Best Whey Protein Powders in 2020
Protein plays a vital role in maintaining, growing and repairing body tissue. Whey protein powder can be used as an emergency energy source and are also essential for the production of a number of key hormones which promote growth and maturation from a protein powder.
Considering the indispensable role that it plays, we must recognize the importance of consuming an adequate serving of protein every day for muscle growth and weight loss and two types of whey protein can help. Failing to do so can result in the development of chronic diseases and ailments such as muscle wastage, anemia (low blood iron), decreased immunity and fatigue and vitamins and minerals and branch chain amino acids can help you lose weight and aid in muscle recovery from a protein supplement.
To allow you to select a whey protein powder or protein blend that fits your goals, our team have tried and tested a vast number of premium protein powders. Furthermore, the article will also break down the science behind muscle building and help you understand why whey protein concentrate and isolate supplementation is so effective for the best protein powders.
The 7 Best Protein Supplements on the Market
When selecting a whey protein powder, it is important to study the ingredients closely as many protein powders that appear to be of good quality often contain fillers and bulking agents which have no purpose other than increasing the quantity of the two types of whey protein, being whey protein concentrate and isolate powder, or a protein blend. A good quality powder will be high in protein and low in filler ingredients, calories, and sugars. Additionally, from a practical viewpoint, you want a shake that performs well in terms of taste, price, digestibility, and mixability for the best protein powders.
As stated, there are so many options for a whey protein powder available in whey protein concentrate or isolate that it can become convoluted, as well as plant based protein which can provide for the best vegan protein powder benefits. To allow you to pick the powder that matches your goal, we have reviewed 10 of the best supplements on the market.
- Best Cleanest Protein: Performance Labs Protein Powder
- Best Organic Protein: Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
- Best Vegan Protein: National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein
- Best Fat Free Protein: MyProtein Impact Whey Isolate
- Best All-Round Protein: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey
- Best Recovery Protein: ONNIT Grass-Fed Whey Isolate Protein
- Best Protein For Strength Building: Staunch Organic Vegan Protein
Best Cleanest Protein: Performance Labs Protein Powder
And we liked what we saw out of this brown rice protein.
We found that it was much cleaner than other protein powders out there. Naturally flavoured with organic cocoa, vanilla bean and ceylon cinnamon – this is the best tasting protein powder many customers have tried. Being a brown-rice protein powder, anyone can use it for growth and weight loss for this powder contains great ingredients.
Regardless of whether you’re dairy intolerant, vegan, allergic to soy or gluten…Because Performance Lab Protein contains no allergens at all.
Supplying 20g protein (and only 100 calories) per serving, Performance Lab Protein can be easily included in your diet at all times – whether you’re cutting or bulking.
Pros: This is a good, clean formula that is organic and vegan friendly. The chocolate flavor tastes amazing and the product includes Bacillus Coagulans, a beneficial probiotic. As a much cleaner protein, this supplement is a good choice for weight loss and has essential amino acids per serving.
Cons: It only uses a single source protein and chocolate is the only flavor available. Although it has good benefits, for the price, there are others like it that include more per serving.
Price: 600 g for $39.83
Best Organic Protein: Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey boasts an impressive array of eco-friendly accomplishments. It’s organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free. There are no artificial sweeteners — a rarity in a world full of whey protein powder, which are almost always filled with chemical flavorings to disguise the chalkiness of protein. There are also no artificial colorings or preservatives added. If you have a sensitive stomach, allergies, or just care about the environment, this is an excellent choice for you and your body weight goals and is easy to digest compared to a whey concentrate.
Pros: Transparent Labs has made a solid whey protein powder with no artificial ingredients and a transparent label. Being third party tested, this allows consumers to trust that the product is suitable for use. It is organic and non-GMO and is solid for those who tend to be sensitive to certain protein supplements and contains essential amino acids with right amount of protein per scoop per serving.
Cons: It is slightly high in carbs and cholesterol and despite lactose, their are no digestive enzymes. While the company is transparent, the price is fairly expensive compared to other protein products out there.
Price: 2 LBS for $59.00
Best Vegan Protein: National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein
“Experience the true power of plant based nutrition whilst boosting your level of bodybuilding.”
National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein is designed to help bodybuilders progress faster in the gym and with their vegan goals. A 100% natural and organic plant-based protein, this works to increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis, optimize nutrient utilization, boost metabolic efficiency, and enhance athletic recovery. Using organic rice and pea protein, this supplement does not produce inflammation and is more bioavailable than dairy. With 117 calories and 20.5 grams of protein, this powder will work for your overall protein benefit as it helps you adopt a healthy lifestyle while building muscle and providing amino acids from a protein shake.
Pros: This protein is 100% organic and naturally flavored with stevia while being lows in calories. Designed for cleaner and faster absorption ensures all of those nutrients hit you effectively, like branched chain amino acids. Manufactured to FDA standards and produced by a rising and reputable company that seeks the gold standard in vegan protein powder for your goals and fitness needs to help you lose weight and keep muscle while being easy to digest.
