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Is Protein Powder Paleo?

September 13, 2023 13 min read

The Paleo diet takes us back to our roots, but does protein powder have a place in this ancient-inspired diet? It may come as a surprise, but there are quite a few protein powders that can fit into the Paleo framework, depending on their origin and how they're processed.

What is the Difference Between a Paleo-friendly and Not a Paleo-friendly Protein?

Well, when it comes to dietary proteins, there are clear distinctions between what fits into a Paleo diet and what doesn’t. Here's what separates the Paleo proteins from non-Paleo proteins:

The Caveman's Invite List: Proteins

  • Lean Meats: Think back to what our ancestors could hunt or find—beef, chicken, turkey, and pork often make this list. These ingredients should be free of added hormones or antibiotics when used for protein powders.

  • Fish: An excellent source of both protein and omega-3 fatty acids, fish is a Paleo staple. Be sure to look for protein powders made from wild-caught fish to avoid potential toxins and pollutants.

  • Eggs: If it comes from a bird, it's likely Paleo-approved! Eggs, particularly those from free-range chickens, are a good source of protein and have been of every breakfast/dinner table for thousands of years.

These proteins are minimally processed and do not contain artificial additives or preservatives, you know, the bad stuff.

They're a "yes" from the Paleo perspective because they could be obtained through hunting and gathering, much like our ancestors would have done. 

Party Crashers: Non-Paleo Proteins

While Paleo proteins are pretty straightforward, some proteins just don't make the cut. Most often, these non-Paleo proteins fall into one of the following categories:

  • Dairy: This includes proteins derived from milk, like whey and casein. Dairy products are not considered a go-to in the paleo world. Our ancestors did not raise animals for milk, so dairy is generally not considered Paleo.

  • Grains: Try and stay away from wheat, rice, corn, and other grains. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, not farmers, so grains are usually not on the menu.

  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, peanuts, and soy. Despite their high protein content, legumes aren't considered Paleo due to their phytic acid content, which can interfere with nutrient absorption.

While these categories cover most proteins you'll encounter, it's essential to remember the golden rule: the less processed, the better. Always opt for the most natural form of protein when choosing a supplement to fit into your Paleo lifestyle.

How to Choose a Quality Paleo Protein? The Problems with Paleo Protein Powder.

Choosing the best Paleo protein powder is like solving a puzzle, with each piece representing a different aspect of the product. And while this task may seem challenging, we're here to guide you:

Deciphering Labels

For most people, checking labels might feel like reading a foreign language, especially for Paleo protein powders. But once you know what to look for, it becomes a whole lot easier!

  1. Artificial Sweeteners: While they make the powder taste better, artificial sweeteners like sucralose (sugar) are not apart of the paleo family. Opt for natural sweeteners or, even better, unsweetened options. Remember, you want "clean protein"

  2. Steer Clear of Additives: Certain additives such as fillers, binders, and thickeners are a big no. Look for protein powders that avoid non-Paleo-friendly additives:

  • Fillers

Imagine you're making a giant snowman and you don't have enough snow. So, you get creative and start using leaves or dirt to make it look bigger. In food, fillers are just like that - they make the food look bigger but don't add any good stuff (nutrients) that your body needs.

  • Binders

Have you ever built a sandcastle? You need water to make the sand stick together, right? Binders in food are like the water in your sandcastle. They help the food stick together but don’t offer any health benefits.

  • Thickeners

Imagine you have a really thin, watery fruit juice. But you want it to be a bit thicker, like a smoothie. So, you add a banana or yogurt to make it thicker. Thickeners in food work in a similar way - they make foods thicker and smoother.

Just like we want to avoid filling our snowman with leaves or dirt, we want to avoid foods with lots of fillers, binders, and thickeners. These things don't give our bodies the good stuff we need to grow and stay healthy. So it's best to choose foods that have fewer of these and more of the good, natural stuff!

  1. Look Out for Non-Paleo Ingredients:  And of course, keep an eye out for grains, dairy, or legumes.

Source Matters

Your protein's origin is just as important as what's in it. Choose powders that come from Paleo food sources.

  • Preference for Pasture-raised: When choosing animal-based proteins, ensure they're from grass-fed, pasture-raised sources.

  • Plant-Based Alternatives: If you're considering plant-based proteins, go for seeds and nuts, but avoid legume-derived proteins like soy.

What about resistance training and the paleo diet?

Resistance training, focusing on muscle building and strength, needs a supportive diet, and that's where Paleo comes in. Let's break it down:

  • Fueling Muscles: Paleo-approved lean proteins can help serve as an excellent source of energy for muscles post-workout. They help in muscle recovery and growth, crucial aspects of resistance training.

