When it comes to improving workout performance and building an overall muscular physique, it often means adjusting protein consumption.
And right now, whey protein is spearheading the competition when it comes to the different types of protein powders on the market.
Whey protein powders are made from skimmed milk and they are easily mass-produced (a byproduct of cheese making), hence its abundance and domination when it comes to protein ingredients.
As good as it is, a downside to whey protein is that some people are lactose intolerant and can’t have dairy, and some people choose not to consume dairy or animal products. Luckily, there is an alternative to whey protein powders in the form of premium vegan protein powders.
To help you find a good product, we’ve researched & compared the best whey protein supplements on the market right now.
10 Best Whey Protein Brands Compared
These are the 10 best whey protein products as picked by our editorial team!
ⓘ If you buy something after visiting a link below, we get a commission.
1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey
Gold Standard 100% Whey is a simple yet highly effective protein powder from Optimum Nutrition. This product is truly the Gold Standard of the fitness supplement industry and easily tops the list, having received a number of prestigious awards over the years.
It’s highly effective, and it’s among the best-tasting whey protein powders available according to user reviews. This product uses high-quality ingredients in clinically proven amounts to create optimal results and performance
- Award-winning – Gold Standard has been named the Best Protein of the Year and the Best Supplement of the Year by Bodybuilding.com for 10 years straight!
- Uses a blend of 3 powerful whey proteins
- Contains 24g protein, 3g carbs and 110 calories per serving
- Contains 4g of glutamine and glutamic acid per serving
- Contains over 5g of naturally occurring BCAAs per serving
- Available in 20 delicious flavors
- Mixes easily with no clumping
- Excellent value
- Truly the Gold Standard for protein quality
- Sodium is a little too high
- Not gluten-free
What’s in it: One serving contains 24g of protein, consisting of a blend of:
- Whey protein isolates – the purest form of whey protein.
- Whey protein concentrate (premium, ultra-filtered) – a high quality, balanced, and quickly-digested form of whey protein, which gets to work fast.
- Whey peptides – the fastest-digesting form of whey available.
Combinations: Old-fashioned combination with a BCAA twist. We like how they kept true to being an authentic, standalone whey protein formula but made sure to also innovate by including whey peptides as a separate ingredient. They also throw in glutamine, which can usually be bought on its own as well in the form of a premium glutamine supplement.
Quality: It’s not the one with the highest amount of protein per serving, but the combination of different whey protein types helps accelerate muscle growth.
2. Transparent Labs Protein Series 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
Transparent Labs uses 100% pure whey protein isolate, sourced responsibly from grass-fed cows in New Zealand. It’s one of the cleanest products on the market, and the best organic protein powder available.
It’s one of the healthiest protein powders on this list, and it provides all the protein your body needs to perform and recover efficiently, with none of the unnecessary junk found in many supplements.
The price of this product is a bit higher than average, but it’s absolutely worth the cost because of the high-quality, clean, and pure ingredients.
- Contains 100% pure whey protein isolate, from grass-fed cows
- Grass-fed means that this protein comes from cows that were fed only grass – the way it should be! No hormones, steroids, or artificial ingredients
- Contains 28g protein, 0g carbs, and 112 calories per serving
- Protein by weight ratio of 88% (28g protein in each 32g scoop)
- No artificial sweeteners, food dyes, preservatives, or gluten
- One of the cleanest protein supplements on the market
- Provides the protein you need to help your muscles recover – with none of the unnecessary fillers or artificial sweeteners found in other proteins
- Sweetened naturally with Stevia
- Sodium content is high
- Contains stevia which may not bode well with some users
What’s in it: One serving contains:
- 28g 100% whey protein isolate – sourced from grass-fed cows in New Zealand. Whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey protein.
Combinations: They only used whey protein isolate, which is a sign of potency and having a premium feel.
Quality: We like the design of the formula, limiting itself to just one big key ingredient.
3. MuscleTech Nitrotech
Claiming itself to be the most powerful protein formula ever, MuscleTech Nitrotech is not shy of letting people know they mean business and based on what we see, they may be on to something.
They boast of 30 grams protein per 46 grams serving and sprinkled in some other pro-muscle ingredients for good measure. They also have multiple sizes which favor those buying in bulk.
