In a world of ever-changing gym trends and fads, the best protein powder for men has remained the one constant in nearly every athlete’s recovery routine. And there’s a good reason for that: a high-quality protein powder can improve muscle growth, repair tissue, and help manage weight. And while there’s a number of ways to incorporate protein into your diet—chicken, eggs, tuna—protein powder is often cheaper, more convenient, and (these days) better tasting.
But that’s not to say that all protein powders are good. There are plenty that are cheaply made and poorly sourced. Some are loaded with sugar, while others hide behind questionable proprietary blends that obscure exactly what’s in it. So we decided to wade through the wide world of protein—everything from the whey protein readily available at your local drugstore to your favorite athlete’s plant-based powder of choice—to determine the actual best protein powder for men.
The Absolute Best Protein Powder
It’s hard to top a classic. Arguably the most recognizable whey protein on the planet, Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard is also probably the easiest to get your hands on. And with over 20 different flavors, there’s little risk of you ever getting sick of any one. (We’re really feeling the chocolate coconut as of late, but cookies and cream remains the go-to.) What’s more, ON is super easy to mix, so you’ll never find large clumps of protein powder clinging to the side of your glass or blender. With 24 grams of protein to help build muscle and 5.5 grams of branched-chain amino acids to help promote recovery, it’s the rare fitness supplement that checks off damn near every box.
The Best-Tasting Protein Powder
Black Magic Supply makes arguably the best pre-workouts on the market today (we’re looking at you, Haterade), and their protein powders are now following suit. Made from a combination of whey protein isolate, micellar casein, egg albumin enzymes, and MCTs, it’s Black Magic’s wide range of over-the-top flavors that really set them apart. Specifically, Fruit Whirls, made with actual pieces of crunchy cereal as an added little bonus. If you were someone who loved drinking the leftover milk from your morning cereal as a kid, this is the protein powder for you.
The Most Eco-Friendly Protein Powder
If you’re not looking for dessert-like flavors out of your protein powder, Gnarly’s vanilla grass-fed whey is one of the lightest and smoothest powders we’ve ever tried, making it a perfect base if you prefer to get your protein from a home-made smoothie. What we love even more is the company’s commitment to the environment: Gnarly recently swapped out the giant plastic tubs that have become synonymous with nearly all other protein powders in favor of more easily recyclable steel tins.
The Best Plant Protein Powder
Each year companies have improved on the overall taste and mixability of plant protein powders, but none have yet to come close to Ambrosia Collective’s Planta formula, which comes in 14 decadent flavors. If we had to pick just one? Banana Maple French Toast.
The Best No-Milk-Required Protein Powder
Lets just keep things completely 100: Sure, there are protein powders that taste okay when paired with water, but no one should have to pull Jedi mind tricks to convince themselves that their post-workout drink tastes better than it actually does if milk isn’t a mixing option. That’s why we love MuscleTech’s new ISO Whey Clear so much—it’s designed specifically to be mixed with water in a range of flavors that actually make sense, resulting in something more akin to a juice. Or a White Claw.
The Best Meal-Replacement Protein Powder
Bare Performance Nutrition makes some of the best-tasting whey protein on the market, but if you’re in search of a true meal replacement instead of just a post-gym shake, their Strong Food powder is jam packed with high quality whey and pea protein on top of healthy sources of fat derived from MCT powder, macadamia nut oil, and flaxseed. And as we’ve come to expect from BPN, the cinnamon roll flavor tastes like an actual dessert in a shaker bottle.
The Best Casein Protein Powder
Whey protein often gets all the fanfare, but casein protein has its own special benefits. While both come from cow’s milk, casein is absorbed by the body at a slower rate than whey and contains bioactive peptides that help boost both your immune and digestive systems. If you’re a fan of the afternoon protein shake as a snack between meals, or you’re looking for a better alternative to ice cream before bed, Naked’s casein protein powder is the perfect option.
The Best-Looking Protein Powder
Finally, a protein powder you won’t be embarrassed about having in your kitchen—no black tub in sight. But beyond the great packaging, Elm & Rye offers both a standard grass-fed and vegan protein blend in three great tasting flavors: chocolate, vanilla, or cookies and cream.