Eating enough protein is vital for exercise performance, healthy aging, and fat loss, particularly if you’re on a low-carb diet like keto. As such, you’ll want to know how to choose the best low-carb protein powder.
While it’s possible to get an adequate amount of protein through healthy whole foods, protein supplements are an easy way to boost your protein intake.
While protein powder isn’t a replacement for a balanced diet, it pays to know how and why protein supplements can boost your results.
Read on to learn about the top types of protein powders, who should consider taking them, and the best practices for incorporating them into your keto diet.
#1. Whey Protein Isolate
Pure whey protein isolate is the top protein powder for the ketogenic diet because it’s economical, palatable, and supported by lots of scientific research.
What’s more, studies find that whey isolate products low in lactose are well-tolerated by people with dairy allergies[*]. Just be sure to stay away from whey concentrate if you’re lactose intolerant.
Benefits of Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein powder has probably been studied more than any other protein powder. Most studies examine its effects in exercise recovery and muscle building, but it’s also been studied for weight loss, fat loss, and satiety.
Here are some of the remarkable, scientifically proven whey protein benefits:
- Speeds recovery from resistance training and strenuous exercise[*][*]
- Reduces muscle soreness[*]
- Improves exercise performance[*]
- Increases muscle protein synthesis (more lean muscle mass)[*]
- May help you preserve healthy lean muscle during fat loss[*][*]
- Decreases appetite and hunger[*][*]
If you’re looking for an occasional meal replacement, whey protein isolate contains all the essential amino acids and then some. It’s a reliable choice if you’re short on time and need a filling, nutritious, and portable option.
Look for natural, grass-fed whey protein isolate without artificial sweeteners like sucralose. A serving of Perfect Keto Grass-Fed Whey has just 3 grams of net carbs.
Who Should Use Whey Protein Isolate?
If you’re an athlete, train strenuously, or just need a convenient source of complete protein, whey isolate is the best keto protein powder.
A 30-gram dose of whey isolate is ideal for most people, but if your goal is adding lean muscle mass, you may benefit from up to 50 grams of protein[*].
But not everyone needs a protein powder. Some people are fine with whole foods and meal prepping — but if you exercise hard or need a portable way to get more protein, it’s a worthwhile keto-friendly protein powder.
#2. Collagen Protein
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It’s the connective “glue” that holds your organs, skeleton, and skin together.
Hydrolyzed collagen, which is the supplement form of collagen, is different from whey protein. This protein contains large amounts of the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.
While it’s not a complete protein like whey, collagen protein has 10-20 times as much glycine and proline compared to other proteins, which helps explain its remarkable benefits[*].
Benefits of Collagen Protein
When you take hydrolyzed collagen, your body digests the collagen peptides then shuttles them immediately to your skin, bones, and connective tissues for use[*].
According to scientific research, here’s what happens next:
- May ease pain for athletes or people with joint problems[*]
- Hydrates your skin and may slow skin aging and wrinkles[*]
- Supports healthy bone metabolism[*]
- May reduce osteoarthritis symptoms[*][*]
- Promotes healthy appetite levels[*]
- Supports gut health[*]
Unlike most protein supplements, a little bit of collagen goes a long way. You can get all the benefits of collagen protein powder with a single 10-gram serving.
Who Should Use Collagen Protein?
People use hydrolyzed collagen to help heal their joints, improve their skin quality, increase bone density, and decrease inflammation.
#3. Casein Protein
Like whey protein, casein protein comes from milk. But unlike whey, it digests very slowly[*]. Think of casein protein as a time-release protein supplement.
Benefits of Casein Protein
Research shows that casein isn’t as effective as whey protein immediately post-workout, but thanks to its slow absorption, it’s useful in other roles[*].
Because it digests slowly, casein can fill you up longer than other forms of protein[*]. That means you can use it before meals to reduce your appetite, or in your morning smoothie to curb your daytime cravings.
Who Should Use Casein Protein?
For most people, whey protein is more versatile and effective than casein protein.
But if you’re a serious athlete, you can use whey post-workout and casein at other times for the best of both worlds. While whey will boost your recovery post-workout, casein provides a long-lasting source of protein that is appropriate for your rest periods.
If you want to recover better, try 30-50 grams of casein before bed[*].
You can also experiment with casein as an appetite suppressant. While whey is effective at decreasing your appetite, you may discover that casein (or a blend of whey and casein) is better at curbing your hunger.
To potentially decrease your appetite, take 20 grams of casein 30 minutes before a meal[*].
