10 Best Whey Protein Supplements Tested and Reviewed
In popular media, protein shakes are often paired with the image of muscle-bound gym rats but protein supplements and whey powders aren’t just for workout junkies. There are plenty of reasons someone might add whey protein to their diet. It’s a fantastic option for those looking to reduce fat, keep hunger away, or improve your health especially if you’re an athlete or a frequent runner.
We’ve put together a list of the best whey protein supplements based on a set of custom criteria to give you a place to start. Whether you’re wanting to try a whey protein supplement for the first time or you’re just looking for a replacement to the supplement you use now, we’ve got you covered.
As always, if you’re planning on making any changes to your diet that could affect your health you should talk to your doctor. There is the possibility of adverse health effects like headaches, nausea, or digestive issues and it’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional to consider your current health and the likelihood of a negative reaction.
- Dymatize ISO 100
- High Protein Content
- MusclePharm Combat
- Great Taste
- MET-Rx® Ultramyosyn
- Easily mixable
10 Best Whey Protein Supplements
1. Dymatize ISO 100
Dymatize's formulas are highly regarded as being some of the most easily mixed supplements in the game, and ISO 100 is no different. It's known to be easily mixed in any medium, and by any method, even spoon mixing.
Almost every review of ISO 100 talks about how great the different flavors taste, even the people who note a slight chemical aftertaste. It comes in three flavors: Chocolate Coconut, Birthday Cake, and Gourmet Chocolate, with Gourmet Chocolate receiving the best reviews.
The general consensus of the texture is that it is smooth, although there are very occasional reports of clumping.
At a little over $14 per pound, ISO 100 is on the higher end, but consider the fact that in a 31g serving it contains 25 grams of pure protein (81%), as well as a higher level of amino acids than most (5.5g). For a lactose/gluten free product this is actually a very reasonable price.
- Despite aftertaste, most customers loved the actual taste
- Lactose/gluten free
- Mixes well in every medium
- High protein content (83%)
- Mild aftertaste
- High price point
2. MusclePharm Combat
Taste: Where it lacks in one department, MusclePharm makes up for it in taste. The various flavors of this supplement, Cappuccino, Chocolate Milk, and Cookies and Cream all received rave reviews from customers, and there were very few reports of any kind of an after taste.
Texture: Texture is another category that this product can be found wanting, as there are quite a few reports of it having a slightly "chalky" consistency.
Value: This is where MusclePharma shines. While the 76 percent protein per scoop (25g per 33g scoop) isn't on the high end, the lower price point more than makes up for the downsides of this product. This'll be an attractive option for those who are more conscious of price.
- Universally loved taste with no aftertaste
- works well as a meal replacement
- Lowest price point of all reviewed products
- Can be difficult to mix
- Chalky consistency
3. MET-Rx® Ultramyosyn
Mixability: MET-Rx really gets things right in this category. Customers almost always comment on how easily either variant of the supplement can be mixed into jsut about any liquid.
Taste: For a high end isolate, this supplement is universally panned for its taste. Even in the best reviews, many are turned off by the general "chemical-ly" taste. Both forms come in two flavors, vanilla, and chocolate, with chocolate being the more popular of the two.
Texture: The texture varies depending on whether or not you get the isolate. The isolate is similar to standard sports drinks, and the regular protein powder is smooth, and creamy, similar to that of a milkshake.
Value: At about $13 a pound, some might find this is a bit on the high side of the spectrum, but when you take the protein into account (30g per 37g scoop) as well as the added 5g of amino acids, this becomes a very attractive option.
- Low cost for an isolate
- Mixes evenly, and has a very smooth texture
- Lots of product for the price - 63 servings in a 5 pound container
- taste leaves something to be desired
- Occasional reports of indigestion
4. Jarrow Formulas
Taste: There are three different flavors that Jarrow Formulas offers: unflavored, chocolate and vanilla. While the actual flavored versions received mixed reviews, most people were happy with the unflavored version simply because it was as advertised, unflavored, and this meant they could mix it with any drink of their choosing
Texture: The texture (or lack thereof) is actually one of the best selling points of this product. Buyers loved the fact that this supplement was barely noticeable in their drink of choice.
Value: This is one of the few reviews where the value is not entirely based on the difference between its protein level (18g per scoop), and its very reasonable price point. Almost every customer who bought it loved it for its ability to be combined with just about any kind of drink, and the fact that it is a legitimately all natural product makes it worth considering.