Cons: Only 20 servings per container is low and you can only get it from their website directly. Chocolate is the only flavor unlike other types of protein and plant based powder.
Price: 1.4 LBS for $40.00
National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein was a finalist for Best Protein Powder in GI Supplement Awards. Check it out here!
Best Fat Free Protein: MyProtein Impact Whey Isolate
The MyProtein Impact Whey Isolate offers 22 grams of protein per serving, naturally sourced from dairy. The company regularly has their products tested by third-party sources to verify their purity, so what you see is what you get. MyProtein Whey powder contains 0 grams of fat and less than 2 grams of carbs per serving, so it’s helping you get lean at the same time it’s helping you build muscle like other types of protein and whey protein powders.
Pros: MyProtein will help you build muscle and get lean while providing a naturally sourced product from dairy. With zero grams of fat and 2 grams of carbs per serving, this supplement will pump you full of protein and it tastes good for muscle recovery and to adopt healthy habits throughout the day.
Cons: Although third party tested, the ingredient list is more extensive than pictured. The taste is okay and for the price, there are others that can do better with flavors and price.
Price: 2 LBS for $29.99
Best All-Round Protein: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey
“A high quality whey protein powder available at a great price point with 18 delicious flavors to choose from.”
Pros: Optimum Nutrition has made a product that contains three kinds of whey that mixes well. This is an effective protein powder that contains enzymes to aid in digestion and for the price, this protein is one choice to buy for your health and wellness from a complete protein per serving.
Cons: It does contain artificial sweeteners, as well as lecithin and soy, which many others on the market do not have for flavors and taste. While it is tested for quality assurance, the label could be a little more descriptive for consumers with dietary restrictions for protein sources and protein needs.
Price: 2 LBS for $29.99
Best Recovery Protein: ONNIT Grass-Fed Whey Isolate Protein
“It is the right size, the right quality, the right taste, and unequivocally one of the best bulk proteins on the market.”
This protein powder is a good option for those looking for an isolate. The straight protein helps you build muscle and body composition without the excess calories or sugar. ONNIT Grass-Fed Whey Isolate Protein will take care of all your wellness needs and is great for hard training athletes and gym goers to efficiently get protein into your muscles for faster growth. Sourced from grass-fed cows, the process makes this supplement easily digestible and highly absorbable. With 20 grams of protein, ONNIT has created one product to reach optimal protein intake per serving.
Pros: No artificial ingredients is a huge plus for this protein, as well as being sugar-free. It is high in digestive enzymes and probiotics and is an efficient protein to promote a faster recovery with 20 grams of it for your health and wellness from a complete protein.
Cons: It is an expensive supplement compared to other protein products on the market and it is a decent isolate for flavors and taste. It is slightly high in sodium yet low in calcium.
Price: 780 gram tub for $50.96
Best Protein for Strength Building: Staunch Organic Vegan Protein
“With 24g of protein and 3g of carbs and 2g of fat, this is a good lean protein for those leaf eaters out there.”
Staunch Organic Vegan Protein is a solid mixture of rice and pea protein along with natural flavors and organic stevia to bring sweetness to this 100% vegan product. With both the organic rice and pea protein efficiently extracted, this product is easily digestible so your body gets the most out of the protein and nutrients needed. With 24 grams of protein, Staunch has created a protein supplement that will boost your muscle growth and performance that is safe and effective for those looking for a great vegan option with high-quality ingredients and fantastic taste for a protein shake.
Pros: Staunch Organic Vegan Protein is a great choice to buy for those looking for a top-tier vegan supplement. With a solid mix of rice and pea protein and added natural flavors and stevia for taste, this protein is packed with 24 grams of protein in one serving to really boost performance and avoid negative effects.
Cons: The carbs and fat may deter those looking for something more isolated and those who aren’t dying for a vegan product may look elsewhere. For the price, there are similar ones out there for those looking for more ingredients and flavors and taste.
Price: 967 gram tub for $39.00
What Are The Benefits of Whey Protein Powder
Taking whey protein powder, either as whey protein concentrate or isolate, can have a number of powerful effects on the body. Whey protein powder is highly accessible, affordable and is a useful tool for promoting a high-protein diet.
Whey protein has been studied rigorously and has been found to promote muscle growth, facilitate recovery, and may assist in fat loss by increasing satiety.
Benefits: Protein Synthesis
If you are involved in regular training, there should be an even greater emphasis on ingesting ample protein. During physical training, the muscles are exposed to a great deal of mechanical load which causes small muscle fiber tears. To allow the tears to be repaired and for an efficient muscle rebuild, a process known as muscle protein synthesis (MPS) must occur with the help of essential amino acids along with fat and carbs.
To optimize MPS, a high amount of protein is required. Failing to consume enough will hinder MPS thus potentially stunting recovery and leading to restricted movement, prolonged soreness, and muscular weakness. On the other hand, hitting your daily protein target will facilitate efficient recovery and cause these tears to be repaired rapidly and protein powder can really help. As a result of this process, the muscles fibers will increase in size and strength.
