Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.
While most people take protein powder to support their muscle-building goals or to have a convenient on-the-go snack, you might wonder if it can be used for other reasons, such as increasing your iron intake.
Does protein powder have iron? Protein powder has iron, but the amount varies based on the type of powder. Pea protein has the highest iron content (7.5 mg) per scoop (30 g), while egg and whey have the lowest (0.6 mg). However, plant-based iron isn’t as absorbable as animal-based iron, so you’ll only get 0.15 to 1.5 mg of iron from pea protein.
While taking protein powder can help increase your iron intake, it’s also important to include high-vitamin C foods (like citrus fruits) and avoid high-calcium foods (dairy), coffee, and tea to have good iron absorption.
In this article, I will:
- Explore different protein powder options and their iron content
- Share my favorite protein powder brands with high iron content
- Provide tips on maximizing your iron intake with protein powder
How Much Iron Do You Need Daily?
How much iron people need varies according to gender and age. Here are the recommendations for how much iron you need per day:
- Men over 18: 8.7 mg
- Women from 19 to 50: 14.8 mg
- Women over 50: 8.7 mg
Iron is an essential nutrient since it keeps you healthy and helps you have high energy levels. When you have low iron levels, you might experience symptoms like chronic fatigue, lack of focus, and poor performance.
Iron is also an important mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body.
Consuming too little iron in your diet can cause an iron deficiency, leading to anemia (when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through your body).
Types of Protein & Iron Content
To summarize, here is a table with the iron content per 30 g of protein powder from highest iron content to the lowest.
|Protein Powder||Iron Content (mg) per scoop (30g)|
The numbers above are just averages since different protein powder brands will have different iron contents. If you’re trying to increase your iron intake, be sure to check the nutrition label to see how much iron your protein powder has.
Furthermore, plant-based iron doesn’t have the best absorption compared to animal-based iron. If you want to increase the absorption of plant-based iron, take it with a vitamin C source like berries, lemon, or guava, which can help increase iron absorption.
Benefits of Drinking Protein Powder With Iron?
There are several benefits to drinking protein powder with iron:
You Can Avoid Gastric Problems
Some people avoid taking an iron supplement because they can have a hard time digesting it. They might have stomach issues like heartburn, stomach cramps, and bloating.
Including a protein powder with iron can help you increase your iron levels without the unwanted gastrointestinal issues that can come from an iron supplement.
It’s Easier To Remember
Another benefit of including a protein shake high in iron is that it is easier to remember. This is especially true if you work out regularly and are in the habit of drinking a protein shake before, during, or after your workout.
For those that are forgetful about taking their medications, including foods high in iron (like protein shakes) can help you reach your daily intake.
- Related Article: Protein Shakes After Cardio: Pros, Cons, & Should You Do It?
You Can Consume Protein and Iron All At Once
Finally, another benefit of taking a protein powder with iron is that you get both protein and iron at the same time.
Including a protein shake can provide you with sufficient protein if reaching your protein goals is challenging at times and a good dose of iron if you need to increase your iron intake.
This way, you don’t have to be concerned with consuming a high-protein food source and a high-iron food source separately. Two birds, one stone.
Also, keep in mind that different protein sources have different protein content. While pea protein has a higher iron content, it has a lower protein content. Thus, you need to weigh which health goal you want to prioritize.
Do Protein Shakes Help With Iron Deficiency?
Yes, protein shakes can help with iron deficiency. Including high-iron foods like pea protein or hemp protein can help you reach your recommended iron intake. However, remember that plant-based iron is not as absorbable as animal iron.
Research shows that the body only absorbs 2 to 20% of the iron available in plants. So, if a scoop of pea protein contains 7.5 mg, you only absorb 0.15 to 1.5 mg. However, you can increase iron absorption by up to 67% by consuming plant-based protein powders with foods rich in vitamin C (like citrus fruits and strawberries).
That said, I recommend not relying on protein shakes to provide the iron you need to treat your iron deficiency. Include other high-iron foods like meats, spinach, nuts, and tofu to ensure you get enough.
Also, consult your doctor to determine why are iron-deficient and how much iron you need. They can guide you on the best ways to increase your iron intake.
