The Best Low-Calorie Protein Powders of 2021

The Best Low-Calorie Protein Powders

We normally associated protein powders with muscular weight gain. In those cases, the higher the calorie count, the better. However, many people take protein powder as part of their weight loss plan, whether as a meal replacement or as a post-workout and in-between meal snack. If you’re one of them, you need a protein powder with the lowest calorie count possible so that you can maintain a negative calorie balance at the end of the day. 

In this article, I’ll reveal the 10 best low-calorie protein powders on the market right now. I’ll also throw in a comprehensive buyer’s guide and answer the most common question about low-calorie protein powders.

A Quick Overview of the Top 3

Best Overall – Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Isolate

  • Great price
  • 115 calories
  • 94% protein content
  • 27g protein

Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

  • 24 grams protein 
  • 140 calories
  • Low fat

Optimum Nutrition Platinum HydroWhey

  • 39 grams protein
  • 140 calories
  • 3 grams carbs

The 10 Best Low-Calorie Protein Powders:

1. Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Isolate

Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Isolate

Pros:

  • Great price
  • 115 calories
  • 94% protein content
  • 27g protein

Cons:

  • No added BCAAs or glutamine

Bulk Supplements whey protein isolate tops our list of low-calorie protein powders on the strength of its high protein concentration and low-calorie count. Bulk Supplements are one of the most cost-effective supplement brands in the market. Their packaging is simple and their products basic. 

This whey protein isolate provides you with 115 calories per serve to deliver 27 grams of protein. Those are excellent numbers, providing it with an impressive nutrient density. In fact, the protein concentration is 94%, being the highest of any protein powder on this list. Fat and carb content are both less than 1 gram per serve!

As you’d expect, there are no artificial flavors, colors, or other additives in their powder. It’s just pure protein. 

2. Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

Pros:

  • 24 grams protein 
  • 140 calories
  • Low fat

Cons:

  • Contains lactose
  • Contains stevia

With 24 grams of protein and a concentration of just over 90% this product also has a high nutrient density. It’s low in fat and carbs as well. 

As with all of its products, Transparent Labs provides you with full information on what’s included in the container. You only get 100% natural ingredients, free of any additives or artificial sweeteners. However, this protein powder does contain the natural sweetener stevia. A bonus with this protein is that, in addition to its amino acid profile, it also supplies as much as 10% of your daily calcium and sodium requirement, as well as 25% of your daily recommended cholesterol. 

3. Optimum Nutrition Platinum HydroWhey

Optimum Nutrition Platinum HydroWhey

Pros:

  • 39 grams protein
  • 140 calories
  • 3 grams carbs

Cons:

  • Low vitamin and mineral content

Optimum Nutrition Platinum HydroWhey provides a huge 39 grams of hydrolyzed whey protein per serve for just a 140 calorie cost. That makes this a great choice for people who are working out to pack on lean mass while trying to stay as lean as possible. The fact that this protein powder is hydrolyzed means that it will digest a lot faster than those that are not hydrolyzed. 

The protein concentration is 87%, which is a little lower than others on this list. The vitamin and mineral content is also pretty low. 

4. Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Protein

Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Protein

Pros:

  • 25 grams protein
  • Fast absorbing
  • 5.5 grams BCAAs

Cons:

  • Contains lactose

Dymatize 1SO100 Hydrolyzed Protein is a powerful formula for muscle building and workout recovery. As well as its 25 grams of protein, each serve throws in 5.5 grams of BCAAs and an extra 2.7 grams of the most potent of the 3 branch chain amino acids, leucine. Because it is hydrolyzed, this protein absorbs quickly, so those amino acids can get to your muscle cells when you need them. It’s also low in fats, carbs, and sugars. It contains 0.5 grams of lactose per serve, which shouldn’t be enough to cause any bloating issues. 

5. Designer Protein Lite Low-Cal Protein Powder

Designer Protein Lite Low-Cal Protein Powder

Pros:

  • 60 calories
  • Easily digestible
  • 1 gram net carbs 

Cons:

  • Only 10 g protein

Designer Protein Lite Low Cal Protein Powder is the lowest calorie protein powder on this list of low cal protein powders at just 60 calories per serve. So, why isn’t it number one on the list? Because it contains just 10 grams of protein per serve which is less than half of what you find in most of the other powders on this list.

