The Best Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Flavors — the Dark Horse, the Underrated, and More

With dozens of ON flavors to choose form, we help you decide which is the best.

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Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey is the most popular protein powder on the face of the planet and there are plenty of reasons why: it’s inexpensive, it combines three kinds of whey — concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate — and it gets great ratings for purity and label-accuracy from third-party testing companies. What’s the best Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey flavor?

That question is complicated. Not only because “best flavor” is inherently subjective, but also because Optimum Nutrition produces Gold Standard Whey in dozens of flavors. Dozens. They include three different flavors with strawberry, four different flavors involving cake, and ten different variants of chocolate-flavored something. We tried every single one of them to give you a sense of which flavors rise to the top and which should be left on the shelf.

Best Optimum Nutrition Flavors

Some of the flavors that didn’t make the list but deserve honorable mentions are Mocha Cappuccino, Birthday Cake, and Dulce de Leche. If you are a die-hard Banana Crême or classic Coffee fan, those flavors are also available.

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. Individual needs for vitamins and minerals will vary.

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Let’s get the nutrition information out there first. All the flavors in our top picks pack 24 grams of protein per one-scoop serving. Five out of six of them are 120 calories per scoop with Chocolate Peanut Butter (CPB) being the outlier at 130 calories per scoop. All six are within two grams of sugar per serving and a negligible single gram of fat.

One of the most common questions people ask us is, “What is the best Optimum Nutrition flavor?” It’s not the weird flavors, 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. It is fine in milk but rather 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…

Best Overall Optimum Nutrition Flavor

Extreme Milk Chocolate is the best flavor. Double Rich Chocolate 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.

Optimum Nutrition Extreme Milk Chocolate
Optimum Nutrition Extreme Milk Chocolate
Optimum Nutrition Extreme Milk Chocolate

This smooth milk chocolate flavor can make shakes with milk or water taste great. It packs a good 24 grams of protein and 120 calories per single-scoop serving.

Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Extreme Milk Chocolate

  • Those who drink their protein shakes with water.
  • People who favor chocolate over other flavors.
  • Folks who want their protein shakes to taste sweeter.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Extreme Milk Chocolate

  • Anyone who’s not a fan of chocolate.
  • Folks who want a deeper cocoa taste.

If you are in a bulking phase and intend to throw back your protein shakes with whole milk, similar to the diet strongman Hafthor Björnsson followed in his prime, then by all means hit up the Double Rich Chocolate. Otherwise, do your taste buds a favor after a heavy day of squats or deadlifts at the gym with Extreme Milk Chocolate.

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Best Vanilla Optimum Nutrition Flavor

There is more than one vanilla flavor at Optimum Nutrition. French Vanilla Crème is fine. We worked our way through a tub of it and while we 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. Chances are we can all agree that’s the best way to eat vanilla.

Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Ice Cream
Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Ice Cream
Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Ice Cream

This whey flavor can make protein shakes taste like melted ice cream that is still cold. With 24 grams of protein and 120 calories per scoop, it is likely a safe but solid choice.

Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Ice Cream

  • Those who want a sweeter, more fully flavored vanilla.
  • Anyone who drinks their protein shakes with water.
  • People who want their protein shakes to taste like dessert.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Ice Cream

  • People who aren’t into vanilla.
  • Folks who want a more unique flavor for their protein shakes.

[Related: The Best Whey Protein Powders For Vegans, Weight Loss, and More]

Best Peanut Butter Optimum Nutrition Flavor

It’s hard to go wrong with CPB. Chocolate and peanut butter are just a wonderful pairing and whey protein powder is no exception. When you mix it with milk, the chocolate comes to the forefront; if you’re mixing it with water, the peanuts save the drink from being too bland.

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 roasted peanutty in water.

Best Peanut Butter Optimum Nutrition Flavor
Best Peanut Butter Optimum Nutrition Flavor
Best Peanut Butter Optimum Nutrition Flavor

A flavor fit for those with a decadent, rich pallet. This flavor is likely to satisfy dessert cravings as it delivers 24 grams of protein alongside 130 calories.

Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Chocolate Peanut Butter

  • Folks who want a decadent protein shake flavor.
  • Anyone who is a peanut butter fan.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Chocolate Peanut Butter

  • Those who want a less dense tasting whey.
  • People who need to keep nuts out of their diets.

[Related: Intermittent Fasting 101: A Guide To Benefits, Muscle Gain, And More]

Best Underrated Optimum Nutrition Flavor

The thing with White Chocolate is that this flavor is a bit more expensive to produce, so it’s only available in the larger five-pound tubs. That means a lot of people overlook it, but we consider it the most underrated flavor.

Clearly, we have sweet teeth, 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.