- One of the highest protein per servings in the industry at 30 grams
- Contains 6.8 grams of BCAAs
- Has 3 grams of creatine monohydrate
- Maximum muscle recovery and growth
- Available in 15 different flavors
- Big savings when you buy in bigger tubs
- A reputable company that’s been in the business a long time (they also make an excellent test booster)
- High cholesterol content
- Too many other ingredients
- Has carrageenan which is linked to inflammation and other potential health conditions
What’s in it: One serving contains 30 grams of protein, consisting of a blend of:
- Whey peptides: The fastest digesting form of whey available
- Whey isolates: The purest form of whey protein.
- Whey concentrates: The raw form of whey protein.
Combinations: Great overall synergy among muscle-building ingredients.
Quality: High dosages and clinically backed forms of ingredients.
4. Legion Whey+
Legion Athletics has always had a good reputation for supplements, and without question, their Legion Whey+ has been well received. Not only do they boast of having 100% natural whey isolate protein powder, but they also proudly source it from Ireland.
While they have 10 different flavors to choose from, you can also opt for the basic, unflavored, variety if you don’t like the idea of ingesting flavorings and colorants.
- Really high in calcium
- Has Non-GMO sources of whey protein isolate
- The unflavored option is pretty unique in the industry
- Has 22 grams protein per 26.4 grams serving
- Relatively clean from fillers
- Lactose-free and Gluten-free
- Not the best overall protein content
- A bit pricey relative to other supplements on the list
What’s in it: One serving contains 22 grams of protein, made with:
- Whey protein isolate: The highest quality of whey protein made up of 90% protein by weight
Combinations: Great overall synergy among muscle-building ingredients.
Quality: High dosages and clinically backed forms of ingredients.
5. BSN Syntha 6
BSN Syntha 6 is a protein powder designed to provide sustained release protein over several hours. By using an innovative blend of 6 different protein sources, Syntha 6 provides a steady stream of amino acids to your muscles.
It’s not necessarily the cheapest protein powder in terms of overall protein content, but given the wide range of high-quality protein sources it uses, it is priced very reasonably and provides great value.
- Contains a blend of 6 different high-quality protein sources
- Contains 22g protein, 15g carbs, and 200 calories per serving
- Contains 10g essential amino acids per serving
- Provides a steady stream of protein to your muscles
- Excellent source of fiber
- It May be too complex and complicated
- Has 2 grams added sugar
- Too many fillers and non-key ingredients
- High sodium and cholesterol
- Not for all users due to a slowly digestible protein strategy
What’s in it: One serving contains:
- 22g protein blend consisting of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, calcium caseinate, milk protein isolate, egg albumen, and glutamine peptides.
Combinations: Good combination, but perhaps a little too complicated for the purpose.
Quality: Good quality ingredients, especially for slowly digestible proteins.
6. Dymatize Iso-100
Dymatize Iso-100 is a high-quality hydrolyzed whey protein powder designed to stimulate muscle growth and recovery. It uses 100% hydrolyzed whey protein isolate to deliver a fast-absorbing stream of amino acids to fuel your muscles and optimize results.
- Contains 25g of protein, 0g carbs, and 106 calories per serving
- Contains 5.5g of BCAAs per serving
- Gluten-free and lactose-free
- Made with hydrolyzed 100% whey protein isolate – the purest form of whey protein
- Award-winning – recipient of the Bodybuilding.com Award of Excellence and other prestigious awards.
- Digests quickly
- Delicious vanilla flavor
- Only 1 carb per serving
- Some fillers included
- Really expensive
What’s in it: One serving contains:
- 25g hydrolyzed whey protein isolate – the purest available form of whey protein. Delivers the amino acids and nutrients your body needs quickly and without fillers or “fluff”.
Combinations: They focused on speed, so they only included hydrolyzed whey and whey isolate, which is more than enough.
Quality: Good quality ingredients, all meant for rapid uptake.
7. Muscle Feast Grass Fed Whey Isolate
One of the problems many protein users face is running out of powder when they absolutely need it. Muscle Feast solved this by offering a high-quality grass-fed whey protein isolate with one of the highest numbers of servings in one bottle.
