Protein powder is a great supplement for gaining muscle mass, increasing strength, dropping body fat, and maintaining weight loss.
One of the more mundane challenges with protein powder is that the taste of unflavored protein can be off-putting: it’s bland, mildly bitter, and very chalky.
Want to get the benefits of the best protein powders without having to endure chalky, flavorless protein shakes? Our researchers have compared and ranked the best-tasting protein supplements on the market.
1. Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard Double Rich Chocolate
Just about every protein powder comes in a chocolate flavor, but none get the flavoring just right like Optimum Nutrition does. Double Rich Chocolate hits the perfect middle ground: their chocolate is not too sweet, not too bitter, and not too rich.
Even if you are downing tremendous amounts of protein every day, you won’t get sick of this flavor. Add to that Optimum Nutrition’s highly successful blend of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, and whey protein peptides, and you’ve got a winning formula.
2. Myprotein Impact Whey Salted Caramel
If you want highly pure protein and are sick of the usual sweet chocolate and vanilla flavors, Myprotein Impact Whey Salted Caramel is a refreshing change of pace.
With 100% whey protein isolate, the purest form of whey protein, this supplement is a perennial favorite among bodybuilders, and the tangy, salty taste of this supplement is a welcome difference from many other flavored protein powders on the market.
3. Gaspari Nutrition Myofusion Advanced Protein Vanilla Ice Cream
Gaspari Nutrition is king when it comes to taste. Its users rave about the sweet, creamy taste of the vanilla ice cream protein powder, which goes great by itself and blends easily into shakes and smoothies, even when they contain other supplements like BCAAs, creatine, or glutamine.
The protein content is varied, coming from whey protein, milk protein, and casein protein. Thanks to the coconut oil included as part of the creamer, this protein powder mixes up into a smooth solution without chunking or chalky particulates fouling up the taste.
4. Isopure Low Carb Protein Powder Dutch Chocolate
Isopure makes an excellent protein powder if you want to keep the protein content high and the carb content low without compromising on taste.
Isopure uses only whey protein isolate as a source for its protein content, and unlike many other competitors, Isopure also includes a comprehensive blend of vitamins and minerals, making it a great meal replacement.
5. NutraBio Classic Whey Protein Horchata
NutraBio Classic Whey Protein’s Horchata flavor is the perfect protein powder if you want something that’s got a slight sweetness to it, but isn’t cloyingly sweet like some other flavored protein supplements.
It’s got a nutty flavor that isn’t overpowering, and a sweet aftertaste. In terms of protein content, it uses whey protein concentrate, and the ingredients list is pretty clean—aside from whey protein and the flavoring agents, there are no other ingredients.
6. BSN Syntha-6 Cookies and Cream
While purists and low carb crusaders will hate the high carb content, the sweet and creamy taste of BSN Syntha-6 Cookies and Cream is nearly impossible to beat.
Even in just plain water, it tastes great and has a very smooth texture. While there are a lot of sweeteners, BSN also includes quite the variety of protein, from whey to egg to casein, plus some added glutamine for better recovery.
7. Quest Protein Powder Vanilla Milkshake
Quest Protein makes a pretty simple protein powder that use a blend of dairy-based protein sources alongside both stevia and sucralose for sweetness.
It’s a pretty good protein powder on its own, but does better when blended into smoothies with some yogurt or frozen fruit.
8. SAN Nutrition RawFusion Plant Protein Powder Peanut Chocolate Fudge
For people looking for a vegan-friendly and dairy-free protein powder that still tastes great, RawFusion has got you covered. This protein powder supplement uses from a robust blend of pea protein, rice protein, and artichoke protein.
It's flavored with stevia and a small amount of fructose, but the carbohydrate content is still pretty low, and the sugar content is only one gram per serving.
9. BPI Sports Whey HD Strawberry Cake
BPI Sports uses a blend of milk and whey protein in this protein supplement, and the flavoring is great if you’ve got a sweet tooth and a yearning for something fruity.
It’s creamy and mixes up into a shake very easily on its own, plus it tastes great in a smoothie with frozen fruit or yoghurt if you’re trying to add in more calories.
10. Dymatize ISO 100 Protein Powder Isolate Orange Dreamsicle
Tired of the ordinary? Dymatize ISO 100 in Orange Dreamsicle is a flavor that’s hard to forget. Sweet, citrusy, and creamy, this protein powder is far from your typical chocolate or vanilla blend.
While Dymatize uses a high-quality blend of whey protein isolate as its protein source, the unique flavor does make it tricky to mix with other ingredients in a smoothie. This protein powder tends to do best mixed only with water or milk.
Benefits and side effects of the best tasting protein powders
Protein powder is useful both when you’re looking to add muscle mass and improve your strength, or if you are looking to replace unhealthy meals with a protein shake to lose weight or maintain weight you’ve already lost while on a diet.
