Chances are you already know that protein is the most important macronutrient for packing on muscle, but it is also a major contributor to weight loss.
In fact, protein is arguably just as essential for weight loss as it is for building muscle (I’ll dive more into the science behind this later).
However, this doesn’t mean that all protein powders are necessarily ideal for weight loss (many are not). Thankfully, there are a select few niche protein powders for weight loss that can help you achieve a leaner, more defined physique.
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is nothing short of top-notch if you’re looking for a high-quality whey isolate powder that packs plenty of flavor without a ton of calories.
In fact, each serving (32 grams) of this protein powder provides a whopping 28 grams of protein sourced exclusively from grass-fed, hormone-free cows raised in the U.S. By weight, this is one of the leading ratios of protein content per gram (roughly 875 milligrams per gram) of any protein powder on the market.
Best of all, there is virtually no sugar, fat, or lactose in Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate, making it a fantastic protein powder for weight loss. The cinnamon roll and salted caramel flavors are my personal favorites, but they also offer chocolate, French vanilla, mocha, and strawberry if you prefer something a little more routine.
The Protein Powders for Weight Loss We RAVE About
Why Use Protein Powder for Weight Loss?
Many people have a tough time meeting their daily protein needs through whole food sources. Frankly, I can’t blame anyone for skimping on protein given the cost of protein-rich foods, like meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy.
Last time I checked, a pound (16 ounces) of free-range chicken breast was $7.99. Steak and fish are upwards of $15.99 a pound. For reference, you can buy a 16-ounce bag of chips or a box of cereal for a fraction of those prices. The problem is chips and cereal are predominantly carb sources with little protein content. Not to mention meat has to be prepared and stored properly, making it less convenient than prepackaged foods.
But we live in the 21st century, so you can hold your head high knowing that there is an affordable protein powder for weight loss to help you achieve your fitness goals.
That’s right. No more excuses. No more “I don’t have the time to eat healthily,” or “I’ll just skip breakfast because I’m late for work.” If you can’t take 20 seconds to dump a scoop of protein powder into a shaker bottle, add water, and swirl it around, you need to reassess your priorities.
Now, as a “disclaimer” of sorts, I am not saying you should rely on protein powder for weight loss or as the sole source of protein in your diet. Rather, protein powder should serve as a supplement to a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of protein from whole foods.
And it goes without saying, you should hit the gym regularly and keep active if your goal is to lose weight. There is no replacement for exercise and a proper diet.
Nevertheless, high-quality protein powder for weight loss can serve as a great helping hand when you need it most. As a graduate student in the medical sciences and someone who has been writing about dietary supplements and nutrition for the last decade, I’ve gained quite a bit of insight into the realm of protein powders. In this guide, I will detail the best protein powders for weight loss and where you can find them for a bargain.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best protein powder for weight loss category winners.
What is Protein Powder? Where Does it Come From?
You’ve probably heard of whey protein at some point. Or maybe you’ve been using a whey protein powder for years now and still wonder, “What the heck is whey protein, anyway?”
Well, if you grew up being inundated by those “Got milk?” campaign ads featuring buff athletes like Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, you can connect the dots pretty quickly.
Now you might be thinking, “Oh, I see where he’s going with this. Milk is a good source of steroids!”
Great observation, but I was driving more toward the fact that cow’s milk is rich in dairy protein, which just so happens to be Mother Nature’s predominant source of whey protein and casein protein. So, in short, whey and casein protein powder come from dairy milk; more specifically, they are byproducts of the cheese-making process.
Whey protein and casein protein are exceptional sources of essential and non-essential amino acids. It might help to think of them as the “building blocks” of muscle tissue.
But protein powder can also be made from non-dairy foods, like egg whites, beef, and plants, particularly peas and brown rice. So yes, vegans can rejoice knowing that there are plant-based protein powders for weight loss.
Regardless of what diet you follow, protein powder can be a godsend for weight loss since it’s convenient, flavorful (if you choose the right products), and makes it easier to stick to a calorie-controlled diet.
Before you skip down to the reviews of the best protein powders for weight loss, let’s take a look at how protein powder works and why you should probably consume more protein if your goal is to lose weight.
How Does Protein Powder for Weight Loss Work?
