Growing up, protein powder felt like an essential part of the human diet. A shaker bottle with Quest protein powder and water after the gym would ensure muscle growth, and a protein shake midday helped keep you satiated until dinnertime.
However, it’s clear now that protein powder is not essential, and it’s definitely not optimal. With a well-formulated ketogenic or low carb diet, adequate protein consumption is relatively easy to achieve. That being said, protein powder is a versatile ingredient that can fit in well with a low carb or ketogenic lifestyle.
How to Use Protein Powder
Obviously, protein powder can be used for protein shakes and smoothies. However, there are plenty of other ways to use this versatile ingredient.
Low carb protein powders are great for baking. They make an excellent base for deliciously flavored treats like waffles, ice cream, smoothie bowls, and more.
Making homemade desserts using ingredients like Quest protein powder allow for a lot of flexibility, while still keeping things simple.
Most of the Quest protein powder recipes that I use in my kitchen are less than 5 ingredients. The protein powder itself will give the dessert enough flavor and sweetness. By swapping out the flavor of protein powder, a single recipe can make 7 (in the case of Quest protein powder) different desserts.
Most protein powders are high in carbs and sugars. However, keto protein powder options are becoming more available as the diet gains in popularity. Quest protein powder, for example, is 1-3g of net carbs per serving, depending on the flavor. Other brands like Isopure have a line of products dedicated to low carb protein powders.
Protein powder is high in protein, hence the name. It is usually also low in fat, which is not necessarily desired on a ketogenic diet. For example, Quest protein powder has less than 2g of fat per serving for all of the flavors.
It’s important to keep this in mind when making desserts using keto protein powder. Adding fats like nut butter, heavy cream, coconut cream, or MCT oil are great ways to balance the high protein ratio.
There are several brands that have developed protein powders with higher fat content to improve the ketogenic macro ratio. These protein powders usually just add MCT oil, so it might be more cost effective to add your own fat rather than purchase keto protein powder since it usually has a higher price tag.
Keto protein powder is usually sweetened with stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, or sucralose. Stevia and monk fruit are more optimal than the alternatives, but each of these sweeteners is arguably better than traditional sugar.
If you are making a dessert with protein powder, you may want to add extra sweetener, depending on the brand and flavor. Quest protein powder has a deliciously sweet cinnamon crunch flavor that I do not need to sweeten. Their peanut butter flavor is less sweet, and I usually add a few drops of stevia if I am making a dessert with this powder.
Types of Protein
There are 3 primary types of proteins found in protein powders. They are: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate. Each one involves a different amount of processing that causes the body to absorb the protein differently.
Concentrates are produced by extracting protein from an entire food source. The composition is 60-80% protein and the rest of the powder is fat and carbohydrate based.
Isolates have been filtered additionally from concentrate to remove as much lactose as possible. This process also removes most of the fat and carbs, so the remaining powder is 90-95% protein.
Hydrolysates are processed one step further than isolates. The isolate is heated and amino acid bonds are broken down. This allows the protein to be more quickly absorbed by the body, but it can cause a quicker rise in insulin in the body.
There are several different foods that protein powders are made from. They can be plant or animal based. Animal-based protein powders tend to work the best for baking, but it ultimately depends on personal preference of texture and taste.
Most protein powder baked goods will usually come out dry, so it’s best to pair the protein with a source of fat when baking.
Whey protein is typically the most common form of protein found in protein powders. The protein comes from milk. It contains lactose, and may not be suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
Protein powders made with primarily whey protein isolate can usually still be consumed even if you have a sensitivity to dairy since lactose is the primary contributor to the intolerance. For example, Quest protein powder uses whey protein isolate.
Casein protein is absorbed slower by the body than whey protein. It is another animal-based protein found in milk.
Pea protein is traditionally made from yellow split peas. It is plant-based and vegan-friendly. Pea protein is a good option if you are sensitive to dairy.
Some people claim that it can have a stronger “earthy” taste in baked goods that may not be as desirable.
There are several other foods that are used. Some are more common than others, but most foods that have a relatively high protein content can be ground and processed into powder in some way.
A few of the other popular protein powder food sources include brown rice, hemp, and egg white.
There are thousands of protein powder brands on the market. Many of them are high in sugar and carbohydrates, but many of them are not.
A select few brands are also high in fat. The high-fat protein powders are convenient, but it is also easy to add fat to any other low-carb protein powder to increase the fat content and improve the keto macro ratio.
Isopure sells supplements including protein powder, collagen, and BCAAs. They are not traditionally sugar-free, but they do have a low-carb and keto-friendly line of products.
The low carb lines are 100% whey protein isolate. As a result, the lactose content is minimized, and the powders are virtually fat-free.
Isopure Zero contains 0 grams of carbs and is sweetened with scuralose. The macros for a single scoop of the Alpine Punch flavor are: 110 calories, 0.5g fat, 0g carb, 25g protein.
There are several varieties. Click on any of the flavors below to shop the Isopure Zero selection on Amazon.
The low carb protein line from Isopure is sweetened with a stevia and monk fruit blend. The macros for a single scoop of the Banana flavor are: 100 calories, 0g fat, 1g carb, 25g protein.
There are several varieties. Click on any of the flavors below to shop the Isopure Low Carb selection.
Isopure also offers an unflavored whey protein isolate. This would be a good idea if you are looking for the consistency of a protein powder, but want the ability to customize the sweetnes and flavor profile of the dish.
The macros for a single scoop are: 100 calories, 0g fat, 0g carb, 25g protein.
Quest Protein Powder
Quest Nutrition sells protein powders, bars, cookies, chips and more. All of their products are lower in net carbs than their traditional counterparts. Most of the products from Quest can fit into a low-carb or keto lifestyle, especially their protein powders.
