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Question:
What's the best protein to keep and gain muscle when you're older?
Protein, Meal, and Diet Powders, Shakes, and Drinks Tested by ConsumerLab.com
Answer:
As we age, we tend to lose muscle, but this can be reversed by a combination of resistance exercise and proper intake of protein — which is more than many older people consume. On their own, neither of these approaches will help — so don't just eat more protein, for example. 

All meats provide complete protein, providing all the amino acids needed for making muscle and in good balance, although some, such as fish, are more healthful than others, such as red meat, due to the type of fat they contain. Plant-based foods can also provide protein and build muscle, although, individually, they may not provide the optimal ratio of amino acids. 

Protein powders and protein drinks and shakes can also be good sources of protein. In general, whey protein is a great all-around protein for building and maintaining muscle and it contains all the essential amino acids. Be aware that it's made from milk, so it will naturally contain small amounts of fat, cholesterol and lactose. You can lower the amounts of these substances by choosing a whey isolate, which essentially isolates the whey protein from these other components. Whey and whey isolates taste somewhat like powdered milk. If you have trouble digesting protein or want to absorb it quicker, you can choose a whey hydrolysate in which the protein is, essentially, pre-digested, but be aware that hydrolysates can be somewhat bitter.

Other types of protein are available and can be beneficial, such as casein (also from milk), pea, egg, rice, soy, and hemp. See the Protein Powder, Shakes & Drinks Review for more details about each type of protein, using protein to build and maintain muscle mass, how much protein to consume from food and supplements, and when during the day it may be best to consume protein.

Be aware that 28% of the protein products that we tested at ConsumerLab in 2016 failed to pass our tests. Furthermore, among those that passed, the cost to obtain an equivalent amount of protein (20 grams) ranged from just 67 cents to over $5. Check out our Top Picks among the protein powders we tested and see how products compared on quality and cost.

Learn more about protein powders, shakes and drinks:



Can heat and humidity destroy whey protein and other sports nutrition supplements (e.g., creatine, BCAAs, digestive enzymes) during shipping or while storing at home? >>

Immunocal is much more expensive than other whey protein isolates - is it worth the extra cost? >>

Some protein powders contain whey protein concentrate, and others contain whey protein isolates - what is the difference? >>

I do moderate exercise for about an hour a few times a week. Which supplements might help me? >>

See other recent and popular questions >>
COMMENTS

Cecelia17875   May 26, 2019
For many years I have been making my breakfast smoothie with Natures Plus Unsweetened Gluten Free High Protein Energy Meal. All ingredients and digestive enzymes are listed. I am pre-diabetic but adding some frozen blueberries and small medium banana with CocoVia dark chocolate powder make a great shake. I purchase the powder from VitaCost.

Rosemarie17822   May 5, 2019
I am also interested in research into "Vital Proteins" Collagen powders.

Jeffrey17615   March 9, 2019
I like to take Swanson Vitamin's organic pea protein powder along with its Green Max mixed in. They are inexpensive and don't taste bad or overly sweet like other brands. I use a small, inexpensive, high powered battery powered whisk from Amazon that takes double A batteries to whip it up quickly.

Lech17805   April 30, 2019
Very good! I like this. I think we should be wary of animal protein in general given not-so-recent developments.

I still have two bags of whey which I will finish, but I am transitioning to a vegan diet and will probably begin to experiment with plant protein if I cannot manage with just whole food (although lentils e.g. are delicious and have a good amino acid profile).

There are top weight lifters and athletes on vegan diets so it's certainly possible to achieve good results without animal protein. The only question is how easy it will be without supplements :-/

Karla17583   March 2, 2019
Please do a report on Collagen and Protein powders. Some Brands are Bulletproof, Multi-Collagen, Vital Proteins, Great Lakes etc. Thank you.

ConsumerLab.com   March 4, 2019
Hi Karla - Thank you for your suggestions, we will keep them in mind.

Melanie17662   March 20, 2019
Yes, please check on Vital Proteins Collagen powders. Thanks!

Danielle17657   March 20, 2019
I've been wondering about these new collagen proteins too

linda17661   March 20, 2019
I take vital proteins collagen peptide powder. Was going to stop taking it because I did not notice anything. I get lash extensions and my girl has noticed a huge difference in the growth of my lashes I do think the powder is a bit constipating when you first start taking it.

Amanda17798   April 28, 2019
Yes please examine these!!

Linda17843   May 12, 2019
I agree.i very interested in this as well.

