Many women who want to add lean mass, lose weight, or get toned are taking a protein powder supplement. These supplements are particularly good right after workouts, as they can boost muscle recovery and help improve muscle strength.
The different nutritional and hormonal needs of women make choosing the right protein powder a bit tricky.
Fortunately for you, our research team dove into the scientific research to identify the best protein powders for women that you can get.
Last updated: June 8, 2023
Protein powders considered: 23
Hours of research: 42
Experts reviewed: 4
Scientific papers referenced: 10
1. Ladder Plant Protein Powder
Ladder provides one of the only NSF-certified plant protein powders, making it perfect for women looking for a high quality and pure protein powder. It is completely free of lactose, fillers, artificial sweeteners and artificial colors.
Unlike most other competitors, this protein powder for women provides a complete essential amino acid profile to ensure a healthy metabolism and optimal recovery. There is also probiotics in every single serving to help support a healthy gut flora.
2. Ladder Whey Protein Powder
Ladder also offers a whey protein powder for women who don’t want a plant based protein powder. This option provides a complete amino acid profile and helps boost your metabolism, satiety and weight loss.
There are no yucky ingredients or artificial sweetness, fillers or coloring used in this brand, and every batch is tested for purity. A solid choice for women looking to supplement with whey protein powder.
3. Garden of Life Protein & Greens
If you want a source of protein that’s also a heavy hitter when it comes to vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, Garden of Life is the way to go. With tons of plant-based extracts alongside its plant-based protein formulation, it provides a huge range of nutrients that make this an excellent choice for an all-inclusive meal replacement shake that’s packed with protein.
4. KOS Superfood Protein
KOS makes another comprehensive plant-based protein powder that’s great for women who want something that trends more towards being a full meal replacement versus just a source of protein.
With a combination of pea protein and coconut milk providing the macros, and plant-based fruit and vegetable extracts providing nutrients, it’s a solid option for a comprehensive protein and nutrient source for women.
5. Aria Women’s Wellness Protein
Aria serves up a blend of soy and whey protein for a more diverse amino acid profile, and it’s flavored with only natural vanilla extract and stevia leaf extract. There’s some vegetable-based plant fiber added to bring the fiber content up to three grams per serving, which is not too bad.
For a straightforward protein shake with a wide range of amino acids, it’s one of the best.
6. Whey Fantastic
Whey Fantastic is a hyper-minimalist protein that is the number one choice if you are a purist when it comes to how your supplements are made. The only ingredients are grass fed whey protein plus a small amount of xylitol and a few other non-caloric sweeteners, inulin, and natural flavoring
The real draw is where the protein comes from: non-GMO, grass-fed cows, whose milk is minimally-processed to extract the whey protein. That’s probably why it’s a concentrate, not an isolate.
7. Alani Nu Whey Protein
Alani Nu has a nice blend of whey protein hydrosylate and whey protein isolate for a complete amino acid profile that’s rapidly absorbed, plus naturally-derived plant flavors to make it taste great without any added sugar. It’s a solid option if you want a good protein powder that makes no compromises on taste or quality.
8. Nature’s Bounty Complete Protein & Vitamin
If your daily nutrient intake could use some work, Nature’s Bounty is a good way to go. It’s got tons of vitamins and minerals, including many that a large proportion of women are deficient in.
The only downside is that the concentration of protein is not very high, especially relative to the sugar content (six grams per serving). It does have four grams of dietary fiber to partially offset the negative metabolic effects of the sugar, but it’d be better to avoid it in the first place.
9. FoxyFit Protein for Her
FoxyFit Protein for Her is geared towards being more of a meal replacement shake, with a combination of natural and artificial flavors to make it a convenient substitute for an unhealthy snack. The protein quality is only middling, with just whey protein concentrate as its protein source. Still, it tastes great and has no added sugar.
