Whey protein powders are an excellent source of nourishment after a tough workout (1).
They contain protein and amino acids that are the building blocks of muscle growth, BCAAs like leucine, which encourage muscle synthesis and promote the release of anabolic hormones that kick the muscle-building process (2).
The best whey protein powders contain very few calories, they are easy for the body to absorb, and they deliver the right amount of protein post-workout.
It’s no wonder that whey protein powder alongside creatine supplements is the most popular bodybuilding supplements around.
In fact, the whey protein powder market is valued at over $7 billion every year.
Our team of in-house nutrition experts compares and reviews all of the best whey protein powders.
We look at the total grams of protein, carbs, and BCAAs in each serving and ensure that the protein content and protein source are high-quality.
Top 6 Best Whey Protein Powders
- Legion Whey+
- Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein
- Naked Nutrition Whey Protein
- Dymatize ISO 100
- Muscle Feast Ultimate Weight Gainer
Top 6 Best Whey Protein Powders
Here at BigBlueTest, we compare and review all of the best whey protein powders.
That means showing you the protein powders that will help you build muscle, promote weight loss, and aid muscle recovery (3). We also compare things like taste, protein source, and value for money.
Let’s get started.
1. Legion Whey+
Legion Whey+ is a brilliant whey isolate powder that is packed full of high-quality protein.
Legion works with Irish Dairy Farms certified by the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS). This ensures that their whey protein powder comes from grass-fed cattle that live under the highest standards of animal welfare.
Each serving of Legion Whey+ contains 100 calories, 22 grams of protein, 5.6g of branched-chain amino acids, and lactose-free and gluten-free.
Legion Whey+ contains zero fat, zero added sugar, and only 2 grams of carbs per serving. It is both FDA-approved and made in the USA.
We love Legion Whey+ because it is high in protein, made from the highest quality protein sources, and very easy to digest.
There are 11 great flavors to choose from (including chocolate peanut butter and an unflavored option), and you can buy Legion Whey+ in either 2-pound or 5-pound bags.
- 100 calories per serving
- 22 grams of protein, 5.6 grams of BCAAs, 2 grams of carbs
- Zero fat and no added sugar
2. Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey
Next on our list of the best whey protein powders is Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein.
The reason we love Transparents Labs Grass-Fed Whey is that it contains one of the highest protein-by-weight ratios in the entire whey protein isolate market – a massive 88%.
Each serving of Transparents Labs Grass-Fed Whey contains 120 calories, 28 grams of protein, 1g of carbs, and 0.5g of fat.
The protein is derived from high-quality cow milk in the USA, making it one of the cleanest whey isolate powders.
There are 8 flavors available, and each tub contains 30 servings of whey protein powder.
- 120 calories per serving
- 28 grams of protein, 1g of carbohydrates, 0.5g of fat
- 88% protein-to-weight ratio, no added sugar
3. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein
Another top whey protein powder is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard.
Optimum Nutrition is one of the biggest names in the fitness supplement market, and its Gold Standard Whey Protein is one of the most popular whey protein powders in the US.
Each serving of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard contains 24 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of BCAAs, 1.6g of carbs, 1g of fat, and 1.2g of sugar. There are also 4g of glutamine and glutamine acid in each 120 calorie serving of Gold Standard.
We love Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard because it is made from high-quality protein sources and is available in tons of great flavors at an affordable price point.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is available in four different tub-sizes – 15 shakes, 29 shakes, 73 shakes, and 154 shakes.
- 120 calories per serving
- 24 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of BCAAs, 1.6g of carbs, 1g of fat
- #1 best selling whey protein powder in the USA
4. Naked Nutrition Whey Protein
Another relative newcomer to the whey protein powder space is Naked Nutrition Whey Protein.
Naked Nutrition Whey Protein is a super clean source of whey protein derived from Californian dairy farms. Naked Nutrition Whey Protein’s great thing is that it is completely free of artificial sweeteners, fillers, additives, and added sugar (stevia). It also has a high protein-to-weight ratio.
Each serving of Naked Nutrition Whey Protein contains 120 calories, including 25 grams of protein, 5.5g of BCAAs, 3g of carbs, and 2g of fat.
