Best Whey Proteins for Packing on Muscle, Shredding Down, Meal Replacement, and More
Protein is one of the most widely utilized supplements on the market and there is a good reason behind it. Protein is one of the three macronutrients our bodies need in order to function at its highest level. There are several types of proteins to choose from including soy, casein, and the tried and true classic, whey protein. Within the whey category, you have whey isolates, whey concentrates, and hydrolyzed wheys.
Any dedicated gymrat knows that protein is the powerhouse macro that may assist on your journey to getting massive. Studies suggest that gymgoers should consume between 1.6 and 2.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily for growth. (1) Whey proteins specifically are derived from milk sources and are a delicious and easy way to get extra protein throughout your day. We considered whey proteins that were best for a plethora of goals and made sure we tried dozens of products to ensure we provided high-quality, tasty, and protein-dense whey powders for you to add to your regimen.
Best Whey Protein Powders
Best Whey Protein Powder Overall: Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
Best Whey Protein Powder for Muscle Gain: Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Best Whey Protein Powder for Weight Loss: Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
Best Whey Protein Powder for the Money: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey
Best Tasting Whey Protein Powder: Onnit Whey Protein
Best Whey Protein Isolate: Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
Best Whey Protein Powder for Recovery: Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Best All-Natural Whey Protein Powder: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein
Best Whey Protein Meal Replacement: Kaged Clean Meal Protein Shake
Best Whey Protein for Weight Gain: Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Best Whey Protein Powder Overall
For a whey protein to win our best overall pick, it has to pack a solid dose of protein, have delicious flavors to choose from, come at a reasonable price point, and provide something extra to stand out from the rest. Swolverine’s Whey Isolate has 26g of protein, four great flavor choices, a decent price point and includes digestive enzymes, which may help with the bloating and gassiness some whey concentrates or vegan blends can produce.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
Whey isolates — like this one from Swolverine — are generally higher in protein content while keeping carbs and fats relatively low. Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate is the perfect option for those in a cutting phase or anyone getting ready for a bodybuilding show. This formula provides 26 grams of protein per serving, half a gram of fat, and one gram of carbohydrates. It also contains the digestive enzymes protease and papain, which may be better on your stomach if you tend to have issues digesting whey concentrate or casein protein powders.
At around $2.00 per serving, this isolate is a bit pricier compared to other types of whey protein on the market, which is due to the high protein content — an isolate has to be 90 percent protein by weight — and the process it takes to achieve its final form. The process itself starts with enzymes being added to milk that separates the whey from the milk. Then, the milk curds are extracted leaving behind watery whey, which is then pasteurized. The final step after pasteurization is to heat treat it and isolate it so that it is 90 percent protein by weight and leaves behind minimal fats, carbs, and lactose. (2)
This whey powder has 110 calories per serving and comes in four delicious flavor options — Vanilla, Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter. We think it’s a great choice for those looking to make a tasty post-workout shake, or for anyone who likes a formula that tastes great with water or milk.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate Should Be Good For
Anyone who is cutting for a show or who is looking to lose weight will appreciate the 26g of protein per serving with minimal carbs and fats.
Folks who are concerned with digestion will be happy to see papain and protease in this formula for potentially easier digestion.
If you’re looking for delicious flavors that mix well into shakes or are enjoyable on their own, you’ll like these four flavor choices.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate Might Not Be Good For
People who prefer a heavier fat and carb source to make gains will have to look outside of an isolate formula or potentially even opt for a mass gainer.
Anyone who is on a budget — especially if you aren’t tied to an isolate — will find cheaper options on the market.
Folks who want a more fully stacked protein that contains extras like creatine.
This lean isolate formula boasts a high protein content and offers digestive enzymes which may leave you feeling less bloated or gassy than a whey concentrate protein powder would. With four delicious flavors to choose from, one of the only downsides here is that this powder is a touch pricier than some others on this list.
Best Whey Protein for Muscle Gain
For gymgoers who want to put on size and strength, you’ll need a whey protein that packs a big punch. This formula contains between 23g and 25.5g of protein per serving — flavor dependent — along with 5g of BCAAs which can help you rebuild muscle.
Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Huge Supplements Whey Protein formula packs at least 23g of protein per serving to aid you in your quest for huge muscles. When you lift heavy, you tear your muscle fibers and it takes proper recovery and supplementation for them to grow back bigger and stronger. (3) With high protein content, between 120 and 150 calories per serving, and the addition of 5g of BCAAs this formula may be the key to unlocking major gains.
BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine are three essential amino acids and may help prevent muscle breakdown and promote better muscle recovery and growth. (4) The potential benefits are only further complemented by four delicious flavor choices — Cookies and Cream, Vanilla Milkshake, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Strawberry Cheesecake. At $1.66 per serving, this product boasts a fairly reasonable price tag, so your gains are budget-friendly.
Huge Supplements Whey Protein Should Be Good For
Those who are looking to gain muscle and need a whey that is high in protein will like that this supp has between 23g and 25g per serving.
Athletes who want the addition of BCAAs will appreciate the 5g here.
Those who enjoy sweet and delicious flavors will like the four here.
Huge Supplements Whey Protein Might Not Be Good For
Those who like more unique flavors or a larger selection to choose from will want to find a whey protein line that has more than four flavors.
Folks who have digestive issues may want to opt for a vegan protein or a formula with digestive enzymes included.
Those who want to bulk buy whey as this only comes in 30 serving size tubs.
With a minimum of 23g per serving, Huge Supplements Whey Protein has a generous dose of protein, as well as the added benefit of 5g of BCAAs which may help further muscle recovery after intense lifts for max gains.
Best Whey Protein for Weight Loss
If you’re looking to drop some weight while still enjoying a delicious protein shake, look no further than Swolverine’s Whey Protein Isolate. This supp offers a high protein content and low carbs and fats to keep you satiated without compromising your goals.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
Swolverine’s whey protein is an isolate formula. This means it offers a high protein content of 26g, and a half gram of fat, one gram of carbs, and 110 calories per serving. There’s only one gram of sugar in this formula as well, but that doesn’t compromise the tastiness of all four flavors, whether you choose Chocolate, Vanilla, Mint Chocolate Chip, or our personal favorite, Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter.
For those on a strict diet, it’s worth noting that this formula contains sucralose, so if you’re looking to avoid artificial sweeteners, this may not be the whey for you. On the other hand, it also contains digestive enzymes protease and papain which may help with digestion and leave you feeling less bloated than other whey formulas. At around $2.00 per serving, this is one of our more expensive picks, but for the macro lineup, the price tag is well worth it if your main goal is to lose weight.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate Should Be Good For
Those whose main focus is weight loss and are looking for high protein content with low carbs and fats.
People who value a delicious protein shake. We personally tried the Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter and found it to be a treat for the tastebuds.
Folks who are trying to avoid sugar as this protein only has 1g per serving.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate Might Not Be Good For
Those who are sticking to a budget can find a protein that costs less than $2.00 per serving.
Folks who are actively avoiding sucralose.
Those looking for a more unique lineup of flavors. Although delicious, there are only four to choose from here.
Losing weight doesn’t have to be boring if you have the right supplements to aid you. Swolverine’s protein packs in 26g of protein and the flavor profiles will make a whey protein shake feel like a treat during your weight loss journey.
Best Whey Protein Powder for the Money
As one of the most recognized protein brands on the market, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey has one of the most diverse ranges of buying options we’ve seen. It’s an extra bonus that they each come in at a pretty sweet price point.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey
With over 20 flavors to choose from that each offer 24g of protein per serving, this whey’s versatility is a major selling point, and the price tag only makes it more desirable. Some of their flavor choices include Banana Cream, Chocolate Mint, Coffee, Double Rich Chocolate, Strawberries & Cream, Rocky Road, Vanilla Ice Cream, and Unflavored, to name a few.
Each flavor contains between 110 and 130 calories, either one or one and a half grams of fat, and between two and four grams of carbs per serving. If you’re actively avoiding sucralose or artificial coloring, you may want to choose a different whey protein though as this one contains both of those ingredients.