10. Pro Nutrition Labs Whey for Her
Pro Nutrition makes a female-focused protein powder that supplies a nice balance of amino acids thanks to its whey protein peptides. However, it lacks in terms of other quality protein ingredients, relying on a blend of whey concentrate and whey protein isolate, and it doesn’t have much else to offer in terms of vitamins or minerals, which hurts it in the rankings
Best overall protein powder for women: Ladder Whey Protein Powder
Ladder Whey is unbeatable when it comes to purity and efficacy. It combines super high quality protein ingredients with an excellent taste and super clean supplement design, making it our top overall pick.
Best protein-based meal replacement shake for women: Garden of Life Protein & Greens
For swapping out unhealthy meals with a protein-based shake, Garden of Life is the way to go. This combo of plant-based protein and nutrients from a wide range of plants delivers excellent macro and micro nutrients. On top of that, the naturally-sourced cocoa powder makes it taste great, too.
Best protein powder for women’s weight loss: Ladder Whey Protein Powder
Want to harness the power of protein for weight loss? You need a high-quality whey protein, and that’s exactly what Ladder delivers. No additives or artificial flavoring, just fat-burning power from whey protein.
Best vegan protein powder for women: Ladder Plant Protein Powder
Sourced from pea and pumpkin protein, Ladder Plant Protein provides a vegan-friendly complete profile of amino acids in a low-carb powder that tastes great.
Best protein powder for female athletes: Ladder Whey Protein Powder
Ladder Whey is the best option for female athletes looking to boost their recovery and improve their performance, thanks to its minimalist composition and high-quality whey protein isolate that provides an excellent range of amino acids.
Best low calorie protein powder for women: Aria Women’s Wellness Protein
Tired of protein powders full of sugar and bloated with excess calories? Try Aria Women’s Wellness Protein instead. It focuses on a clean supplement design, with extra fiber for a lower effective caloric content. It’s a great protein for weight loss that doesn’t sacrifice on taste.
Who should buy protein powder for women?
Though protein powder has a reputation as being primarily for weight lifters, bodybuilders, and other people who are trying to bulk up. As a result, many women shy away from protein powder out of fears of becoming muscle-bound or too heavy.
This is an unfortunate outcome, though, because women stand to gain a lot by using protein powder in the right circumstances. Here’s who benefits most from a protein powder for women:
Women looking to get stronger and get toned, without bulking up. Protein powder for women can help increase muscle strength and increase muscle tone, without fear of adding muscle.
How? Men have a much easier time adding muscle thanks to their high levels of testosterone and HGH: with this hormonal milieu, the body can easily incorporate the amino acids from protein powder into new muscle.
However, the story is different for women. Adding muscle mass is much harder, but female athletes still have high protein needs to repair the damage to muscle fibers that is incurred during a tough workout.
Women looking to shed fat and maintain lean body mass. Protein for women has benefits for more than just athletes. It can be a great addition to a weight loss program thanks to the thermogenic and appetite-suppressant effects of the amino acids in protein.
It seems paradoxical—how could protein powder, which is often used to add muscle mass, help you lose body fat?—but multiple scientific studies confirm the utility of using supplemental protein as part of a weight loss program.
If you are looking to drop body fat while maintaining your lean body mass, a protein powder for women is a great addition to your arsenal.
Older women looking to shore up their bone strength. For older women, protein (when paired with a calcium supplement) can even help maintain bone mass. That’s because there is an intimate link between muscular strength and bone strength.
Maintaining or improving muscle mass means better bone health for older women, and a protein powder can help accomplish that, as long as your calcium intake is high enough.
How we ranked
Evaluating the best protein powders for women required a few specific considerations beyond what you might use to evaluate a generic protein powder. Here’s how we did it.
Considering vitamin and mineral content, not just raw protein amounts. First off, since many women could be using protein powder as a meal replacement while on a diet, we put increased importance on the presence of other potentially useful vitamins and minerals to replace the nutrients you’re missing out on by swapping out a protein shake for a meal.