Who Should Buy Protein Powder With High Iron?
People who can benefit from high-iron protein powders are:
Individuals With Conditions That Cause Blood Loss
People with diseases that can cause internal bleeding like a hiatal hernia, colon problems, or a stomach ulcer often have iron deficiencies due to chronic blood loss or decreased red blood cell production.
Women with heavy menstrual flows are also at risk of iron deficiency because they lose a lot of iron during their periods.
If you fall into one of these categories, you might benefit from taking a protein powder high in iron to help replenish the iron you lose in your blood and prevent complications like anemia.
Individuals Who Follow a Plant-Based Diet
You are at risk of being iron-deficient if you don’t consume enough animal products, whether it’s because you don’t like them or you follow a vegan diet.
For this reason, people who don’t consume animal products frequently can benefit from consuming a protein powder that’s high in iron.
Individuals With Conditions That Affect the Intestines
Another reason you would need a high-iron protein powder is that you have a health condition that affects the intestines (particularly the small intestine, which absorbs most of the nutrients from the food you eat).
For example, Celiac disease (in which you cannot process a protein called gluten) affects the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients like iron.
You might also have trouble absorbing iron if you’ve had part of your intestines removed.
People with any of these conditions might benefit from consuming a protein powder high in iron to help increase the body’s chances of absorbing more iron.
Iron deficiency is very common if you’re an athlete since you lose iron through your sweat, skin, and menstrual blood (for women).
During high-intensity workouts, more blood is needed to provide the muscles with oxygen and nutrients. Also, red blood cells (which are high in iron) are broken down faster in athletes and need to be replenished quickly, increasing iron necessity.
For these reasons, athletes who train hard could benefit from a protein powder that’s high in iron.
Best Protein Powders For Iron Deficiency
Below are some of my favorite protein powder brands with a high iron content:
Now Sports Nutrition (8 mg)
Now Sports Nutrition offers a pea protein with the highest amount of iron available. It has 8 mg of iron per scoop. One of my favorite things about this protein is that its only ingredient is yellow pea protein.
I like having an unflavored version in my kitchen since it is a very versatile supplement to have. You can add it to savory dishes like soups or have it in a shake.
Sunwarrior Protein (5.6 mg)
Sunwarrior Protein is another top choice when you want to increase your iron content. It has 5.6 mg of iron per scoop.
Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which your body cannot produce. These are essential amino acids, and they need to come from your diet.
One of my favorite things about the Sunwarrior protein is its blend of foods. It has pea, hemp, and Goji berry protein. This means you can get different amino acids, providing all the essential amino acids the body needs.
Tips For Increasing Iron Intake In Your Protein Shake
To increase iron intake with your protein shake, follow these tips:
Don’t Mix Your Protein Powder With Dairy Products
Studies show that calcium (which is found in high amounts in dairy products) can reduce iron absorption by 49 to 62%. So, make sure not to combine anything high in calcium with your protein powder.
Other high-calcium foods to avoid having with your protein shake include yogurt, figs, and chia seeds.
Don’t Use a Casein Protein Powder
In addition to whey, casein is a type of protein found in cow’s milk. Research shows that consuming casein can decrease iron absorption.
It’s best to avoid using a casein protein powder in your shake when you want to increase your iron intake.
Don’t Mix Your Protein Powder With Coffee or Tea
Research shows that drinking a cup of coffee or tea can reduce iron absorption by 30 to 60%. The stronger the coffee or tea, the less iron you absorb.
So, while mixing your protein powder with a cup of coffee can be a delicious treat, it’s best to consume them separately to ensure you will have good iron absorption.
Add Sources of Vitamin C
As I’ve mentioned, vitamin C can help increase iron absorption in the body.
Some high-vitamin C foods are blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit, guava, lemon, oranges, kiwi fruit, and leafy greens.
When you have a high-iron protein powder, turn it into a shake with spinach and any fruit listed above to boost the flavor and increase iron absorption.
Add Other High-Iron Foods
Remember that most protein powders are not high in iron, and those that are, won’t have a high absorption rate.
Include other high-iron foods in your protein shake to ensure you consume enough iron.