Bulk buying options mean you will pay less with the purchase of a bigger tub of protein — up to ten pounds, to be exact. Or if you want to test this product out first, you can opt for a smaller buy, as low as just six serving-size samples. If you opt for a two-pound tub with 28 servings in it, you’ll pay just $1.35 per serving which is a very fair price for the market. If you choose to bulk buy in their five-pound tub, you’ll pay even less at $1.05 per serving. The more you buy, the less you pay, and the more you can focus on important things like making gains rather than your bank account.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder
$74.99 ($0.94 / Ounce)
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein is one of the most well recognized protein brands on the market. With tons of flavors to choose from, your options seem endless.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Should Be Good For
Those looking for high-quality protein on a budget will like the seemingly endless number of buying options here.
Customers who don’t want to compromise price for taste. This supp offers over 20 flavors to choose from, and it is one of the most popular protein supps on the market.
Anyone looking for high protein content as this formula contains 24g per serving.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Might Not Be Good For
Athletes who are avoiding artificial ingredients as this is naturally and artificially flavored, and some flavors contain artificial dyes.
Those who don’t like the taste or the discomfort some experience from consuming sucralose.
Folks who are bulking and want higher carbs and fats as this formula is low in both.
Whey protein can become really expensive depending on what your needs are. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is well recognized, comes in a crazy assortment of buying options, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg — you’ll need those to monopolize on your gains.
Best Tasting Whey Protein Powder
One of the most important factors when it comes to consistently taking your whey is enjoyability. There’s nothing better than looking forward to your post-workout protein shake, and Onnit made sure their flavors will have you excited for it time and time again.
Onnit Whey Protein
Onnit Whey comes in two flavors — Mexican Chocolate and Vanilla — but as they say, “don’t fix what isn’t broken”, and Onnit’s flavors are anything but broken. With 20g of protein per serving, this whey isolate comes from grass-fed cows in New Zealand making it a high-quality protein that doesn’t skimp on flavor.
Both flavors are non-GMO, gluten-, sugar-, and lactose-free which may be a great option for those who suffer from bloating and gassiness from many protein formulas. They both contain 110 calories, 20g of protein, and two grams of fat, and the Vanilla flavor has three grams of carbs while Mexican Chocolate has five grams of carbs per serving. It’s sweetened with stevia leaf extract and monk fruit extract, so if those aren’t palatable to you, you may want to skip this whey.
The powder dissolves nicely for a palatable and enjoyable experience when it comes to getting a solid dose of protein into your day. The Mexican Chocolate flavor is a bit unique compared to other plain Chocolate flavors due to the addition of cinnamon. Vanilla is a classic for a reason, and Onnit’s formula is delicious on its own or mixed in with your favorite fruits and greens to make it a stacked post-workout shake.
Onnit Whey Protein Should Be Good For
Folks who want a high-quality protein that doesn’t compromise on flavor. This is non-GMO, gluten-, sugar-, and lactose-free.
Anyone who struggles with bloating or digestive discomfort from other protein powders (like a whey concentrate) will appreciate that isolate formulas like this have a reduction in lactose, making them potentially more digestible.
Athletes who want tried and true flavors will love the tasty options of Vanilla and Mexican Chocolate here.
Onnit Whey Protein Might Not Be Good For
The budget-conscious won’t love this $2.00 per serving price tag.
People who are looking to bulk up will want a formula outside of an isolate as they tend to be lower in carbs and fats.
Anyone who wants a wider range of flavors to choose from. These are delicious, but there are only two options.
High-quality ingredients are a huge benefit of Onnit’s whey protein, but the flavor profiles of Vanilla and Mexican Chocolate are what sold us on their product. The flavors are rich and distinct, and will have you looking forward to that post-workout shake without fail.
Best Whey Protein Isolate
If you’re looking for a powder that is high in protein while keeping carbs, fats, and lactose to a minimum, a whey isolate is the right choice for you. An isolate is formulated similarly to other whey by adding enzymes to the milk, extracting the milk curds, and pasteurizing the leftover liquid whey. However, an isolate goes through an extra process that concentrates and then isolates it, which leaves it at 90 percent protein by weight and ditches most of the fats, carbs, and lactose. (2) With sweet macros, delicious flavors, and the addition of digestive enzymes, Swolverine’s Isolate is hard to beat.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
This isolate has bragging rights when it comes down to its macronutrient breakdown. With 26g of protein per serving as well as half of a gram of fat and one gram of carbohydrates, this isolate is perfect for those in a cutting phase or anyone who likes to consume their fats and carbs from whole food sources. Isolate formulas are also lower in lactose than other types of protein powders making them ideal for those who suffer from bloating or discomfort from regular whey protein concentrates.
