How to Use Protein Supplements With Macro Dieting

Filed under Counting Macros

Many macro dieters find it can be challenging to eat enough protein to fulfill their daily recommendation. This macro is vital for productive muscle gains and for maintaining the muscle you already have.

But, relying on whole foods to meet this macro can be challenging if you are engaged in strength training.

Here are some examples to give you an idea of how much food would be required to get a person to their recommended daily amount of protein.

If you were a 170 pound male and striving for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight in order to build muscle, here’s the food it would take.

170 Grams of Protein Equals…

  • 26 ounces (737 grams) of raw boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 27 large eggs
  • 31 ounces (879 grams) of lean sirloin steak
  • 26 ounces (737 grams) of yellowfin tuna
  • 68 ounces (1.9 kg) of chickpeas (for vegetarians)

Yikes, that’s a lot of chicken! And, eating that much of some of those will throw your other macros out of balance. 68 ounces of chickpeas also contains 529 grams of carbs!

Besides, who has $20 to spend on tuna every day?

I think that the simplest solution to the “getting enough protein” dilemma is to use a quality protein supplement in conjunction with a healthy diet.

This is a cost-effective and much simpler way to get those essential protein grams without eating all that meat or those legumes.

How to Choose a Protein Supplement?

There are so many protein supplements to choose from, but here are some good guidelines to follow when picking one that works well with macro counting/ IIFYM.

  • Choose a protein supplement from a brand with a good reputation. While it might be tempting to go with a cheap bargain brand, the quality of the protein may be questionable as well as its source.
  • Pick one that is as pure protein as possible. This way it has little impact on your other macro totals. Avoid brands that are labeled as “weight gainer” because these are usually also rich in fat and carbs.
  • Taste is important and I like to have a couple different flavors on hand. I always have a vanilla on hand so I can blend it with fruit etc. Buy a small amount of a new brand to see if you like it or try to get a sample. Don’t commit to a 5-pound tub if you’re not sure you’ll like the flavor and texture.
  • Additives: Protein supplements vary greatly when it comes to additives and choose one that has the number of additives you’re comfortable with. In the brands I’ve tried below, sometimes when you get rid of the additives, you also sacrifice a little on the taste and/or texture.

Brands To Try

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is one of the best selling protein powders in the world. They also have one of the largest range of flavors.

Macros per scoop:

  • 24 grams of protein
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 3 grams of carbs

Sweetened with: Sucralose and Ace-K

Taste: This brand has a great vanilla flavor and is easy to drink. I also blended in some blueberries and created a great tasting protein fruit smoothie.

Overall opinion: This is a good choice for value per scoop, taste, and protein concentration as well as for those who don’t mind artificial sweeteners.

See Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard

Inner Armour Nitro Peak Whey Protein

nitro peak whey

This brand is sold at popular stores such as Vitamin World and is often offered at buy one, get one free or get one at 50% off, which is a great bargain.

Macros per scoop:

  • 24 grams of protein
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 5 grams carbs

Sweetened with: Sucralose

Taste: I’ve bought and tried both their vanilla and chocolate flavor. Both have a good flavor and make a thick and easy to drink shake.

Questionable ingredients: Artificial flavors, artificial sweetener

Overall opinion: Nitro Peak Whey offers a great value per scoop if you are able to catch a good sale at Vitamin World. It has limited additives and includes lactase for people who are sensitive to lactose. However, it has a tad too much fat and too many carbs than I typically like in my protein supplement.

Get Nitro Peak Whey

Optimal Results Whey Protein Matrix

optimal results

Macros per scoop:

  • 25 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fat
  • 3 grams carbs

Sweetened with: Sucralose, and Ace-K

Taste: I bought and tried their chocolate fudge flavor which has a nice chocolate flavor and makes a thick shake that’s easy to drink.

Questionable ingredients: Optimal Results uses some artificial flavors, sweeteners, carrageenan, and anti-caking agents like sodium silco aluminate.

Overall opinion: This is another brand that offers a good value per protein amount and little of the other macros. Also, it’s a blend of protein and amino acids which help the body to incorporate it a little better. I like that it contains lactase for all of us that are a little sensitive to dairy, but it would be nice to see fewer additives.

Get Optimal Results 


abouttime protein

This brand is one of the purest brands I’ve tried and they have not only whey protein but vegan protein options as well. They have a wide range of flavors available and use no artificial sweeteners or flavors.

Macros per scoop:

  • 25 grams of protein
  • Less than 1 gram fat
  • 1 gram carbs

Sweetened with: Stevia

Taste: I’ve tried the chocolate peanut butter and the vanilla flavors. Both have a nice flavor, but they do not get thick like most protein shakes and the stevia aftertaste is a bit noticeable.

Questionable ingredients: None

Overall Opinion: AboutTime is the best choice for those looking for a clean protein supplement with just 4 natural ingredients. But, this product is a little more expensive per scoop and some may not like the thinner texture of the shake. I do like that this one is almost entirely protein so it doesn’t influence your other macro totals.

Get AboutTime

The Plant Era

Plant Era vegan protein

This is quality vegan protein option for people that prefer plant-based protein. It uses 95% organic ingredients and comes in two flavors.

Macros per scoop:

  • 21 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber

Sweetened with: Stevia

Taste: I tried the dark chocolate flavor and it has a nice chocolate flavor that’s just lightly sweetened. Plant Era is a lot less sweet than many brands that I’ve tried, of which can at times be too sweet. I blended Plant Era with ice and water but it would also be great as a smoothie using a frozen banana, peanut butter, or frozen raspberries.

Questionable ingredients: None

Overall Opinion:  The Plant Era is a great plant-based protein option and it also includes 50% RDA of vitamin B12 which is often lacking in vegan diets. It delivers a wide range of amino acids and has little impact on a person’s other macro counts.

Try The Plant Era here. 

Protein supplements can be a helpful addition to a macro-based diet, but their consumption daily shouldn’t be more dominant than real, whole food sources of protein.

For some of the best whole food protein choices see 75 of the best carb, protein, and fat sources.

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  • Frestedt, J. L., Zenk, J. L., Kuskowski, M. A., Ward, L. S., & Bastian, E. D. (2008). A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5(1), 1. abstract
  • Tipton, K. D., Elliott, T. A., Cree, M. G., Aarsland, A. A., Sanford, A. P., & Wolfe, R. R. (2007). Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 292(1), E71-E76. abstract
  • Hayes, A., & Cribb, P. J. (2008). Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 11(1), 40-44. abstract
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, author, and macros coach. He has helped hundreds of clients reach their body transformation goals.
Updated May 9, 2022


  • Ak

    Is it okay to have casein protein shake every night for hitting macros!

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      Hi Ak, I think it’s better to use protein supplements within 30 minutes after working out and then use whole foods to reach your total protein intake. It might be easy to use protein shakes every day but this will soon get old and you’ll get tired of them. If you’re finding hitting your protein target too difficult you may have it set too high. Most people think they need more than they actually do because of some prevailing fitness myths out there. Here’s an article of mine that talks about protein needs in detail. Top 20+ Protein Foods When Counting Macros

  • sandrico suave

    I LOVE the About Time Cinnamon Swirl!