Protein powders are not a new invention. They’ve been around for decades and have long been a staple supplement of men who desire to have larger, more muscular physiques. In recent years however, advances in food science have led to the production of ever more effective protein powders derived from an ever-widening circle of non-animal sources. Many also come fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals as well as branched chain amino acids and other important nutrients. And most have also reduced or even eliminated sugar as an ingredient.
If you’re looking for protein powders for men we’ve got the 10 best right here.
1. Champion Performance – Pure Whey Plus Protein
Champion Performance Pure Whey Protein powder is a blend of whey protein isolate, concentrate and hydrolysate. It is undoubtedly among the most effective at encouraging robust muscle growth and fast, effective recovery after workouts. The whey in Champion Performance is both cold-processed and micro-filtered and the blend ensures it absorbs faster than most other protein powders.
So you can take it closer to the time of your actual workout, instead of having to down it hours and hours ahead of time. It’s tasty, gluten free, low in sugar and sodium and each scoop contains 22 grams of high-quality whey protein. If building a muscular physique is important to you, you owe it to yourself to try Pure Whey Plus from Champion Performance.
2. ON Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein
Optimum Nutrition (ON) are well known for their high-quality vitamin and mineral supplements and for being very early proponents of protein powder for building muscles. Their Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein is a blend of protein isolate, concentrate and whey peptides that bolster the creation of lean muscle mass. Each serving also provides an impressive 5 grams of branched chain amino acids, which are so crucial when it comes to post-workout recovery.
Gold Standard Whey Protein is low in sugar, gluten free and contains no artificial sweeteners. It does however contain some artificial flavorings, should that be important to you. Unlike some manufacturers who attempt to buttress the effectiveness of their product by slipping in banned substances (1), ON Gold Standard is rigorously tested and certified free of such unwanted additives.
3. BulkSupplements Whey Protein Isolate Powder
Bulk Supplements are never going to take home the prize for “best packaging” but they make take home the prize for “most cost-effective protein powder for men”. Their affordable Whey Protein Isolate is packed with beneficial BCAAs and provides 27 grams of highly effective whey protein in every serving. You can spend top dollar on some very good protein powders if you want. But if you’re on a budget and looking for something that will work you can’t lose with Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Isolate.
It’s lab tested for quality and contains no added sugar, yeast, gluten or genetically modified organisms of any kind. Just high potency whey isolate, essential amino acids, generous amounts of calcium and phosphorous and all while being low in calories, cholesterol and carbohydrates. It mixes well with just about any liquid and won’t drain your bank account.
4. MuscleTech Phase8 Protein Powder
MuscleTech Phase8 draws protein from 7 different high-quality sources to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to repair damaged muscles and build bigger, stronger ones in their place. The formula here is engineered to be released over an 8 hour period because the muscle repair process is just that; a process.
Not a one hour event. Each serving of Phase8 provides a total of 26 grams of protein from different sources that feature different rates of absorption. There’s also plenty of branched chain amino acids as well as calcium and iron. It’s not for the lactose intolerant. But for those without dairy issues it’s a highly effective way to get just as much from your recovery process as you get from lifting.
5. ON Gold Standard Casein Protein Powder
Optimum Nutrition makes a second appearance on our list. This time with their Gold Standard Casein powder. Casein protein provides high levels of the amino acid leucine which has been shown to play a vital role in the process of muscle protein synthesis (2). Each modest serving of Gold Standard Casein provides 5 grams of branched chain amino acids and loads of calcium to buttress bone strength.
The formula here is low in fat, relatively low in carbs and virtually devoid of empty calories. What you get instead is 24 grams of casein protein with almost no cholesterol and less than 1 gram of sugar. At 280 mg per serving there’s a bit more sodium than in some other protein powders, but not so much as to be a deal breaker.
6. MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder
We’re not sure exactly what combat and protein powders have to do with one another but we’ll let the dietary philosophers deal with that issue. We’re focused on the product itself which provide 24 grams of whey, casein and egg protein mixed together to ensure both short and long term release.
MusclePharm is protective of their hard-earned reputation for quality and rigorously tests all ingredients for banned substances before adding them to their formulations. And unlike most protein powders for men MusclePharm Combat protein shakes actually have a taste that transcends their chalky nature. Compared to some other protein powders MusclePharm will set you back a few more bucks, but many will think the consistent high-quality to be worth it.
7. Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate Protein Powder
Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate is high in protein, low in cholesterol and low in calories. Each serving provides 24 grams of highly effective whey protein isolate that acts fast to start repairing stressed out muscles as soon as the workout is over. Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate isn’t full of empty calories masquerading as muscle builders.