Not only does this formula have an impressive macronutrient breakdown, but the flavor choices are pretty solid as well. This formula comes in classics like Chocolate and Vanilla, but also offers some more interesting flavors, such as Mint Chocolate Chip and Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter. The few downsides are that it’s got sucralose as the sweetening agent, which some people choose to avoid. Isolates are also generally more expensive than other types of whey protein, and you’ll see that reflected in this price per serving, which is around $2.00.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate Should Be Good For
Athletes who want a solid dose of protein while keeping their fats and carbs low will like this whey isolate formula.
If you’re someone who suffers from digestive discomfort, Swolverine’s isolate is low in lactose and also has digestive enzymes which may aid in smoother digestion.
Folks who value tried and true flavors (like Vanilla and Chocolate) and the option of spicing it up with flavors like Mint Chocolate Chip and Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate Might Not Be Good For
Those who want more flavor options will have to look elsewhere.
Folks who are on a budget can find cheaper wheys, but it’s important to note that isolates tend to run higher in price than whey concentrates.
Anyone avoiding sucralose as this product does contain this ingredient.
While most whey isolates offer low carbs and fats and a higher dose of protein, Swolverine offers a higher protein content than most on the market with their 26g per serving. They also stand out due to the addition of digestive enzymes in their formula which may lead to easier digestion.
Best Whey Protein for Recovery
When it comes to getting unapologetically huge, recovery is an important part of the process. Strapped with a high dose of protein and the addition of BCAAs, Huge Supplements Whey Protein has a one-way ticket for you on the gain train.
Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Huge Supplements Whey Protein has between 23 and 25.5 grams of protein per serving which is higher than many other proteins on the market. It also contains between 120 and 150 calories, either two or three grams of fat, and between 2.5 and 5.5 grams of carbs per serving, depending on the flavor. Protein is an important part of muscle recovery and whey protein has been suggested to be a superior form of protein due to its high amino acid content and its ability to be rapidly digested. (5) The downside to this formula is that they use sucralose and artificial flavors, which may be a turnoff for some.
Amino acids may be another important ingredient for potential recovery benefits as they are known as the building blocks of protein. One study suggests that ingesting BCAAs regularly can lead to decreased perception of delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS) which can lead to quicker recovery and getting back to the gym sooner. (6) This formula comes in Vanilla Milkshake, Cookies and Cream, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Peanut Butter flavors to make your recovery process easy and delicious.
Huge Supplements Whey Protein Should Be Good For
Anyone who wants to potentially reduce DOMS will appreciate the 5g of BCAAs in this formula.
People who are looking to optimize their recovery will like that this whey has higher protein content compared to many others on the market with 23 to 25.5g per serving.
Gymgoers who want some more unique flavor choices will like that some of these flavor options — like Strawberry Cheesecake and Chocolate Peanut Butter — are a bit more exciting than regular Vanilla or Chocolate.
Huge Supplements Whey Protein Might Not Be Good For
Customers who are looking to bulk up may want a protein with higher calorie content.
Folks who want to buy their protein in bulk as the only option this presents is a 30-serving size tub.
Those who are on a tight budget may want to look at more cost-effective options.
Huge Supplements delivers a punch of 23 to 25.5 grams of protein and a handful of BCAAs straight to your muscles, which can help with better recovery, less DOMS, and more gains.
Best All-Natural Whey Protein Powder
Although this pick isn’t technically a whey protein, its macronutrient profile looks very similar. This pick is for our plant-based friends who need a protein powder that will rival a whey, but keep their lifestyle choices in check. This rice and pea protein blend mock a whey isolate, which makes it a great choice for vegans.
Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein
This is a rice and pea protein powder that boasts 24 grams of protein per serving which is generally high for a vegan protein powder. True to both the Chocolate and Vanilla flavors, Transparent Labs vegan protein powder is 100 percent organic and doesn’t skimp on flavor.
The Vanilla flavor contains two grams of fat and three grams of carbohydrates per serving which is comparable to a whey isolate formula. The Chocolate flavor is a bit higher with two and a half grams of fat and seven grams of carbohydrates per serving. All in all, this is still a decent macro breakdown for a vegan powder (which tends to be a bit higher in carbs based on the plant protein source).