One bottle of Muscle Feast Grass Fed Whey Isolate has 37 servings, giving the average user an extra six or seven days to notice “hey, my bottle’s almost empty.”
Due to its focused formula and number of servings per bottle, we’re tagging it as the best value protein powder.
What’s GoodWhat’s Good
- Single-ingredient and focused
- Zero cholesterol and carbs
- Low amounts of sodium and sugar
- The super minimal ingredient list
- Has 37 servings per 2 lb bottle; 94 per 5 lb bottle
- Declared 4.8 grams BCAAs per serving
- No Soy, gluten, additives, colorants, unnecessary fillers
- LabDoor tested for sport
- Just three flavors
- Low protein per serving at 20.5 grams
What’s in it: One serving contains 20.5 grams of protein, made with:
- 100% Whey protein isolate: a fast-absorbing and high purity protein source.
Combinations: No combinations, just single-sourced.
Quality: High-quality whey protein, tested for sports guarantee. The dosage needs a little help, though.
8. MusclePharm Combat Powder
MusclePharm Combat Powder uses a blend of 5 powerful proteins to deliver fast, medium, and slow-releasing protein for up to 8 hours. It’s designed to be an all-in-one product, eliminating the need to take multiple protein supplements.
- Contains 25g of protein, 8g carbs and 140 calories per serving
- Contains a blend of 5 different proteins
- Designed to deliver fast-digesting, medium-digesting, and slow-digesting protein
- Designed to be taken at any time – morning, pre/post-workout, or at night before bed
- A lot of fillers
- The slow-digesting strategy is not for everyone
- Protein complex may be a turn off for some
What’s in it: One serving contains:
- 25g of a proprietary blend, containing whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate, micellar casein, and egg albumin.
Combinations: Slow digesting protein powders are hard to perfect, so kudos for using five sources of protein to get it just right.
Quality: Microfiltered proteins ensure easier digestion which can lead to fewer risks of bloating.
9. Nature’s Best Zero Carb Isopure
Zero Carb Isopure from Nature’s Best is a high-quality protein powder made from 100% whey protein isolate. With a whopping 50 grams of protein per serving, plus ZERO carbs, this product is the best lean protein powder available.
- 50 grams of 100% whey protein isolates per serving
- 0g of carbs and 220 calories per serving
- Made with high-quality protein
- Low-calorie protein powder with only 210 calories per serving
- No 2 lb bottle
- Really high sodium content
What’s in it: One serving contains:
- 50g 100% pure whey protein isolate – the purest form of whey protein.
Combinations: Whey protein + vitamins and minerals blend. Quite a unique take in an industry that’s all about “protein-only” formulas.
Quality: Whey protein isolate is a great ingredient, but the vitamin forms could have been much better – they used the cheap, generic ones.
10. Cellucor COR-Performance Whey
Last, but certainly not least is Cellucor COR-Performance Whey. What made them get to this list is not really their protein mix (which is standard), but their addition of enzymes that aid in digestion and absorption. It’s low calorie, low fat, and with a price tag that you can’t ignore.
One of the factors that made them only get top 10 was how their variety of bottles is limited to either 28 or 70 servings, which forces you to subscribe to get a better deal if you don’t plan on using it for a long time. Getting a big tub can also risk clumping over time.
What’s GoodWhat’s Good
- 24 grams per 33 gram serving
- 3 grams of carbs for instant muscle fuel
- Made with a combination of whey concentrate and isolate
- Low cholesterol
- Has protease and lactase to help with digestion and absorption
- Decently priced
- 7 flavors
- A notable amount of sodium
- Only available in two sizes: 28 or 70 servings
- Minimal fillers for flavor and mixing
What’s in it: One serving contains 24 grams of protein, made with:
- Whey protein isolate: a fast-absorbing and high purity protein source.
- Whey protein concentrate: The raw form of whey protein that digests slowly, making it optimal for an added appetite suppressant effect
Combinations: The whey protein combination they used isn’t unique, but it’s also tried and tested to work.
Quality: The added enzymes are thoughtful and a rare addition.
How We Ranked These Whey Protein Powders
In our list, we chose the products based on the formula, pricing, variety, and of course, the quality of protein sources.
