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When it comes to building muscle, burning fat, and improving overall health and wellness, protein is an essential nutrient that can’t be ignored. And when it comes to protein supplements, whey protein is the best and often considered the gold standard.
But with so many different brands and types of whey protein on the market, it can be overwhelming to try and figure out which one is the best for your specific goals and needs. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the best whey protein powders available on the market.
Whether you’re a bodybuilder, athlete, or just looking to improve your overall health and wellness, this guide has something for everyone. We’ll be covering everything from the different types of whey protein, to the benefits and drawbacks of each, to how to choose the right one for you.
So let’s dive in and take a closer look at the best whey proteins for packing on muscle, getting shredded, and/or use as a meal replacement.
Best Whey Proteins for Packing on Muscle
If your goal is to pack on muscle and build strength, here are a few of the best whey protein powders to consider:
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein is a popular choice among bodybuilders and athletes due to its high protein content (24 grams per serving) and an abundance of BCAAs. It is made with whey protein isolate and concentrate and is free from any banned substances.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard comes in 12 different flavors. Each flavor tastes terrific without a bunch of added artificial ingredients.
Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Protein Powder is a high-quality, hydrolyzed whey protein that is easily absorbed and may support faster muscle recovery and growth. It has a high protein content (25 grams per serving) and includes 5.5g BCAAs and 2.6b Leucine.
MuscleTech NitroTech Protein Powder is a popular choice among bodybuilders and athletes due to its high protein content (30 grams per serving) and abundance of BCAAs. It is made with whey protein isolate and concentrate and is free from artificial flavors and sweeteners.
Best Whey Proteins for Shredding Down
Myprotein Impact Whey Protein is a high-quality, low-calorie protein powder that is suitable for weight loss. It has a high protein content (21 grams per serving) and is low in both calories (110 calories per serving) and carbohydrates (1.9 grams per serving). It is made with whey protein concentrate and is free from artificial flavors and sweeteners.
BSN Syntha-6 Protein Powder is a low-calorie protein powder that is suitable for weight loss. It has a high protein content (22 grams per serving) and is low in both calories (200 calories per serving) and carbohydrates (9 grams per serving). It is made with a blend of whey protein concentrate, isolate, and casein, and is ridiculously delicious to the taste!
Nitro-Tech Ripped Whey Protein Powder is a low-calorie protein powder that is suitable for weight loss. It has a high protein content (30 grams per serving) and is low in both calories (170 calories per serving) and carbohydrates (4 grams per serving). It is made with a blend of whey protein concentrate and isolate and has 500mg of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate added to assist weight loss.
Best Whey Proteins for Meal Replacement
If you are looking for a protein powder to use as a meal replacement, here are a few of the best options to consider:
Huel Powder is a nutritionally complete meal replacement powder that is high in protein (20 grams per serving). The ingredients include a blend of pea protein, brown rice protein, and oats, and is free from artificial flavors and sweeteners. Huel Powder is a good choice for vegans and those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.
Soylent Meal Replacement Powder is a nutritionally complete meal replacement powder that is high in protein (20 grams per serving). It contains a blend of soy protein, oats, and other plant-based ingredients, and is free from artificial flavors and sweeteners. Soylent Meal Replacement Powder is a good choice for vegans and those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.
TruFit Protein Powder is one of the best grass-fed meal replacement powders on the market and is that is suitable for those looking to build muscle or lose weight. It has a high grass-fed protein content (25 grams per serving) and is low in both calories (170 calories per serving) and carbohydrates (14 grams per serving). It consists of a blend of whey protein concentrate, organic fruits and vegetables, MCT oil, Prebiotic fiber and is free from artificial flavors and sweeteners.
Types of Whey Protein
Now that we’ve looked into the specific brands and products, let’s take a look at the different types of whey protein that are available.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is the most common and least expensive form of whey protein. It is made by removing most of the fat and lactose, and typically contains around 80% protein by weight.
One of the main benefits of WPC is that it is a good source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are important for muscle growth and recovery. However, it also tends to be less pure and may contain higher levels of fat and lactose compared to other types of whey protein.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
Whey protein isolate (WPI) is a more purified form of whey protein, with a higher protein content (typically around 90-95% by weight) and lower levels of fat and lactose. It is made by further processing WPC to remove even more of the fat and lactose.
WPI is a good choice for people who are lactose intolerant or trying to minimize their intake of fat and lactose. However, it may be slightly more expensive than WPC.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein (HWP)
Hydrolyzed whey protein (HWP) is a type of powder that is partially broken down into smaller peptides. This makes it easier for the body to absorb and may lead to faster muscle recovery and growth.
HWP is often more expensive than WPC or WPI and may have a slightly bitter or unpleasant taste. It is also not suitable for people with allergies to milk or milk-derived ingredients.
Casein protein is a slow-digesting protein that is found in milk. It is usually taken before bedtime, as it can help to slow down the breakdown of muscle protein during sleep.
Casein is not a type of whey protein, but it is often added to whey protein blends to help extend the release of amino acids into the bloodstream.
Benefits of Whey Protein
Now that we’ve covered the different types of whey protein, let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of adding it to your diet.