This is a fully organic formula, including natural flavors and organic stevia as the sweetening agent. The ingredient list is short with just five ingredients for the Vanilla flavor and seven for the Chocolate flavor, making it a simple, yet effective formula for those who value an all-natural supp. Luckily, Transparent Labs won’t break the bank either. This protein costs $1.66 per serving, which means it’s quite affordable — especially for an all-natural formula — but still has a high-quality ingredient list.
Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Should Be Good For
Vegan gymgoers who want a healthy dose of protein without compromising their lifestyle choices as this is fully plant-based and made of a rice and pea protein blend.
Those who want an all-natural and organic ingredient list that includes fully natural flavoring will love this short and sweet formula.
Those who don’t want to pay insane prices for high-quality ingredients will like the $1.66 per serving price tag.
Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Might Not Be Good For
Those who don’t care for stevia as a sweetener should skip this pick.
Lifters who want an actual whey protein — this pick is organic, but it’s also plant-based.
People who prefer a wider variety of flavors. This product only comes in Chocolate and Vanilla.
Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein powder comes in Chocolate or Vanilla and boasts a short, simple, and effective formulation with seven and five ingredients, respectively. The 100 percent organic and all-natural ingredient list makes this a top high-quality pick without an intense spike in price per serving.
Best Whey Protein Meal Replacement
If you want a whey that will keep you satiated for a long while, tastes delicious, and packs in some stacked macros then look no further than Kaged Clean Meal Protein Shake. If you’re bulking, looking to replace a meal, or need some extra calories on the go, a meal replacement shake may be your best bet. Extra bonus is that this pick can help fill nutritional gaps with its impressive micronutrient list.
Kaged Clean Meal Protein Shake
Unlike isolates or even a whey concentrate, the Kaged Clean Meal Protein Shake offers a higher amount of macronutrients per serving. Each three-scoop serving contains seven grams of fat, 28 grams of carbs, and 42 grams of protein, as well as a total of 360 calories. The tub gives both two and three-scoop serving size options which land at 20 and 13 servings per container, respectively. This formula comes in Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Vanilla Cake flavors.
Most whey protein powders aren’t known for their dense micronutrient profile, but Kaged is an exception to the rule as it contains 23 various vitamins and minerals (such as vitamins A, B, C, E, and K). 21 of the 23 have 40 percent of your RDI while calcium is at 20 percent and potassium is 6 percent of your RDI. To round it all out, there is an impressive fruit and vegetable profile in this supplement, as well. It includes some big hitters like broccoli, spinach, kale, and two types of mushrooms.
Kaged Clean Meal Protein Shake Should Be Good For
Anyone who wants a whey protein that can be a replacement for a full meal.
Athletes who value a dense post-workout shake for bulking will like the 360 calories here.
Those who like a protein shake that contains a well-rounded micronutrient profile.
Kaged Clean Meal Protein Shake Might Not Be Good For
People who want to avoid sucralose should look for another option.
Anyone who wants a meal on the go that’s not a powder should opt for a protein bar.
Folks who like to get their fats and carbs from food sources.
As a meal replacement powder, this macro and micronutrient profile is a little more intense than other whey protein powders on our list. If you’re looking for a heavy dose of protein and not skimping on carbs or fats either then look no further than Kaged for a tasty meal replacement shake.
Best Whey Protein Powder for Weight Gain
This protein supp has one goal in mind and that is to assist you while you’re crushing weight to put on size. This formula is a mass gainer with a high macro content to make sure your hard work in the gym isn’t swept under the rug because you aren’t eating enough calories.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Gaining weight can be a tricky goal for some folks. One of the most important — if not the most important — factors for gaining weight is consuming enough calories to be in a caloric surplus. That means you’re consuming more calories than you are burning in a day. Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is here to assist you with that. Each two-scoop serving contains 790 calories, 14g of fat, 114g of carbs, and 53g of protein — this whey concentrate formula isn’t messing around.