- Protein comes from non-hormonally treated, USA sourced cows
- Dissolves well, even in cold water
- Smooth, almost unnoticeable texture
- The flavored versions aren't well received
- Some customers not happy with results
Taste: The taste of the different flavors (vanilla and dutch chocolate) is often described as being "not too sweet" by some, and bland by others. Depending on how you plan on using your supplements, or where your tastes are this could be viewed as either a pro, or a con. Most people were happy with the subdued flavor.
Texture: There are a few mentions of lumpy textures, but these generally came from the worst reviews of the product, and can probably be chalked up to people who simply didn't bother shaking it up enough. On the whole this product's texture was reviewed as being quite smooth.
Value: This is another instance where the value is not simply broken down to the protein to price. It's a bit pricier than Jarrow Formulas product, but it's comparable to the protein content and as mentioned earlier this is ideal for those of us on speciality diets.
- Vegan friendly/gluten free
- Customers love the results from this product
- No artificial sweetners
- Taste was most often described as "bland"
- Occasional clumping is reported
6. Now Sports
Taste: Since it's an unflavored supplement, it's hard to score it highly for its taste. People who drink it as a standalone drink obviously review it as bland, but it's worth noting that this is probably meant to be mixed into an already flavored drink.
Texture: Most reviews claim that is adds a layer of smoothness to drinks it is added to, but that's about it. There are very few reports of any textural issues.
Value: Again, this is simply a question of cost versus output. You're getting the most protein per scoop with this product, but you're also paying the most at over $16 per pound. This'll be attractive to those people who are looking for the most protein for their buck.
- Highest protein content of the group (91%)
- Lactose intolerant friendly
- Easily mixable
- This version only comes unflavored
- Most expensive on the list
MuscleTech NitroTech Protein
It mixes okay with water or in a shake bottle, but if you want to get the best texture you’ll do best with a blender or a little extra time with a handheld shaker.
This powder comes in an impressive array of flavors like toasted s’mores, cookies and cream, birthday cake, and more. Opinions seem pretty divided as far as whether or not this variety of choice helps the powder taste any better. Some say it helped give their smoothies a sweet kick and some disliked the taste altogether.
The texture of this powder is fairly smooth when well mixed and people generally didn’t have any complaints about the texture even if they didn’t like the flavor.
The MuscleTech whey is pretty middle of the road as far as cost goes, but it has high value. It has high customer ratings and holds up with added creatine and BCAA to help with workout recovery.
- 100% whey protein with a mix of whey peptides and isolates
- Naturally flavored
- Micro-filtering means less fat, lactose, and impurities
- Meets cGMP standards
- Some complain the flavor is too sweet
- Issues with label inaccuracies
8. Universal Nutrition Animal
Taste: This supplement comes in a variety of flavors that separate it from the rest of the pack: chocolate mint, banana cream, and chocolate brownie. There's also a "Pumpkin Spice" that is less widely available. Every version of this supplement was very well received, and there are not reports of aftertaste. If flavor is what your concerned with, this might be your supplement.
Texture: Most people feel that this is similar to a milkshake. There aren't many issues with clumping.
Value: If you're going to go with an isolate, this might not be the supplement for you, as it combines some regular whey concentrate into the mix. The price point is over $14 a pound, which will put some people off.
- Judging by reviews, this is one of the best tasting supplements on the market
- Similar to a milkshake in texture
- Comes in a variety of flavors
- Low protein content for an isolate
- Generally hard to mix
- High price point
Muscle Feast 100% Whey
The powder mixes well, overall. Depending on how it's prepared it may take a little longer to mix, but it blends with water easily enough and is great in smoothies.
This whey comes in two different flavors other than the original unflavored variety, chocolate, and vanilla. Some find the flavors to be too sweet or artificial tasting, but others liked how well these flavors work in smoothies or with other sweet ingredients like bananas or cinnamon.
Most users reported that this powder blended smoothly when using a variety of ingredients. Even if they didn’t enjoy the taste, the texture was pleasant as long as mixed well.
This product is a little bit expensive and has gone up in price in the recent years, but with the high-quality, natural ingredients and reliable customer popularity, this whey option is a solid choice for athletes.