Jane17577   February 27, 2019
Here's a good resource to double check your protein powder.
https://www.cleanlabelproject.org/protein-powder/

ConsumerLab.com   March 4, 2019
Hi Jane - As noted in our Protein Powder Review, the Clean Label Project identified any "detectable" amount of heavy metal. Since the danger of heavy metals is a function of dose, it is important to look at the levels found relative to known limits, which is what what we did in our report: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Protein_Powders_Shakes_Drinks_Sports/NutritionDrinks/#cleanlabelproject

Jane17592   March 4, 2019
Thank you for clarifying this - I stopped using protein powders b/c they all seem to upset my stomach - I'm using goat milk kefir as a base for my smoothies and its been working great. Thanks for all the great research you guys do!

ConsumerLab.com   March 4, 2019
You're welcome Jane, and thank you for your kind words. We are glad to hear you are enjoying ConsumerLab!

Stomach upset can be an issue for some people when consuming protein powders and drinks (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Protein_Powders_Shakes_Drinks_Sports/NutritionDrinks/#concerns) so others may appreciate your solution.

You can also find information about kefir in the Probiotics Review (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Probiotic-Supplements-and-Kombucha-Drinks/probiotics/#whatitis).

Dorothy17480   January 20, 2019
Please test protein powders sold by Dr. Joseph Mercola, by Kathy Smith and protein powders under a "Tera's Whey" brand and a brand called "Naked" whey. Thank you.

xkater17440   January 8, 2019
Thanks for all you do, ConsumerLab !
May i request you check out Whole Foods white-label (365 Everyday Value) "Whey Protein Powder" - i typically buy the Vanilla - it's inexpensive, has limited carbs, and contains very few ingredients overall.

thanks from a long time subscriber

ConsumerLab.com   January 8, 2019
Thank you for your kind words xkater! We are glad you are enjoying ConsumerLab, and will keep your suggestion in mind for future testing.

Judy17419   January 2, 2019
Please test NutraBio whey protein isolate

Mike17415   January 1, 2019
I liked your last protein powder review. I would like to see more whey/casein blends included in your review. The blends keep me full for hours where as just whey alone only lasts an hour or so with me.If it is just a whey alone product I mix Casein whey product with it.
I would like to see reviewed by you are BSN Syntha 6 and Six Star Whey Protein Triple Chocolate.
Casein alone varieties are: Six Star Casein Protein and Precision Engineered 100% Micellar Casein.
Thank you for all the great work you do.

ConsumerLab.com   January 7, 2019
Hi Mike - Thank you for your kind words and your suggestions, we will keep them in mind.

Craig17384   December 19, 2018
Dymatize is my favorite and the make an ISO whey, plus a slow digesting casein. Would love to see them tested.

Lorna17379   December 16, 2018
Please include "Hydro-Pro" Advanced Hydrolyzed-Isolate Whey Protein Formula made by EVOchem Nutrition in your test.

John17372   December 12, 2018
I use both Youngevity Fitshake, and human Protein 40 and would appreciate testing either/both.

ConsumerLab.com   December 26, 2018
Hi John - Thank you for your suggestion; we will keep it in mind.

devi17371   December 12, 2018
HEMP PROTEIN POWDER BY NUTIVA IS MY CURIOSITY. I USE IT DAILY AND HOPE THAT IT CHECKS ALL BOXES ON SAFETY. I LOVE & TRUST NUTIVA FOR ALL OF MY SUPPLEMENT ITEMS (BAKING PRODUCTS, NUTS SEEDS ETC) AND HOPE THAT THEY ARE AS CLEAN FROM TOXINS AS THEY CLAIM TO BE.

ConsumerLab.com   December 12, 2018
Nutivia Organic Hemp Protein Powder is among the products tested in the current review. See the results.

Star17363   December 9, 2018
Please also test Garden of Life's Raw Organic Protein, Unflavored, Unsweetened powder.

Jason17341   December 5, 2018
Hello, when you test protein powders can you please test Now protein isolate unflavored and Pro Mix Isolate, as well as a variety of other unflavored isolates. Also, can you review if there is any benefit to grass-fed whey and compare grass fed isolate to concentrate to non-grass fed whey. Also, is there any efficacy to cold-processed isolate or concentrate over other types. Thanks.

ConsumerLab.com   December 6, 2018
Thanks for your suggestion. We will soon be publishing a new protein powder/drinks report and these types of products are included.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 12/4/2018. Last updated 1/2/2019.
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