  • Energy Reserves: The Paleo diet, rich in healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and seeds, provides a steady source of energy. These "healthy fats" are like your body's best friends.

They help your brain think better, keep your heart happy, and let your body soak up important vitamins. Plus, they act like long-lasting fuel, keeping you powered up and ready to go all day.

  • Vital Nutrients: Instead of buying vitamins from the supermarket, we can get them directly from what we eat.

Fruits and vegetables, an integral part of this diet, provide essential vitamins and minerals. These nutrients aid in optimal body function, boosting overall workout performance.

Role of Protein Powder in Resistance Training

Protein powder isn't the star of your resistance training but rather a useful backstage hand. It gives you an easy and speedy protein source that helps your muscles recover more quickly after a workout. 

After Exercise Nutrient Boost: Following resistance training, your body is ready to absorb nutrients like a dry sponge does water. A swift protein shake can fulfill this need seamlessly. 

The "Whole" Story: Supplementing vs. Replacing 

Protein powders are one of the many tools in our arsenal, but at the same time, they’re so misunderstood. 

They’re not a magic wand that can transform our eating habits with a single whisk. Their role is supplemental, adding value to a balanced diet, not a meal replacement - replacing the need for solid, nutrient-rich, real foods.

The Role of Protein Powders

Sure, a protein shake can tide you over until your next meal, but it doesn't have all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that a balanced meal offers. 


According to the National Institute of Health, adults should ideally derive only 10-15% of their calories from protein, so relying heavily on protein powders as a meal replacement may leave you missing out on essential nutrients and the wide range of health benefits they bring. 

Facts vs. Myths

Just like any popular diet, the Paleo lifestyle is filled with myths, misconceptions, and faqs. Let's debunk some of the most common ones and clear the air. 

Myth 1: The Paleo Diet is Just About Eating Large Amounts of Meat

Many people mistakenly view the Paleo diet as a meat-lovers paradise, picturing loaded plates of steak with a side of... well, more steak. While lean meats, including poultry and fish, are indeed part of a balanced Paleo diet, they're just one piece of a larger nutritional picture.

Fact: As mentioned before, a true Paleo diet involves a balanced intake of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. 

Myth 2: More Protein Means Faster Fat Loss

Protein does play a key role in helping you feel fuller for longer, which can indirectly assist with weight management. However, the idea that simply loading up on protein leads to speed-up fat loss isn’t a healthy approach.

Fact: For effective and sustainable weight or fat loss, a balanced diet that also takes portion control into account is key. Pairing this with regular exercise has proven more successful for weight management than high-protein diets alone.

Remember, the Paleo diet isn't a one-size-fits-all blueprint but a flexible framework for eating healthily. It's all about quality, balance for loss of fat, and, most importantly, enjoying your food. 

Balancing Act: How to Incorporate Protein Powder Into a Paleo Diet 

Time it Right 

Consider having a serving of protein powder with your meals within 30 minutes after your workout for optimal muscle recovery. 

This post-exercise window is often called the "anabolic window" when your muscles are ready to absorb nutrients most efficiently.

Pay Attention to Portion Sizes 

While protein is a key player in muscle repair and recovery, it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Consuming excessive protein can lead to digestive discomfort and, over time, may strain your kidneys

Tuning into Your Body: Individualizing Your Paleo Diet and Protein Intake

Everyone is different, and our bodies' responses to various foods and supplements can vary dramatically. There’s no general approach to muscle growth, so don’t be too hard on yourself as you journey through the Paleo-Protein world!

Adjusting to Your Activity Levels

Your protein needs can fluctuate based on your physical activity. If you're engaged in heavy resistance training or high-intensity workouts, you may need more protein than someone who is less active. 

Learn to adjust your protein intake to match your activity levels and meet your body's needs. 

Navigating Food Preferences and Intolerances

Each person has unique food preferences and tolerances. Some might prefer plant-based proteins, while others may gravitate toward animal proteins. 

Similarly, you might find that certain protein powders don't agree with your digestive system. 

Use this knowledge to select a protein powder that aligns with your preferences and won't cause discomfort. In a nutshell, being in tune with your body is crucial. No diet book or general guideline can know your body as you do. 

Individualizing your Paleo diet and protein intake according to your body's feedback can make your nutritional journey more effective and enjoyable. 

Your Guide to the 10 Best Paleo Protein Powders

Picking the best Paleo protein powder for you might seem daunting with so many choices out there. But don't worry, we'll be bringing you a comprehensive guide to the 10 best Paleo protein powders. This guide will cover everything from flavor to mixability to net carbs, helping you make an informed choice.