Protein powder is one of the most competitive (and diluted) niches in the dietary supplement industry. The differentiation between one protein powder for weight loss to the next often seems inconsequential, if not impossible to discern. Though, I can assure you that if you take the time to read supplement labels and learn more about what goes into the products, it becomes apparent what sets them apart. Of course, that’s what I’m here to do for you.
While some protein powders contain ingredients that may support weight loss, like green tea extract, caffeine, and glucomannan, it’s imperative to acknowledge that these supplements are not magical fat-burning elixirs. If you’re hoping there’s a “thermogenic protein powder” out there that will melt the fat off your body, you’re in for a bit of a letdown. There are no miracle pills or powders that do the work for you, especially when it comes to improving your health and losing weight.
However, don’t let that discourage you from investing in a protein powder for weight loss. High-quality protein powder can absolutely facilitate weight loss by helping you meet your protein needs without adding a ton of calories (as carbs, sugars, and fat) to your diet.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
Naturally, you might be curious about how much protein you should eat for weight loss? Well, it depends…
First, let’s consider that protein has the greatest per-gram net thermic effect of food (TEF) of any macronutrient. In layman’s terms, this simply means your body expends more energy (calories) to fully absorb and digest protein compared to fats and carbohydrates. In fact, the phenomenon of “meat sweats” after eating a massive steak is quite literally the result of your body generating more heat due to all the protein digestion.
Thus, eating a higher protein diet will tip the calories-in-calories-out equation slightly in favor of a negative energy balance, thereby encouraging weight loss. (Note: Energy balance is unequivocally the most important factor in weight management.)
In addition, protein is a highly satiating macronutrient, which again makes it easier to stick to a weight-loss diet. And as you are probably well aware, protein is essential for maintaining and building lean body mass like skeletal muscle tissue.
However, this does not mean that you should eat a ton of protein when your goal is to shed some weight. There is certainly a point of excess with protein intake, just like anything in health and nutrition. On the flip side, it’s important not to skimp on your protein intake either.
Protein Intake for Weight Loss: Is the RDI Enough?
Dietary reference intakes (DRIs) are dietary guideline recommendations disseminated by the U.S. government. They are suggested to meet the nutritional needs of 97-98% of healthy individuals across the country.
For adults, the current DRI for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which comes out to about 0.36 grams per pound. (If you’re a gym-goer or athlete, you might have just let out a ghastly shriek as you read that… )
The DRI for protein has actually been an issue of reconsideration as of late, given the growing body of evidence that suggests higher amounts (in the realm of 1.8-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight) are beneficial for active people. In fact, a recent research review concluded that high-protein diets (>1.2 grams protein per kilogram of body weight) are generally favorable for maintaining a negative energy balance, whereas low-protein diets may lead to the opposite.
Remember, weight loss ultimately boils down to burning more calories than you consume and being consistent. If anything, eating more protein will make your weight loss journey more tolerable and efficient.
As it stands, most people should be eating more protein for weight loss—upwards of 1 gram per pound of body weight per day.
So, what’s the best protein powder for weight loss? I spent countless hours perusing and scrutinizing the multitude of protein supplements on the market to help answer that very question.
If I’m being completely forthright, I can tell you that supplements marketed as “thermogenic protein powder” or “fat-burning protein powder” largely prey on the credulity of consumers for otherwise low-quality products. After all, the majority of the decision-making process when you purchase supplements (or any consumer goods) is based on the aesthetic of the label, not what’s actually in the product.
The reality is that protein powder doesn’t need to contain any “special” fat-burning ingredients just to help you lose weight. Sure, there are some ingredients that might provide a little extra kick to keep you energized throughout the day, but they aren’t the main thing to look for in a quality protein powder for weight loss.
So, what is the main thing to look for? When it comes to protein powders, the quality of ingredients varies significantly from one supplement to the next. It’s one thing for a protein powder to claim it has “20 grams of protein per serving,” but where does that protein come from? Has it been tested for purity and contamination? Does it contain added sugars? Is it loaded with artificial colors and preservatives?
It might seem like you’re saving money by purchasing a less costly protein powder for weight loss, or protein supplements that have the most attractive labels. But as the saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover” (or in this case, a protein powder by its label). What’s inside the bottle counts.
Fortunately, there are a handful of (familiar) supplement brands that have recently launched high-quality protein powders that complement weight loss with exceptional ingredient profiles.
To rank these top protein powders for weight loss, I used the following criteria:
- Protein content per gram
- Ingredient quality (non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, etc.)
