unsure how your body will tolerate it, Future Kind offers a great-tasting, plant-based protein powder, which may be easier to digest than whey protein concentrate.
Each plant-based protein powders serving contains 20 grams of organic pea protein, which many users say is easy to digest and doesn’t leave them bloated like other powders.
Many positive online reviews say the Future Kind protein shake texture is excellent, but many hope for some additional pea protein flavor choices in the future.
We found the plant protein price a tad high, but with discounts for buying multiple bottles or their automatic subscription service. However, paying a bit more for a product that is third-party tested for quality is worth it for the peace of mind.
One scoop serving (30 grams) of the chocolate flavor contains:
- Protein: 20g
- Sodium: 250mg
- Carbs: 4g
- Fat: 3g
- Calories: 120
- Pea protein may be easier to digest for some people.
- Many positive reviews regarding texture
- Third-party tested to ensure quality
- 250mg of sodium may be an issue for some
4 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard (Most Trusted Brand)
Optimum Nutrition is a recognizable brand in sports nutrition and has been for more than 30 years.
To gain your trust, the back label states they regularly test for banned substances, and for me, this protein powder product has worked very nicely for many years and I really do think it can be considered a “gold standard” for beginners as well.
This protein powder contains a 24-gram blend of protein isolate, concentrate, and peptides in each serving. Why a blend?
The more whey is processed to get a higher protein concentration, the health benefits from the other ingredients are lost, like immune support and mineral absorption from lactose . Having a mix may give you the best of both worlds.
I used to buy Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard on Amazon, and shipping was always fast. You get a pretty good deal on Amazon already, but you can bring the cost down even more with the “Subscribe and Save” program.
One scoop (32 gram) serving of the double rich chocolate flavor contains:
- Protein: 24 g
- Sodium: 50 mg
- Carbs: 3 g
- Fat: 1.5 g
- Cholesterol: 35 mg
- Calories: 120
- Many flavors and package sizes to choose from
- “Climate Pledge Friendly” certified by Amazon for “Compact By Design” packaging
- 5.5 grams of naturally occurring BCAAs - essential amino acids your body needs
- It contains the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium
5 - BSN SYNTHA-6 Protein Powder (Best Tasting)
BSN states its SYNTHA-6 protein powder contains a combination of protein isolate and whey concentrate.
The label states it contains eggs, milk, soy, and wheat, so it would not be suitable for anyone whos vegan or sensitive to gluten or dairy.
But the protein powder comes in interesting flavors like Apple Pie which might make it easier for beginners to actually enjoy it and increase the chance of making it a daily habit.
It also contains certain digestive enzymes, which should help avoid stomach upset with first-time dietary supplement takers .
I found it readily available on Amazon and received it fast with Prime shipping. “Subscribe and Save” is available for a 5-10% savings off the price.
One scoop (47 gram) serving of the chocolate cake batter flavor contains:
- Protein: 22 g
- Sodium: 170 mg
- Carbs: 14 g
- Fat: 6 g
- Cholesterol: 60 mg
- Calories: 200
- Savings are available on Amazon through “Subscribe and Save”
- Fun protein shake flavors like Apple Pie and Berry Berry Good
- The addition of Aminogen® and papain may reduce stomach upset that can be common with protein powder intake
- Protein powders contain two artificial sweeteners
6 - Isopure Whey Isolate Protein Powder (Best Keto-Friendly)
Isopure boasts a keto-friendly protein powder with a solid amount of protein and no carbs in each serving, which makes it suitable for beginners who are not used to sweet sugary protein shakes.
Though not officially on a Keto diet, I try to keep my carb intake low to meet and maintain my fitness goals, so zero carbs in a protein powder is a real plus for me.
Isopure protein powder has numerous additional ingredients, including xanthan gum, a thickener, and sucralose, an artificial sweetener.
To the good, Isopure has added vitamin C and zinc to their formula for immune support .
Isopure is one of the more expensive protein powders in this review, though I could save a little through Amazon’s “Subscribe and Save” program.
One scoop (33 gram) serving of the dutch chocolate flavor contains:
- Protein: 25 g
- Sodium: 240 mg
- Carbs: 0 g
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Cholesterol: 10 mg
- Calories: 100
- Added vitamin C and zinc for immune support
- 100 calorie serving is among the lowest in this protein powder review
- Keto-friendly protein powders for weight gain
- Premium pricing compared to other protein powders
7 - Dymatize ISO 100 Protein (Best Value)
For this review, I purchased the 25.6-ounce package of gourmet chocolate.
The protein powder flavor was good, and it mixed well for my protein intake. I have spoken to clients who are committed to this brand and flavor and like that it is available in a five-pound sturdy, airtight tub.