  1. PaleoPro Protein Powder: This isn't just a protein powder—it's the Tom Cruise of paleo protein powders. PaleoPro is a high-quality product swoops onto the scene with its clean-as-a-whistle ingredients, and muscled-up beef protein sourced from only the finest, pasture raised bovines. And if that isn't enough to get you excited, then the flavor will! With the use of Ancient Cacao's natural flavors, it's honestly a chocolatey dream come true, without a single gram of added sugar. It's a win-win.

  2. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides: Think of this as your paleo skin, hair, and joint fairy godmother in a tub. 

Vital Collagen Proteins brings you collagen peptides derived from, pasture-raised cows, offering a protein powder that's as clean as freshly fallen snow. This protein warrior is free from added hormones and goes the extra mile to keep GMOs out of your smoothie.

  1. Grass-Fed Beef Protein Isolate: For those who prefer their protein straight-up beef, this protein powder is your new BFF. It's like the all-you-can-eat steak buffet of protein powders. Sourced from grass-fed cows, this beef protein isolate provides a punch of protein without any added nonsense.

  2. Soy Protein Powder: Protein comes in many forms. Let's talk about a true plant-powered champion. 

Soy Protein Powder is what you need when you're looking to push your boundaries. It’s the protein-packed, dairy-free supplement that keeps you going without compromising your diet. 

If you're trying to steer clear of gluten and artificial sweeteners, this one's for you.

  1. Casein Protein Powder: You know how sometimes you just want a protein powder that sticks around and does its job? 

Casein Protein Powder has you covered. It's slow-releasing, which means it’ll keep feeding your muscles long after your workout. It's the hardworking, silent achiever of the protein powder world. Plus, it's made from grass-fed cows and comes with zero added hormones. Now, that's dedication.

  1. Egg White Protein Powder: When it comes to protein, egg white is a classic go-to. This Egg White Protein Powder is straight-up business. 

Packing 26g of protein per serving, it's serious fuel for your body, whether you're following a paleo or keto diet. Plus, it’s free from dairy, gluten, and artificial ingredients, sweetened naturally with monk fruit and stevia leaf extract, so it tastes really good!

  1. Pea Protein Isolate: You might not have thought of peas as powerful, but here we are. The Pea Protein Isolate is a rock-solid choice if you're on a paleo diet and looking for plant-based options. It’s a complete protein, with no net carbs, and it’s free from soy and gluten. Not bad for a tiny green veggie, right?

  2. Whey Protein Isolate: If you're after a protein source that's efficient and quick to absorb, Whey Protein Isolate steps up to the plate. Derived from grass-fed sources, this powder is all about clean, quick-absorbing protein for your post-workout recovery. And it’s free from hormones, GMOs, and gluten.

  3. Chocolate Flavored Paleo Protein: Who said chocolate and health can't go hand in hand? This Chocolate Flavored Paleo Protein powder is a sweet treat that combines cocoa and ancient cacao, without any guilt attached. It's sweetened with stevia, making your paleo protein shake taste like a dessert.

  4. Sunflower Lecithin Infused Protein: Next on deck is the Sunflower Lecithin Infused Protein. What sets it apart? Its mixability is a dream, and it provides beneficial phospholipids. It's a non-GMO, all-natural protein powder that checks all the boxes for your paleo lifestyle.

What to eat?

It's already hard enough just to learn, transition, and be consistent with your diet, let all keep up with different food options throughout the week.

That said, we've got you covered! 

Here is your one-week paleo menu, featuring meals loaded with protein, clean ingredients, and all-natural flavors. Feel free to adjust this dairy-free and grass-fed inspired menu based on your personal preferences. These are some of our favorite paleo meals, so get ready!

Monday Breakfast: Jumpstart your day with eggs and vegetables sautéed in olive oil, accompanied by one piece of fruit. Remember, protein is one of the most critical nutrients for your body. 

Lunch: Relish a tasty chicken salad tossed with olive oil and a handful of nuts. Each serving delivers a substantial amount of grams of protein. 

Dinner: Tuck into homemade burgers (without a bun), fried in butter and served with vegetables and salsa. It's so tasty, you won't miss the bun.

Tuesday Breakfast: Enjoy crispy bacon, protein-rich eggs, and one piece of fruit. This meal is both simple and pure. 

Lunch: Experience the joy of leftovers with the tasty burgers from last night. 

Dinner: Savor a mouthwatering baked salmon with vegetables packed with gut-friendly omega-3 fatty acids.

Wednesday Breakfast: Waste not! The leftover salmon and vegetables from the previous night make a fantastic breakfast. 

Lunch: Whip up a refreshing sandwich using a lettuce leaf instead of bread, filled with meat and fresh veggies. 

Dinner: Dive into a delicious ground beef stir-fry with vegetables and a side of berries. Your gut's going to love it!

