Best Protein Powder For Muscle Health As We Age

What's the best protein to keep and gain muscle when you're older?
Reviewed and edited by Tod Cooperman, M.D. Tod Cooperman, M.D.
Initial Posting: 12/4/2018    Last Update: 9/28/2019
Protein, Meal, and Diet Powders, Shakes, and Drinks Tested by
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 Supplements

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 >>

Evan19796   May 4, 2020
It would be helpful to have tips on how to better absorb protein. Older adults don't always benefit from the protein we eat. I'm 63 years old with a very healthy moderately-high-protein diet, plus I take 10 grams a day free form amino acids. My latest blood work showed low Total Protein, even though kidneys and liver seem to be healthy. I also take betaine HCl and enzymes at each meal.   May 20, 2020
Please see the ConsumerTips section of the Protein Supplements Review

judy18750   December 18, 2019
Please do a review/test on OWYN protein powder shakes. Thank you

Glenn18639   November 13, 2019
When you state that "Plant-based foods can also provide protein and build muscle, although, individually they might not provide the optimum ratio of amino acids," you are dangerously close to repeating the now debunked myth that vegans and vegetarians must "combine" various proteins to get a "complete" protein profile. Credible studies exist on this topic:

I am a 69 year old man (6' 3", 185 lbs), and strive to eat a plant-based diet except for fish and occasional eggs. I consume 90-110 grams of protein a day; much of it from whole foods but with some augmentation from Garden of Life Organic Plant Based Protein (no financial interest). I also engage in relatively heavy weight training 3 days a week. I am easily able to maintain strength and considerable muscle mass. I consider the regimine a fountain of youth and highly recommend it to older folks.   November 14, 2019
Hi Glenn - As noted by Eve (below), you do need to get all the essential amino acids (which may require a combination of plant-based foods) but you don't need to get them all in the same meal. What we have written about this is correct.

Bruce18786   December 30, 2019
I will be 69 in about two weeks. I am training with weights 5 times per week with a personal trainer and training pretty hard. I am getting muscle definition which I found somewhat surprising. I like I am 30 years old again. No aches, no pains.
I am 5 ft 7 in and 192 lbs. I have 30 more pounds to lose to reach my ideal weight.

josephine18773   December 29, 2019
I'm glad this individual has found a plan that works well for him.
Many of us have chronic kidney disease and therefore protein intake is limited; before following the above recommendations please know at least the results of the following blood tests: BUN, Creatinine and glomerular filtration rate. Anemic individuals w/ hypertension often have chronic kidney disease.

Barry19457   April 12, 2020
I thought that plant based protein
Would not impact those with kidney disease I would like to hear from an MD or RD   April 21, 2020
Hi Barry - If you need to limit protein intake, the source of the protein (meat or vegetable) would not seem to matter.

Rebecca18782   December 29, 2019
Glenn18639, I totally agree with you on plant based protein. I am almost 59 years old and have not eaten any red meat, poultry or pork in over 3 years. I occasionally eat fish and some shrimp. My blood work and my body have never been so good.

eve18630   November 13, 2019
as i understand it, it doesn't matter if you have all the essential amino acids at once as long as you get them all and a whole food plant-based diet provides them all. btw, and soy provides all the essential amino acids.

joanne18251   August 25, 2019
How about the bone broth protein powders?   August 26, 2019
Hi Joanne - Please see the Bone Broth Review for information and our tests of bone broth protein powders:

Kathy18193   August 12, 2019
Do you test protein powders that are sold directly from distributors like Usana, Shakeology, Shaklee, Plexus, Isagenix etc.?   August 12, 2019
Hi Kathy - We do test products made by these companies, but we have not tested protein powders from each. You can use our site search to see which Reviews contain products from each brand.

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.   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!

Max18253   August 25, 2019
Check out PERFECT HYDROLYZED COLLAGEN, made from Brazilian pasture raised cattle.
I take 2 scoops a day.... that provides an extra 20 grams of complete protein also.

joey18249   August 23, 2019
Since collagen powders are gaining popularity, I think it's a great idea to review brands like Great Lakes and Vital Proteins.

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.

Tod18837   January 12, 2020
Just an update that, based on your suggestions, we tested collagen products and posted a separate Collagen Review -- (Note: Collagen is not as good as other protein sources, such as whey, for building muscle. This is explained in Review, as well as in our Protein Powders Review.)

Jane17577   February 27, 2019
Here's a good resource to double check your protein powder.   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:

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!   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 ( so others may appreciate your solution.

You can also find information about kefir in the Probiotics Review (

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.

Sunny 18197   August 13, 2019
....and Dr. Keith's many protein powders not sold In stores.

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

devi17371   December 12, 2018
Nutivia Organic Hemp Protein Powder is among the products tested in the current review. See the results.

Stephanie18633   November 13, 2019
I purchased Nutiva Hemp Powder. It and other powders say to mix it with a liquid. Can I mix it in a cereal instead?   November 13, 2019
You can definitely add a protein powder, like hemp protein, to cereal. Just be sure to increase the amount of liquid you add to the cereal.

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.   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 9/28/2019. members may submit questions to We read all questions and try to answer those of popular interest.



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