Protein powder is an incredibly useful tool for weight loss because it can help you drop body fat, retain lean body mass, and even maintain weight you’ve lost already on a diet.
Protein powder has a number of useful biological effects that make it easier to drop fat and retain lean muscle, and it functions well as a meal replacement because it fills you up while kicking your metabolism into high gear.
If you are trying but struggling to lose weight, adding a protein powder to your weight loss routine might be just what you need. Our researchers have ranked the best protein powders for weight loss so you can get the best results possible.
1. Left Coast Performance Bone Broth Protein
If you follow a paleo, keto, or low carb diet to lose weight, Left Coast Performance Bone Broth Protein is one of the best choices out there.
It’s in line with the restrictive requirements of the keto and paleo diets, and this protein derived from beef bones has a robust, comprehensive amino acid profile. Because of that, it’s more effective at increasing your body’s metabolic rate than a plant-based protein.
The chocolate flavor uses natural flavoring, stevia, monk fruit, and a tiny bit of cane sugar—but don’t worry, the sugar content is less than a gram per serving.
2. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein
Optimum Nutrition makes a whey protein that is one of the standard-bearers of the industry. It uses a blend of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, and whey peptides, along with both natural and artificial flavors.
The amino acid profile is robust, and it tastes great, making it a good go-top option if you can’t stand the taste of a normal protein shake.
3. Fitmiss Delight
Fitmiss Delight is formulated especially for women looking to lose weight. It has the added bonus of a comprehensive mixture of “superfood” fruit and vegetable extracts like red currant, mango seed, pomegranate, and blood orange.
Combine this with a high-dose shot of vitamin B12 and four different sources of protein and you’ve got a very solid protein powder that really shines as a breakfast or lunch meal replacement.
This protein powder will leave you fueled up, energized, and ready to get to work, all with only three grams of carbohydrates.
4. Manitoba Harvest Organic Hemp Pro
Hemp protein is a great way to leverage the weight loss benefits of protein alongside the benefits of dietary fiber, another all-natural supplement that is incredibly useful when it comes to weight loss.
Hemp seeds, from which this protein powder is derived, are packed with protein and fiber, meaning that there’s about over a gram of fiber for every gram of protein in this supplement.
The certified organic, Canadian-grown source is an added bonus: it means this product is far less likely to contain traces of harmful pesticides.
5. Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein
When it comes to using a protein powder as a meal replacement while on a diet to lose weight, Garden of Life offers a number of distinct advantages.
First, its combination of pea protein, rice protein, and a number of grain sprouts means it’s got a complete amino acid profile.
Second, these grain sprouts mean there’s a lot more in the way of vitamins and minerals than what you’d normally find in a protein powder.
With only two grams of carbohydrates and zero grams of sugar, it’s definitely well-suited for weight loss.
6. Vega Protein and Greens
Vega Proteins and Greens is a plant-based protein powder that’s a good way to address one concern of using a protein shake as a meal replacement, which is missing out on the nutrients in “greens”—vegetables like kale and spinach.
Vega Protein and Greens uses pea protein powder as its protein and adds in kale, spinach, and broccoli extracts, as well as stevia as an all-natural sweetener, making it a solid choice if you are looking for a plant-based protein for weight loss.
7. Orgain Organic Protein Powder
As one of the best vegan protein powders on the market, this is a great weight loss option for people looking to avoid animal or dairy-derived protein sources.
The fact that it uses protein from peas, brown rice, and chia seeds helps ameliorate one of the issues of plant-based proteins: namely, their somewhat limited amino acid profile.
Its organic certification is great to see, and Orgain also includes a number of plant-based creamers and sweeteners to improve the taste and help the powder blend up easily in a shake or a smoothie.
The erythritol non-caloric sweetener might be a turn-off, and it’d be better if Orgain opted for stevia or monk fruit instead, but aside from that, it’s hard to find faults in this protein powder.
8. Ora So Lean & So Clean
Ora makes a plant-based protein powder whose protein content comes from peas and sprouted rice.
The defining feature of this protein powder is its inclusion of superfood extracts from fruits and vegetables, as well as a selection of enzymes that help you digest and absorb the nutrients in this protein powder more effectively. It’s a decent choice when it comes to plant-based protein for weight loss.
9. Kiss my Keto Protein Powder
Kiss my Keto is, as its name suggests, a great protein powder for those following a ketogenic diet. It includes collagen peptides as its source of protein, and MCT oil as its source of fat.
These are combined in a 2:1 ratio, so you’re getting a substantial amount of fat per unit protein. This is great if you are intentionally shooting for a high fat diet, but other users would be better served by getting a protein powder that has more protein per serving. The MCT oil necessarily lowers the protein concentration by weight.
