A low carb protein powder can help you add muscle, drop fat, and control your hunger while avoiding the health problems that can come along with carb and sugar-laden protein powders.
The ideal low carb protein powder is one that tastes good, delivers a high dose of protein with a balanced amino acid profile, and does so without much in the way of carbohydrates and especially without added sugar.
Keeping the carbs low with the right protein powder can help you avoid the health consequences of excessive carbohydrates, like fat gain and poor metabolic health.
Fortunately for you, our research team has picked out the ten best low-carb protein powders on the market right now. Read on to see our rankings.
1. Performance Lab SPORT Protein
SPORT Protein is a clean and efficient powder from Performance Lab®.
It’s made with a low carb (just 2 g per serving) brown rice formula that conquers the taste and purity issues associated with some protein supplements, without compromising on quality.
It’s 100% plant-based, organic-certified, and vegan-friendly. With no fillers or synthetics. No additives, and no animal content.
Plus, it’s naturally flavored with a mouth-watering mix of cocoa, vanilla, and cinnamon.
2. Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein
Ancient Nutrition uses chicken bone as its source of protein in this paleo-friendly protein powder. It’s flavored with cocoa powder, monk fruit extract, and stevia extract, which improve the taste without imparting any carbohydrates.
Each serving has only two grams of carbs, one of which is sugar. The protein content, as is the case with other bone broth protein powders, is very high—over 90% by weight.
Thanks to xanthan gum and guar gum, it also blends up pretty well in a protein shake. Compared to other bone broth and collagen protein powders, Ancient Nutrition is a little more comprehensive and user-friendly, making it a great choice.
3. Kiss My Keto Protein
Kiss My Keto is a collagen-based protein powder that uses MCT oil to provide some healthy fat to burn for people who are on a ketogenic diet.
Unlike some other keto-friendly protein powders, Kiss My Keto makes this powder a little more user-friendly thanks to the cocoa powder, stevia extract, and natural flavors used to flavor the protein powder without adding anything in the way of carbohydrates.
With only three grams of carbohydrates, none of which are sugars, this is a very solid choice for a low-carb protein powder.
4. Left Coast Performance Bone Broth Powder
As long as animal protein is part of your diet, bone broth powder is one of the best ways you can get an extremely high protein intake while keeping the carbs low.
This protein powder is over 90% protein by weight, and it has only 3.5 grams of carbohydrates per serving—and less than a gram of that is sugar.
Left Coast Performance uses beef stock as the source for its protein, and the supplement is flavored with a mixture of stevia, monk fruit, and a small amount of cane sugar. While the carb content isn’t zero, fans of natural, high-purity protein will love Left Coast’s bone broth supplement.
5. Left Coast Performance Keto Protein Powder
Left Coast Performance also makes one of the best keto-friendly protein powder out there, thanks to its simple ingredients, high protein content, and low carb content.
This protein supplement uses collagen powder as its protein source, plus its own proprietary MCT oil for fat-based energy.
It’s sweetened, but only with the natural and non-caloric sweeteners stevia and monk fruit extract. It’s an excellent choice if you want some extra fat energy in your low carb protein powder.
6. Perfect Keto Collagen
Formulated specifically for people who are on a ketogenic diet, Perfect Keto offers a protein supplement derived from animal collagen that is made up of a 2:1 blend of collagen powder and MCT oil.
This results in 10 grams of protein per 15 gram serving, along with four grams of fat from the MCT oil and one gram of carbohydrates.
It’s a very simple preparation, with no other ingredients aside from collagen and MCT oil. The only downside of this is that it’s a bit tricky to mix into a smoothie or a shake if you don’t have a blender.
7. Julian Bakery Paleo Protein
Julian Bakery makes a high-concentration, high-quality protein supplement that’s low carb friendly by using egg white protein as its protein source and only monk fruit and natural chocolate flavors for taste.
The protein content is high, and the carb content is low, making it hard to ask for much else from a low carb protein powder like this.
8. Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder
Isopure uses whey protein along with a mix of vitamins and minerals to provide a little bit beyond what you’d get in a standard protein powder.
It’s flavored with both natural and artificial flavors, as well as the synthetic non-caloric sweetener sucralose.
Despite the additives, the protein content is still pretty solid, and while this won’t be the go-to option for people who want a simple or a natural low-carb protein powder, it’s not a bad choice.
9. Met-Rx Protein Plus
Met-Rx distinguishes itself by using a wide range of animal sources for its protein powder, including whey protein, casein protein, and egg white protein.
It has some L-glutamine added for a more balanced amino acid profile, and uses a mixture of natural and artificial flavors and sucralose for taste.
It’s not the most natural protein powder around, but it does have a low carbohydrate content and it tends to blend and mix up pretty easily thanks to the inclusion of soy lecithin and xanthan gum. Not the right match for purists, but it’ll get the job done for many people.
10. Designer Protein Lite Protein
Designer Protein Lite Protein is specifically formulated for weight loss. It uses both whey and soy protein for its protein content, and sucralose as an artificial sweetener.
On the weight loss front, it also employs garcinia cambogia and green coffee bean extract, two popular weight loss supplements.
However, including these supplements is less than ideal, since you can’t precisely mete out the dosage like you could if you were taking them in a separate, dedicated weight loss supplement.
