Your Guide to Finding the Perfect Protein Powder

Thinking about getting a protein powder? Read this first.

So you decided you might want to try a protein powder. No doubt you’ve had someone swear by one brand, while someone else told you to never drink it. With complaints of chalky taste and gritty texture, it’s no wonder you’re a little spooked to try one, especially since some of them can be as high as $75 per container.

That’s where I, a NASM-certified personal trainer and overall fitness and nutrition enthusiast, come in! I’m here to walk you through the wild world of protein powder and help you find exactly what you need.

Do I need protein powder?

This is a tough question to answer. A variety of factors dictate what your ideal protein intake is. If you struggle to eat enough protein in your meals during the day, have a higher activity level, or are actively trying to build muscle, you likely need more protein.

While the average American probably gets enough protein in their diet, there are others (like myself) who need extra protein to hit their requirements. And if the thought of eating another chicken breast during the day is making you nauseous, that’s when it’s good to supplement with protein powder.

Not to mention, they’re a quick and convenient way to have a filling snack or even meal on the go. Just remember not to use protein powders as your main source of protein. They’re a supplement, not a building block for your nutrition.

So what do I look for when I shop?

In the world of supplements and protein powders, it can feel like a shot in the dark at finding one, especially since none of them are FDA-regulated (yes, seriously). Thankfully, there are a few gold standards to look for while you’re shopping, which we’ve laid out below.

Third-Party Testing

Finding a brand that undergoes third-party testing is a must. This means that the label on the container is 100% true—everything listed on the label is in the powder, and nothing else.

Look for a label from a reputable third-party company like Informed Choice, USP, or NSF Certified Sport.

Serving Size

A solid protein powder should be giving you 20-30 grams of protein per scoop. Anything less than that likely has added ingredients you don’t need or won’t keep you feeling full for very long.


This is where you can find a wide discrepancy, requiring you to do your research in order to get the most value for your product. Read the labels, and don’t necessarily buy into the hype behind a brand.

Try and find a product that has the most protein per ounce and doesn’t contain poor-quality ingredients like artificial sugars, which can cause tummy troubles.

Protein Source

The most common source of protein for powders comes in the form of whey, which is derived from cow’s milk. It tends to be a little more economical and offers quite a bit of protein per serving.

For vegetarians and vegans, there are so many more options on the market for you than there were even 5 years ago. Pea, hemp, brown rice, and soy are fantastic protein options to look for.

Quality of Ingredients

Always check your ingredients before you buy protein powder. A general rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients, the better. And the ingredients listed should be high-quality—that means no additives or artificial sweeteners.

Red Flags to Watch For

Obviously, there are tons of buzzwords that fitness brands love to throw around in order to make their product sound more effective. Here are the ones to watch for, which usually denotes a lower-quality product.

  • Proprietary blend: This is essentially a brand’s way of not disclosing its ingredient list to consumers. Opt for a brand that’s all about being transparent with its formula.
  • Pure protein: “Pure protein” isn’t a regulated statement and has zero value. Brands simply put it on their product to try and get more consumers to buy it.

Our Favorites

Now that you’re an informed protein powder shopper, you might be wondering where to start looking. In order to help you out, we’ve decided to highlight our favorite protein powder brands. They all hold the highest standards when it comes to testing and ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about quality.

1st Phorm

1st Phorm really is the gold standard when it comes to supplements, especially protein powder. The company is so rigorous with its testing, they don’t allow any online retailers to sell their products unless they go through a quality control and testing process.

There are plenty of delicious flavors to choose from in terms of protein, along with natural blends that are sweetened with Stevia. Plus, their customer service is next-level, so you’ll always have an informed employee to reach out to with questions.

Vital Proteins

You’ve probably seen Vital Proteins everywhere lately due to their recent explosion in popularity. If you’re nervous about starting a protein powder supplement, why not try one of their collagen powders?

Vital Proteins’ collagen boasts plenty of protein per scoop and can easily blend into beverages like coffee. They’ve also started offering more flavors of collagen and even collagen creamers.

Save 20% on Vital Proteins at iHerb when you shop with Student Beans


Truvani gets a shoutout for being a plant-based protein powder that offers a matcha flavor. Yes, you read that right: matcha protein powder. If a matcha protein smoothie sounds like something right up your alley, then this is the brand to try.

The Truvani website also offers plenty of recipe ideas and tools like frothers and cute cups to dirnk your shake out of. But if you’re looking for major convenience, they also sell their products through Amazon.

Get Truvani protein through Amazon and get 6 free months of Prime with Student Beans


If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck, then you’re going to want to shop with Myprotein. Did we mention students get a whopping 40% off and free shipping on every single order?

Myprotein is known for its clean products and delicious protein isolate, too. They also offer plenty of delicious protein-packed snacks that you can easily take to class with you for an added boost during the day.

Get 40% off + free shipping with Myprotein when you shop with Student Beans


In terms of deliciousness, Ghost really runs away with the win. Boasting flavors like Nutter Butter and Oreo, you’ll definitely get your sweet fix without getting a major sugar crash later in the day.

Ghost also offers a huge loyalty incentive, no matter where you buy its products from. Simply download the Ghost app and enter the code on the card found in the container. Save up enough points for some seriously big savings and freebies.

Save on Ghost at GNC when you shop with Student Beans


Kaged thrives on creating custom workout “stacks” for all their athletes (aka anyone who shops with them). This includes both whey and plant-based protein options for anyone looking to increase their protein intake.

They offer a rewards-based loyalty program along with a quiz to help you find exactly what kind of supplements you need to properly fuel your workouts.

Save 20% at Kaged when you shop with Student Beans

Campus Protein

Designed specifically for college students, Campus Protein is ready to fuel everyone from collegiate athletes to casual exercisers. Their products are affordable, and it’s especially cool since they work with a lot of college athletes as affiliates!

Campus Protein also sells other brands of supplements and a wide variety of pre-workout and lifting supplements. Check them out to find exactly what you need.

Save 20% at Campus Protein when you shop with Student Beans

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