Protein powders are like the BMWs of the supplement industry: sexy, dependable, and everyone wants to get a hold of it. Protein powders are proven fat-burning, muscle-producing, lean mean fighting machines. Let’s face it though, it’s near impossible trying to figure out what’s what between the literally hundreds of different protein powders out there. With cheap protein powders, you often find a host of wasteful additives and low protein content. With expensive powders, you often pay into the advertising and marketing efforts of supplement companies more than the quality of the supplement.
In addition, there are so many different kinds of protein supplements: soy, whey, egg, hemp, caseine, isolate, hydrolosate…you might start having nightmares of your high school chemistry class. That’s where we come in to slice through the BS propaganda and fancy shmancy jargon to find products that get results.
For our purposes, we are going to focus on the best WHEY protein powders as whey is one of the best and fastest acting catalysts for muscle building. If you aren’t interested in the details, our pick for the best protein powder is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey. Gold Standard is in its own class in delivering a high-quality protein powder that is great tasting at a very competitive price. To see the rest of our top picks, continue reading below.
|ON Gold Standard
||Dymatize Nutrition Elite
||Muscle Tech Phase 8
Nutrition Profile: All amounts are per serving
|Types||Whey Isolate, Whey Concentrate, Whey Peptides||Whey Concentrate, Whey Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen||Whey Isolate, Whey Concentrate, Partially Hydrolyzed Whey, Micellar Casein, Egg Albumen||Whey Concentrate, Whey Isolate, Whey Peptides||Milk Concentrate, Whey Concentrate, Micellar Casein, Calcium Caseinate, Hydrolyzed Whey Isolate, Whey Isolate|
|Quality of Ingredients||9.5/10||9/10||9/10||9/10||8/10|
What is Whey?
Whey is a liquid byproduct of cheese. There are three types of whey protein that you should be aware of:
- Whey concentrate: most common form; 70-80% protein, rest fat/carbs; contains lactose; moderate absorption
- Whey isolates: purer form of protein; 90%+ protein, less fat; lactose-free; quicker absorption; and
- Whey hydrolysate: pre-digested through hydrolysis process; close to 100% protein; quickest absorption
- Whey isolates may help absorption rate, but overall absorption will be the same
- The marginally faster absorption rate from hydrolysate often isn’t worth the tradeoff in taste or extra money.
Though the focus of this guide is on whey proteins, we do want to mention one other type of protein: casein. Casein proteins are the primary proteins found in milk. For our purposes, the primary difference between casein and whey is that casein provides a much slower, steadier, and longer-lasting release of amino acids into the bloodstream that results in slower protein breakdown than whey.
The Many Benefits of Whey Protein
- Low calories/fat/cholesterol
- High in BCAAs: BCAAs are vital for muscle recovery and protein synthesis
- Easy to digest: typically between 15 min – 2 hours
- Good mixability: just scoop, dump, and mix with water/milk, and then power up!
- High bioavailability: aka fast absorption rate
- Muscle-Building: builds lean muscle and helps you burn calories faster
- Meal Replacement: whey is excellent to help curb your appetite as it helps you feel full for long periods of time
- Enhances Post-Workout Recovery: restores muscle tissue quickly and can help reduce soreness
- Convenience Factor: chicken breast gets old after awhile and the convenience of getting that extra bit of protein with a delicious protein powder cannot be overstated
Best Protein Powder – Our Top 5
#1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey is the #1 selling whey protein powder and widely recognized as one of the best protein supplements out there, and for damn good reason. While following the masses is not always recommended, in this instance we absolutely agree with the rave reviews by countless others who have used and swear by this protein powder.
Packed with 24g of protein and 5.5g of BCAAs per serving, ON’s Gold Standard Whey in an incredible boost to your muscle building/fat burning/workout recovering efforts without the cheap fillers and other additives that other brands have. This has been our personal go-to whey protein for several years now. It can be used regularly as a pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout, and meal replacement drink. To put it simply, it (1) tastes delicious (Extreme Milk Chocolate FTW..mMMmm), (2) mixes very easily, (3) works effectively, and (4) is great value. And that’s why we think it is the top protein powder on the market.