- The ones that made it to the top 5 all had similar protein qualities, but we also considered accessory ingredients that helped make the product overall better in protein absorption and digestibility or the actual mixing of the shake.
- The ones in the bottom 5 were placed either due to expensive pricing and poor value or just a weaker overall formula. Regardless, these are all bonafide powders in their own rights and will give you a satisfying gym experience.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve had to deal with literally hundreds of these protein supplements, testing them for label accuracy and compliance to regulatory laws. You’d be surprised at the number of supplements we had to skip on because:
- They had poor label transparency or they didn’t state clearly what’s in their powder
- Their website and company appeared sketchy. Basically, the whole website looks like it’s just there as a front and the company doesn’t have a real office.
- Some of the products were either banned or known to test positive for specific banned ingredients
- A few used too many fillers like maltodextrin to compensate for the expensive key compounds
- Poor user reviews in general
Then there’s also the considerations regarding total protein intake vs the number of ingredients in the formula.
One whey protein powder could have 30 grams of protein per 35 gram serving and be really high among single-ingredient formulas. However, a protein complex that provides only 24 grams of protein per serving can be superior if the formula consisted of ingredients that maximize absorption or make the powder more “complete.”
Supplement companies, in general, are all out to take your money with as little expense on their side as possible. So rest assured that the ones on this list are carefully filtered and “purified” with users like you and me in mind.
Whey Protein Powder FAQ
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a form of protein derived from whey. Whey is found in milk and is a natural byproduct of the cheese-making process. If you’ve ever opened up a container of yogurt and noticed some liquid at the top – that’s whey!
During the process of making cheese, liquid whey protein is separated from the other elements of milk.
Producers then process and dry the whey into a powder form.
From there, whey protein is sold in supplement form or added to various foods and convenient protein bars to increase protein content.
Whey protein is very rapidly digested, which makes it an ideal protein supplement for athletes who need a quick boost of protein post-workout. Whey also has a very high amino acid content, which is great for a number of health benefits.
What Are Whey Protein Powders?
Whey protein supplements are simply pure whey protein in their powdered form. Often they will contain flavoring and/or other types of protein to deliver a balanced blend of nutrients.
They are commonly used by athletes, weightlifters, and people on low-protein diets.
Athletes will experience the most whey protein benefits, but in reality, many different people can benefit from taking these products.
The benefits of whey protein are much more extensive than you might think, with many significant proven positive health effects.
What Kind of Whey Protein Powders Are There?
There are a couple of different whey protein types used in these products. The main types are:
- Whey Protein Concentrate: Perhaps the most commonly used form of whey, whey protein concentrate is fast-acting, affordable, and widely available. Concentrate typically contains around 80% protein, although it can vary widely. Whey protein concentrate is also relatively high in lactose, so those folks with lactose sensitivity should avoid concentrate.
- Whey Protein Isolate: Widely considered the best form of whey protein powder, whey protein isolates typically contain 90-95% pure protein. It’s very low in fat, and lactose, so even people who are lactose intolerant can often be fine taking good whey protein isolate powders. Isolate is toted as the “premium” form of whey, and we tend to agree. With that being said, its higher purity and protein content make it a bit more expensive than more affordable alternatives like whey protein concentrate.
- Hydrolyzed Whey Protein: This form of whey involves a protein that has been broken down to increase absorption rates. Basically, long-chain proteins are broken down into shorter chains, known as peptides. This makes the protein easier to digest. Hydrolyzed whey protein is typically fairly expensive, and is not commonly used as the main type of whey, although it may be added to good whey protein blends.
- Mass Gainers: These are not exactly “protein powders” on their own, but they are a supplement that typically includes a lot of protein in them along with other ingredients that help users bulk up. Also sometimes referred to as weight gainers because that’s why most people use them. The best weight gainers will often have servings of protein in the 50-60 g range, which is much higher than a typical protein supplement.
Those are the main three types of whey, although there are others. Many whey protein products will contain a mix of these forms.
What Are the Benefits of Whey Protein Powders?