It’s packed with branched chain amino acids, dietary fiber and calcium for strong bones. The marketing claims the flavor is “unbeatable”. But that might be pushing things a bit. It’s certainly acceptable for a protein powder shake. But only for a protein powder shake. But we don’t buy this type of product for its culinary qualities. We buy it because it helps build a bigger stronger body.
8. CytoSport Cyto Gainer Protein Powder
CytoSport is one of the more well-rounded protein powder supplements on the market today. Whereas a lot of protein powders leave you wanting when it comes to essential vitamins and minerals, CytoSport has all the nutritional bases covered. While it’s primary purpose is to provide you with an unprecedented 54 gram protein jolt to ramp up your muscle building efforts and calories to help you bulk up, it also acknowledges that there are other things going on during the recovery and muscle building process.
Things that require the likes of vitamin B6 and B12, zinc, and phosphorous (3). So if you’re looking for more than just a protein injection check out CytoSport Gainer. Your muscles will get the protein they need while the rest of you won’t get the vitamins and minerals it craves in the wake of strenuous activity.
9. BSN SYNTHA-6 Whey Protein Powder
Syntha-6 Whey Protein Powder is low in sodium, low in cholesterol and has zero trans fat. Each serving provides 4 grams of BCAAs to aid in muscle recovery along with vitamin A, calcium and iron. BSN produces their protein powder in a Good Manufacturing Practices facility in the US. So you can be confident in the efficacy of the formula and the quality of the ingredients.
Syntha-6 has a mix of natural and artificial flavors, though it doesn’t use artificial preservatives. It’s also free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and completely free of hormones. The upside to the Snytha-6 Formula – besides its nutritional excellence – is that it dissolves easily in just about any sort of fluid. The downside is that the taste, as is the case with most protein powders, isn’t going to wow you. But honestly, you shouldn’t be buying whey protein powder for taste anyway.
10. Dymatize ISO 100 Whey Protein Powder
The final entry on our list of best protein powders for men is this one from Dymatize. Not exactly a household name Dymatize nonetheless wade into the thick of the protein shake battle with this fast acting hydrolyzed whey protein powder. It provides a robust 25 grams of protein per serving as well 5 grams of vital branched chain amino acids and nearly 3 grams of leucine which helps to promote healthy muscle protein synthesis.
Dymatize ISO 100 is available in a wide variety of flavors but none of them are particularly memorable. Though none are particularly objectionable either. But that’s fine because we’re pretty sure you’ll find that ISO 100 does produce memorable results when it comes to enabling fast recovery from your workout and the building of large, lean muscle.
What is Protein Powder?
Protein powder is exactly what it says it is: protein in a powder form. The protein itself is gleaned from any number of sources, most of them non-animal, and then infused with various vitamins and minerals in order to help you achieve a higher degree of physical fitness and overall health. Protein powders have been widely available for decades for men seeking a stronger physique and today can be purchased from innumerable online as well as brick and mortar outlets. Protein powders are often flavored and mixed with water or milk to produce what is called a “protein shake”.
What are the Benefits of Using Protein Powder?
Men typically use protein powders for one of the following reasons:
- To help build bigger muscles – This is far and away the most popular reason men use protein powders. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle so if you hope to obtain a more muscular physique you will not only have to workout vigorously, you will need to up your intake of protein to support the building of your new muscles. There is copious scientific evidence to support the notion that protein supplementation, when used in conjunction with rigorous exercise, will help build larger, more powerful muscles (4). There are also decades of anecdotal evidence in the form of larger, more muscular men and women walking around, to support this idea.
- Post workout recovery – If you are doing your part in the gym you are going to leave having pushed your muscles to the point of failure. Before those damaged muscles can become any bigger they first need to recover from being pushed so hard. Supplemental protein plays an important role in the recovery process (5) and is right up there with building bigger muscles as a leading reason why men take supplemental protein.
- Managing weight – Protein rich foods, including protein shakes, can help you feel satiated for longer and stave off the desire to snack between meals and overeat during meals. This ability of protein, particularly whey protein, to help reduce appetite and cravings (6) is another reason many men choose to have a protein shake instead of a high carb, more traditional meal.
- Improved nutrition – Most men don’t get enough protein in their normal diet. If they are vegan or vegetarian, over 50 or suffer from a chronic illness the shortfall can be even more pronounced. Protein powders help men meet the basic nutritional requirements of their body so that they can enjoy a higher level of overall health. Obviously, in light of what we pointed out above, weight lifters and those who are athletically inclined will also need greater amounts of protein in order to satisfy their body’s need to repair and rebuild muscles after strenuous exertion.
