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.

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51 Comments

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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.

ConsumerLab.com
May 20, 2020

Please see the ConsumerTips section of the Protein Supplements Review https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/protein-powders-shakes-drinks-sports/nutritiondrinks/#hudson.

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:

https://nutritionfacts.org/2018/12/20/do-you-have-to-combine-plant-proteins-at-a-meal/
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/vegetarian-protein-complete-meat_n_5a90357ae4b01e9e56bb3224

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.

ConsumerLab.com
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.

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.

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.

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.

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

ConsumerLab.com
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.

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?

ConsumerLab.com
August 26, 2019

Hi Joanne - Please see the Bone Broth Review for information and our tests of bone broth protein powders: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/bone-broth-review/bone-broth/#results.

Kathy18193
August 12, 2019

Do you test protein powders that are sold directly from distributors like Usana, Shakeology, Shaklee, Plexus, Isagenix etc.?

ConsumerLab.com
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.

ConsumerLab.com
March 4, 2019

Hi Karla - Thank you for your suggestions, we will keep them in mind.

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.

Melanie17662
March 20, 2019

Yes, please check on Vital Proteins Collagen powders. Thanks!

Amanda17798
April 28, 2019

Yes please examine these!!

Linda17843
May 12, 2019

I agree.i very interested in this as well.

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.

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.

ConsumerLab.com
January 12, 2020

Just an update that, based on your suggestions, we tested collagen products and posted a separate Collagen Review -- https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/collagen-supplements-review-peptides-hydrolysate/collagen/. (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.
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/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.

Sunny 18197
August 13, 2019

....and Dr. Keith's Own...so 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

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.

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?

ConsumerLab.com
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.

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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