You can blend in high-iron foods like legumes (for example, peanuts) or leafy greens like kale. One ounce of peanuts (28 g) and one cup of chopped kale give you 6 – 7% of the daily recommended values for iron.
If you don’t want to blend foods into your shake, you can also have a bowl of fortified cereal or instant oats, which give you more than 10% of the daily recommended value for iron per packet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Whey Protein Have Iron?
Whey protein only has 0.6 mg of iron per scoop (30 g).
Does Casein Protein Have Iron?
Casein protein has iron, but the amount depends on the brand. For example, Ascent’s casein protein powder has 1 mg of iron per scoop (30 g).
However, other brands, like Dymatize, don’t offer any iron.
Does Pea Protein Have Iron?
Pea protein has high levels of iron since it offers 7.5 mg per scoop (30 g).
Does Hemp Protein Have Iron?
Hemp protein powder is also high in iron since it has 5.8 mg of iron per scoop (30 g).
Does Rice Protein Have Iron?
Rice protein powder contains 2.3 mg per scoop (30 g).
Does Soy Protein Have Iron?
Soy protein has 3.2 mg of iron per scoop (30 g).
Does Egg White Protein Have Iron?
Egg white protein powder has 0.6 mg of iron per scoop (30 g).
What To Read Next
- Is Cholesterol In Whey Protein Powder Bad?
- Is Protein Powder Acidic or Alkaline?
- Does Whey Protein Have Calcium?
- Is Protein Powder Acidic or Alkaline?
- Does Whey Protein Have Lactose & Can You Drink It?
- Does Whey Protein Powder Have Sugar?
Hallberg L, Hulthén L. Prediction of dietary iron absorption: an algorithm for calculating absorption and bioavailability of dietary iron. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5):1147-60. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/71.5.1147. Erratum in: Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Nov;72(5):1242. Erratum in: Am J Clin Nutr 2001 Aug;74(2):274. Erratum in: Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov;84(5):1253. PMID: 10799377.
Moskovitz M, Fadden R, Min T, Jansma D, Gavaler J. Large hiatal hernias, anemia, and linear gastric erosion: studies of etiology and medical therapy. Am J Gastroenterol. 1992 May;87(5):622-6. PMID: 1595651.
Chatard JC, Mujika I, Guy C, Lacour JR. Anaemia and iron deficiency in athletes. Practical recommendations for treatment. Sports Med. 1999 Apr;27(4):229-40. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199927040-00003. PMID: 10367333.
Joyner, M. J., & Casey, D. P. (2015). Regulation of increased blood flow (hyperemia) to muscles during exercise: a hierarchy of competing physiological needs. Physiological reviews, 95(2), 549–601. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00035.2013
Mairbäurl H. (2013). Red blood cells in sports: effects of exercise and training on oxygen supply by red blood cells. Frontiers in physiology, 4, 332. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2013.00332
Cook JD, Dassenko SA, Whittaker P. Calcium supplementation: effect on iron absorption. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Jan;53(1):106-11. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/53.1.106. PMID: 1984334.
Hurrell RF, Reddy M, Cook JD. Inhibition of non-haem iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages. Br J Nutr. 1999 Apr;81(4):289-95. PMID: 10999016.
Massey AC. Microcytic anemia. Differential diagnosis and management of iron deficiency anemia. Med Clin North Am. 1992 May;76(3):549-66. doi: 10.1016/s0025-7125(16)30339-x. PMID: 1578956.
Hallberg L, Rossander L. Effect of soy protein on nonheme iron absorption in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 1982 Sep;36(3):514-20. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/36.3.514. PMID: 7202330.
Spencer, M., Gupta, A., Dam, L. V., Shannon, C., Menees, S., & Chey, W. D. (2016). Artificial Sweeteners: A Systematic Review and Primer for Gastroenterologists. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility, 22(2), 168–180. https://doi.org/10.5056/jnm15206
Li N, Zhao G, Wu W, et al. The Efficacy and Safety of Vitamin C for Iron Supplementation in Adult Patients With Iron Deficiency Anemia: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(11):e2023644. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.23644
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.