What is the best protein powder for beginners?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

drink wholesome is the best protein powder for beginners. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes it perfect for people with gut issues and sensitive stomachs, as well as for people just looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk. Order samples to see if our protein powder is right for you. 

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drink wholesome is the best protein powder for beginners.

What is protein powder?

How to choose a good protein powder for beginners. 

Why drink wholesome?

What is protein powder?


Protein powder is just food. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. The protein in a protein supplement is not molecularly different from the protein in eggs, almonds, etc. In other words, it is by no means a superior source of protein, and cannot, from a nutritional standpoint, offer you anything that a normal food cannot. That said, protein powder does have its advantages.

First and foremost, boosting your protein intake with a protein powder is easy. A protein shake can be made in seconds, and if you have a shaker bottle, it can be made almost anywhere. For many people, this is a driving factor in their decision to start using protein powder. It is also easier to drink your protein than it is to chew it, which is helpful for people with food aversions or trouble swallowing. Finally, protein powder has a high amount of protein per serving when compared to most foods. 

How to choose a beginner protein powder.


I am not here to convince you that you need to start using protein powder. If you are reading this, I assume that you have already decided to use protein powder. That was your decision, based on your specific nutrition goals. Instead, I am here to help you choose the best protein powder for you. Given the variety of options out there, this can be a daunting task. There are dozens of different types and hundreds of different brands. How are you supposed to know which one to pick? 

First of all, most protein powders contain the same ingredients and offer the same nutritional benefits. Many of them are even made by the same manufacturer in the same facility. The only difference is the packaging, and you do not want to pay more for packaging, do you?

Second, no one type of protein is better than another. Some proteins may not be a good fit for your diet – whey protein is not a good fit for people with lactose intolerance for example – but any type of protein can help you achieve your nutrition goals. Different companies will try to persuade you that their protein powder is the best because it contains more amino acids or because it is more bioavailable, but they are just blowing hot air. From a nutritional standpoint and for a person with a balanced diet, a protein shake made from whey is no different than a protein shake made from peas. So, does the protein supplement you choose matter at all?

not all protein powders are created equal

There are two types of protein supplements: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make protein shakes for beginners, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people, prioritizing convenience, prefer to buy ready-to-drink protein shakes, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably feel sick to their stomach.

Ready-to-drink protein shakes are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but can cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage. This is worrisome because more and more research shows that disruptions to the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food) can play a role in the development of a number of chronic diseases. 

I therefore recommend that you make your own protein shakes for beginners with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal either, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes! 

Why drink wholesome


drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why we make the best protein powder for beginners is that we do not use food additives. Most protein powders, on the other hand, are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day), and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain.

Food additives are hard to digest, and sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, causing bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine and trigger the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

vegan vanilla protein powder serving suggestion
vanilla protein powder lifestyle image 1

When buying protein powder, one additive to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota. This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. 

Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are poorly absorbed by the gut, meaning they feed your hungry gut bacteria. They can also cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestines. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, additives are ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to avoid when buying protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

the alternative:

Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate,  Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids,  Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.

*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.

drink wholesome is dairy-free.

Another reason why we make the best protein powder for muscle gain for beginners is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Many protein powders are made with whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, and known to cause digestive issues. This is especially true for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas and cause side effects. 

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why we make a good protein powder for beginners is that we do not use protein isolates. Most protein powders, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They appear on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.”

I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food.

If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to your gut microbiome.

Your gut does more than just help you to digest food; it protects against pathogens, educates your immune system, and affects directly or indirectly most of your physiologic functions. Disruptions to the gut microbiome have therefore been linked to the development of many chronic diseases. It follows that it is in your best interest to avoid protein powders made with protein concentrates and isolates. 

vegan chocolate protein powder lifestyle image 1
chocolate protein powder serving suggestion

Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best protein powder for beginners with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed to remove some of the oil, and ground. Whole foods like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.

Whole foods contain a variety of enzymes and other digestive aids that help to break down the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. Protein isolates and concentrates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them harder for the body to digest and absorb. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds are rich in fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein powder than with any other type of protein powder. If you cannot eat eggs, try our vegan almond protein powder. We prefer almonds to other plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties that can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.

★★★★★

easy to digest

“I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 20+ years and it’s always been hard to find a protein powder my stomach can handle. I’ve had no problem digesting drink wholesome AND it tastes great. I highly recommend this protein powder if you have IBS or Crohn’s.” – Jesse

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drink wholesome is the best beginner protein powder.

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.