The research is clear, protein supplementation is an effective method of increasing one’s daily protein intake, enhancing MPS and therefore contributes to an increase in muscular strength and size (1). Based on this research, a number of health and fitness businesses have created protein powders. Protein shakes are undoubtedly quick, easy and effective but due to the vast number of products available, it can often be confusing and challenging to pick the right supplement for your needs and goals.
Protein Dosage Recommendations for Optimizing MPS
The amount of protein one should consume daily depends on their physical characteristics and goals. The recommendation for an adult is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (2). However, if you are aiming to build significant muscle mass, it may be necessary to consume more – the recommendation is between 1.0 – 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. The purpose of this, as mentioned previously, is to advance the rate of MPS and therefore a protein powder can assist with.
The Difference Between Whey Isolate and Concentrate
Furthermore, you may come across terms such as whey “isolate” and “concentrate”. These terms simply refer to a specific stage in the processing of protein. In order to create protein powders, milk is heated to separate curds and whey. The whey protein concentrate is simply whey in its truest form. To create the isolate form, the whey must then be heavily filtered. This is done for one of two sole purposes – to increase the protein percentage of the powder and also lower the carbohydrate and fat content, as well as increasing branch chain amino acids.
Whether you go for whey concentrate or isolate protein powder, it appears to makes very little difference – both are effective. However, if you are looking to maintain muscle size while dropping body fat, whey isolate is one superb option as it has a higher protein content than and is lower in carbs and calories than concentrate. Additionally, if you are lactose intolerant, isolate may be digested more efficiently than concentrate for a post workout (3).
Whey and Casein’s Impact on Muscle Growth
There are different types of protein powder that can be purchased and the two most common types are whey and casein, both of which are animal proteins. In simple terms, whey is a fast digesting protein which causes rapid protein synthesis whereas casein is a slow digesting protein which maintains steady protein synthesis (4). The general understanding is that whey is one of the most effective reasons for building muscle whereas casein is most useful for maintaining muscle size.
Plant and Animal Proteins Impact Muscle Building
There are a number of plant-based protein powders available which are excellent choices for vegans and vegetarians however, be aware that they may not have as profound an impact on muscle building as animal proteins. This is because plant products have a smaller range of amino acids (the “building blocks” of protein) and will, therefore, fail to maximize muscle size and recovery in the same way animal proteins do (5).
Moreover, there has been a great deal of research completed on one of the essential amino acids and one of the key branch chain amino acids known as Leucine which has been found to have a major impact on muscular growth. Whey protein naturally has a high amount of leucine with each serving whereas vegan protein tends to be much lower in leucine.
How we Decide the Best
Differentiating the differences between protein powders is an arduous task. While certain characteristics of certain powders have been highlighted, it’s important to recognize that these are not necessarily positives or negatives. Rather, it’s a case of simply highlighting methods, ingredients and processes involved in case they cause a degree of difficulty for you.
To decide which protein powders made the list, we considered a number of areas. Firstly, we considered how the powder itself was manufactured to ensure it has been tested, is safe and is a product of premium quality. Secondly, we assessed the ingredients to ensure that each shake contained a high dosage of protein – whether that be whey, casein or a blend of both. Lastly, we considered the palatability and digestibility of each product.
While these products are of supreme quality, they will ultimately fail to cause changes if two other factors are not taken into account – consistent resistance training and a calorie surplus. You should not expect to see an increase in muscle mass by simply taking a protein powder. Muscle strength and size will only occur when this is combined with regular strength training and is one of the key reasons for the best whey protein powder for your post workout needs.
In addition to this, a calorie surplus is also required. This is simply where you consume more calories per day than your body requires. The additional energy is necessary to promote recovery from the stresses of strength training and consequently drive an increase in muscle mass. Only with a combination of proper training, a calorie surplus and a high-protein diet and whole foods, will you begin to see substantial change take place from a great protein source.
1- Pasiakos, Stefan M.; McLellan, Tom M.; Lieberman, Harris R. (2015-1). “The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review”. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 45 (1): 111–131. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0242-2. ISSN 1179-2035. PMID 25169440.
2- Pendick, Daniel (June 18, 2015). “How much protein do you need every day?”. Harvard Health Blog.
3- Wilborn, Colin D.; Taylor, Lem W.; Outlaw, Jordan; Williams, Laura; Campbell, Bill; Foster, Cliffa A.; Smith-Ryan, Abbie; Urbina, Stacie; Hayward, Sara (March 1, 2013). “The Effects of Pre- and Post-Exercise Whey vs. Casein Protein Consumption on Body Composition and Performance Measures in Collegiate Female Athletes”. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 12 (1): 74–79. ISSN 1303-2968. PMC PMCPMC3761774. PMID 24149728.
4- Hoffman, Jay R.; Falvo, Michael J. (September 1, 2004). “Protein – Which is Best?”. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 3 (3): 118–130. ISSN 1303-2968. PMC PMCPMC3905294 Check |pmc= value (help). PMID 24482589.
5- Australia, Healthdirect (February 19, 2019). “Vegetarian and vegan diets”. www.healthdirect.gov.au.
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