Recovering from your workouts properly is just as important as hitting the gym regularly — and recovery starts with a good protein powder. Protein is by far the most important macronutrient when it come to your muscles healing and growing after a workout. Ingesting some within a half hour of training is an imperative step for anyone with swole goals.
There are hundreds of brands on the market that incorporate a wide array of base ingredients and grams of protein per serving to cater to different goals. The best way to supercharge your recovery routine is to make sure you’re not just taking any protein after your workouts but rather one that suits your needs and gets your body primed to bounce back for your next session.
Personal trainers spend their lives maintaining their own physiques while helping clients achieve their goals, which gives them special insight into the most effective protein supplements — and which ones taste the best. We spoke with five personal trainers about the powders they love and their recipes for success (literally).
MFL Muscle Isolate
Trainer, stuntman and cirque performer Brennan Mejia is generally skeptical of protein powders and aims to hit most of his macros through food rather than supplements. “Since supplements are not typically regulated by the FDA, I’m always hesitant to rely on them too heavily,” he explains. However, when he needs a boost to hit his protein goal for the day, Mejia turns to MFL Muscle Isolate.
“It’s manufactured in a good manufacturing practice (GMP) facility that is also inspected by the FDA, is free from a lot of artificial ingredients found in other protein powders and uses stevia as the sweetener.” His go-to mixing method? Blending the Strawberry flavor with almond milk, blueberries, a banana and almond butter.
Price: $90/69 servings (30g protein per serving)
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey
Joshua Habeck is a longtime trainer at Root 18 Crossfit who keeps his protein fix simple. “I’ve stuck with Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey for years now," he says. "It’s the product I recommend to most of my clients. It's a high-quality product at a relatively low price, which is pretty huge for me at the rate I go through the stuff.”
Habeck also keeps it basic when it comes to preparation, usually taking it with water or sprinkling some on his oatmeal in the morning.
Editor’s note: We’ve been using this stuff lately with our signature recipe, blending six ounces of iced coffee, a chopped-up frozen banana, a scoop of powder and a scoop or two of powdered peanut butter. It’s pretty tasty.
$82 $59/74 servings (24g protein per serving)
PlantFusion Complete Protein
Vegan fitness buffs will appreciate trainer Ryan Foray’s powder of choice. A powerlifting and strength training specialist, Foray is picky about his protein. He believes a lot of products are more filler than substance, but his surefire winner is PlantFusion’s Complete Protein. The protein is plant-based, vegan and non-GMO, which helps him recover well.
“Most of the time I’m just mixing it with water on the go, but if I have time, it’s almond milk,” he says. “Chocolate is my go-to — gotta feed the sweet-toothed monster in me.”
Editor’s note: We’ve been testing PlantFusion’s Peptide Protein as well and are pretty impressed. It’s worth pointing out that it blends up pretty thick. If you like your shake closer to a Frosty than a glass of chocolate milk, you’ll be stoked.
$53 $40/30 servings (21g protein per serving)
Vega One Organic All-In-One Shake
Dominick Popolo is a bodybuilding trainer who needs protein that will help build as much lean muscle as possible without making him put on unnecessary weight. He’s also been vegan for the past year or so. Consequently, Popolo favors the Vega Organic All-In-One Shake, preferably the French Vanilla flavor.
“I feel the ingredients are less harsh on my stomach than other powders,” he says. Dominick’s go-to Vega smoothie consists of almond milk, strawberries, bananas and Vega protein, plus a bit of creatine for a boost in the gym.
Price: $52.50/18 servings (20g protein per serving)
Isopure Zero Carb Protein
Former NFL lineman, personal trainer and 1AND1 LIFE founder Corey L. Lewis needs plenty of fuel for his big frame and even bigger dreams. For that reason, he’s a huge fan of Isopure Zero Carb Protein. “It’s perfect for those who want a high protein source with no carbohydrates attached, including those adhering to a keto-friendly or gluten/lactose-free diet,” he explains. “If that doesn’t seal the deal, its tasty vanilla flavor will.”
Lewis drinks two to three shakes per day, before and after workouts, especially ones taking place midday or in the evening. “My go-to recipe is blending one cup frozen bananas or blueberries, half a cup of ice, two scoops of powder, a half cup of 2 percent plain Greek yogurt and one-and-a-half cups of oat milk,” he says. “Add water if necessary, to minimize the thickness.”
Price: $44.94/44 servings (25g protein per serving)