Whey protein is used by a wide range of people, for a wide range of reasons. While you may immediately think of using it as a helpful bodybuilding supplement when you think protein, in reality, there are a whole lot of different whey protein benefits, such as:
- Excellent source of high-quality whey protein
- Packed with key amino acids
- A high concentration of branched-chain amino acids
They are also usually packed with antioxidants and BCAAs. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) in particular have some very important benefits, and whey is one of the best sources of these amino acids. Some whey protein powders offer the same dosage of BCAAs as many of the best BCAA supplements on the market.
How Can Whey Protein Powder Help Me?
- Muscle Mass: It’s not a whey protein supplement if it doesn’t promise muscle gains. After all, protein is the key macro when it comes to putting on lean mass. The studies about combining whey protein supplementation with regular resistance exercise (as well as aerobic) are solid and are just irrefutable at this point .
- Recovery: The first step in getting big muscles is to first “heal” damaged muscle tissue, and the faster your body heals, the sooner it can get to the “building muscle to prevent this type of muscle damage” part. Whey protein can essentially speed things up .
- Long-term health: Regardless of the source, protein supplementation is more than just simply filling macros. Protein supplements are known to improve antioxidant levels, strengthen the immune system, reduce feelings of hunger, and help regulate blood pressure .
- Weight Loss: While protein powders themselves do not directly affect weight loss like some good quality fat burners do, taking in more protein can help you exercise harder, recover faster and build more muscle, all of which can aid in your weight loss efforts.
How Do I Take Whey Protein Powder?
These products typically come in powdered form. They are generally flavored, although some are unflavored.
For the most part, to take a whey protein supplement you’ll just want to mix it with water, milk, or juice, or mix it into your favorite shake.
At home, many people like to make delicious protein shakes, using a whey protein supplement, plus fruit, veggies, ice, milk, or whatever other ingredients are laying around. Others, who need more calories and protein choose to make their own homemade weight gainer shakes.
If you crave variety, you’ll want to choose a simple whey protein flavor, like vanilla or chocolate, that is flexible enough to mix with a variety of other ingredients.
For on-the-go use, you may want to consider picking up a BlenderBottle. These handy little devices make mixing whey protein into shakes a breeze while out and about.
Blender Bottles have a small metal ball whisk in them that helps mix powdered supplements into water or milk with just a simple shake.
When Should I Take a Whey Protein Shake?
If you’re wondering when to take whey protein powders, that depends on why you’re using them. If you’re taking a whey protein powder as a way to help recover from your workouts, you’ll want to consume a serving of protein immediately following your workout.
In order for your muscles to recover as quickly and completely as possible, they need protein and carbohydrates as soon as possible. So, if you’re heading to the gym, either bring a shake with you (use a BlenderBottle!) or be prepared to take some protein immediately after you get home.
If you are using whey protein as a general health supplement, the timing is of less importance. You can simply use protein powder as a supplement to your diet.
While whey protein is a great way to supplement your diet, note that it is not a complete source of nutrients, so if you’re planning on using it as a convenient meal replacement shake, do some research and speak to your doctor about what else you should be consuming to meet daily nutritional needs.
Are There Any Side Effects of Whey Protein?
When taken as directed, whey protein is a very safe supplement and the vast majority of people don’t experience any notable whey protein side effects.
With that being said, there are some potential side effects, particularly if the supplement is taken in excess, such as:
- Digestive issues, including increased bowel movements, nausea, bloating, and cramps
- Reduced appetite
Whey protein is regarded as a safe supplement when taken as directed. As long as you don’t take too much, you shouldn’t have any problems.
One thing to note is that since whey protein powders are made from dairy, those who are lactose intolerant may experience lactose-related side effects from consuming whey protein.
Whey protein isolate contains significantly less lactose than whey protein concentrate, so keep that in mind if you are sensitive to lactose.
How Do I Pick a Good Whey Protein Powder?
There are a ton of different whey protein supplements out there, so choosing the best one for you can sometimes be a challenge.
- Check the label: The label is your first line of defense against bad products. The label must always be transparent, show the nutritional facts, provide certifications for quality, have labels that prove they’re free from banned substances, and warnings for allergens. Some supplements could have been processed in the same facilities that produce products related to soy, dairy, or peanuts – the three most common types of allergens in the United States. However, these are often easily avoided if you check for claims such as “soy-free” or “non-dairy.” A few products out there could have banned substances. While the usual response is to look them up first, companies can sometimes disguise these banned substances using their chemical or alternative names. Just to be safe, it’s important to look for certifications that guarantee “banned substance-free” formulas.
