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As a Registered Dietitian, one of the most common problems I hear from clients is how to reach their protein requirements. The most obvious solution is adding a protein powder to make it easier. While it is an excellent option, some protein powders have carbs, which you need to think about before buying a specific type or brand.
So, do protein powders have carbs? Most protein powders do not have carbs. The carb content depends on the protein’s origin, whether it comes from dairy, plants, or soy. As well, protein powders can contain more or less carbs based on how the protein is manufactured or if they contain added sugars to increase flavor or palatability.
In this article, I will analyze several common types of protein powders to determine how many carbs they contain. By the end, you’ll know which protein has the highest and lowest carb content, so you can buy a protein powder that fits your nutritional goals.
Is Protein Powder High In Carbs?
Protein powders are not typically high in carbs. While most are low in carbs or have zero carbs, some plant-based protein powders have higher carb contents, such as rice protein, hemp protein, and pea protein.
As well, when considering whether protein powder is high in carbs or not, you need to look at whether the protein powder is advertised as a “meal replacement” or “mass gainer”. In these cases, protein powders are often stacked with carbohydrates (such as maltodextrin) in order to increase the calorie contents.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a low-carb protein powder, you’ll want to ensure that it’s being sold and marketed as “protein powder” and not another type of supplement.
- Learn more about the differences between Mass Gainer & Protein Shakes.
Types of Protein & Carbs
Protein powders come in different forms, which impact how many carbs each product contains.
The two most common types of protein powder are made from either ‘whey protein’ or ‘casein protein’.
However, both of these types of protein are dairy-based and if you have an intolerance to dairy, or you’re following a vegan diet, then you’ll need to consider other types.
The following table breaks down 8 different types of protein powder and how many calories, carbs, protein, and fats they contain per 100 g.
Note: Keep in mind that while it varies from each brand 1 scoop of protein is around 30 g.
Does Whey Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Whey protein does have some carbs, which could range from 0-9 grams per scoop depending on the brand.
Whey is one of the proteins that come from dairy.
Milk is composed of all three macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats. However, most of the lactose (the carb source of milk) is removed during the processing, leaving mostly just the protein content.
There are two types of whey proteins: isolate and concentrate. While there are several differences between them, one of them is the carb content.
Whey isolate proteins tend to be lower in carbs (1-2 grams) compared with whey concentrate (3-4 grams).
Some protein brands are sold as 100% whey protein isolate, while others have a mix of isolate and concentrate. You’ll need to read the ingredient panel of each whey protein brand to determine its split between isolate and concentrate.
One example of a whey isolate protein that doesn’t have carbs is IsoPure, since it has 0g of carbs per serving.
If you compare it to Pure Protein (made from whey concentrate), it has a higher carb content, 9 g of carbs per scoop.
- Related Article: Pure Protein Powder Review
Does Casein Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Casein protein doesn’t have a significant amount of carbs. On average, you get 3-6 grams of carbs per serving size. This depends on the brand and the type of flavor that you consume.
Casein is another protein that you get from milk. In contrast to whey, it has a slower absorption rate, which is ideal for people who tend to have higher fasting periods (time between meals).
For example, for people looking to gain weight, consuming casein before bedtime can help you provide a steady amino acid release during your sleep. This allows for better muscle recovery and growth.
Like whey protein, it undergoes the same process as whey, which means that most carbs and fats are removed from the powder.
Two of my favorite casein brands low in carbs are the GNC brands and Elite Casein. The GNC casein has 4g of carbs per scoop, while the Elite Casein has only 2g. Whichever you choose is an excellent low-carb option.
- Related Article: Is Protein Powder Acidic or Alkaline? (We Examine 7 Types)
Does Egg Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Egg protein doesn’t have any carbs in them. However, they can contain a significant amount of fat, depending on the source. For example, egg protein that comes from egg white doesn’t have any fats, while egg protein made from yolk can contain a significant amount of fat.
Eggs are a high-nutrient food that are packed with high-quality protein. Egg protein powder is made by removing the egg yolk and dehydrating the egg whites. They are then pasteurized to neutralize a component called avidin, which inhibits the absorption of vitamin B6.
While it is not common, you can find some egg protein powder that does include the yolk, which is mostly advertised to people on a keto diet because they require a higher fat intake in their diets.
Keto thin is a brand that has both an egg white protein and a protein-based on egg yolks. They contain less than 1 g of carbs per serving, but they are higher in fats, providing 15 g of fat per serving.