No excessively sugary products. We also had a much more stringent requirement for sugar contents: we eliminated any products from our consideration if they had too much in the way of added sugars.
If all you want is a great-tasting protein powder, you can tolerate a moderate amount of sugar, but if you are shooting for weight loss, you want to keep the sugar content to a minimum. High sugar intake will combat any fat loss benefits you are getting from a high protein diet because of the way sugar is metabolized.
Super-high-quality protein sources only. After tossing out products with too much sugar, we looked at the source of protein in each of the remaining products. Super-pure sources like whey protein isolate were rated more highly, while blended forms of lower quality protein got the axe.
Great taste from natural sources. Even though we targeted high-sugar products, don’t make the mistake of thinking our top rated protein powders for women have the bland, chalky taste of unflavored protein.
We specifically looked for products that used natural sources of sweetness like chicory root or stevia to add flavor. Some products also used artificial sweeteners and artificial flavoring, but these wound up lower in the final rankings.
After considering the sugar content, the flavor, the purity, and the quality of the protein source, we came up with our final list of the best protein powders for women on the market right now.
Whether your goal is weight loss or muscle tone, you can find a protein that’s perfectly suited for your needs in our rankings.
Q: What kind of protein is best for weight loss?
A: For weight loss, you want a pure and high quality protein that is high in amino acids (particularly branched chain amino acids or BCAAs) and more importantly, a protein powder that is low in sugar.
These twin characteristics will help take advantage of the thermogenic effects of protein powder, which can be traced to the increased energy expenditure needed to break down the amino acids that protein powder contains.
In addition, protein can provide an appetite suppressant effect because protein generates a greater feeling of fullness or satiety compared to other sources of calories. Keeping the sugar content to a minimum is important because sugar creates a negative metabolic environment that makes weight loss a lot harder.
Our rankings of the best protein powders for women took all of these factors into consideration.
Q: Is protein good for women who want to lose weight?
A: Protein is a great way for women to increase energy expenditure, maintain lean body mass, and get an appetite suppressant effect while on a weight loss program.
As detailed above, protein induces both a thermogenic (calorie burning) effect and an appetite suppressant effect, which reduces your desire to eat more food at future meals.
As long as you are consuming a high-quality protein powder for women that is low in sugar and high in protein, you’ll be able to enhance your weight loss.
Q: What is a good women’s protein for toning?
A: To tone muscles, women want a very pure protein powder that also helps them burn off fat.
Our reviewers liked Aria Women’s Wellness Protein and Smart Protein Grass Fed Whey for their focus on high quality protein sources and their very low sugar content, but many of the products in our rankings of the top protein powders for women are good choices for getting toned, as long as you pair them with an effective strength training program.
Q: Can a protein powder for women help you gain weight?
A: Gaining weight in the form of muscle mass can be tough for women, who don’t have the testosterone and HGH levels that men do that help them bulk up with muscle.
A protein powder can definitely help a woman gain weight, but high protein intake needs to be paired with heavy weight lifting to induce a strong enough training effect to increase muscle fiber size.
Q: How should pregnant women who are vegan get their protein?
A: Being a vegan makes protein intake for women particularly difficult, because many of the highest quality protein powders for women use animal-based protein sources like whey and casein protein.
There are, however, plenty of products that offer alternatives: pea protein is a particularly good source of vegan protein, to take just one example.
- Multivitamins for women
- BCAAs for women
- Protein for weight loss
- Best tasting protein powder
- Vegan protein powder
- Meal replacement shake
It it possible to get plenty of protein from food alone? Sure. But it never hurts to have a protein supplement on hand for days when you are busy, or when your usual diet fails to provide enough protein to fit your needs.
For women, protein has a wide range of benefits, from weight loss to strength gains to preservation of bone mass. Always make sure you’re getting enough protein on a daily basis, and if you’re not, think about getting yourself a protein supplement, perhaps pairing it with a women’s daily multivitamin.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 protein powder for women recommendation, click here.