- Lactose and gluten free
- Low calorie
- All natural 100% whey isolate
- Added aminos for workout fuel
- Blends well
- Inaccurate labels
- Strong sweet flavor
10. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
Taste: This is where we find the controversy around this product. The old formula was rated highly for its taste, but since the formula has been reworked the ratings have been a mixed bag at best. It comes in three flavors: banana cream, cake batter and double chocolate.
Texture: There are a lot of issues, even in the early reviews, where buyers thought the formula was too thin.
Value: It's hard to judge the value of this product beyond the metrics of its protein and price. Based on those merits alone this product would land somewhere in the middle of this list, but with the issues surrounding the new formula it was hard to place it any higher than 10th. Still, it performs better than a lot of other brands, so that ought to be considered.
- Buyers claim the results are impressive
- A variety of flavors
- Generally mixes well
- New formula has cast some shadows over the previously decent taste
- Texture is frequently considered to be watery
Our Criteria For The Best Whey Protein Supplements
This is the product’s ability to mix and dissolve thoroughly with consideration given to clumps, foam, and stickiness. We also had to look at the method used for mixing, as some supplements were easily mixed in general, whereas others required the use of hand mixers or blenders.
There are quite a few factors to account for in the category. Firstly, we looked at the overall response from buyers regarding the products ability to imitate the flavor as advertised. We also looked at the range of flavors available, and whether or not the supplement had any kind of aftertaste. Unflavored supplements were not penalized for lacking flavor.
The texture score for the supplement comes from the overall consistency after mixing, with a special focus on issues such as being too watery, having a chalky texture, or being sticky. Clumpiness from the mixability section is also considered in the texture category.
There are two primary focuses in the value category, the first being the amount of protein per scoop, and the second being the price of the product per pound. There are other considerations as well, such as whether or not the mixture is all natural if there have been formulaic changes with the product, the level of fat/calories/sodium, or any other unique features of the product that set it apart from the others.
Other Things to Think About
What is Whey Protein?
Supplementing with whey protein is an essential component of any diet in modern times. Of the two types of protein in milk (casein being the other, more prevalent protein), whey is most often used to improve immune functions in the body as well as boost muscle strength, and growth. It’s also been strongly linked to allergy relief and to weight loss, as it acts as an appetite suppressant. Simply put, provided you don’t have a medical or ethical reason not to take whey, adding whey to your diet is almost assuredly a great way to elevate your production in the gym, and the only real problem at that point is deciding what kind of whey you’ll settle on.
So what is whey protein? Whey is a watery extract from milk products that are high in quality protein that is dependent on amino acids. These essential amino acids are indispensable when it comes to stimulating muscle protein recovery after intense workouts. Whey is rapidly digested in comparison to Casein protein (the other kind of protein in milk products) but because its uptake is so rapid, it shouldn’t be the only source of protein in your diet.
What Are The Different Forms?
For those who are new to the topic, Whey Protein comes in a variety of forms, but the most notable are whey protein concentrates, and whey protein isolates. Besides a general difference in texture, and ability to dissolve, the biggest difference between the two main forms of whey is the percentage of calories that come from the protein itself. Concentrates generally tend to hover around the 80 percent range, and isolates tend to be attributed more than 90 percent of its calories to protein. The other major difference between the two types of supplements is that concentrates often are considered to be “less pure” as they have more carbohydrates and non-protein additives. This isn’t necessarily a problem though because depending on your diet, you may require more carbohydrates.
There is a third type of whey protein that you may want to consider if you have some need for a rapidly digested whey protein. Hydrolysates are proteins that have been subjected to the process of hydrolysis and thus broken down into small chains known as peptides, and individual amino acids. These are just as potent as isolates, and because they are denatured they are often found in products such as infant formulas, sports nutrition drinks, and medical nutrition products. They are also inherently hypoallergenic, which is great for anybody with lactose issues. They do however have a tendency to be pricier than normal whey options, so unless you have a dietary need that requires them there’s no specific need to drop the extra money.
One of the most frequent questions people tend to ask when they begin looking at whey protein is why even bother? What are the primary benefits of adding this supplement to my dietary regimen? The obvious answer is that it specializes in muscle recovery after workouts, and aids in helping the body grow in size, and strength, but beyond that, it has a few other benefits that most people would want to consider adding it for.