The Quest protein powder is a whey protein blend of whey protein isolate and micellar casein. The powders are sweetened with stevia, erythritol, and stevia.
All of the flavors are 3g of net carbs or less, 0-1.5g of fat, and 20-26g of protein.
There are several varieties. Click on any of the flavors below to shop a particular Quest protein powder.
Primal Kitchen may be most well-known for their avocado oil dressings. However, they also sell supplements like whey protein powder and collagen. The protein powder is available in a chocolate coconut and vanilla coconut flavor.
Primal Kitchen protein powder is paleo and has 3g of net carbs per serving. The powder is sweetened with stevia and monk fruit.
The fat to protein ratio of this powder is better for a ketogenic diet. There are only 10g of protein per scoop, with 4g of fat. Typically, a scoop of protein powder is around 20g of protein, with no fat!
The macros for a scoop of the Primal Kitchen vanilla protein powder are: 90 calories, 4g fat, 4g carb (3g net), 10g protein.
Perfect Keto sells ketogenic supplements like MCT oil powder and exogenous ketones, as well as snacks like keto bars and nut butters. Additionally, Perfect Keto has a whey protein powder.
The whey protein powder is sold in chocolate, vanilla, and unflavored. All of their protein powders are sweetened exclusively with stevia.
The protein used is whey protein isolate from grass-fed cows.
Perfect Keto whey protein is unique in that is also contains MCT oil powder. This boosts the fat content of the protein powder so it is more aligned with ketogenic macros.
The macros for a single scoop of the Perfect Keto protein powder are: 100 calories, 4g fat, 2g carb, 15g protein.
Ancient nutrition sells high-quality dietary supplements for a variety of lifestyles, including keto and low carb.
They have several varieties of protein powder, including bone broth protein powder, keto protein powder, and traditional whey protein powder.
The Ancient Nutrition bone broth protein powder does not contain protein isolates, like most protein powders on the market.
The protein uses organic chicken protein concentrate as well as organic chicken bone broth concentrate.
Arguably, this protein powder is more nutrient dense than traditional protein powders, because it does not remove any of the nutrients when processing. Also, the bone broth provides many nutrients that aren’t normally found in protein powder.
The protein powder is paleo and can be consumed by people sensitive to dairy. It is stevia sweetened as well.
The macros for one serving of Ancient Nutrition bone broth protein powder in peanut butter are: 130 calories, 4g fat, 3g carb (2g net), 20g protein.
Most varieties of the bone broth protein are keto-friendly. The nitro beet + strawberry has 7g total carbs (5g net) per serving, which is the highest of all varieties.
Click on any of the flavors below to shop a particular Ancient Nutrition bone broth protein powder.
Whey Protein Powder
This protein powder is only available in vanilla. The protein is made from whey protein concentrate from grass-fed New Zealand cows.
The macros for a single scoop are: 100 calories, 1g fat, 2g carb, 20g protein.
Ancient Nutrition keto protein powder has the most optimal ketogenic macros ratios compared to other protein powders on the market. The protein blend includes chicken bone broth oil, which adds fat to the powder. It also uses MCT oil powder from coconut in the form of C8 to boost the fat content.
There are also herbs and spices including ashwagandha, ginger, black pepper, and long pepper.
The protein source comes from chicken bone broth protein concentrate and chicken protein concentrate and is sweetened with stevia and monk fruit.
Most of the powders, with the exception of the maple flavor, contain 50mg of caffeine.
The macros for a single scoop of the Ancient Nutrition chocolate keto protein powder are 100 calories, 11g fat, 2g carb, 15g protein.
Aside from the traditional protein shake, there are countless recipes that can use protein powders. Most are a dessert or other sweet dish, but there are a few recipes that utilize protein powder for savory foods.
Most companies that sell protein powders also have a section on their website for recipes that are often submitted by their customers. This can be a great option to search for your new favorite protein powder recipes. Quest protein powder is my favorite to use in baking because I enjoy the taste and flavor varieties they offer.
My two staple recipes using Quest protein powder are protein waffles and protein ice cream. In the summertime, I make the ice cream almost every night. And Saturday mornings are my waffle days. I look forward to Quest protein powder cinnamon crunch waffles every weekend while I’m driving home from the gym. These two recipes are both delicious guilt-free, keto-friendly options that help keep the diet sustainable for me.
For toppings, I like to use Lakanto monk fruit maple flavored syrup. Walden Farms is another option for a sugar-free syrup. I also use nut butters often because it helps to increase the fat. Also, protein waffles can be dry, so having a nut butter to spread on top combats this. I really like pili nut butter because it is really high in fat, and has a delicious creamy texture. You can use the coupon code HEALTHCODEHACK to save money on your online order.
You can get creative with your toppings and play to your tastes and preferences. I really enjoy making homemade whipped cream and adding a small handful of frozen berries for another topping. You could also mix in some sugar-free chocolate chips from Liliy’s for a chocolate treat. I have an entire article here about the best keto-friendly chocolate options!
Protein Ice Cream
Halo Top is dominating the market, but I’d argue you can make ice cream that is just as delicious, more affordable, and with less sugar at home. The entire recipe is only 4 ingredients, and it takes less than 5 minutes to make.
I grew up eating ice cream almost every single night in the summertime. Protein ice cream has been able to satisfy the craving that I still have for ice cream, without the sugar. I feel great after I eat it, and I look forward to making it almost every single night.
Add everything to a blender, and mix! Depending on your blender, it might be easier to blend the ice and milk first, to make sure that all of the chunks of ice are crushed.
If I’m using a less sweet protein powder like the peanut butter Quest protein powder, I will sometimes add an additional sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
The ice cream is best enjoyed immediately!