10. Less Naked Whey
Less Naked Whey is great from a purist’s perspective. It uses only a few all-natural ingredients; namely, whey protein concentrate, coconut sugar, and cocoa powder. This means a solid amino acid profile, great taste, and no artificial ingredients or non-caloric sweeteners.
The only downside? The coconut sugar adds a non-negligible amount of sugar: five grams for every 25 grams of protein. Many people on a diet would rather opt for a protein powder that’ slower in its sugar content.
Benefits and side effects of protein for weight loss
Protein is being recognized as an increasingly important tool when it comes to weight loss. Supplementing your diet with extra protein has a number of biological effects that are very useful for accelerating your weight loss, and moreover, influencing what you lose (muscle versus fat) in a beneficial way.
In some sense, it’s not weight that’s the problem, it’s fat. Protein powder helps you drop body fat while preserving muscle mass, and moreover, high protein diets are easier to stick to than other diets for weight loss.
This alone would make protein useful, but when combined with its other effects, makes it downright essential for optimizing your weight loss program.
We’ll dive into the science behind why supplemental protein is so useful for losing weight.
Protein fills you up and makes you less hungry. Since the success of high-protein diets like the Atkins diet, scientists have tried to uncover the biological mechanisms behind why these diets seem to work.
Two primary benefits have been attributed to high protein diet: increased satiety and increased thermogenesis, according to research out of Harvard University’s School of Public Health (1).
Satiety is the feeling of fullness that you get after a large meal which makes you disinterested in eating more. The high amino acid content of protein creates a hormonal response in your body that creates a feeling of satiety.
The overall effect is that you’ll be less likely to overeat at your next meal, and your overall caloric intake will go down.
A high protein intake increases your caloric expenditure. Increased thermogenesis is the other main benefit of protein for weight loss.
Thermogenesis is an upregulation of your body’s metabolic rate, and while all macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein) create thermogenesis, protein is by far the most effective.
A 2002 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrated that protein intake creates twice as much thermogenesis as an equivalent caloric amount of carbohydrates or fat (2).
Once you’ve lost weight, protein can help you keep it off. This was the finding of a 2004 study published in the International Journal of Obesity (3).
A 50 gram per day increase in protein intake among subjects who had completed a weight loss program resulted in a 50% decrease in the amount of fat mass regained during the subsequent three months after the dieting program was completed, compared to a control group which did not supplement their dietary protein intake.
Protein helps you lose body fat, not muscle. The specific effect of protein on body fat is extremely useful, and this finding has been replicated in studies on weight loss, too.
Supplemental protein helps you lose more fat and maintain muscle mass (4). This means you are on track for a physique which is both leaner and stronger.
As far as weight loss supplements go, protein powder is probably the safest one out there. It’s just a concentrated version of the protein you’d get in typical foods like milk, eggs, or peas.
Observational studies on bodybuilders, who consume a tremendous amount of protein every day, have not noted any harmful effects even of these very high protein intake levels (5).
If you are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, you’ll likely want to opt for a lactose-free protein powder instead of a dairy-derived protein powder, but fortunately there are plenty of great options that don’t rely on a dairy source.
Some research indicates that people who are obese and already have type two diabetes or kidney disease may want to consult with a doctor before increasing their dietary protein intake, since there is the potential for high protein intake to hamper kidney function and increase blood pressure, which could increase risk for heart disease.
However, for people who want to lose weight who are otherwise healthy, protein has no risks (6).
To achieve most of the weight loss benefits of protein, you should supplement your typical diet with 50 grams of supplemental protein per day.
Keep in mind that this number pertains to the actual protein content, which varies based on the exact type of protein you’re using. Bone broth protein, for example, is usually over 90% protein, so just a few more grams (about 55, to be precise) of protein powder is necessary to hit the recommended dose.
At the other extreme, hemp protein powder is usually only 50% protein by weight, thanks to its high dietary fiber content. As a result, you’d need to double this amount to 100 grams of hemp protein powder.
The satiety-inducing effects of protein powder suggest that the best time to take protein is in the morning or the afternoon, instead of in the evening or at night.
This way, you can make the most of the fullness-inducing effects of protein and consume fewer calories throughout the day.
Beyond this, many high protein diets will far exceed the 50 gram threshold, which is okay.
This number comes from clinical trials that intend to bump up dietary protein intake from about 15% of total calories to 18%, but a high protein diet contains substantially more protein than this. As noted above, for healthy people, even very high protein intakes are quite safe.
Supplemental protein is a great way to augment your weight loss program, thanks to its ability to make you feel full and satiated, as well as its beneficial effects on increasing your body’s metabolic rate, which leads to greater overall energy expenditure.
The best proteins for weight loss have a complete amino acid profile, which helps them increase thermogenesis to a greater extent than plant proteins derived from a single protein source.
During periods of weight loss and weight loss maintenance, protein powder also helps you retain lean body mass and lose body fat. The ultimate result is a leaner and more athletic physique, which is something everyone can aspire to.