Strenuous aerobic workouts have been shown to deplete the body’s glutathione levels which impact the immune system, the gastrointestinal system, and the nervous system; whey protein has been shown to either prevent or decrease the depletion of glutathione levels. It can also improve your mood and reduce the feeling of hunger so you spend less time snacking or trying to chase a sensation of being hungry rather than treating actual hungry. Some studies have also shown that whey protein can improve the health of your immune system and help prevent cancer, specifically of the colon and prostate, but these studies aren’t entirely conclusive.
Selecting the Right Kind
So how do we go about deciding on what kind of protein to select? You could literally spend all day comparing the metrics of each individual product, the taste, the level of amino acids, the recommended frequency of use as well as a million other intricacies that set one brand apart from another. While this might be fun to people who enjoy micromanagement, the everyday person is going to end up feeling a bit overwhelmed by this process, and there are plenty of credible sources that think we’re looking to deeply into the matter. Abbott Nutrition senior research scientist and dietitian Steve Hertzler, Ph.D. recently said in a study that people spend too much time worrying about these details, and that provided you have a healthy intestinal system, such considerations are of little importance. Instead, we ought to focus on consuming between 15 to 45 grams of protein every 3-4 hours as our lifestyle and exercise regimen requires.
Speaking of lifestyle, you’ve got to take yours into account when selecting the right whey protein and be realistic in your expectations if you’re currently on a specialty diet. All natural selections are going to be inherently less potent than other solutions for obvious reasons, but they may have just as much in the way of amino acids as their less natural counterparts. As a consumer, it’s also your responsibility to look at the ingredients of any supplement you plan on putting into your body on the off chance that there are any banned substances included. This isn’t highly likely in widely produced protein powders, but it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
Q: What’s the difference between Whey protein and Casein protein?
A: While both proteins are beneficial to the body in regards to health and exercise, there are some notable differences between the two types of protein. For starters, they’re both components of dairy products, but 80 percent of the protein from dairy products is Casein, and the remaining 20 percent is Whey. The main difference between the two is the rate of digestion. Casein is more commonly referred to as a “slow” protein because it is digested slower and the release of amino acids is more gradual, whereas whey is a faster-digesting protein that releases its amino acids in a more rapid manner making it a much more suitable as a post workout form of nourishment. Casein still works, but a lot of its benefits will be lost over its 8-12 hour digestion time, so in order for it to be used in conjunction with whey, it would need to be consumed later after the workout.
Q: What are some of the lesser known benefits of Whey Protein Supplements?
A: Besides the obvious benefits of muscle recovery, adding whey protein to your diet has been linked to a plethora of other health benefits. Whey has been linked to helping reduce lactose intolerance in young children or even staving off the allergy in infants. Additionally, it has also been linked to being able to maintain skeletal mass in later life, regulating appetite, acting as a way to regulate and maintain proper blood sugar levels, and also as a way of promoting weight loss through control of short-term food intake.
Q: What are the side effects of Whey protein supplements?
A: For all its benefits, whey protein is not without its pitfalls. Whey protein supplements have been linked to side effects as small as excessive thirst, drowsiness, and headaches to more concerning issues such as intestinal symptoms (bowel movement problems, cramps, acid reflux etc.), kidney dysfunction, atypical heart rhythms, and changes in cholesterol. Additionally, some users may be prone to increased fracturing or osteoporotic problems.
I’d like to point out that these reactions to whey are dependent on you as a person, so before you begin taking ANY supplement you should consult your physician in order to decide whether or not its right for you.
Q: Why might I consider not using whey protein supplements?
A: Again, your personal lifestyle and fitness goals have everything to do with whether or not you ought to take whey protein. There are plenty of studies that argue the negative effects of whey, and chief among them is how your body alters its own microbiota once you get into a consistent whey protein regimen. You might have heard the horror stories of people experiencing extreme gas, or even worse, extreme diarrhea after a prolonged period of time using whey. This is because by introducing such high levels of fat or carbs into your diet, you essentially force certain bacteria (known as lipopolysaccharide…. try saying that three times fast) to translocate to a different portion of your intestines
Another side effect that ought to be concerning is the fact that whey can play a hand in the onset or aggravation of acne vulgaris. In case you were wondering, this is a particularly nasty form of acne that develops due to a buildup of dead, or oily skin. While this isn’t necessarily a health issue per se, in the very least it’ll potentially affect your self-image.
The nice thing about whey is that by using the supplements correctly (i.e. instead of just putting them in water and drinking them straight, try putting them in a smoothie where natural proteins are present), and maintaining a proper diet that includes probiotics you can avoid the majority of the negative side effects.