The Best Whey Protein Powders
We tried dozens of protein powders to find the best for your individual needs.
Table of Contents
- Nick English Published: July 5, 2017
Updated: May 20, 2019
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With the advent of online shopping, there are literally hundreds of different whey protein powders available to purchase and they all seem to promise that they’re better than their competitors. How can you tell? What is the best whey protein powder, anyway?
It appears everyone has a different way of defining the best protein powder. Some, like whey isolates, are valued by how much protein per gram they contain — the whey with the fewest carbs and fat wins. Other brands seem pretty adamant that the best whey is one without artificial ingredients, and others add extra ingredients, like glutamine and taurine, for their additional potential benefits.
Keep reading for some more detailed breakdowns of our top choices and opinions per category. At the bottom of this article, we’ve also included an infographic describing some common ingredients in whey protein supplements.
There are plenty of myths about whey protein powder, but here’s the main benefit: it’s a cheap, convenient source of protein. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Typically, protein is the most expensive of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) and most people fall far short of the protein intake that’s generally recommended for people who are regularly undertaking strenuous physical exercise: one gram per pound of bodyweight. On top of that, whey is a complete protein that contains all the essential amino acids necessary to spur muscle growth.
We tested out dozens of them from the biggest sellers to the little-known underdogs— check out our methodology at the end of the article for more — to figure our favorites based on goal:
Best Whey Protein Picks
A grass-fed whey isolate that has more ingredients for digestive health than any other on the market.
Isopure isn’t just low in carbs, it provides more vitamins and minerals than any of its competitors.
A tasty protein powder that provides ingredients for muscle recovery and satiation.
Super low in calories, no artificial ingredients, and a blend of enzymes that may improve absorption — PrettyFit is a gret option for men or women.
This nutritious meal replacement is both satiating and low in calories, plus it has digestive enzymes that might help with nutrient absorption.
This protein deliver 24 grams of Cellucor’s Cor-Performance protein matrix to support performance and recovery.
A protein powder that deliver whey protein isolate to promote muscle recovery.
Read further below for even more categories and picks!
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine.
Whey Protein Powder Ingredients
What Are the Benefits of Whey Protein Powder?
There’s plenty of debate as to whether or not you have to consume a protein shake after a workout — that is to say, whether a post-workout shake significantly improves recovery and muscle growth.
We’ll be honest: yes, there is some research that suggests if you have a protein shake after you work out it might be better for muscle gain than whole foods. An influential study published in Physiological Reports in 2016 suggested that 40 grams of whey is better than 20 grams, so maybe you should have two protein shakes.(1) There are also studies, like a 2012 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, that suggest pre-workout protein is even more important.(2) There’s no shortage of people telling you to take protein before, during, and after training to maximize muscle protein synthesis and strength and hypertrophy… and profit for whey protein companies.
Does your protein have to be whey? It’s not like there’s zero evidence that it’s the best protein. We’re not saying it is, but as Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, at Precision Nutrition told us,
Whey has an incredibly high biological value, incredibly high leucine content, and it’s digested rapidly so you get this quick rise in muscle protein synthesis. And if you look at short term studies, two hours after a workout you see this rapid rise in protein synthesis with whey more so than soy.
Leucine is linked with muscle protein synthesis and whey is super high in leucine, according to a 2012 protein comparison published in Nutrition & Metabolism.(3)(4)
And if you’re regularly engaging in strenuous exercise, you do need to consume a relatively large amount of protein (and calories overall) to build muscle, recover properly, and become stronger for the next workout. Whey is a fantastic way to do that.
Best Grass-Fed Protein Powder
Onnit’s Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Onnit’s Grass-Fed Whey Isolate comes from free roaming New Zealand dairy cows, has zero sugar tastes astonishingly good for a whey with no artificial ingredients or sweeteners. The best part is the product’s focus on digestion: it contains no less than seven digestive enzymes — the most I’d seen in a whey protein before this was three — plus it has probiotic bacteria as well.