Dymatize ISO 100 delivers a good amount of protein with a reasonable calorie count and low sugar to not upend your diet, which should suit protein powder beginners who usually don’t have their macros locked in at the start.
Some may consider the price point a bit high, but considering the quality and other features, it might be worth it.
One scoop (32 gram) serving of the chocolate flavor contains:
- Protein: 25 g
- Sodium: 160 mg
- Carbs: 2 g
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Calories: 120
- Available in a sizeable five-pound tub for easy, airtight storage
- Protein powders mix very well
- A good amount of protein without high sugar and calories
- Some may consider it very pricey for weight gain
How We Tested Best Protein Powders for Beginners
When evaluating the best protein powders for beginners, we took into consideration the following key criteria.
We assessed how well the protein powder aids in muscle recovery, growth, and overall health benefits. This involved looking at the protein content, amino acid profile, and feedback from users regarding their post-workout recovery experience.
The ingredient list was scrutinized to ensure that the protein powders are made from high-quality sources. We also checked for the presence of any artificial additives, fillers, or harmful substances.
Taste is crucial for consistent consumption, especially for beginners. We sampled various flavors and took note of any aftertastes, consistency, and how well they mix with liquids.
Affordability is essential, especially for those who are just starting their fitness journey. We compared the cost per serving, package size, and overall value for money.
How to Choose a Good Protein Powder?
To choose a good protein powder, consider a protein powder source that aligns with your goals, steer clear of additives and fillers, and opt for a flavor and texture that suits your preferences without compromising on quality.
Protein Powder Sources
Whey is a complete milk protein which means it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body needs but can only get through your diet.
There are three common forms of whey powder you will see on ingredient labels, and it has to do with the processing.
- Concentrate: The least processed protein powder contains fat and lactose and thus a lower protein concentration.
- Isolate: This type is processed further than the concentrate to reduce the amount of lactose and fat. People with lactose intolerance may find this more easily digestible.
- Hydrolysate: Processed even further than concentrate and isolate, breaking down the long protein chains into smaller ones.
If you don’t have a milk protein allergy or intolerance, I recommend these protein powder supplements for their many health benefits and complete amino acid profile.
“Amino acids are important for many functions in the body, from building muscle to creating new immune cells.”
- Maxine Smith, RD, LD
Besides muscle building, this protein powder supplement may have potential anti-inflammatory properties and possible cholesterol-reducing benefits .
It is particularly high in an amino acid called Leucine, which is essential in muscle building .
Related: Best Protein Powder For Muscle Gains
Flavor and Texture
I encourage my clients to avoid protein powders with additives and fillers, which can enhance the flavor and texture, but my advice is always less is more when it comes to ingredients. Consider an unflavored protein powder if you want to mix it with milk and the like.
Additives and Fillers
It is essential to read the protein powders' labels when choosing a powder to build muscle, whether it's casein protein or egg protein.
If your goal is to lose weight, it is critical to be mindful of any ingredients that could increase calories and work against your exercise efforts. Always do your research and see whether your protein powder has these and how much of these they contain. You can also ask your dietician for recommendations since they will know which ones work the best for you.
The Science Behind Protein Powders
Protein powders undergo a meticulous process to extract, purify, and dry the protein. The type of protein, whether it's whey, soy, or another variety, determines its digestion rate, amino acid profile, and overall effects on the body.
By understanding the science behind these supplements, you can make a more informed decision about which one is right for you.
Environmental and Ethical Considerations
Beyond the nutritional benefits, it's essential to consider the broader impact of your protein powder choice. Some brands source their protein from grass-fed cows or family-owned farms, ensuring ethical treatment of animals.
Additionally, the environmental footprint of protein production varies, with plant-based options often being more sustainable.
By choosing ethically and environmentally conscious brands, you can fuel your body while supporting a better world.
What Is the Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss for Beginners?
The best protein powder for weight loss for beginners has high protein per serving and no carbs, additives or fillers. Including a protein powder with protein-rich foods in your diet can help you feel less hungry, boost metabolism, lose weight, and maintain and increase muscle mass.
Should Beginners Take Protein Powder?
Yes, beginners should take protein powder up to their daily protein intake, especially if the goal is to increase or build muscle mass, improve muscle recovery, or lose weight.
Our Verdict on Best Protein Powder for Beginners
Price, taste, ingredient quality, and how much protein is listed on the label all played an important role in choosing the title of best beginner protein shake powder.
Our front-runner is Transparent Labs, mainly for the short list of high-quality ingredients and 28 grams of protein per serving at a price point that far beats its competitors.
The fact that it’s grass-fed and that it offers a wide variety of tasty options makes me believe it is one of the best choices among those starting out their fitness journey.
Beyond that, I myself experienced a significant increase in muscle growth back in the day when I started using this protein powder after my lifting workouts, so, full disclosure, this is an easy recommendation for me.
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