On top of this, Naked Nutrition Whey Protein contains a rich amino acid profile, containing 19 different non-essential and branched-chain-amino-acids.
There are only 3 flavors to choose from beyond the unflavored option. But what Naked Nutrition Whey Protein lacks in variety, it makes up in high-quality protein.
There are also 76 servings in each tub.
- 120 calories per serving
- 25 grams of protein, 5.5g of BCAAs, 3g of carbs, and 2g of fat
- It contains 19 different non-essential and branched-chain-amino-acids
5. Dymatize ISO 100
Next on our list of the best whey protein powders is the awesome Dymatize ISO 100 Hydrolyzed protein powder.
Dymatize ISO 100 is one of the best selling protein supplements on GNC, Vitaminshoppe.com, and Amazon. It is fat-free and contains zero sugar; it is also super low in calories.
Each serving of Dymatize ISO 100 contains just 116 calories per serving, delivering an impressive 25 grams of protein, 5.6g of BCAAs, and 2.6g of leucine.
Dymatize ISO 100 also has a rich naturally occurring amino acid profile, further supporting protein synthesis and muscle recovery post-workout.
There are 10 great flavors available, and the option to pick between a 900g tub or a 2000g tub. There isn’t much more you could ask for from a top whey protein powder.
- Low-calorie protein powder – just 116 calories per serving
- 25 grams of protein, 5.6g of BCAAs, 2.6g of leucine
- Rich naturally occurring amino acid profile.
6. Muscle Feast Ultimate Weight Gainer
If you are looking for a whey protein powder that will help you bulk up and gain weight, Muscle Feat Ultimate Weight Gainer is a great option.
Unlike other whey protein powders on our list, Muscle Feast contains 608 calories per serving. It is packed full of 47 grams of protein, 103 grams of carbohydrates, 1g of fat, and zero added sugar.
Muscle Feat Ultimate Weight Gainer contains micellar casein protein, maltodextrin, and waxy maize on top of whey protein. There are also 10,400+ grams of BCAAs alongside other non-essential amino acids contains in each serving.
We have a complete guide to the best weight gainers, but if you are looking for a weight gainer containing a rich source of whey protein powder, Muscle Feast is one of the best.
- A high-calorie whey protein powder that helps you bulk up
- 608 calories per serving, 47 grams of protein, 103 grams of carbohydrates, 1g of fat
- Packed full of BCAAs and non-essential amino acids
Best Whey Protein Powder Buying Guide
Now that we have completed our guide to the best whey protein powders, it’s time to turn our attention to our protein powder buying guide.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about whey protein powder before you buy, including the types of whey protein, whey protein health benefits, side effects, and our top tips.
Let’s get started.
What is Whey Protein Powder?
Whey protein powder is indirectly derived from cow’s milk during cheese production.
Have you ever opened a tub of cottage cheese and wondered what the liquid on top is? Well, this is whey.
When cheese is made, fatty acids in the milk coagulate, causing the milk to clot. On top of this clotting (byproduct), a starts to liquid form, called whey.
It is often discarded, but it can be processed into powder format for protein supplements. Some of the most popular whey protein products include smoothies, milkshakes, protein peanut butter, and protein shakes.
Whey protein concentrate doesn’t take great on its own; that’s why the best whey protein supplements often come in flavored format. Different supplement brands also offer various types of whey protein based on unique customer needs.
Whey protein powder is the #1 selling bodybuilding supplement in the USA and is an effective supplement for increasing protein intake post-workout.
Types of Whey Protein
There are a couple of different types of whey protein.
Depending on how whey protein is processed, it contains varying protein contents.
- Whey Concentrate – whey concentrate contains around 70-80% protein and includes some fat and sugar. It also contains lactose, so it is not a good option for people who are lactose intolerant.
- Whey Isolate – whey isolate contains a higher amount of protein than concentrate (around 90%), but it has been stripped of a lot of the nutritious benefit contained in whey concentrate (4)
- Whey Hydrolysate – whey hydrolysate is hydrolyzed whey, which means it is already digested. When protein brands often use hydrolysate because it absorbed faster by the body and causes a spike in insulin levels, which help to promote an anabolic state (5)
If you are looking for an affordable whey protein, one of the best options is whey concentrate. It is high in protein, and while it contains lactose and fat, it is suitable for most people.
