First off, you should know why you're buying protein powder, Nikki Jupe, MS, RD, LD, a senior sports dietitian at The University of Oregon told POPSUGAR. For example, are you buying it for recovery after a hard workout, for weight loss, or for weight gain? You should also know the types of proteins offered, Nikki said. A few of the most popular types are: whey (animal-based), casein (animal-based), amino acids (essential amino acids are found in foods and supplements and nonessential amino acids are made by the body) such as leucine/L-Leucine, soy protein (plant-based), and pea protein (plant-based).
"The ingredient list should be as short as possible," Jason Machowsky RD, CSSD, CSCS, a board-certified dietitian and exercise physiologist at the Hospital For Special Surgery's Tisch Sports Performance Center told POPSUGAR. How short? "No more than two or three ingredients," he said. "Keep it simple. It's really one of best things you can do," he added.
Essentially, you just want the protein — forget all the other "benefits" being marketed. You'll more than likely find powders with stabilizing agents in them and flavoring. A stabilizing agent may sound like an FBI position, but it's typically included in powders because it prevents them from caking, Jason explained. Jason recommends avoiding sweeteners in powders and instead getting the sweet taste from natural sources like fruits. Here are some great high-protein fruit smoothie recipes.
Because supplements are not currently regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, Nikki said to be weary of brands that promote and promise health claims. Currently, "Companies and/or manufactures can put any additives or ingredients in the supplement, and you do not know," she said. To circumvent consuming random ingredients, Nikki recommends only purchasing protein powders that have been third-party tested.
"Third-party tested means the supplement company pays for a third party to test their supplements and manufacturers for any ingredients not listed on the supplement label," she said. Nikki also recommends looking for containers that have a "NSF Certified for Sport" or an "Informed for Sport" label to identify clean protein powders.