When you’re trying to hit a caloric surplus, the amount of food you have to consume can be daunting. This shake packs high macros to assist you in getting closer to your weight goals without feeling overly full from stuffing your face with endless amounts of chicken and rice. Plus, it’s a little tastier, too, with their Chocolate Glaze Donut and Sweet Vanilla flavor options. The price point is a direct reflection of the intense macro profile at $5.13 per serving. When compared to a regular meal you’d be eating it isn’t too shocking, but compared to any regular protein on this list it’ll look much higher.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer Should Be Good For
People who need a calorically dense shake — this has 790 calories per serving.
Athletes who enjoy drinking their macros will appreciate that this shake is a tasty meal replacement option.
Folks who are looking for a supp outside of a regular protein powder that will deliver on high carbs and fats, as well.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer Might Not Be Good For
People who want a wider variety of flavors to choose from. This supp only offers two.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option you may find others on the market.
Anyone who likes to obtain carbs from their food sources as this has 114g of carbs per serving.
If you’re in the market to gain weight and you have trouble consuming enough calories from food sources, Transparent Labs Mass Gainer may be your ticket to hitting your macro count for growth.
What Are The Benefits of Whey Protein Powder?
Whey can be a staple for many gymgoers for several reasons. Whey is convenient, generally inexpensive, and a great way to get some protein into your diet throughout the day. The benefits of whey are plentiful, so read on to learn about some of the main benefits that supplementing with whey offers and some of the reasons people choose to use it.
A whey formula makes it really easy to consume your protein on the go. When you utilize a whey protein powder supplement, it can become effortless to get your protein in at the gym, in class, or at your job. It also eliminates the fuss around packing a meal, remembering and using silverware, or making sure you have a microwave to heat your food.
Wheys are generally fairly protein dense as they keep fats and carbs lower in comparison to caseins. This isn’t true if you opt for a meal replacement shake or a mass gainer, but typically speaking, whey proteins are an excellent source of protein without having to compromise on other macros. One literature review about whey protein found that the protein content in a whey powder has high amino acid content, making it a high-quality source of protein. (5)
Protein is an essential tool for muscle recovery as protein is what our muscles are made up of. Whey protein specifically has a strong ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis even when compared to casein and soy proteins. This is mainly due to the amino acid profile along with the high protein content per serving. (5)
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When we break down our muscle tissue during exercise, we have to utilize protein in order to repair muscle fibers for our muscles to grow back bigger and stronger. Whey protein is a solid way to get in a major dose of protein right after a lift to ensure you’re maximizing your gym time.
There’s also a lot to be said about the versatility of whey protein. It can be delicious when mixed with water or a milk of your choice. It can also be a great addition to your post-workout smoothie or shake, promoting protein intake while adding in some sneaky micronutrients from blueberries or spinach, as well. It may also be utilized for healthier baking alternatives or just an extra hit of protein in those energy balls or protein muffins you like to snack on during the day.
Hypertrophy is your body’s ability to increase muscle growth, and protein intake can be a major influence on how effectively that is done. Studies suggest that supplementing dietary protein can lead to leaner body mass, as well as muscle gains when paired with resistance training. (7) Although this study didn’t specifically call out whey protein, it did suggest that the type of protein makes a difference. Whey protein tends to have high protein content, and many formulas contain the added benefit of BCAAs, which may lead to better recovery and more hypertrophy. (7)
Strength is an obvious and commonly sought-after benefit of spending time in the gym and lifting weights. Whey protein is often used to supplement after an intense workout to promote recovery, muscle growth, and strength gains. There’s good evidence that suggests that whey protein supplementation may be beneficial for increases in skeletal muscle mass, muscular strength, and functional capacity as was shown through a study done on older women. (8) Another study found that whey protein was superior when it came to its ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and this is chalked up to the amino acid profile found in whey. (7)
What To Know Before Buying Whey Protein
There are so many factors when it comes to buying protein powder that it can make your head spin. It’s always a good idea to think about your goals, budget, dosage, and enjoyability when deciding to add a new supplement to your stack.
Your goals will be the main factor when it comes to deciding what type of protein to buy. If you’re a bodybuilder and you’re looking for some serious protein per serving while keeping your fats and carbs low, isolate may be the way to go. That way you can eat your carb and fat sources from foods that you enjoy. If you have trouble consuming enough calories during the day and you’re trying to make it into the next weight class, a mass gainer may be the best choice for you due to its robust macro content.