However, with the extremely low cal count, you could take two serves to get 20 grams of protein and still only have a caloric cost of 120 grams. That is still lower than the calorie count on most of the other powders we’re covering here. 

It’s not only the super low-calorie count that makes Designer Lite a great choice for people trying to lose weight. It also contains prebiotic fiber to improve your digestion and promote the movement of waste products through your body. Additionally, this product is rich in vitamins B, D, and calcium. As a bonus, this protein powder mixes easily into a shake and tastes great.

6. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

Pros:

  • Tastes great
  • 24 grams protein
  • Excellent mixability

Cons:

  • Only 80% protein concentrate

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey has remained a top seller in the protein market for close to a decade. Along with the 24 grams of whey protein, you also get 5 grams of additional BCAAs. The carb count is low, coming in at 3.5 grams, with 1-3 grams of sugar. One reason why this protein powder is so popular is that it has been instantized to make it easier to mix and smoother to drink. You won’t get any clumpiness or residue when you mix up this powder, regardless of whether you’re using a shaker bottle or an actual blender. 

7. Premier Protein Whey

Premier Protein Whey

Pros:

  • Great p30 grams protein
  • 150 calories
  • 6.6 grams BCAAs

Cons:

  • Not the best taste and mixability

Premier Protein Whey is an affordable option that delivers an impressive 30 grams of protein per serve, along with 150 calories. There are also 6.6 grams of branch chain amino acids packed into this formulation. This is an isolate whey product so it is free of lactose. However, this product does not mix overly well and the taste is not the best. I would suggest mixing it with milk rather than water to improve the taste. Keep in mind, however, that this will increase the calorie count. 

8. Naked Whey Grass Fed Protein Powder

Naked Whey Grass Fed Protein Powder

Pros:

  • 25 grams protein
  • High vitamin and mineral content
  • Grass-fed whey

Cons:

  • Quite a few additives

Naked Whey Grass Fed protein powder is a pure, additive-free product that delivers 25 grams of grass-fed whey protein isolate per serve. It’s got a lot of vitamins and minerals packed in to help meet your daily recommendations. The taste is pretty bland on this protein which may be a good thing if you want to add it to your kitchen recipes. 

Also Read:   The Best Stevia Energy Drinks of 2021

9. IsoPure Zero Carb

IsoPure Zero Carb

Pros:

  • 25 grams protein
  • 110 calories
  • Mixes well
  • Great for keto

Cons:

  • Unflavored

IsoPure Zero Carb is a low-calorie protein powder that is also zero carbs. That makes it perfect if you are following the keto diet. This is, as the name promises, a very pure form of protein. There are no artificial sweeteners, colorings, or favors in it. You get 25 grams of protein for just 110 calories with this powder. In addition, this product is gluten and lactose-free.

The fact that this protein is unflavored may be a turn-off for some. However, it does mean that you can use it for a variety of purposes, including as an additive to soups, sauces, and baked foods.

10. ProMix Grass Fed Whey

ProMix Grass Fed Whey

Pros:

  • Omega 3 & CLA
  • Smooth taste
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Does not mix overly well

ProMix Grass Fed Whey is not only a low-calorie protein option, but it is also extremely affordable at just $19.99 for a one-pound container. You get 25 grams of whey protein per serve, which is sourced only from grass-fed cows. There is very little filtering done on that protein so that it retains a high level of omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. 

ProMix comes in a range of flavors including peanut butter and raw chocolate. Online reviewers rave about the taste. On the downside, this powder does not mix overly well, so you will probably want to make use of a blender rather than a shaker bottle when preparing it. 

Buyers Guide

With so many brands and such intense online marketing, it’s difficult to sort out the quality low-calorie protein powders from those that don’t stack up. Here’s what to look out for when you’re browsing for low-calorie protein, either online or in a store …

Protein Content

Check the protein content per product weight. Whey protein hydrolysate is the highest at around 95%. The higher the protein content the more efficient the calories are going to be and, hence their total will be lower. You should set a benchmark of 90% in order to keep the total calorie count as low as possible. 

Calories Per Serve

If your goal is to lose weight, you should look for a protein powder that supplies you with around 150 calories per serving. This information should be noted at the top of the product ingredient label. 