#4. Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
Hydrolyzed whey protein is a unique form of whey that contains di- and tripeptides rather than “whole” proteins.
You can think of hydrolyzed protein as “pre-digested.” Because it’s already partially broken down, your body absorbs whey hydrolysate more rapidly than whey isolate[*].
Benefits of Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
Here’s what the research says about hydrolyzed whey protein:
- Results in higher blood levels of leucine and other compounds that stimulate lean muscle growth, and does so more rapidly than whey isolate[*]
- Compared to whey isolate, it contains more branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which promote recovery and lean muscle development[*]
- Provides greater muscle recovery over a six-hour period than intact whey[*]
- May be easier on your stomach if you’re sensitive to whey isolate[*]
Who Should Use Hydrolyzed Whey Protein?
Hydrolyzed whey protein is useful if you need a fast-acting protein. It’s worth a try if you exercise more than once a day.
You can compare whey hydrolysate to whey isolate as a post-workout recovery drink. The data isn’t conclusive, but plenty of people feel it’s more effective at speeding recovery and boosting performance.
This form of whey isn’t as palatable as whey isolate, and there’s no advantage unless you take it during or immediately after exercise.
#5. Egg Protein
Egg protein powders come from dried egg whites, and in some cases, from yolks as well.
This form of protein is a high-quality, complete, animal-based source of protein, and it’s vegetarian (though not vegan) and lactose-free[*].
Benefits of Egg Protein
You can use egg protein powder in meal replacement shakes or post-workout. The benefits include:
- Egg white protein increases muscle mass, strength, and recovery[*].
- Egg protein powder is digested easily, absorbed fully, and used efficiently by your body[*].
- Egg whites and yolks contain vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats[*].
- A 30-gram serving of egg white protein has just 3 grams of net carbs.
- Like whey protein, egg protein is suitable for gluten-free baking[*].
Who Should Use Egg Protein?
Egg protein powder is one of the priciest protein options. For most people, it’s not an economical choice.
However, it’s an excellent keto-friendly protein powder for meal replacement shakes, particularly if you choose a product that includes both whites and yolks.
If you don’t tolerate whey protein well, egg protein may be a better supplement for you. You may also find that egg protein tastes better than whey protein.
As previously noted, protein shakes are supplements, not a true replacement for real, healthy, whole foods.
If you’re relying on protein powder at every single meal, something’s wrong. You might need to spend more time on meal planning and meal prep to properly calculate your macros. After all, protein should only account for around 20-30% of your total calories on keto.
It’s not that too much protein will kick you out of ketosis, but rather that whole foods and healthy fats are more nourishing than mega-doses of protein powder.
On the other hand, you can also blend in low-carb ingredients to balance out the macros of your high-protein shakes and make them more nutritious.
As a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy better flavors, different textures, and more variety compared to the basic combo of a few ounces of water mixed with protein powder.
Try these low-carb additions in your shakes:
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Extra-virgin coconut oil
- MCT oil or MCT oil powder
- Full-fat coconut milk
- Heavy cream
- Nut butter
- Ricotta cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Cacao nibs
- Keto-friendly fruits
- Hemp hearts
- Flax seeds
- Greens (try frozen chopped spinach or kale)
- Matcha powder
As you may have noticed, the list goes from most calorie-dense to lowest-calorie options. If you’re trying to keep calories low, be sparing with the ingredients at the top (like pure oils) or stick with less calorie-dense options.
Conversely, if you want to fuel strenuous training or gain lean muscle mass, you can go high-fat and add tasty, calorie-dense ingredients to keep your energy intake high.
Regardless of your goals, you can enjoy all of these additions in moderation. Don’t be afraid to experiment — you might discover a winning combo like heavy cream and ice cubes for an ice-cream-like texture, or coconut milk and low-glycemic fruit that mimics your favorite fruit smoothie.
Choose the Best Low-Carb Protein Powder That Works for You
The best low-carb protein powder is the one that works within your macronutrients and accommodates any dietary sensitivities you may have, such as lactose intolerance.
There are numerous low-carb protein powder supplements on the market, so avoid unnecessary ingredients like artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and added sugars that may spike your blood sugar and kick you out of ketosis.
Also, don’t assume that unflavored protein powders won’t have any hidden carbs — some brands will still include sweeteners in their unflavored products.
Finding the right low-carb protein powder can help you reap all the benefits of protein in your quest for optimum nutrition.
If you’re tired of eating eggs or are egg-sensitive, take a look at these 18 eggless keto breakfast recipes, many of which get a protein boost from low-carb protein powder.