Buying a whey protein powder shouldn’t cost so much that it breaks the bank. There is a lot of variety on pricing in this list, and it’s a solid idea to check in with your budget to see what you can afford before considering your options. To get the price per serving, you just take the full price of the supplement and divide it by the number of servings in each tub or bag of protein.
When you have the amount per serving, it’ll be easier to break down what is reasonable for your budget. It’s important to note you don’t need a whey protein in order to succeed in the fitness world, but if it fits your budget, it can be an extremely helpful tool to move you closer to your goals.
Each protein powder on this list will have various macronutrients. Some of our picks have close to 30 grams of protein per serving while others have 20. If you’re just looking for a bump of protein throughout your day then 30g might be more than you need, and you may even save a little cash by opting for a lower dose.
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However, if you’re looking to max out protein intake or even replace a meal with a shake it may be best to go for one of our higher protein content picks, or even a mass gainer or meal replacement shake.
It’s safe to say that many people don’t turn to whey protein in hopes of filling nutritional gaps with a solid micronutrient content. There are a few exceptions to this, however. If you go with a meal replacement whey supplement, or even a mass gainer, you’re more likely to get a decent amount of micronutrients alongside a solid dose of protein from the whey. Whey protein supplements in general tend to have a few micronutrients (like vitamin D and calcium), but they may not have the whole lineup, like a true meal replacement would.
If you don’t enjoy the taste of the whey you chose, or find you suffer from digestive discomfort when you use it, it’ll be difficult to maintain a consistent intake of whey protein. It’s often said that the best form of exercise is the type you enjoy doing because it means you’ll show up, work hard, and maintain consistency. Picking a whey protein powder is very similar. You’ll want to consider flavors you’ll enjoy, how you want to consume it — protein shake, baked goods, in your morning oatmeal, etc. — and what factors will keep you coming back again and again.
Types of Whey
There are several types of whey that we cover on this list and we want to touch on some of the whey protein options available on the market. Whey is a type of protein that is derived from milk and includes eight various proteins; beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalburnin, glycomacropeptide, immunoglobulins, bovine serum albumin, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, and lysozyme. To end up with a whey protein, the manufacturers add enzymes to the milk which ends up separating the whey from the milk curd. Then, they remove the milk curd which leaves only the liquid whey behind. Once it’s separated, they pasteurize and heat the whey, which turns it into a powder. (2) From there, they will go through a process to become the various types of whey, which we discuss further below.
A whey concentrate is one of the most popular types of whey because it’s less expensive than, say, an isolate or a hydrolyzed whey. The concentrate will be 80 percent protein by weight and will have varying levels of lactose, fats, carbs, and protein content. (9) On the upside, it is usually richer in taste because it is higher in fat and lactose — but that’s not necessarily great for those who are in prep for a show or in a cutting phase who need to keep their macros (beyond protein) lower. It’s also not great for those who have lactose intolerance, so that’s something to keep in mind.
A whey isolate goes a step further in processing from a concentrate as it needs to be 90 percent protein by weight. After it goes through the regular process, it is then concentrated, and finally, it’s isolated. This takes a bigger percentage of fats, carbs, and lactose out, which leaves a higher density of protein behind. Isolates are generally a better option for those who suffer from lactose intolerance, but it’s always best to check with a healthcare professional if you have any dietary concerns about adding a whey protein to your diet. (2) Isolates are a solid choice for those who need a high amount of protein, but who also want to keep fats and carbs to a minimum.
Hydrolyzed whey, or a hydrolysate, is whey that is known for its easy digestibility. If you’re someone who suffers from digestive discomfort when you take a whey supplement, this may be a great choice for you. The reason it tends to be more digestible is that the peptide chains that make up protein are broken down into smaller, more digestible chains. (2) It tends to be more expensive than, say, a concentrate because it takes a more intense process to break down the peptide chains.
How We Chose Our Picks
There were tons of factors to consider when we built this list. We looked at formulation, sweeteners, and price to help you find the best options on the market.
Formulation is one of the biggest factors we consider when we put these lists together. We chose protein supps that are made from whey concentrate, whey isolate, and vegan protein sources to ensure there’s something for almost everyone here. We also chose some fairly simple protein powders that have as little as five ingredients, as well as more robust ingredient lists that can replace entire meals.