Here is our in-depth review of ON Gold Standard Whey.
#2. BSN Syntha 6
BSN is a trusted brand in the supplement industry, and BSN’s Syntha 6 is one of its flagship products. As far as taste goes, we think Syntha-6 is hands down the best tasting protein powder. It comes in 13 delicious flavors, with some of our favorites including Chocolate Milk Shake, Mochachino, and Strawberry..YUM! You seriously might have to hide this from your kids or else it might disappear one day.
Aside from the taste, Syntha 6 derives its name from the 6 different proteins it is composed of, including whey concentrate, whey isolate, calcium caseinate, micellar casein, milk protein isolate, and egg albumen. The reasoning behind this blend is to combine proteins that are quickly absorbed (whey concentrate, whey isolate) and proteins that are slowly digested (calcium casein, micellar casein) for a complete and sustained release of proteins.
Whether you’re looking for a protein blend for lean muscle growth, weight management, or as a post-workout recovery drink, Syntha 6 excels in delivering the goods. Just be aware that Syntha 6 does contain more calories and carbs per serving compared to the other protein powders on our list, so use it accordingly as a meal replacement or workout drink. Syntha 6 is a premium protein powder, and that means it isn’t the cheapest option out there. But, it’s no doubt been worth every penny for us, and we are confident you’ll agree after trying it.
#3. Muscle Pharm Combat Powder
Muscle Pharm is known for their blended supplements, and the Combat Powder is one of their most popular products. Like the other protein powders on our list, Combat is composed of multiple protein sources (fast, medium, slow releasing) that provide for sustained and long-lasting protein digestion. One bonus that we noticed and want to mention is that while some protein powder companies skimp on filling up their containers, Muscle Pharm really gives you your money’s worth by filling up their containers to the top.
#4. Dymatize Nutrition Elite 100% Whey Protein
Dymatize Nutrition’s Elite Whey Protein has the nutritional profile of a top-notch protein powder: high quality proteins (25g), BCAAs (5.5g) to boost protein synthesis and post-workout recovery, low calories and fat, and minimal fillers/additives. It is also very good value at around $.66 per serving. Our only minor criticism is that, in our opinion, this is not the best tasting protein powder out there if that’s important to you. But as far as delivering results at a great price, it’s hard to beat Elite.
#5. Muscle Tech Phase 8
Muscle Tech Phase 8 is called such because its blended protein formula is supposed to release proteins and amino acids in multiple phases for 8 hours after ingestion (see what they did there?). Now, whether the 8 hour claim is exact to the minute or not, we don’t know. But this much is certain: Phase 8 is composed of 6 different fast and slow-acting proteins (Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Caseinate, and Micellar Casein) that feed your muscles for a sustained period of time.
Phase 8 has a great overall profile with 26g of high quality proteins per serving, a healthy dose of BCAAs and glutamines and only 2g of fat. It’s also got a digestive enzyme that many people have noted helps fight bloating and indigestion, which is a common problem with some other protein powders. As for the best flavors, we would recommend the Milk Chocolate and Vanilla.
- There are several kinds of protein supplements on the market, and whey protein is one of the best.
- Many whey proteins contain a protein blend, so make sure to look at the protein matrix before purchasing.
- If you need a higher protein content for weight gain, consider using one of these supplements.
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is our pick for the best protein powder.
- James DeMedeiros, 6 Reasons You Should Be Using Whey Protein, Men’s Fitness Magazine, http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/6-reasons-you-should-be-using-whey-protein.
- Will Brink, New Longevity Benefits of Whey Protein, Life Extension Magazine, http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/sep2013_New-Longevity-Benefits-of-Whey-Protein_01.htm.