Additive Free

Look for a product that is free of artificial flavorings or other additives that have no nutritional value. You should also avoid products that contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.

Mixability

You want a protein powder that mixes well to produce a silky, milkshake-like consistency. It should mix well in a shaker bottle as well as a blender.

Nutrient Makeup 

It is important to consider the macros in your protein powder. If you are lactose intolerant, you should avoid whey concentrate, which retains the milk fats. People on the keto diet should go for whey hydrolysate, which has the lowest carb content. 

Price

A lot of protein powders are way overpriced. Often you are paying for a brand name and slick marketing. When it comes to actually getting the amino acids into your body that it needs, however, you shouldn’t have to pay more than 70-80 cents per serve. To work out the per serve cost, check on the label for the serving size and divide the total weight in grams by that serving size. You should then divide the total cost of the product by the number of serves in the container. 

Key Benefits of Protein Supplementation 

  1. Promotes muscle mass and strength by supplying needed protein and stimulating the release of such anabolic hormones as human growth hormone and insulin.
  2. All protein powders contain the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs); leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine plays a major role in promoting muscle growth and recovery after resistance and endurance workouts.
  3. Protein is an extremely fast absorbing form of protein, making it ideal for post-workout supplementation. 
  4. Protein increases satiety and has a high thermic effect, meaning that it takes a lot of energy to digest it. It may, therefore, help to lose weight through reduced caloric consumption and higher calorie burn.
  5. Protein, especially the concentrated form, includes many immunity-boosting nutrients, including the subfractions lactoferrin and immunoglobulin.
  6. Protein is an ingredient in many baby foods. Whey is also used in many other foods to improve their nutritive value. 

Who Should Take Protein Powder?

Protein powder is used by bodybuilders, athletes, sports players, runners, bikers, rowers, those who follow an active lifestyle, and other people who are working out to increase their lean muscle mass. Athletes and active people will also benefit from supplementing with whey in order to repair stressed muscle tissue. 

People who are attempting to lose weight may also consider taking protein powder. Doing so will help ensure that they are preserving muscle tissue as they lose body fat. In addition, the thermic and satiating effects of whey protein may boost their weight loss efforts. 

Protein supplementation will help people diversify their diet and increase their essential amino acid intake. This may be especially beneficial for vegetarians who do not eat meat. Most plant proteins do not contain all 9 essential amino acids, which makes whey an ideal option.

When and How Much Protein to Take 

The recommended minimum daily protein intake for a healthy sedentary adult is 0.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. For a 150- pound individual, this would work out to 55 grams of protein. For a person involved in athletic training[, such as cardio, plyometrics or resistance training, this increases to between 1.4-2.0 grams per kg of body weight, depending on the intensity of training. That works out to between 95-135 grams of protein for a 150-pound individual. 

The majority of your nutrients should come from whole foods. Therefore, your protein supplement should constitute no more than a third of your daily protein intake. 

If you are exercising, you should take a whey protein supplement within an hour of completing your workout. In addition to mixing with milk or water, whey protein powder can also be sprinkled on oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, and included in a raft of baking recipes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How should protein be stored after opening?

Protein powder has a good shelf life. As with most dry foods, it should be stored in a dry, cool area such as a pantry. It can also be stored in the fridge. Be sure to keep the lid tightly sealed to prevent moisture from penetrating the powder.  

Can whey protein powder cause allergies?

Whey protein will not cause allergies in most people. However, if you are lactose intolerant, you may experience stomach upset when taking it. In this case, you should avoid whey protein concentrate, which does not have the lactose removed and go for isolate or hydrolyzed forms. 

You should always check the label to identify any allergens that may be present in the product.

Can too much protein cause side effects?

Yes, too much whey protein may lead to such side effects as flatulence, burping, and stomach upset. Remember that food supplements should not replace a varied and balanced diet.   

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a low-calorie protein to either lose weight or simply to keep your lean as you’re adding lean muscle tissue, you cannot do better than the Bulk Supplements Whey Protein Isolate. It provides you with 27 grams of protein for a 115 calorie count and protein concentration of 94%. Our second favorite low cal protein powder is Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate. Rounding out our top 3 is Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey. 

This article was last updated on October 22, 2021 .

By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.