- Additional weight-loss support ingredients
- Taste and flavor options
- Value (cost per serving)
The Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
In keeping with their dedication to fully transparent, high-quality supplements, Transparent Labs grass-fed whey protein isolate is arguably the best protein powder for weight loss. It contains an exceptional macronutrient profile and a relatively low-calorie content. If you’re not familiar with this brand, each of their product labels details the exact amount of every single ingredient. They even go so far as to disclose the precise doses of inactive ingredients in their supplements, like natural flavorings and sweeteners (e.g. cocoa powder and stevia in the case of their chocolate grass-fed whey).
Since dietary supplements often lack transparency, Transparent Labs makes it clear that they value integrity above all. They also provide certificates of analyses and composition for all of their product batches. From a consumer standpoint, this is a welcome breath of fresh air in an industry that is rife with “proprietary blends,” unscrupulous labeling tactics, and erroneous label claims.
Best of all, there are six different flavor options, including:
- French Vanilla
- Salted Caramel
- Cinnamon Roll
Hint: Salted caramel and cinnamon roll are fantastic treats for the taste buds
- Exceptional protein per gram
- Grass-fed, gluten-free, non-GMO
- No artificial preservatives
- No artificial colors or sweeteners
- A few flavors are mild tasting
Isopure Zero Carb Whey Protein Isolate
Isopure is the quintessential godfather of whey protein isolate powder. I fondly remember the good old days of buying the ready-to-drink Isopure Zero Carb at the local supplement shop and thinking to myself “How can something this tasty be purely protein?” Well, that was 15 years ago and the brand is still doing what they do best: selling delicious zero-carb whey protein isolate.
Arguably the toughest part about buying this protein is picking a flavor. Though I will say Isopure excels in the fruitier options, particularly Alpine Punch, Apple Melon (my personal favorite after a workout), and Pineapple Orange Banana. No matter which flavor you choose, Isopure Zero Carb comes with added vitamins, minerals, and L-glutamine to keep you performing at top speed. And since this protein is carb-free, you don’t have to worry about lactose, fillers, or gluten giving you stomach issues.
- 25 grams protein per serving
- Zero carbs and gluten-free
- Micronutrients and L-glutamine
- Some inferior vitamin forms
- Artificial sweetener and color
Evolution Advance Nutrition Fit & Slim Weight Loss Protein
One of the top-selling protein powders for weight loss on Amazon, EAN Fit & Slim Weight Loss Protein is light on calories (100 per 30-gram scoop) and oh-so-satisfying. Thanks to a blend of digestion-slowing inulin and glucomannan fibers, this protein will keep you satiated for hours without leaving you feeling bloated or gassy.
It only contains 18 grams of protein per serving, which isn’t a whole lot, but it’s quality grass-fed whey protein and naturally sweetened with stevia. It’s also soy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO. While I think this formula is great all around, the price is a bit steep given the protein content. Regardless, if you have a little extra money to spend, chances are you’ll be more than content with this weight loss protein.
- Non-GMO and grass-fed
- Prebiotic fiber to curb hunger
- Naturally sweetened
- 18 grams of protein per serving
- May be too sweet for some
Dymatize Iso100 Hydrolyzed Clear
Looking for an all-natural, ultra-pure whey protein powder that tastes like fruit juice? Look no further. Iso100 Hydrolyzed Clear may be light on calories, but it packs 20 grams of protein from both hydrolyzed whey protein isolate and whey protein isolate in every 25-gram scoop.
Even better, this is one of the few whey protein isolates on the market that isn’t made with artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors. In fact, it mixes completely clear so you’d never even think it’s protein powder. Plus, Iso100 Hydrolyzed Clear comes in three fruit flavors, including Cherry Watermelon, Pineapple Orange, and Mango, each of which is sure to satisfy a sweet tooth and keep you on track towards your weight-loss goal.
- 20 grams of protein
- Gluten-free, naturally flavored
- Only 90 calories per serving
- May taste overly sweet to some
- Not as filling as other proteins
Orgain Protein & Greens Plant-Based Protein Powder
Whether you’re a die-hard vegan or just someone who wants to make more plant-based diet choices, I ranked Orgain Protein & Greens as the best vegan protein powder for weight loss. It’s admittedly tough to find any glaring faults with this protein powder: It’s made with completely organic, non-GMO, and certified vegan ingredients and actually tastes good (unlike many plant-based protein powders).
