We give you the inside scoop on the best protein powders for women, no matter your age or fitness goals
Delivering a dose of an essential macronutrient plus extra vitamins to boost health in a low calorie count drink, protein powder (in the form of a protein shake) is the smartest and easiest way to replenish your body post-workout. In fact, protein powder is no longer just marketed at male bodybuilders, with plenty of options targeted at women searching for a formula that works well for their overall wellbeing.
JSHealth’s in-house nutritionist Kelly Sank shares that although not a necessity, there are plenty of benefits that come from supplementing protein. “Protein provides amino acids that are the essential building blocks for almost all processes in the body such as cell replication, energy production and so on,” she says. “They also keep you feeling fuller for longer. Protein powder is a convenient way to add protein to your meal or snack when you feel you may be rushed for time; it’s also great for increasing overall protein intake if you feel you’re not consuming enough protein during the day.”
Protein powder is a cost-effective way to boost protein in your diet, and can be blended with your favourite milk or water to create a nourishing drink, as well as added to pancakes, cereal milk, smoothies and porridge (make sure to add the powder after heating the porridge to avoid it going chalky).
There are plenty of different protein powders available for women, and the right formula for you will depend on your priorities – from taste to added vitamins, for example. To help you make your choice, we’ve selected the top rated and most popular protein shakes currently available, but first JSHealth’s nutritionist talks us through some of the top questions about protein powder.
How to choose the best protein powder for women
What types of protein powders are available?
“There are two main types of protein powders,” Sank explains. “Whey is produced from dairy and therefore isn’t suitable for vegans or those who are sensitive to dairy. It can be more difficult to digest; it depends on the individual. Pea protein is derived from legumes and is therefore suitable for vegans.”
The market continues to innovate and find other ways to deliver good-quality protein in a tasty shake. Below we’ve listed the main protein sources found in popular protein powders.
Whey: An excellent source of high-quality protein that’s found in the watery portion of milk that separates from the curds when making cheese. This makes it unsuitable for vegans.
Casein: A slow-digesting protein found in milk that can boost muscle growth and aid recovery after exercise.
Pea: An easily digested vegan protein source that’s extracted from yellow and green split peas.
Rice: A vegan protein isolate made from rice; it’s one of the highest-quality plant-based proteins you can buy.
How much protein do I need each day?
This is widely debated, but will depend largely on your activity levels, gender, genetics and goals. “The estimated daily amount is 1g per kg of body weight for adults who are moderately active,” Sank explains. So, for example, if you weigh 70kg and are pretty active, you should aim for around 70g of protein each day.
Foods that are naturally high in protein include fish, meat, rice, tofu, peas, nuts, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and lentils. Protein shakes aren’t a diet essential; however, since they’re often packing 20g of protein per serving, they’re an easy and quick way to get more of the macronutrient into your diet.
What should I look for in a good protein powder?
Sank stresses that one of the most important things to look for is a simple ingredients list. “Many protein powders contain a lot of added ingredients to mask the flavour of the powder,” she says. “Look for those with minimal ingredients, as well as natural sweeteners such as stevia, thaumatin and monk fruit – even sugar is better than artificial sweeteners.”
Is it safe to use protein powder everyday?
In short, yes! Sank explains, “Pea and/or rice protein and whey protein are derived from food products – legumes, dairy and rice, for example. As such, consuming a good-quality protein powder every day shouldn’t pose any issues.” However, protein powders aren’t designed to be your only source of protein; they work best as a supplement. “It’s important to ensure that you’re still getting protein from a variety of sources such as animal and plant proteins,” Sank advises.
How we test protein powders for women
At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. The protein powders we review are used daily for the testing period, taking into account the different types available and the results women may expect to achieve when consuming them. Where protein powders are recommended to achieve a particular goal type, we test them appropriately to ensure we make an accurate recommendation.
When testing, we follow the product instructions and use the protein powder for the recommended time stated, evaluating the overall physical results. In addition, we consider its taste, the ingredients from which it’s made, as well as the amount of protein each powder delivers per serving. Finally, we confirm the weight of the product.
READ NEXT: Best vegan protein powder
MyProtein’s signature Impact Whey Protein is an easy and superb-tasting crowd-pleaser. Offering more than 50 flavours, including Matcha Latte, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Sticky Toffee Pudding and more, there’s truly something out there for everyone. Offering exceptional value with superb macronutrients, one serving packs 21g of protein and only 103 calories and 1g of sugar.
The powder combines with your choice of milk or water easily, and every flavour we’ve experienced tastes like a delicious milkshake. If we were being really fussy, the drinks can sometimes be a little too sweet – but, all in all, we haven’t yet come across a flavour we didn’t guzzle down immediately.