Does Collagen Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Collagen naturally doesn’t contain any carbs. Thus, most collagen protein powders offer 0 g of carbs in their mixes unless there are added additives (for flavor), increasing their carb content. However, this is not a typical practice.
Collagen is found in your nails, hair, ligaments, joints, and nails. Collagen protein powder is made from animal by-products like bones, fish scales, and eggshell membranes. In most cases, they are unflavored, making them ideal for adding to smoothies or your soups, without adding carbs.
There are two collagen protein powder brands that I typically recommend, which are Vital Proteins and Orgain Collagen peptides. Both don’t have any carbs in them, and they come unflavored, which makes them great for mixing with smoothies.
Does Soy Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Since soybeans contain carbs, there is a good chance soy protein powder contains carbs as well. Soy protein powders can range from having 0 g of carbs to 15 grams per serving. It depends on the brand and the type of soy protein you buy.
Soy protein is made from grinding soybeans into a powdered form. Once you get the powdered form, you remove most of the carbs and the fat and turn it into a soybean isolate powder. While this process removes the carbs, in some cases, there are added additives that could increase the carb contents.
Now Sports offer a soy-based protein option that offers 0 g per scoop, ideal for those that want a plant-based option with no carb content. However, you need to read the nutritional label even in the same brand carefully. For example, this other Now Sports soy protein vanilla-flavored has 13 g of carbs.
Related Article: Do Bodybuilders Eat Soy?
Does Pea Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Peas are another natural source of both protein and carbs. This means that you might have a higher carb content with pea protein powder compared with other types. Pea protein powder can range from having 1-10 g of carbs per serving.
Pea protein is made like soybeans. You grind them until you get a powdered form. Once you get a powder, you remove most of the carbs and fats to create an isolated version (which is reduced in carbs and fats).
Since pea proteins might not have the best taste, they are added with additives and sugars to increase palatability. That is why plant-based protein often might be higher in carbs than whey or casein proteins.
Plant-based proteins don’t contain all the essential amino acids you need to make a “complete protein”. Therefore, in most cases, you find blends of plant-based proteins to increase the amino acid profile. For example, it’s common to have a blend of pea, rice, and hemp protein in one powder.
However, you can find protein powders that are only pea-based. Naked pea protein is an excellent option, and it only contains 2 grams of carbs. Another great option is Anthony’s premium pea protein, which has less than 1 gram of carb per serving.
Does Rice Protein Powder Have Carbs?
While rice is a food high in carbs, enzymes are added to remove the carb content during the process of making it. Thus, rice protein tends to be low in carbs. You can find rice proteins that contain 2 to 10 grams of carbs per serving.
Rice protein is often the option searched by people with allergies. Rice is a hypoallergenic food, making it ideal for people with soy or cow milk intolerances. The same with pea protein, some brands add sugars and additives to increase palatability, which means that the carb content might go higher.
Organic Naked Rice Protein is an excellent option that offers only 4 grams of carbs per serving. If you are searching for a lower carb intake, you might want to try NutriBiotic, which offers only 2 grams of carbs per scoop.
Does Hemp Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Hemp protein contains a small number of carbs. They are higher in carbs than other plant-based options and could range from 4-10 grams of carbs per serving.
Unlike other plant-based proteins, hemp contains all the essential amino acids your body needs, making it a high-quality, complete protein. It is made by grinding the hemp seeds until you get them into powdered form.
Nutiva Protein and Anthony’s Organic Hemp Seed protein both offer an excellent choice for those looking to add more hemp protein to their diets. However, they are higher in carbs since they both contain 8 grams of carbs per serving.
What Kind of Carbs Are In Protein Powder?
There are 4 carb sources that you can find in protein powder.
- Maltodextrin. It is a carb often added to increase the volume of a powder, provide thickness, or provide sweetness along with another artificial sweetener (like sucralose, stevia, acesulfame K, monk fruit). It’s a simple carb due to its heavy processing. It is quickly absorbed in your body and can cause sugar spikes.
- Rice dextrin. Dextrin is a type of carb often found in protein powder. It is used as a thickener to change the consistency of the protein drink.
- Sugars. They are added to increase the palatability of the product. They are a simple carb since they don’t need any digestion from the body and are absorbed straight away.
- Natural sugar from the food source. If your primary protein source has some carbs (for example dairy, rice, hemp, or pea) it is most likely that your shake will also have some as well. They are complex carbs, meaning that they need some digestion and are released slower into your bloodstream.