We consider both natural and artificial ingredients, but we did include one pick that is 100 percent organic. There are some that we prioritized for being budget-friendly over organic or all-natural for those who consider price more strongly than specific ingredients. There is no right answer or one protein powder that fits all. We did our best to choose a variety of protein powders to fit a variety of needs, and build a robust list for you to choose from.
Sweeteners can be a hit or miss factor for some protein powder enthusiasts. Some people really don’t like the taste or artificial sweeteners, and some people may even experience digestive discomfort from consuming them. We picked some proteins that contain stevia or sucralose, which can be a bit too sweet or a bit off-tasting to some people, while others may prefer them.
There are also picks that are 100 percent natural and contain no artificial sweeteners or flavors at all. It’s really about personal preference — some people find the sweeter protein powders to be enjoyable while others prefer a milder or even unflavored option to cut sugars completely. We looked through dozens of options to make sure there was something to fit each individual’s needs on this list.
Price will always be one of the most important factors when it comes to adding new supps to your stack. We tried to include a range of protein powders at price points to suit virtually anyone who wants to add a protein supplement to their daily routine. We have some big hitters like mass gainers, which cost over $5.00 per serving.
We also have some wheys that are on the less expensive side, closer to the $1.00 per serving mark. Rest assured that all of these protein powders are held to a high standard, but our price points on this list vary based on the ingredient list, type of protein, extras, and bulk buy options.
If your goals are geared towards muscle growth, maintaining lean muscle mass, or just hitting your macros, whey protein powder may be a helpful supplement to help move you closer to your goals. Protein is one of three macronutrients that are necessary for biological function, and many studies have suggested that protein is an important factor for gaining muscle mass and maintaining lean body mass (4). Whether you want to drink it straight, mix it into a post-workout shake, or use it to replace a meal, there is a product on this list that is best suited to your needs.
We took the guesswork out to provide you with a handful of high-quality and delicious whey protein powders that may suit your individual goals. With high protein content, delicious flavor choices, and a variety of types of protein, this list delivers the goods, and all you have to do is pick which one is best suited for your needs.
Do I need a whey protein powder to get huge?
Taking a protein supplement isn’t imperative to gain muscle mass. Although protein is important in order to build muscle, it isn’t necessary to obtain it specifically from a protein powder. Protein powder can be a fun, easy, and diverse way to consume more protein on a daily basis and it can make it super easy to consume protein throughout the day — especially if you’re always on the go. Whey protein powder has been shown in some studies to be more effective for muscle gains than other types of protein, but it doesn’t mean you have to use whey specifically to reap the benefits of utilizing a protein powder. (5)
What is the most important factor for picking a whey protein?
There is no single factor that is the most important to consider. For some people, budget may be the most important factor, and for others, it may be macronutrient content. Although there is no correct answer, we suggest thinking about your goals, as well as your needs, budget, and flavor preferences in order to pick the supp that may be best for you.
Who should be using whey protein powder?
Whey protein is an excellent option for most people who want to supplement with a protein powder. Whey comes in many forms — including concentrates, isolates, and hydrolysates — but it’s important to note that all whey comes from cow’s milk. Whey protein, therefore, is not suitable for any gymgoers who are plant-based, or for those who suffer from lactose intolerance. Although for some, an isolate is a tolerable form of whey protein for those with lactose intolerance. . It’s always a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider if you have any questions about adding a protein supplement to your stack. Although protein powder is considered safe for most adults, it’s always best to err on the side of caution if you have any concerns.
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Nabuco HCG, Tomeleri CM, Sugihara Junior P, Fernandes RR, Cavalcante EF, Antunes M, Ribeiro AS, Teixeira DC, Silva AM, Sardinha LB, Cyrino ES. Effects of Whey Protein Supplementation Pre- or Post-Resistance Training on Muscle Mass, Muscular Strength, and Functional Capacity in Pre-Conditioned Older Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2018 May 3;10(5):563. doi: 10.3390/nu10050563. PMID: 29751507; PMCID: PMC5986443.
Whey Protein Concentrate Commodity Fact sheet. U.S. Agency for International Development. (2016, June 17). Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/agriculture-and-food-security/food-assistance/resources/whey-protein-concentrate