For a lot of people, one of the biggest barriers to using protein powder is the taste—unflavored protein powder tastes chalky and dry, plus it tends to clump up in your protein shaker or smoothies.
A protein powder that’s flavored well counteracts this problem, but flavoring agents can come with their own drawbacks if not used properly.
The right flavoring approach can keep protein powder low in sugar and high in protein. The easiest way to flavor a protein shake is to just add sugar.
That’s what some lower quality protein supplements do. The problem with this is that sugar counteracts some of the key benefits of protein powder.
While protein helps you lose fat mass and retain muscle mass, sugar intake does the opposite. A study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 2001 studied the intake of sugar among adolescent children and its effects on body mass gain (1).
The researchers found that increased sugar intake was associated with greater BMI gain, even after adjusting for lifestyle-related factors.
This result was confirmed in a careful meta-analysis of dozens of clinical trials and prospective cohort studies published in 2013 the British Medical Journal (2). The authors of this study found that high sugar intake was directly linked to increased body fat.
Instead of using sugar, better protein shakes will use non-caloric sweeteners. This makes protein palatable without hampering their ability to keep your body fat low and your lean mass high.
Stevia is one all-natural option that adds no calories, is completely natural, and does not appear to have any side effects.
A scientific article published in 2009 in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition reviewed the benefits of stevia—as the extract of a small shrub native to South America, it’s all-natural, and given its tremendous sweetness, it’s 100 to 300 times sweeter than an equivalent amount of sugar (3).
Natural sweeteners like stevia are better for flavoring than sugar alcohols. Stevia has some additional advantages when compared to some previous-generation non-caloric sweeteners like erythritol and sorbitol, which are classified as “sugar alcohols.”
While sugar alcohols are indeed calorie-free, they do have a tendency to cause gastrointestinal problems like nausea, bloating, and gas when consumed in large amounts.
Some people seem to be more sensitive to this than others. The negative effects of sorbitol have been known since at least 1983 when a report by Jeffrey Hyams at the University of Connecticut Medical Center drew attention to the fact that sorbitol can reliably induce gastrointestinal problems when ingested in excess (4).
Erythritol, another popular sugar alcohol, appears less prone to cause digestive issues, but still compares poorly to stevia.
High protein intake keeps muscle mass on and fat mass off. One of the biggest reasons to seek out a great-tasting protein powder is the utility of high protein intake when it comes to maintaining a lean and healthy physique. Nutrition research has consistently found that high protein intake helps with both weight loss and weight loss maintenance.
A study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism tested the effects of a protein supplement plus resistance training on body fat losses in overweight police officers (5).
All of the participating subjects averaged 27% body fat at the outset of the study. Those who used dieting alone decreased their body fat percentage by 2 percentage points, down to 25%. However, those who used a casein protein supplement alongside strength training decreased their body fat all the way down to 18%.
Even after weight loss is successful, supplemental protein intake keeps fat off. A study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands tested the effects of a 50 grams of additional protein per day on weight loss maintenance after an intensive dieting program (6).
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, compared two groups: one who received extra protein as part of their weight maintenance diet, and one which did not.
Those who received the supplemental protein regained only half as much as body fat, on average, compared to those who did not received any protein.
Protein fills you up and increases your energy expenditure. A scientific review article by two researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined some of the biological mechanisms behind why protein powder is such a great weight loss and weight loss maintenance tool (7).
The researchers identified two key reasons. First, protein induces a feeling that nutritionists call “satiety”—the feeling of fullness after a large meal that makes you uninterested in eating more.
Second, protein stimulates thermogenesis, a process through which your body produces more heat by burning more calories (think: thermogenics). Compared to meals that are high in carbs or high in fat, a high-protein meal will more than double the increase in energy expenditure of your body.
As mentioned above, some lower-quality protein powders are flavored with large amounts of sugar alcohols, which can cause bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal issues.
A quality protein powder, however, has no tangible side effects: Since protein supplements derive their protein from natural and healthy food sources like whey, eggs, and peas, they pose no health risks.
The only obvious caveat is in the case of food allergies and intolerances.
Protein requirements for performance are based on body mass in kilograms. Athletes should aim for 1.2 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass every day, with the low end of that range for endurance athletes and the high end of that range for strength, speed, and power athletes (8).
For weight loss and weight loss maintenance, the optimal dosage appears to be at least 50 grams of supplemental protein per day, regardless of body size.
Based on the biological properties of protein supplements in your body, it’s best to take this supplemental protein in the morning and afternoon, versus late at night.
This will let you make the most of the satiety-inducing and thermogenic effects of protein powder.
Getting a protein powder that tastes great is an excellent way to solve the problem of chalky, dry, flavorless protein as a barrier to strength gain or fat loss.
The best tasting protein powders are flavored at least in part with natural sweeteners like stevia instead of sugar or sorbitol.
Taking a protein powder supplement can help you gain muscle, lose fat, and maintain your physique, and if it tastes great while doing so, all the better.