What are the Different Kinds of Protein Powder?
There are several different kinds of protein that are used to make protein powder supplements. They are:
- Whey Protein – Whey protein is derived from milk. During the cheese making process whey separates from the curds which are used to make the cheese. Whey contains lactose and so whey powder is not recommended for the lactose intolerant. That said, whey protein is highly regarded in the bodybuilding community because it is naturally rich in branched chain amino acids. And BCAAs play a major role in muscle recovery. Whey protein is also often credited with being effective at reducing appetite.
- Pea Protein – For vegans, vegetarians, the lactose intolerant and others with food sensitivity issues pea protein is a viable alternative to lactose heavy whey protein. Pea protein has the added benefit of being rich in BCAAs. Pea protein also does a surprisingly good job fending off food cravings (7) as it tends to break down slowly and prolong the feeling of being full.
- Hemp Protein – When people hear “hemp” they tend to associate it with marijuana and getting high. But hemp contains only tiny trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in pot that produces the high effect. So you’re not going to get a buzz by drinking a hemp protein powder shake. Instead, hemp protein is relatively high in BCAAs but is somewhat lacking in lysine and leucine.
- Egg Protein – Eggs are an excellent source of highly digestible protein. So, why aren’t egg protein powders the most popular instead of whey? For a couple of reason. First, egg protein powders tend to be made from egg whites not the whole egg with the high-fat yolks. This makes for a protein powder that doesn’t maintain feelings of being satiated for as long as other powders. Second of all, anything derived from eggs is going to chase away vegans and vegetarians as well as those who suffer from egg allergies.
How Can You Match a Protein Powder to Your Needs?
There’s a lot to think about when choosing a protein powder. But matching a protein powder to your specific needs doesn’t have to be the impossible dream. Just keep the following tips in mind:
- For building muscles – If your primary goal is to build bigger muscles you’ll want a protein powder with a high biological value. The biological value is the measure of how well it’s absorbed by the body. Whey protein powders tend to be most effective in this regard.
- For losing weight – If your primary goal is to lose weight by increasing the amount of protein in your diet you’ll want to avoid protein powders that contain sugar as well as those that are heavy in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). Since they help promote muscle growth and, to some extent, weight gain (8).
- For staying vegan – Vegans and vegetarians should avoid whey protein powders and stick to things like pea protein or even hemp protein.
- For stabilizing blood sugar levels – If you have diabetes or suffer from other blood sugar related issues avoid protein powders with added sugar and ones that are high in carbohydrates. Typically you’ll want to limit carb intake to more than 5 grams per single serving.
- To avoid GI problems – If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance or other GI conditions avoid protein powders that contain lactose sugars or artificial sweeteners. If gluten is an issue for you there are plenty of protein powders on the market that are gluten free.
Does Protein Powder Have any Side Effects?
In spite of its benefits protein powder does come with a few potential side effects you should know about.
- Weight gain – Or more specifically, fat gain. The thing about protein powders is that they’re often heavy in carbs to help power you through your workout. If you don’t do the workout then these carbs are going to be quickly converted to fat and give you the protein powder equivalent of a beer belly. And it’s the same with protein as well. Most people are unaware that, like carbs, protein will be converted by the body into fat stores if it has nothing to do after being consumed. Remember, protein doesn’t take it upon itself to build muscle. What is does is repair muscles that are stressed during your workout. It also makes sure that the muscles it rebuilds are bigger and stronger than before in order to be able to handle what your body perceives as the new normal for you as far as physical exertion is concerned.
- Bone loss – It is theoretically possible that excessive protein intake can trigger a series of metabolic reactions in the body that result in release of calcium and bone loss as a result. The exact mechanism is complex and has to do with the sulphates and phosphates in protein. These acidic compounds cause the body to release calcium into the urine to offset the acidity. This in turn can result in bone loss. It may be possible, however, to offset this potential bone loss by eating more alkaline fruit and veggies.
- Dehydration – Low carb, high protein diets known as keto diets can sometimes cause a person to urinate more frequently than normal (9). Anytime you get into a situation where you are urinating at an unnatural rate you run the risk of dehydration. If you feel like you’ve been going to the bathroom a lot since you started taking protein powder make sure to up your water intake to avoid dehydration.
The Bottom Line
Protein powders for men are a great way to build a stronger, leaner physique while also achieving a higher level of overall nutrition. Their use does however, come with one big caveat: you have to do the exercise necessary to put them to use or they will wind up being stored as fat. But as long as you are actively engaged in a vigorous workout regimen protein powders can help you achieve the lean, muscular body you’ve been hoping for.