If you are lactose intolerant or specifically looking for a protein powder that is easily absorbed by the body, pick a whey isolate or hydrolysate.
Whey Protein Benefits
There are tons of great reasons to add whey protein into your diet.
Whey protein has been shown in countless studies to help build muscle mass, aid muscle recovery, and support protein synthesis. It also plays an important role in boosting cardiovascular health and supporting the immune system (6).
Here are some of the main benefits of supplementing with a complete protein like whey protein powder:
High-quality protein source
One of the top benefits of whey protein powder is its high protein content. There are three different types of whey protein; concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. Each type of whey protein has a weight-to-protein ratio, but all of them are above 70-80% (7).
If you are looking for a protein source that will give your muscles all of the protein and amino acids you need to recover post-workout, then whey protein powders are a great option.
Dietitians and health experts all agree that strength training combined with regular protein intake helps build muscle mass.
What’s more, whey protein is more effective than soy protein and casein, boosting overall muscle mass (8).
If you are trying to promote an anabolic state (where your body is building muscle), it is recommended that you increase your protein intake to 1 gram of protein per 1 lb of body weight.
Popular whey protein shakes also include branched-chain amino acids. BCAAs like leucine promote muscle synthesis and push your body into an anabolic state.
Promotes weight loss
Many health experts believe that a high protein intake is a great form of appetite suppression. Whey protein powder is also satiating, meaning that it makes you feel fuller for longer.
If you find it easy to get to the gym but difficult to beat unhealthy sugar cravings, then whey protein powder can help.
By pushing your body into a calorie deficit, you will shift stubborn body fat while building lean muscle. Whey protein is also a great low carb option for trying to cut carbs from their diet (9).
Highly satiating (appetite suppressant)
Food’s satiating qualities represent how likely they are to make us feel full for longer. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient ahead of carbohydrates and fats (10).
That means a high protein diet is more likely to help you control your unhealthy food cravings and promote overall wellness.
If you are trying to build lean muscle mass, then whey protein shakes can help you control your calorie intake whilst stripping body fat.
Other Whey Protein Health Benefits
Whey protein powder does not only help you build muscle and lose fat.
Multiple scientific studies have shown that whey protein shakes can lower blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and improve the body’s antioxidant defense capability (11).
For sure, if you are looking for a healthy fitness supplement that will help you boost athletic performance and positively impact your overall health, then whey protein powder is a great option.
Whey Protein Side Effects
The great thing about whey protein powder is there are zero negative side effects when taken correctly.
Most whey protein powders contain between 20-30 grams of protein per serving. That is because there is a limit to the amount of protein the body can effectively use at certain times during the day.
Ensure you try and optimize your protein intake to 1 gram of protein per 1 lb of body weight every day. Take protein shakes in the morning, post-workout, and the evening.
And if you want to optimize protein consumption overnight, pick one of the best casein protein powders to support your diet further.
If you onboard too much protein powder throughout the day, this won’t harm your body, but it is a useless pursuit. The body will excrete excess protein content.
What’s more, some people who take too much protein throughout the day could experience nausea, digesting discomfort, and an upset stomach (12).
Other Whey Protein Sources
As the market for whey protein powders continues to grow, more whey protein sources are gaining in popularity.
Here are some other great options.
Vegan Protein Sources
There is now a huge market for vegan and vegetarian-friendly whey protein shakes. Rather than whey being processed from grass-fed cow’s milk, the protein is derived from vegan-friendly sources like peas and brown rice.
All of the best whey protein powder brands offer vegan protein options like pea protein with remarkably high protein contents. In fact, there is very little difference between the protein content in milk protein or pea protein once processed.
Meal Replacement Shakes
Leading a busy lifestyle can make it difficult to fit healthy meals into your balanced diet. Making an informed choice is a lot easier if you supplement with meal replacement shakes as protein shakes.