But there has to be a catch, right? Well, in this case, note that it’s more of a meal replacement powder or a green smoothie of sorts than a pure protein powder. Each 49-gram serving only provides 21 grams of protein. The remainder comes in the form of fats (4.5 grams) and carbs (19 grams). Nevertheless, these nutrients are derived entirely from organic greens (e.g. spinach and kale) and a blend of fibers that reduces the net carb count significantly. Since each serving is a modest 160 calories while being highly filling, it makes for quite a treat on a weight-loss diet.
- Non-GMO, USDA organic
- Great taste
- Only two flavors
- Higher in carbs and fat
Jacked Factory Authentic Iso
Jacked Factory comes from humble beginnings as a small supplement brand that initially offered one product, a clinically dosed pre-workout powder called Altius. Thankfully, that was all they needed to spur immense growth over the years. Fast forward to today and JF was ranked as one of Canada’s top 30 startup companies in 2019. Their preeminent weight loss supplement, Burn-XT, has been a top seller on Amazon since 2018.
To no surprise, Authentic Iso is another outstanding product from JF. This protein powder is made with 100% grass-fed whey protein isolate and arguably the most delicious chocolate peanut butter flavor you’ll find in a supplement. Another major selling point is that Authentic Iso is quite affordable, especially for a pure grass-fed whey protein isolate supplement.
About the only drawbacks are that it only comes in one flavor option and it’s not as low in carbs as you might prefer. Regardless, Authentic Iso holds its own against the best protein powders for weight loss.
- 100% grass-fed, non-GMO
- Fantastic flavor
- Only one flavor option
- 5 grams net carbs per serving
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant
If you’re not familiar with Optimum Nutrition (or “ON”), well… you’ve been living under a rock. Optimum Nutrition is one of the leading sports supplement brands across the globe and a purveyor of the industry’s most revered protein powders (which rank among RAVE’s best protein powders). However, their success with the esteemed Gold Standard series of whey protein and casein protein powders might cause consumers to overlook their Gold Standard 100% Plant protein powder, which is not something to be trifled with.
Personally, I love this formula (and I’m not even on a vegan diet). It features 24 grams of protein per 38-gram serving from organic peas, brown rice, and sacha inchi. These plant-based protein sources complement each other nicely to give you the essential amino acids necessary to support muscle repair and retention while you strive toward a leaner physique.
This vegan protein powder also packs a trademarked blend—AncienTrim—of organic grains that are suggested to promote satiety, making it easier to stick to a weight-loss diet.
- Brand reputation
- Gluten-free, non-GMO
- 5g carbs, 3g fat per serving
- Different texture and taste
MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Ripped
MuscleTech is a ubiquitous sports supplement brand with hundreds of different products, a good chunk of which are protein powders. While the company makes some pretty bold claims (every supplement company does) about their Nitro-Tech protein line, Nitro-Tech Ripped is a solid weight-loss variant that holds its own against other top contenders.
The foundation of the formula is whey protein isolate, providing 30 grams of protein per scoop (44 grams). Not the best protein per gram content, but what sets Nitro-Tech Ripped apart from other protein powders for weight loss is the Ripped+ Matrix, a blend of L-carnitine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), coffee bean extract, rosehip extract, and kelp that is purported to boost weight loss. These ingredients are sound and well-tolerated in clinical research, but the doses are fairly low so it’s unclear whether they will produce any notable benefit.
Regardless, Nitro-Tech Ripped is worthy of consideration when you’re trying to trim down a bit. It tastes pretty darn good, too.
- 30 grams whey peptides
- Excellent flavor
- Added thermogenic ingredients
- Only two flavors
- 4 grams fat and 170 calories
Protein2O Low-Calorie Whey Protein Drink
I first stumbled upon Protein2O somewhat serendipitously when I was on a road trip and saw these ready-to-drink whey protein drinks next to the other sports beverages. I was admittedly skeptical when I read the label but to my amazement, these are pretty darn refreshing and pack a solid 10-15 grams of whey protein isolate per bottle (depending on which flavor you choose).
Since these protein-infused water drinks aren’t packed with sugar, fat, or fillers, they are very light on the stomach, almost like drinking Powerade Zero. Don’t expect Protein2O to fill you up like other protein powders for weight loss. Nevertheless, when you’re in a pinch for time or on the road, it can be a lifesaver.
