Best Whey Protein Powders in 2020
Protein plays a vital role in maintaining, growing and repairing body tissue. Proteins 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.
Considering the indispensable role that it plays, we must recognize the importance of consuming an adequate amount of protein every day. Failing to do so can result in the development of chronic diseases and ailments such as muscle wastage, anaemia (low blood iron), decreased immunity and fatigue.
To allow you to select a protein powder that fits your goals, our team have tried and test a vast number of premium protein powders. Furthermore, the article will also break down the science behind muscle building and help you understand why protein supplementation is so effective.
The 10 Best Protein Supplements on the Market
When selecting a protein supplement, it is important to study the ingredients closely as many 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 powder. 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.
As stated, there are so many protein powders available that it can become convoluted. To allow you to choose the powder that best matches your goal, we have reviewed 10 of the best supplements on the market.
Best All-Round Protein: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey
“A high quality protein powder available at a great price point with 18 delicious flavors to choose from.”
Optimum Nutrition has long been established as one of the most reliable and affordable manufacturers of high quality fitness supplements, including protein powder. Their Gold Standard Whey is a powerful combination of whey protein and isolate that provides 24 grams of protein, an ideal amount for promoting and maintaining muscle growth. Since the FDA does not regulate the supplement industry or require that companies accurately report their ingredients, it can be difficult to find a brand that actually delivers on their promises. Optimum Nutrition is best overall on this list because of their commitment to producing high quality, effective protein power: they perform daily quality assurance tests on all of their products and all of them are NSF-certified pure, so you never have to worry.
Price: 2 LBS for $29.99
Best Protein for Strength Building: Cellucor Whey Sport Post-Workout Protein Powder
This is another attractive option for bodybuilders due to its strength and purity. Delivering a massive 25 grams of protein per serving, the Cellucor Cor-Performance Whey is also infused with digestive enzymes that help the body absorb the protein and digest it faster. So, not only are you getting a massive dose of protein with this powder, but you’re also getting extra help to metabolize it in the most efficient way. It helps maximize gains and unlocks the potential of protein to build muscle in your body.
Price: 2 LBS for $29.99
Best Protein for Mass Building: MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder
Another excellent choice for athletes looking to bulk up on a budget is MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder. It fuels the muscles for a longer period of time than most protein powers due to the unique matrix of whey protein concentrates and casein in the formulation. As a slightly cheaper option on the list, it’s a great buy for any bodybuilder who is short on cash or simply doesn’t feel like shelling out big bucks for protein powder.
Price: 2 LBS for $26.00
Best Fat Free: 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 also has 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.
Price: 2 LBS for $29.99
Best Whey-Based: Pro JYM Protein Powder
If you’re like most people, you probably prefer a whey-based protein powder — it’s the most efficient and easily metabolized source of protein. (If you’re in the small percentage of people who have a whey allergy, don’t worry, there are non-whey based alternatives on the list for you.) Pro JYM protein powder has 24 grams of protein per serving and aids in both muscle growth and post-workout recovery.
Price: 2 LBS for $29.99
Best Cleanest Powder: Performance Labs Protein Powder
And we liked what we saw.
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.
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.
Best Whey Isolate: Staunch Whey Isolate
The Staunch Whey Isolate is another excellent choice for someone looking to turbo charge their muscular development in the gym. The 24 grams of protein per serving make it great at increasing muscle mass and improving recovery time. Whey protein isolate is considered some of the “cleanest” forms of whey protein and is generally stronger than other forms.
Price: 2 LBS for $39.00
Best Casein-Based: BSN Syntha-6 Isolate
Casein is another critical chemical involved in the development of muscle mass. Casein digests very slowly in the body so it’s ideal for those looking to keep their muscles “fed” for a longer, more intense workout. The unique protein matrix of BSN Syntha-6 makes it ideal for those looking to push themselves and make the most out of their protein powder. It also delivers 25 grams of protein a serving, which is an atypically high amount.
Price: 2 LBS for $32.40
Best Hydrolized: Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey
Hydrolized whey is a relatively new breakthrough in the field of protein powder delivery and Optimum Nutrition makes some of the best currently on the market. Hydrolized whey digests more quickly than average, so the effects of the protein are felt faster and more intensely. Your body actually absorbs and uses the maximum amount of protein available. There’s a whopping 30 grams of protein per serving and 9 grams of BCAAs.
Price: 1.75 LBS for $33.99
Best Organic: Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
This protein powder boasts an impressive array of eco-friendly accomplishments. It’s organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free. There are no artificial sweeteners — a rarity in the world of protein powders, 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.
Price: 2 LBS for $59.00
What Are The Benefits of Whey Protein Powder
Taking whey protein powder 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.
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. As a result of the recovery 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 choose 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 drive muscle growth.
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 concentrate is simply whey in its truest form. To create whey isolate, the whey must then be heavily filtered. This is done for two sole purposes – to increase the protein percentage of the powder and also lower the carbohydrate and fat content.
Whether you go for whey concentrate or isolate, 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 a 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 (3).
Whey and Casein’s Impact on Muscle Growth
There are different types of protein 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 most effective 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 growth and recovery in the same way animal proteins do (5).
Moreover, there has been a great deal of research completed on a specific amino acid 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 growth will only occur when this is combined with regular strength training.
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, will you begin to see substantial change take place.
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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