Many women tend to shy away from protein powders out of fear that they’ll wind up getting “bodybuilder bulky.” However, protein powders are actually a great option for women to ensure that they’re getting enough protein in their diet, which in turn helps them lose fat and maintain healthy muscle mass.
Our pick for best protein powder for women is the Muscle Feast – Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate, which contains only four clean ingredients, is easy to blend and got top marks for its delicious vanilla flavor. For women aiming to lose weight, we recommend the RSP – TrueFit, which won over our testers with its natural chocolate taste and balance of protein, fiber and non-GMO fruits and vegetables. Our favorite vegan powder is the Vega Sport – Premium Protein, which is made of pea, pumpkin-seed, sunflower-seed and alfalfa protein, tastes of salted vanilla and contains the most protein out of the bunch.
One common misconception among women is that taking a protein supplement will make them “bulk up,” which simply isn’t true. In fact, one study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that obese women between the ages of 25 and 50 who drank two whey protein shakes a day lost more body fat and maintained more muscle (without muscle gain) over a 12-week period than women who didn’t consume the additional protein.
For expert advice on the subject, we spoke to Jes Murphy, who is active duty military, competes annually in fitness competitions and designs macro-based nutrition programs tailored to her clients’ fitness goals.
“Protein powder isn’t going to make anyone bulk up,” Jes says. “It takes years of work to build heavy muscle the way most women are imagining, and it’s fine if that’s not their goal. Protein is an important macronutrient needed for the body, and it aids in reaching whichever fitness goal you may have.”
Protein powder is a good way for women to get enough protein in their diet without consuming too many calories or feeling sick from eating.
“Protein powder is light and gives me that quick 25 to 30 grams of protein without feeling stuffed,” says Jes. “If your goal is to lose weight, make sure you pick one with a low amount of carbs. If your goal is to build muscle, then choosing a protein with a higher amount of carbs is great.”
To determine the best protein powders for women, we tested 10 top-rated whey, whey/casein, vegan and egg white powders made with high-quality ingredients and no artificial flavors, and sweetened with stevia, erythritol or monk fruit extract.
To gauge and rank the true taste and texture of the powders, we mixed each one with water in a blender bottle and then conducted a blind taste test. Our testers ranged from protein powder aficionados to complete novices, and they rated each powder for taste, texture and blendability — and also whether they would buy the protein powder for themselves.
Of all the powders we tested, Muscle Feast’s vanilla flavor is the most authentic-tasting. One tester compared it to a vanilla chai milkshake; another said the powder has the perfect amount of vanilla flavor and isn’t overly sweet. Foamy and smooth, the blended shake’s consistency is on the thin side and very easy to drink. It blends easily in a blender bottle, with no globs of powder left unmixed.Read more…
The Muscle Feast powder has an impressively streamlined ingredients list (only four ingredients) and is made with whey protein isolate from grass-fed-cow milk with no extra hormones. Because whey protein isolate is more filtered than regular whey protein, it contains more protein and less lactose and fat than regular whey protein.
Sweetened with stevia, the Muscle Feast powder contains 20.5 grams of protein (of which 6 grams are branched-chain amino acids, “BCAAs”) and only 88 calories, 2 grams of fat and .2 grams of carbs per serving, making it a great source of lean protein.
Our testers couldn’t get enough of this powder’s chocolate flavor. One said it tasted like cocoa; another praised its “natural” chocolate flavor that didn’t taste fake or too sweet.Read more…
The gluten-free RSP powder is a well-rounded meal replacement shake. Each serving contains 25 grams of milk protein from grass-fed cows raised without artificial hormones, including 5 grams of BCAAs. The 8 grams of fiber comes from 12 non-GMO fruits and vegetables, and the 3.5 grams of quality fats includes 1 gram of MCT oil. The powder also includes probiotics and enzymes to aid digestion.
Vega Sport - Premium Protein
The Vega Sport – Premium Protein mixed easily in our blender bottle, and the resulting shake was much thicker than most of the others in our lineup.
Our testers noted that the shake smelled “pumpkin-y” and tasted “oat-y” and “seedy.” This isn’t surprising, considering the powder’s first four ingredients are pea, pumpkin-seed, sunflower-seed and alfalfa protein. The vanilla flavor tastes almost like salted vanilla, and no wonder — the powder contains sea salt, natural caramel flavor and natural vanilla flavor and is sweetened with stevia.Read more…
The Vega shake is 160 calories per serving and contains the most protein of the powders we tested — a whopping 30 grams per serving. It also contains 3 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, 5 grams of BCAAs and 2 grams of probiotics to help with digestion.
MRM - Natural Egg White Protein
Of all the protein powders we tested, the MRM – Natural Egg White Protein was the most pleasantly surprising, taste-wise. Though the powder smells eggy, there wasn’t a trace of egg in its flavor. If you want all the benefits of eggs but dislike the taste of them, this powder is for you.