While the carb content is low (five grams per serving), the protein content is also fairly low (10 grams per serving), meaning that you’ll end up consuming a lot of carbs if you want a high protein intake with this supplement.
11. Primal Kitchen Primal Fuel
Primal Kitchen uses a combination of whey protein and coconut milk to create a protein powder that is high in both protein and in fat.
The high fat content would be good for users on a ketogenic diet, but due to the use of coconut milk, the carbohydrate content is actually fairly high, despite its billing as a low-carb-friendly product. Each serving has nine grams of fat, nine grams of carbohydrates, and 20 grams of protein.
Though the sugar content is low (only two grams per serving), strict low carb dieters might want to stick with a different protein powder.
Low carb protein powder benefits and side effects
A low carb protein powder provides you with a highly concentrated source of protein that avoids using carbohydrates and especially sugars to sweeten or flavor the supplement.
Many traditional protein powders or mass gainers rely heavily on carbohydrates as a sweetener or a source of calories.
If you are following a keto diet, or if you are trying to keep your carb and sugar intake low, these more traditional protein powders can foul up your plans. Go for a low carb protein powder instead.
Sugar-sweetened protein shakes and other beverages will make you more likely to gain fat. Given that the point of a protein shake is to cut fat and to gain muscle, this is not what you want.
Research published in 2006 by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health investigated the role of beverages sweetened with sugar in weight gain (1).
The review cited a number of studies connecting sugar sweetened beverage intake and weight gain—and this isn’t the kind of weight gain you want, which is more muscle and less fat. Sugary beverages, even if they have protein in them as well, promote fat gain.
The reason for this, according to the authors of this study, is related to both the negative metabolic effects of sugar, as well as the tendency of a sugar-sweetened beverage to leave you still feeling hungry after drinking it.
Protein will ameliorate this effect so some extent, but the fact remains that the fullness-inducing effect of a protein shake without sugar or carbs in it will be greater than that of a protein shake that has a high quantity of sugar or carbohydrates.
A low carb protein shake can keep you in ketosis. If you are on a ketogenic diet, you need to keep your carbohydrate intake extraordinarily low.
Most medical studies on ketogenic diets restrict carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. A ketogenic diet with carbohydrate intakes this low can have tremendous benefit, even for people whose dietary habits have led them into very poor health.
Ketogenic diets are currently being researched as a treatment for many of the maladies associated with obesity, such as type two diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
One such study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center laid out the details and the result of a pilot study on using a ketogenic diet to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (2).
Five subjects, all of them obese, underwent a six month ketogenic diet protocol that allowed only 20 carbohydrates per day. After six months, the average amount of weight lost was nearly 30 pounds (one subject lost 57 pounds).
Further, four of the five showed marked improvements in their liver function, with decreased inflammation and fibrosis in their liver cells.
If you’re aiming to follow a ketogenic diet like this, a regular protein supplement isn’t going to cut it. Often, flavoring and sweetening adds precious carbs to your daily intake, making it difficult or impossible to stay in a state of ketosis.
Low carb protein shakes can help with weight loss. Low carbohydrate diets aren’t just used to treat the consequences of excess body fat—they’re also useful for attacking the problem, and a low carb protein shake can play an integral role.
One study published in 2004 in the Annals of Internal Medicine described a clinical trial that compared a traditional low-fat diet to a low-carb diet in a group of 120 overweight patients who also had high levels of blood lipids (3).
The patients were randomly allocated to one of two diet plans: a traditional low-fat diet that aimed for less than 30% of daily calories coming from fat, or a low-carb diet with a strict 20 gram carb limit.
Though both groups dropped body fat, the low carb diet group dropped almost double the amount of body fat over the six-month duration of the study: 11 pounds of fat on average in the low fat diet group, and 21 pounds of fat in the low carb diet group.
In addition, the low carbohydrate diet led to a greater reduction in blood triglyceride levels, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Protein shakes are known to help with weight loss. A low carb diet plus a low carb protein powder is a recipe for weight loss success.
Research published in 2008 in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism studied the effects of adding a whey protein supplement or a placebo supplement to the weight loss regimen in a group of obese volunteers (4).
The researchers found that the whey protein supplement resulted in greater amounts of body fat lost, and a greater preservation of lean body mass (i.e. muscle), than the placebo supplement, which had an equal amount of calories but was not a protein supplement.
As protein supplements are merely a concentrated source of what’s in standard sources of dietary protein, there are virtually no side effects associated with low carb protein powder.
The only caveat to this is whey or casein protein in people with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.
While people with mild lactose intolerance can usually handle dairy-derived protein supplements, people with more severe lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy should opt for a lactose-free protein powder.
For athletes in training, the protein recommendations are fairly straightforward: 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day for endurance athletes, and 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass for power, speed, and strength athletes (5).
For weight loss, the story is a little more complicated: so far, studies have used between 20 and 50 grams of protein per day for weight loss and weight maintenance.
Low carb protein powders are the perfect solution if you want to maintain a low carb diet and keep your protein intake up.
High protein intake is useful both for athletic performance, where it aids in muscle recovery and strength gain, as well as in weight loss, where high protein intake leads to greater fat loss, better maintenance of lean body mass, and a greater likelihood of keeping weight off after you’ve lost it.