Thursday Breakfast: Start your day with eggs and one piece of fruit. You can add a spoon of sugar-free protein powder to your morning smoothie. 

Lunch: Tuck into the leftover stir-fry from last night, adding a handful of nuts for extra crunch and protein. 

Dinner: End your day on a high note with some fried pork and vegetables.

Friday Breakfast: Begin your day with eggs and vegetables fried in olive oil, along with a piece of fruit. 

Lunch: Return to your favorite chicken salad with olive oil, garnished with a handful of nuts. 

Dinner: Enjoy a hearty, protein-loaded steak served with vegetables and sweet potatoes.

Saturday Breakfast: Delight in bacon, eggs, and one piece of fruit. Perfect for a weekend brunch! 

Lunch: Don't let good food go to waste. Use the leftover steak and veggies for a filling lunch. 

Dinner: Dine on baked tilapia with vegetables and avocado - a simple, yet delicious paleo dinner.

Sunday Breakfast: Kickstart your day with leftover salmon and vegetables. It's amazing what leftovers can do! 

Lunch: Assemble a light and easy sandwich using a lettuce leaf instead of bread, filled with meat and fresh vegetables. 

Dinner: Treat yourself to grilled chicken wings and vegetables topped with salsa.

For extra flavor and protein, consider adding a dash of paleo protein powder to your almond milk, smoothies, or shakes. 

These powders are free from pesticides, preservatives, and aspartame, making them a great choice for a clean diet. A fan favorite with a delicious chocolate flavor derived from real cocoa powder can be found on amazon.com. 

Protein powders can help supplement your protein intake and reduce potential gut issues caused by less healthy alternatives. Enjoy your paleo week!

Addressing Dietary Concerns: AIP, Dairy Free, and Beyond

Our dietary preferences can be as diverse as flavors in an ice cream shop; finding the perfect protein powder can be as tricky as choosing just one scoop. 

But fear not because Paleo protein powders are here to save the day and cater to your unique dietary needs. From AIP fans to dairy-free devotees and beyond, let's uncover how these powders check all the boxes and keep your taste buds dancing with delight.

Get ready for a tantalizing journey through the world of Paleo protein powders, where no dietary concern is left unanswered. Let's dig in!

So, you're rocking an AIP (Autoimmune Protocol), dairy-free, and soy and sugar-free lifestyle? That's impressive! When it comes to protein powders, you'll want to ensure they align with your dietary needs and preferences. Let's break it down:

  1. AIP-Friendly: If you're following the Autoimmune Protocol, it's all about reducing inflammation and promoting healing. When choosing a protein powder, keep an eye out for those that are AIP-compliant. 

Look for options that skip ingredients like nightshades, eggs, nuts, seeds, and certain spices. Instead, opt for protein powders that prioritize lean meats or fish as their primary protein source. And hey, good news! There are even plant-based protein powders available that meet the AIP guidelines, using sources like pumpkin seeds or hemp.

  1. Dairy-Free Delights: For those with a dairy-free lifestyle, finding the right protein powder is key. Luckily, Paleo protein powders are inherently dairy-free. Say goodbye to lactose worries and hello to protein-packed goodness! 

Whether you're lactose intolerant or embracing a vegan lifestyle, these powders provide an effective and delicious protein source. So, go ahead and whip up that dairy-free protein shake of your dreams.

  1. Skipping Soy and Sugar: Soy and sugar may not align with your dietary goals, and that's totally fine! Paleo protein powders have got your back. These clean and all-natural powders naturally steer clear of soy and sugar. So, you can rest easy knowing you're nourishing your body with protein that's free from unnecessary additives. It's a win-win for your low-carb or keto lifestyle too, as these powders tend to have low net carbs, keeping your diet on track.

By considering these factors, you can find a Paleo protein powder that meets your specific dietary needs while delivering the protein punch you're looking for. Remember to always check the ingredient list and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Now, armed with this knowledge, you're ready to conquer the protein powder aisle with confidence and a smile. Happy sipping, and stay awesome on your healthy journey!

Get Creative in the Kitchen 

Protein powder doesn't have to be tied solely to the shaker bottle. Get creative and incorporate it into your food. 

Think protein-packed pancakes for breakfast, a sprinkle in your afternoon smoothie, or even mixed into a savory sauce for dinner. The possibilities are endless, and a little experimentation can go a long way in preventing 'protein boredom.'

Remember, incorporating protein powder into your Paleo diet is not about replacing meals or natural food sources, but rather enhancing your nutritional intake and catering to your body's needs. One of the best ways to stay consistent is to always aim for a balanced, varied diet that supports your lifestyle, workout regimen, and overall health.