Key specs – Size: 250g to 2.5kg; Flavours: 55; Grams of protein per serving: 21g; Protein source: Whey; Plant-based: No
2. Innermost The Lean Protein: Best protein powder for fat loss
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Boots
If you’re looking for something that will keep you feeling fuller for longer, but without causing any bloating, Innermost’s The Lean Protein is the perfect way to boost your protein intake whilst on a calorie deficit. The holistic health boost contains an expert blend of seven ingredients to encourage healthy and effective fat loss while supporting lean muscle development. It’s also free of artificial flavours, colours or aspartame.
At 149 kcals per serving, it’s the perfect post-workout shake – full of essential proteins, including branched chain and essential amino acids (BCAAs and EAAs). Most customers loved the Vanilla flavour; however, some found it a little too sickly sweet.
Key specs – Size: 520g; Flavours: Vanilla; Grams of protein per serving: 28g; Protein source: Whey and casein; Plant-based: No
3. Hermosa Whey Protein Powder: Best protein powder for taste
Price when reviewed: £32 | Check price at Hermosa
Priding itself on good quality, natural and uncomplicated ingredients, Hermosa’s Whey Protein Powder is truly the most delicious of them all. It’s famed for being indulgently chocolatey, but without tasting artificial or sickly sweet. It’s made with natural sweetener stevia, which helps to disguise that tell-tale protein flavour.
The product comes in a luxe glass jar for a premium feel, and it’s completely recyclable. We were impressed by how easily this protein powder mixes with your favourite milk or water. If you need any more convincing of its brilliance, it’s also the protein powder of choice for UK branches of fitness studio Barry’s. Fancy.
Key specs – Size: 420g; Flavours: Chocolate, Vanilla; Grams of protein per serving: 22g; Protein source: Whey; Plant-based: No
4. Free Soul Vegan Protein Blend: Best plant-based protein powder
Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at Amazon
Boasting a powerful mix of vitamins, minerals and superfoods to help support female wellness, Free Soul’s Vegan Protein Blend comes highly rated. It’s packed with micronutrients including B vitamins, plus ginseng and magnesium to aid hormonal balance, bone density and energy levels. The 20g of protein per serving is pretty generous for a plant-based protein, and it delivers just 4.3g of carbs and 2.2g of fat.
Over-achieving ingredients aside, the protein powder combines well to a smooth texture and can be used in shakes, smoothies and porridge. It isn’t the cheapest product on the market, but since it essentially doubles as a bumper multivitamin, we’d say it’s worth it.
Key specs – Size: 600g; Flavours: Chocolate Vanilla; Grams of Protein Per Serving: 20g; Protein source: Pea; Plant-Based: Yes
5. JSHealth Protein + Probiotics: Best protein powder for gut health
Price when reviewed: £23 (300g) | Check price at JSHealth
This 100% vegan protein powder is blended with probiotics for easy digestion and improved gut health. Free from fillers, added sugars, chemicals and preservatives, it has a lovely balanced flavour that isn’t too sweet.
Its main USP is the addition of lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), a strain of probiotic that helps to maintain and support healthy digestion and intestinal wellbeing. Reviewers loved how it’s made from a pea protein isolate, which ensures you still get a generous 22g of protein per serving; this is unheard of when it comes to plant-based protein powders.
Key specs – Size: 300g; Flavours: Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Brownie, Cinnamon Scroll, Cookies & Cream; Grams of protein per serving: 22g; Protein source: Pea; Plant-based: Yes
6. Foodspring Clear Whey: Best clear whey protein powder
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Foodspring
If you’re fed up with thick, milky protein shakes, then maybe opt for clear whey instead. Simply mix with water for a protein hit that’s similar to drinking a juice. Foodspring’s Clear Whey delivers a generous 26g of protein per serving and tastes light, refreshing and delicious. Honestly, we’re impressed; it makes a welcome change from the usual sickly sweet concoctions.
What’s more, it’s low fat, low lactose, sugar-free and made from all natural ingredients. Available in three fruity flavours, the lack of dreaded chalky taste will see this protein drink become a sure-fire hit all year round.
Key specs – Size: 400g; Flavours: Lemonade, Peach Iced Tea & Hibiscus, Raspberry Mojito; Grams of protein per serving: 26g; Protein source: Whey; Plant-based: No
7. Dose & Co Dairy Collagen Creamer Vanilla: Best protein powder to boost collagen
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Holland & Barrett
Khloé Kardashian’s collagen company Dose & Co has amassed hundreds of five-star reviews online for its products thanks to their great taste, superb ingredients and glow-enhancing benefits. The Dose & Co Collagen Protein Powder can be added to yoghurts or baked into brownies for a quick protein hit, as well as made into a typical shake.
Delivering 11g of protein and 10g of sustainably sourced bovine collagen per 20g serving, we love its subtle yet delicious taste. Collagen is thought to bring many benefits to hair, skin and nails while also aiding muscle repair and joint health. It’s gluten and GMO free, and even arrives in sustainable packaging.
Key specs – Size range: 340g; Flavours: Caramel, Vanilla; Grams of protein per serving: 11g; Protein source: Whey; Plant-based: No