Their Gold Standard Whey is the most popular protein powder on the face of the planet — see our review of Gold Standard here — and there are plenty of reasons why: it’s cheap, it combines three kinds of whey, and it gets great ratings for purity and label accuracy from third party testing companies.
And it comes in dozens of flavors. Dozens. They include:
- Banana Cream
- Birthday Cake
- Blueberry Cheese Cake
- Cake Batter
- Cake Donut
- Chocolate Coconut
- Chocolate Dipped Banana
- Chocolate Malt
- Chocolate Peanut Butter
- Double Rich Chocolate
- Dulce de Leche
- Extreme Milk Chocolate
- French Vanilla Crème
- Key Lime Pie
- Mocha Cappucchino
- Peppermint Mocha
- Rocky Road
- Salted Caramel
- Strawberries & Cream
- Strawberry Banana
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- White Chocolate
If you’re counting at home that’s three strawberries, four cakes, and ten flavors with some kind of chocolate.
And we’ve tried them all.
One of the most common questions people ask us is What is the best Optimum Nutrition flavor?
It’s not the weird ones, like Key Lime Pie or Peppermint Mocha.
And you know what? We’re calling it: It’s not Double Rich Chocolate. For many, it’s the default flavor, but it’s too darn mild. Fine in milk but very boring in water. The mark of a really good protein is one that tastes great with water, and that’s why the best flavor — and the best chocolate flavor — is actually…
1. BEST OVERALL
Extreme Milk Chocolate
Extreme Milk Chocolate is the best flavor. Double Rich tastes like a spoonful of plain cocoa. Extreme Milk Chocolate is sweeter, richer, and tastes terrific with both water and with milk. Optimum Nutrition, relative to a lot of other protein powder companies, has a hard time coming up with flavors that taste good with water but they finally perfected their craft with Extreme Milk Chocolate. If chocolate is your flavor, look no further.
2. BEST VANILLA
Vanilla Ice Cream
There is more than one vanilla flavor at Optimum Nutrition. French Vanilla Crème is fine, I’ve worked my way through a tub of it and while I didn’t hate it, once again, it’s too mild. It does a decent job of flavoring your milk but Vanilla Ice Cream is a richer, more robust, and sweeter flavor that does indeed taste like melted down vanilla ice cream. I think we can all agree that’s the best way to eat vanilla.
[Related: Our picks for the best whey protein powders on the market]
3. ALSO CONSIDER
Chocolate Peanut Butter
It’s hard to go wrong with Chocolate Peanut Butter. When you mix it with milk, the chocolate comes to the forefront; if you’re mixing with water, the peanuts save the drink from being too bland.
A favorite of our Fitness Editor Jake Boly, Optimum Nutrition’s CPB flavor hits the perfect balance between the two flavors, If the chocolate part is too bland, the peanuts come to the rescue, and that’s the case with Gold Standard’s CPB flavor — nice and creamy in milk, and nice and roasted peanutty in water.
4. MOST UNDERRATED
The thing with White Chocolate is that this flavor is a bit more expensive to produce, so it’s only available in the larger 5-pound tubs. That means a lot of people overlook it, but we consider it the most underrated flavor.
Clearly, we have sweet teeth at BarBend so if you don’t like sweeter snacks — or white chocolate in real life — then you won’t be so crazy about this flavor. But it really is tasty, and the sweetness makes it especially useful for making big shakes with spinach, avocado, and other ingredients that need sweetening.
[Speaking of spinach shakes, watch us drink World Record holder Blaine Sumner’s chicken and spinach shakes]
5. DARK HORSE
This is the dark horse: the unexpected front runner, the one nobody saw coming. (Except for Jake Boly, who said it’s his favorite.) Rocky Road, of course, is chocolate and marshmallows combined, and what Optimum Nutrition has done here is produce the flavor of chocolate with pink marshmallows — the ones that taste a bit like maraschino cherry. The outcome is a delightful chocolate-cherry flavor that manages to be compelling but not too strong or sweet.
6. MOST CONTROVERSIAL
Cookies & Cream
No matter where you look for advice about protein powder flavors (Reddit), you’ll hear myriad opinions about Cookies & Cream. Practically every company tries their hand at it and a lot of them fail, producing bizarrely salty, chocolate-vanilla combinations that just don’t work.
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Casein is guilty of this with their attempt, but the Gold Standard Whey retooled their formulation a couple of years back to make a pretty good pick.
Everyone at the BarBend office has tried this one, and the result has been about 50 percent loving it, 50 percent hating it. Try it if you like to gamble.
This took a whole lot of time and testing and tasting and anabolism to get right, but we’re confident in this list of the best and most underrated Gold Standard flavors. Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.