- Ingredient Quality: Do your research and check if the ingredient included is not only potent but also obtained from clean and quality sources. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for fillers or ingredients you don’t need in a protein powder. As such, the best whey protein in terms of absorption is whey hydrolyzate, but due to its price, many supplement companies may adulterate their product with maltodextrin to add to the total serving size. Some bad whey products also source their protein powders from sources that have questionable quality control, hence the possible presence of heavy metals. Like checking the label, you should always try to be on the lookout for certifications that help tell users that the ingredients are high quality or sourced from places known to have good manufacturing practices.
- Protein Content: First and foremost, take a close look at the ingredient label on any product(s) you’re considering to get an idea of how much protein is in each serving. Typically, you’ll find products in the 20-30g per serving range. Also, keep in mind that some whey protein powders also contain other types of protein mixed in, such as casein. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to take note of, and also good casein protein powders exist on their own.
- Dosage: As mentioned, the dosage is subjective but there are papers and personal recommendations from popular strength coaches all over. It’s all a matter of digging deeper into your research. 25 grams of protein per serving may sound like a lot, but you also have to consider how much protein you actually need. These can be based on how intense you exercise or if you’re taking protein as part of a meal replacer. While it’s true there are individuals who need a lot of protein, such as powerlifters & strongman competitors, most users can get by with 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This measurement, however, is just the safe minimum and plenty of athletes and fitness enthusiasts need more than the minimum. For optimum muscle growth, an intake of around 1.3 g-1.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended. Moreover, consumption of roughly 3.5 g protein per kilogram of body weight can lead to larger muscle mass gains and greater strength increases.
- Type of Whey: There are a few different types of whey protein, each of which offers particular pros and cons. In general, whey protein isolate is the most recommended, but other forms such as whey protein concentrate and hydrolyzed whey protein are also good choices. Many whey protein powders contain a mix of these types to provide a balanced blend of benefits and nutrients.
- Flavor: The vast majority of whey protein powders are flavored. Clearly, you’ll want to find a flavor you’ll actually enjoy – otherwise you won’t want to take it! Since there are a ton of flavors out there, to select a good one for you try to think about how you plan on using it. If you want some flexibility; i.e. you want to be able to drink it straight, mix it in smoothies or toss it in pancakes, go with a simple flavor like vanilla or chocolate. If you’re more likely to just drink it straight mixed with milk or water, go with whatever flavor sounds tasty to you! You can also read user reviews to see what other folks think of the flavor.
- Brand Quality: Since there are so many companies making whey protein supplements, you’ll want to pay attention to the company behind each product you’re considering. Choose products from reliable, trustworthy companies with good reputations. On our list above, we’ve only selected products from excellent and trustworthy companies.
- Value: Whey protein is relatively inexpensive, but if you take it every day it can certainly add up. Typically, you’ll be looking at somewhere between $0.50 and $1.50 per serving, which can translate to $15-$45 a month for daily users. So, take value into account when choosing a product. But, also keep in mind that cheaper does not mean better, so try to find a quality product at a reasonable price.
Contents of this Article
- 10 Best Whey Protein Brands Compared
- 1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey
- 2. Transparent Labs Protein Series 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
- 3. MuscleTech Nitrotech
- 4. Legion Whey+
- 5. BSN Syntha 6
- 6. Dymatize Iso-100
- 7. Muscle Feast Grass Fed Whey Isolate
- 8. MusclePharm Combat Powder
- 9. Nature’s Best Zero Carb Isopure
- 10. Cellucor COR-Performance Whey
- How We Ranked These Whey Protein Powders
- Whey Protein Powder FAQ
- What Is Whey Protein?
- What Are Whey Protein Powders?
- What Kind of Whey Protein Powders Are There?
- What Are the Benefits of Whey Protein Powders?
- How Can Whey Protein Powder Help Me?
- How Do I Take Whey Protein Powder?
- When Should I Take a Whey Protein Shake?
- Are There Any Side Effects of Whey Protein?
- How Do I Pick a Good Whey Protein Powder?