Related Article: What To Mix Protein Powder With (13 Examples)
3 Reasons Why Your Protein Powder May Have Higher Carbs
1. You’re Buying a Mass Gainer, Not Protein Powder
Mass gainers are intended to provide a high caloric intake in a small volume of food. This means that you find high carb content.
For those that have trouble adding calories to their diet, this is a great option to help you achieve your goals. You get both the protein and the calories that come from the carbs.
Optimum Nutrition offers an excellent mass gainer. You get 1250 kcal, 254 g of carbs, 50 g of protein, and 3 g of fats in two scoops.
I would only suggest these products for ‘hard gainers’ though, i.e. people who struggle with eating high-calorie diets. For the most part, I recommend trying to get most of your calories from whole foods, not supplements.
2. You’re Buying a Protein Shake, Not Protein Powder
The carb content also depends on whether it is powdered or shake form. Ready-made protein shakes tend to have a higher carb content than protein powders. This is because shakes are advertised as “meal replacements”, which should include additional calories coming from both carbs and fats.
For example, Muscle Milk offers both protein shakes and protein powders. In this case, the powdered form has 3g of carbs, while the shake has 8g of carbs.
If you’re looking for lower carb, always opt for products that advertise protein “powder” not “shakes”.
3. The Flavor You Picked Requires More Additives
The flavor also impacts whether or not the protein has a higher carb content.
While this might not seem like a significant difference, there are other cases, like the Now Protein soy blends (previously discussed), where the difference was more significant (0g for the unflavored vs. 13 g for the vanilla flavor).
- Related Article: Does Whey Protein Have Calcium? (A Nutrition Coach Answers)
3 Best Low Carb Protein Powders
If you are looking for a protein powder that only provides protein, here are my top three choices that have no carbs or not a significant carb content.
IsoPure is one of my favorite brands of protein powders that doesn’t have any carbs in them. You get 110 kcal, 0 g carbs, 25 g of protein, and 0.5 g of fat in one scoop.
A protein powder that only has one macro makes it ideal for those tracking macros since you don’t have to consider the other two macros (fats and carbs). This makes it also ideal for people that are following a ketogenic diet.
Elite 100% Whey Protein
Elite 100% Whey protein is one of my favorites when it comes to flavor and nutritional content. You get 140 kcal, 2 g of carbs, 25 g of protein, and 3 g of fat per scoop.
Even though it has some carbs and fat, for someone that goes to the gym regularly but doesn’t need to control every gram of macros, the number of carbs and fats won’t be significant in your diet.
Gold Standard 100% Casein
Gold Standard 100% Casein is ideal for people looking for long digestive protein if you are one of those people who have long periods of fasting.
For example, if you have several meetings in the morning and don’t have time to have a snack, a slow-release protein can help you provide a constant amino acid release, making you feel fuller for longer.
One scoop of this protein powder provides 120 kcal, 4 g of carbs, 24 g of protein, and 1 g of fat.
Other Whey Protein Resources
- Does Protein Powder Have Caffeine? (30+ Brands Inspected)
- How Many Calories Are In A Protein Shake? (9 Examples)
- Can Teenagers Take Whey Protein? (What The Science Says)
- Will I Lose Muscle If I Stop Taking Whey Protein?
- Can You Cook With Protein Powder?
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Carbs In Body Fortress Whey Protein?
One scoop of Body Fortress Whey Protein has 8 g of carbs (Chocolate Flavor). Compared to other protein powders like Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein, it does contain a significant amount of carbs.
How Many Carbs In Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein?
One scoop of Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein has around 3 g of carbs (Double Rich Chocolate). It is lower in carbs than other protein powders like Fortress Whey Protein since it has less than half the carbs provided by the other protein powder.
How Many Carbs In Chocolate Whey Protein?
It depends on the brands, but on average, you can find protein powders with 3 to 6 grams of carbs for a chocolate protein powder. For example, Elite100% Whey Chocolate flavor has only 3 g of chocolate. If you are looking for a protein powder with low carb content, this is an ideal option.
How Many Carbs in Vanilla Whey Protein?
While it depends on the brand, you can find vanilla protein powders with two to nine grams of carbs. It depends mostly on the brand and not always on the flavor. For example, Elite 100% Whey Gourmet Vanilla protein powder only has 2 g of carbs, while Pure Protein vanilla flavor has 9 g.
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