- Only 50-60 calories per bottle
- Convenient & ready-to-drink
- Refreshing taste
- Not very filling
- A bit pricey
- Artificial sweetener and color
Performance Inspired Nutrition Diet & Energy Ripped Whey
This up-and-coming supplement brand is now available at a range of retailers across the U.S. and certified as Informed-Sport, meaning every product batch is tested for banned substances. Their Diet & Energy Ripped Whey is distinct from other protein powders for weight loss in that it’s formulated with caffeine, green tea extract, and L-carnitine. These three ingredients will keep your engine revving at full capacity throughout the day and encourage weight loss. Though, my scrutinous side is a bit underwhelmed by the doses of green tea and L-carnitine.
In any case, the pros of this protein powder certainly outweigh the cons, and it’s bound to satisfy your taste buds while keeping you full. Just be sure to avoid drinking Diet & Energy Ripped Whey close to bedtime, as the caffeine content might interfere with sleep. Ideally, use this source of protein at breakfast or in the mid-afternoon to beat the crash at the office.
- Satisfying energy boost
- 5 grams of fiber per serving
- Added weight-loss ingredients
- Low dose of L-carnitine
- Low protein content per gram
- Only useful during the day
Do I need to take protein powder to lose weight?
Heavens no! The best protein powder for weight loss is first and foremost one that serves as a convenient source of quality protein without packing a ton of calories. This can help make weight loss easier by supporting appetite control, a negative energy balance, and lean body mass (e.g. muscle tissue) retention. However, this does not mean you need to take protein powder just to lose weight.
How much should I eat to lose weight?
I highly recommend checking out this guide to counting macros if you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off. It guides you step-by-step through the process of counting calories, carbs, protein, and fats and provides some simple methods to help you determine how much to eat for weight loss.
Is it bad to consume more than the RDI of protein?
The short answer: No, eating more than the RDI for protein isn’t “bad” or “unhealthy,” so long as you aren’t on a medically restricted diet that requires limited protein intake.
Should I take BCAAs if I already take protein powder?
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three different amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—that share chemical structure similarities. They are thought to be the “key players” in muscle protein synthesis. However, there isn’t much research or evidence available to suggest that taking BCAA supplements provides any advantage for muscle building or weight loss in people who already consume an adequate amount of protein through whole foods and protein supplements.
However, BCAA supplements might prove useful in some cases, particularly between meals that are spaced 5-6 hours apart. BCAAs may also be useful for inhibiting muscle protein breakdown and protecting hard-earned muscle tissue when your main goal is to lose weight.
What is the best plant-based protein powder?
I would argue that it’s a toss-up between pea protein and rice protein, or both combined since their amino acid profiles complement each other to make them more “complete.” Rice protein lacks the essential amino acid L-lysine, so it’s not considered a complete protein source. Pea protein is complete, albeit low in methionine, one of the nine essential amino acids.
If you’re following a strictly plant-based diet, protein powder that combines rice protein and pea protein is the best way to go. This is a major reason why Orgain Protein and Greens earns the title of best plant-based protein powder for weight loss.
Looking for additional supplements and products to fuel weight loss and help you achieve your health goals? Be sure to check out these select favorites that we RAVE about:
- Exerpeutic 400XL Folding Recumbent Bike: We all have those days when going to the gym just doesn’t fit into the schedule, but that’s no excuse to skip your workout! The Exerpeutic 400XL strikes the perfect balance between compactness, portability, durability, and affordability. At less than $150 USD, this recumbent bike can hold up to 300 pounds and features eight resistance levels to challenge even the most seasoned cyclists. Plus, it comes with a space-saving folding design so you can stow it away easily.
- NutriBullet NBR-1201: Having the best protein powder for weight loss on hand means you’re going to want a solid blender to mix up healthy smoothies. In reality, you don’t need anything too crazy to make protein smoothies. The NutriBullet NBR-1201 ranks as RAVE’s best personal blender for handling all the ingredients you throw at it, whether that’s raw veggies, fruits, nuts, or anything else. Thankfully, this blender won’t put much of a dent in your bank account, either.
- Kashi GOLEAN Cereal: As someone who loves cold cereal, Kashi GOLEAN is the gold standard compared to other healthy cereals on the market. Okay, it might not taste like traditional sugar-loaded cold cereals, but GOLEAN packs some great flavor for being such a nutrient powerhouse.