Meal replacement shakes can be low in calories, high in protein, and contain a balance of healthy fats and carbs (13). Alternatively, they can be denser in calories and include a range of superfoods and protein powder, providing a richer nutrient profile.
Check out our list of the best meal replacements for more information.
Mass Gainer Supplements
Similarly, some bodybuilders and hard-gainers use mass gainer supplements to pack on even more muscle.
The best mass gainer supplements have an optimized macronutrient profile and are high in whey protein powder. Some mass gainer supplements contain up to 40 grams of protein per serving and are designed to supplement a high-calorie diet or optimize macronutrient intake post-workout.
Best Whey Protein Bottom Line
Before you buy your next whey protein powder, always check the macronutrient profile to ensure that the brand supports your personal goals.
If you aim to consume 1 gram of protein per 1 lb of bodyweight, then work out how many proteins shakes you need to add to your daily diet to hit your muscle-building goals.
And always stagger your protein shakes so that you take to optimize your protein intake throughout the day (14). Ensuring that you always drink a protein shake after your workout.
To get started, click through to the protein shake of your choice. Once you are happy with your selection, purchase your whey protein shake and start building increased protein intake into your workout schedule.
All of the protein powders mentioned on this page are non-GMO and FDA and NSF-certified.
- Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2015;45(1):111-131. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0242-2
- Almeida CC, Alvares TS, Costa MP, Conte-Junior CA. Protein and Amino Acid Profiles of Different Whey Protein Supplements. J Diet Suppl. 2016;13(3):313-323. doi:10.3109/19390211.2015.1036187
- Pasiakos SM, Lieberman HR, McLellan TM. Effects of protein supplements on muscle damage, soreness and recovery of muscle function and physical performance: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2014;44(5):655-670. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0137-7
- Cereda E, Turri A, Klersy C, et al. Whey protein isolate supplementation improves body composition, muscle strength, and treatment tolerance in malnourished advanced cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Cancer Med. 2019;8(16):6923-6932. doi:10.1002/cam4.2517
- Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009;107(3):987-992. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00076.2009
- Davies RW, Carson BP, Jakeman PM. The Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation on the Temporal Recovery of Muscle Function Following Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2018;10(2):221. Published 2018 Feb 16. doi:10.3390/nu10020221
- Bumrungpert A, Pavadhgul P, Nunthanawanich P, Sirikanchanarod A, Adulbhan A. Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Nutritional Status, Glutathione Levels, and Immune Function in Cancer Patients: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial. J Med Food. 2018;21(6):612-616. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.4080
- Valenzuela PL, Morales JS, Emanuele E, Pareja-Galeano H, Lucia A. Supplements with purported effects on muscle mass and strength. Eur J Nutr. 2019;58(8):2983-3008. doi:10.1007/s00394-018-1882-z
- Lopes Gomes D, Moehlecke M, Lopes da Silva FB, Dutra ES, D’Agord Schaan B, Baiocchi de Carvalho KM. Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Body Fat and Weight Loss in Women Long After Bariatric Surgery: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Obes Surg. 2017;27(2):424-431. doi:10.1007/s11695-016-2308-8
- Mollahosseini M, Shab-Bidar S, Rahimi MH, Djafarian K. Effect of whey protein supplementation on long and short term appetite: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2017;20:34-40. doi:10.1016/j.clnesp.2017.04.002
- Rondanelli M, Klersy C, Terracol G, et al. Whey protein, amino acids, and vitamin D supplementation with physical activity increases fat-free mass and strength, functionality, and quality of life and decreases inflammation in sarcopenic elderly. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(3):830-840. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.113357
- Vasconcelos QDJS, Bachur TPR, Aragão GF. Whey protein supplementation and its potentially adverse effects on health: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2021;46(1):27-33. doi:10.1139/apnm-2020-0370
- Tobias DK, Chen M, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, Willett W, Hu FB. Effect of low-fat diet interventions versus other diet interventions on long-term weight change in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015;3(12):968-979. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00367-8
- Hulmi JJ, Laakso M, Mero AA, Häkkinen K, Ahtiainen JP, Peltonen H. The effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on resistance training adaptations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:48. Published 2015 Dec 16. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0109-4
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