Because egg whites provide complete protein that’s meat- and lactose-free, they’re ideal for those who can’t tolerate dairy and vegetarians looking to add more protein to their diet. And because egg protein is low in carbs and fat, it’s perfect for those who want to lose weight.Read more…
Sweetened with stevia and monk fruit extract, the MRM powder is paleo-friendly and free of gluten, antibiotics and hormones. Each serving contains the equivalent of six large egg whites, with 23 grams of protein and 7.7 grams of BCAAs, and only 100 calories, 2 grams of carbs and zero fat.
Bluebonnet Nutrition - Dual-Action Protein
If you prefer to add extra ingredients to your protein shake (like fruit or peanut butter), the Bluebonnet Nutrition – Dual-Action Protein makes an ideal mild base, with a very faint vanilla flavor. And because it also has the thinnest consistency of all the powders in our testing group, the Bluebonnet shake doesn’t become overly thick with added ingredients. The downside is the slight chalkiness in its texture, which was a turn-off for a few of our testers.
Bluebonnet powder contains a whopping 26 grams of whey and casein protein, delivering the benefits of both protein types (whey protein burns the most calories after consumption, while casein has a slower rate of absorption and will keep the body feeling full longer). Sweetened with stevia, this blend has 130 calories, 3.5 grams of carbs and only 1 gram of fat (which includes MCT oil) per serving.
Ascent - Native Fuel Whey Protein
Like the Bluebonnet powder, the Ascent – Native Fuel Whey Protein has a mild vanilla flavor, though it tasted slightly more artificial to our testers. The powder blends well into a thin, foamy shake that’s easy to drink, if a bit chalky. A few of our testers noted that there’s nothing particularly special about this powder; it tastes like a run-of-the-mill vanilla protein shake.
Despite our testers’ lukewarm reaction to its lackluster taste, the Ascent powder contains an impressive 25 grams of whey protein isolate blend and 5.7 grams of BCAAs, and has only 125 calories, 2 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fat per serving. Sweetened with monk fruit extract, the powder is also gluten-free.
EarthChimp - Vegan Protein Supershake
Though flavored with Madagascan vanilla extract, the EarthChimp – Vegan Protein Supershake doesn’t have much of a vanilla taste. According to our testers, the shake tastes “healthy” and “natural”; one tester commented that he could “taste all of the ingredients,” since they aren’t masked with overly sweet added flavors.
With its blend of organic dates, bananas, strawberries, beets, kale and spinach, it’s no wonder that the EarthChimp powder tastes green. Sweetened with monk fruit extract, the non-GMO, gluten-free powder also contains pea, pumpkin, coconut and sunflower protein, a mix of superfoods like flax and baobab and a healthy serving of probiotics and enzymes to aid digestion. The powder is 130 calories per serving and contains 20 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fat.Read more…
The shake blends well in a blender bottle, but its texture is quite chalky, unfortunately. Another downside: The serving size of the EarthChimp powder is 2 scoops, making this product quite pricey compared to the others with 1-scoop serving sizes.
Healthy ’n Fit - 100% Egg Protein
Our testers were not wild about the taste if the Healthy ’n Fit – 100% Egg Protein powder. The Vanilla Ice Cream flavor has an odd taste, with an eggy aftertaste. The shake’s consistency is watery and quite foamy. Its packaging claims that this powder “mixes with a spoon,” and they aren’t kidding — it took only a few seconds in our blender bottle to shake it into smoothie form.
Despite its taste, the Healthy ’N Fit powder has a streamlined ingredients list with 100% pure extracted egg albumen listed first. The 100-calorie-per-serving powder is sweetened with stevia and delivers straight-up protein: 24 grams of it per serving, with an impressive zero grams of fat and carbs.
Smart138 - Total Milk Protein
Our testers were split cleanly down the middle when it came to rating the Smart138 – Total Milk Protein. Half liked the fact that the powder was unflavored, noting that it simply tasted “milky” and would be great to mix with fruit or peanut butter. The other half hated the bland taste and found it hard to drink.
Our testers all agreed that the blended shake was extremely thick (one tester described the consistency as “mud-like”). Indeed, the powder was puzzlingly tough to mix; we had to use twice the recommended amount of water to get the powder into a drinkable form. Even then, the powder was tough to mix and resulted in a very chalky shake.Read more…
On the positive side, the Smart138 powder is non-GMO, gluten-free and completely devoid of sweetener, with a straightforward ingredients list: milk protein concentrate (in this case, a blend of 80% casein and 20% whey protein). The 120-calorie serving packs 27 grams of protein, including 5.37 grams of BCAAs, along with 2 grams of carbs and zero fat.
Orgain - Organic Protein
The Orgain – Organic Protein plant-based vegan blend was our testers’ least favorite of the bunch. “Stale” was the word most used to describe the taste, and it was also deemed the most chalky and toughest to drink. The powder also didn’t blend well in our blender bottle, with big chunks left unmixed after other brands were smooth.
In terms of nutritional content, the Orgain powder is 150 calories per serving and contains 21 grams of organic pea, brown-rice and chia-seed protein. It also has 4 grams of fat and 15 grams of carbs — one of the highest carb percentages in our lineup. The powder is sweetened with both erythritol and stevia.