Helps to Build and Repair Muscle Tissue
Protein is an essential nutrient for building and repairing muscle tissue. When you exercise, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers. These tears are then repaired during the recovery process, which is when muscle growth occurs.
Whey protein is particularly effective at supporting muscle growth and repair due to its high levels of BCAAs and other amino acids. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that consuming whey protein after resistance exercise can lead to greater muscle synthesis and muscle mass gains compared to other types of protein (1).
Can Help with Weight Loss
While protein is important for building muscle, it can also play a role in weight loss. Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates or fat, meaning it can help to keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer periods of time. This can make it easier to stick to a calorie-controlled diet and avoid snacking between meals.
In addition, protein can also help to preserve muscle mass during weight loss. When you are in a calorie deficit and trying to lose weight, it is important to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. This is because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it burns more calories at rest.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a higher protein intake during weight loss can lead to greater fat loss and preservation of lean body mass compared to a lower protein intake (2).
May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels and is important for maintaining good health. However, some people may develop insulin resistance, which can lead to a number of health problems including type 2 diabetes.
Consuming protein can help to improve insulin sensitivity, which means that your body is better able to use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a high-protein diet can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance (3).
May Benefit Heart Health
In addition to its effects on muscle growth and weight loss, whey protein may also have some benefits for heart health. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a high-protein diet, including whey protein, can reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels in people with high blood pressure (4).
May Help to Boost the Immune System
Looking for a boost or your immune system? A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a high-protein diet, can increase the production of antibodies and improve immune function in older adults (5).
Drawbacks of Whey Protein
While whey protein can offer a number of benefits, there are also a few drawbacks to consider.
May Cause Digestive Issues
Some people may experience digestive issues when consuming whey protein, particularly if they are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy. In these cases, a plant-based protein powder may be a better option.
May Interfere with Certain Medications
Whey protein may interfere with the absorption of certain medications, including levodopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease. If you are taking any medications, consult with your healthcare provider before adding whey protein to your diet.
May Contain Additives and Sweeteners
Many protein powders contain added sweeteners and flavorings to make them more palatable. Some people may be sensitive to these additives or may prefer a more natural protein powder. In these cases, read the ingredient list carefully and choose a product that aligns with your preferences.
How to Choose the Right Whey Protein for You
With so many different options available, it can be tough to know which whey protein is the best fit for you. Here are a few key things to consider when choosing:
Determine Your Goals
The first step in choosing the best whey protein for you is to determine your goals. Are you trying to build muscle, lose weight, or improve your overall health and wellness? Different types of whey protein may be more suitable for different goals.
For example, if you are trying to build muscle, a concentrate or isolate may be a good choice. This is due to their high protein content and abundance of BCAAs. If weight loss is your goal, look for something with a higher protein content and lower calorie and carb content.
Consider Your Allergies and Intolerances
If you have allergies or intolerances to milk or milk-derived ingredients, a plant-based powder would be more suitable for you. In these cases, a whey protein isolate or a plant-based protein powder may be a better option.
Read the Ingredient List
Before purchasing a whey protein, be sure to read the ingredient list carefully. Strive to find a product with a short and simple ingredient list. Some manufacturers will add a long list of additives and sweeteners.
Consider the Source of the Protein
Whey protein is usually made from the milk of cows, goats, or other animals. If animal welfare is important to you, consider choosing one that is made from grass-fed, humanely raised animals.
Look for Third-Party Certification
Third-party certification programs, such as NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice, ensure that a product is independently tested and verified to meet certain standards. For the best purity and quality protein, look for a product that has been certified by one of these organizations.
Consider the Price
As you’ve likely already seen, prices can vary widely. While it is important to choose a high-quality product, it is also important to consider your budget. Look for a product that offers a good balance of quality and affordability.
Whey protein is a versatile and convenient source of added, on-the-go protein. It supports muscle growth, weight loss, and overall health and wellness. With so many varieties available, it can be tough to decipher which ones are worth purchasing. Remember to consider your goals, allergies and intolerances, and the source and quality. If you do that, there are plenty of whey proteins that will align with your needs and preferences.
- Phillips, S. M., Tipton, K. D., Aarsland, A., Wolf, S. E., and Wolfe, R. R. (1997). Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 273(1), E99-E107.
- Layman, D. K., Evans, E., Erickson, D., Seyler, J., Weber, J., Bagshaw, D., … Griel, A. E. (2015). A moderate-protein diet produces sustained weight loss and long-term changes in body composition and blood lipids in obese adults. Journal of Nutrition, 145(8), 1878-1883.
- Soenen, S., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., and Westerterp, K. R. (2012). Protein intake, body weight maintenance, and substrate-specific changes in body composition. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 15(4), 393-397.
- Bauer, J., Biolo, G., Cederholm, T., Cesari, M., Cruz-Jentoft, A. J., Morley, J. E., … Phillips, S. M. (2013). Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 14(8), 542-559.
Editor-In-Chief at Recovatech. Dr. Ben is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic with over 10 years of clinical experience. He specializes in structural and neurological imbalances with an emphasis on functional movement patterns, exercise performance, and muscle recovery. He has been the team chiropractor for professional baseball and soccer organizations, as well as collegiate athletes. In his personal life, he’s always been driven when it comes to athletics and personal performance.