These Are the Best Protein Powders, According to Top Trainers
Fitness instructors give us the scoop on must-try blends.
Too chalky, too sweet, too “bleh” — Goldilocks would have a field day running through the gamut of products lining supplement shelves these days. It’s no wonder one of the most popular questions I get as a trainer is, “What protein powder do you use?” While becoming besties with your blender or shaker bottle certainly has its perks, not all powders are created equal.
“Sadly, there is a belief that supplements can help give athletes an edge, but there is no such thing as a magic pill (or powder),” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC. “Supplemental protein powders can come in handy in certain situations, but are not superior to eating proper foods for recovery. [Following exercise] aim for 30 grams of protein powder shaken or blended with fruit, milk or flavored coconut water.”
To save you from wasting time — okay, and money! — on not-for-you blends, we asked five top trainers to dish on their favorites. Here’s what they recommend.
Los Angeles-based trainer Danielle Pascente’s innovative strength-training moves require recovery fuel stat, which is why she shakes things up post-workout. “I just want to replenish quickly,” she explains. “I love my customized Gainful blend (which at the moment is Vegan Birthday Cake). I also have been really loving Apres, which is a new plant-based protein shake that comes already made.” Her biggest rule of thumb: check the ingredients. “I'm less concerned about calories and more concerned about what's inside.”
Marraccini is always on the move at NEOU, which is why she turns to NutriWhey All-Natural Whey when she’s in a pinch. “A meal is always better than a shake, but a shake is great for people on the go — or sometimes just a healthier way to satisfy a craving,” she says, adding that Belgian Chocolate is her forever front runner. “I love to add in spinach or avocado to give it some extra love.”
Protein and personal bests go hand-in-hand for Delaney, which is why a p.m. shake is a must to push through a WOD (workout of the day), in addition to a demanding coaching schedule. “I drink Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides mixed in with my BCAAs a few hours after my workout,” says Delaney. “It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up!” Be patient in your shake search, she advises. “It took time to find what protein worked best with my body!”
Coaching a variety of modalities ranging from yoga to HIIT — both online and in-person — requires a lot of energy and for Seki, that means consuming more than 3,000 calories a day! Thank goodness for his fave: Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer. “I’m a vegetarian and have a very fast metabolism, so I look for a shake with a lot of calories and protein,” says Seki. “For that reason, I’d primarily recommend this shake for people that are looking to gain weight and muscle.” Although he typically mixes the Double Chocolate powder with almond milk, Seki will occasionally add nut butter and chia seeds for a flavor/fiber one-two punch.
Me, Myself and I: Lauren Seib (NASM CPT, Group Fitness Instructor)
After an arduous hunt for a new protein pal following the release of the Clean Label’s 2018 Protein Powder Study, I was stoked to discover Nutiva Plant Protein. Packed with 21 grams of pea, sunflower, pumpkin and hemp protein, it fills my pescatarian needs while crushing my chocolate cravings. The fact that it also contains one billion CFUs of probiotics and no stevia is also major win! Blend it with 8 ounces of liquid, a tablespoon of chia (let it soak for five minutes!) and a frozen banana for a thick and filling shake. I love making mine into a "power bowl" by topping with walnuts, rice puffs, goji berries — the works!