Optimum Nutrition White Chocolate
Optimum Nutrition White Chocolate
Optimum Nutrition White Chocolate

This white chocolate whey is likely to please any lifter aiming to satisfy a sweet tooth. One scoop of this whey provides 24 grams of protein and 120 calories.

Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition White Chocolate

  • Anyone who loves sweeter flavors.
  • People ready to commit to one flavor for a while.
  • Those who want a sweet mix-in for shakes that incorporate vegetables or greens.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition White Chocolate

  • Anyone who dislikes white chocolate or wants actual cocoa-flavored chocolate.
  • Those who don’t want something smaller than a five-pound tub of whey.

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Best Dark Horse Optimum Nutrition Flavor

This is the dark horse: the unexpected front runner, the one nobody saw coming. 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. For those not in the know, pink marshmallows taste a bit like maraschino cherries. The outcome is a delightful chocolate-cherry flavor that manages to be compelling without being too strong or too sweet. 

Optimum Nutrition Rocky Road
Optimum Nutrition Rocky Road
Optimum Nutrition Rocky Road

A solid choice for anyone who has an affinity for chocolate-cherry slanted flavors as the pink marshmallows are akin to a maraschino cherry. One scoop delivers 24 grams of protein and 120 calories.

Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Rocky Road

  • Anyone who likes the combination of chocolate and cherry.
  • Folks who want a less sweet chocolate option.
  • People who want a more unique flavor of whey.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Rocky Road

  • Those who have strong sweet-tooths.
  • Anyone who doesn’t like a cherry-esque flavor.

[Related: Nutrition For Bulking: 10 Tips For Intelligent Muscle Gain]

Most Controversial Optimum Nutrition Flavor

No matter where you look for advice about protein powder flavors, you’ll likely hear a myriad of 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 really hit the mark.

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. We tried this one, and the result has been pretty evenly split — about 50 percent loving it and 50 percent hating it. Try it if you like to gamble.

Optimum Nutrition Cookies & Cream
Optimum Nutrition Cookies & Cream
Optimum Nutrition Cookies & Cream

This cookies and cream flavored whey has a slightly saltier taste compared to other Optimum Nutrition flavors. It packs 120 calories and 24 grams of protein per single-scoop serving.

Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Cookies & Cream

  • Those who are Cookies & Cream die-hards.
  • People okay with a bit of a saltier taste.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Cookies & Cream

  • Anyone not looking to risk buying a tub of a flavor that has mixed reviews.

[Related: The Lifter’s Guide To Magnesium: What This Nutrient Does For Strength]

How We Decided Our Picks

When it comes to flavor profiling, we tried our best to stay as even-handed as we could, putting our personal preferences aside. We tried to think what a person who likes a particular flavor would want a whey of that flavor to taste like. Here were the factors that we took into account.

Water vs. Milk

Milk, particularly two percent or whole milk, can make up for a lot of flavors that otherwise wouldn’t be able to hold their own. We were not about to be deceived by the delicious creamy goodness of dairy. We ranked our flavors based on how they tasted alone with water since that is the simplest way one could make a protein shake.

Aftertaste

No one wants a delicious flavor at the start of a sip only to be left with a weird flavor lingering afterward. The experience a whey needs to deliver is one of delight from the first sip to the bottoms-up finish.

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What To Consider Before Buying

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. Again, flavor is ultimately going to come down to personal preference. If you are unsure which of the dozens of flavors Optimum Nutrition offers to choose, hopefully, our list will be a trustworthy way to navigate one to your shopping cart.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which flavor of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is the best?

We tried them all and decided that Extreme Milk Chocolate is the best flavor. It’s a crowd pleaser, it’s robust, and it tastes great with water. For those more inclined toward vanilla, Vanilla Ice Cream is the best option. It actually tastes a lot like melted ice cream, and again, tastes great with water.

What is Gold Standard whey?

It’s the most popular whey protein on the market. Made by Optimum Nutrition, it comes in dozens of flavors and is primarily a blend of three types of whey, with some artificial flavors and sweeteners plus some digestive enzymes, which may help to improve absorption.

Does Gold Standard Whey have artificial ingredients?

Yes, it contains artificial flavors and sweeteners. The sweeteners are sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda®) and/or acesulfame potassium (a.k.a. Ace K), depending on the flavor. However, the company has a line of “natural whey” in Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla flavors.

Is Gold Standard Whey good for weight loss?

If weight loss is your goal, you need to stay in a calorie deficit. While Gold Standard Whey does have calories, protein is much more filling than processed grains and sugary candy. If your choice is something like 100 calories of a protein bar or 100 calories of Gold Standard Whey, the whey will do a better job of sating your appetite. In this regard, it may be a useful product for weight loss — increasing protein intake is usually recommended for those looking to eat less overall.