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 still seem to try to add as many extra ingredients, like glutamine and taurine, as possible.
We tested out dozens of them, from the biggest sellers to the little-known underdogs, to figure out the tastiest and most effective supplements based on your goal:
- Best Whey Protein for Building Muscle: Dymatize Iso-100
- Best Whey Protein for Weight Gain: Isopure Low Carb
- Best Whey Protein for Women: PrettyFit Whey
- Best Whey Protein for Men: Cellucor Cor-Performance
- Best Whey Protein for Weight Loss: FitMiss
- Best All-Natural Whey Protein: Muscle Feast Hormone-Free Whey Isolate
- Best Value Whey Protein: Bodytech Whey Tech Pro 24
Keep reading for some more detailed breakdowns of our top choices per category.
What Are the Benefits of Whey Protein Powder?
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.
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.
However as we said earlier, 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 Whey Protein for Building Muscle
Dymatize Iso-100 was our favorite whey for building muscle. Our main reason is that out of all the protein powders we reviewed, Iso-100 is the only one that’s comprised mostly of hydrolyzed whey. Hydrolyzed whey (also called whey peptides) absorbs more quickly than other forms of whey, and while the difference is pretty small for recreational athletes, it’s what tipped Iso-100 into our top spot. The Chocolate Fudge flavor tastes excellent with water and at $1.25 per serving, it’s pretty inexpensive for a hydrolyzed whey.
BSN’s Syntha-6 came in second for muscle gain. It’s pretty high in calories with 200 per serving and it contains 15 grams of carbs per 22 grams of protein — and remember if gaining muscle is a priority, you should consume more carbs than protein on rest days. It also tastes great with water, but it does contain a litany of artificial ingredients (including soy) which might give you pause. The upside: at 79 cents a scoop, it’s very cheap.
Ultimate Nutrition Whey Gold was our third favorite for muscle gain. Our main motivation is the fact that it contains waxy maize, a carbohydrate that’s very effective at spiking blood sugar. That means that the nutrients will reach your muscles quickly. It’s also soy-free and tastes great with water.
Best Whey Protein for Weight Gain
Isopure Low Carb was our favorite for gaining weight.
If your biggest concern is gaining mass, Isopure is a good bet because at 220 calories, it’s the most energy dense of all the whey protein powders we tested. It’s also the most nutritious protein powder we found, containing 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of almost two dozen vitamins and minerals, so it may help you keep your health in check while you deliberately gain weight.
BSN Syntha-6 is our second favorite for weight gain because at 200 calories per scoop, it’s the second most calorie-dense protein powder that met our approval.
Pro Jym, at 150 calories per serving, is the third most calorie-dense whey protein that passed our quality threshold. That said, it’s a mixture of whey, casein, and egg protein, so it should digest relatively slowly and may boost satiety — which you might not want if you’re hoping to consume a large amount of calories.
Best Whey Protein for Women
PrettyFit is an excellent whey isolate that contains under a gram of carbs and fat per serving. This makes it super low in calories, plus it doesn’t contain any soy — which may be useful for women concerned about consuming phytoestrogens — and it’s free from artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. And despite the fact that it’s lactose-free, it contains five digestive enzymes to minimize stomach problems.
FitMiss Delight is also an excellent choice for women. It’s ultra low in calories (90 per serving) and it contains a serving of powdered fruits and vegetables for an extra micronutrient boost. Plus, it’s pretty inexpensive at 97 cents per serving.
Muscle Feast Hormone-Free Whey Isolate is also a good pick. It’s soy-free, very low in calories (99 per serving), contains no artificial ingredients, the cows are free-range and aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics, and it’s very cheap for its quality.
Best Whey Protein for Men
Cellucor Cor-Performance was our favorite protein powder for men. It’s soy-free, contains two digestive enzymes, and it tastes pretty good with water. It also mixes well and at 96 cents per serving, it’s very inexpensive.
Pro Jym is also a great protein powder for men. It’s soy-free and because it it’s forty percent casein, it digests slowly and helps you feel full for longer than many fast-digesting whey isolates, so it’s great after a workout or before bed. That said, the chocolate flavor tastes a little bit like space food — we preferred vanilla.
MyProtein The Whey is an underrated protein powder, in our opinion. MyProtein’s whey concentrate (called “Impact”) is very highly regarded in online communities like reddit because it has a good reputation with third party testers, but The Whey is a higher quality product: the first ingredient is whey isolate, it has five digestive enzymes, it’s soy-free, and the chocolate fudge flavor tastes great with water.
Best Whey Protein for Weight Loss
Disclaimer: Please note that none of these products describe themselves as weight loss supplements and should not be taken as such. Please consult with a medical professional before beginning any weight loss protocol.
FitMiss Delight was our favorite protein powder for weight loss. As mentioned above, it’s low in calories and contains a hefty dose of greens powder, but its most impressive ingredient? SolaThin™, a protein made from potatoes that’s been shown to help boost satiety, or a feeling of fullness.
Ultimate Nutrition IsoCool is a pretty high-quality protein powder that may be great for weight loss. At 90 calories per serving, it has fewer calories than FitMiss, and it has no carbs or fat either. The main reason we included it is that it tastes great with water, so it’s easy to keep calories even lower by leaving out the milk. The downside is that at $2.07 per serving, it’s pretty expensive. (It also contains soy and artificial sweeteners.)
Dymatize Iso-100 is another great pick for weight loss, mostly because it also tastes great with water. It’s a lot cheaper than IsoCool as well, though it is higher in calories (120 per serving).
Best All-Natural Whey Protein
Muscle Feast Hormone-Free Whey Isolate is a remarkably cheap option at $1.06 per scoop. It’s made from dairy that’s imported from Germany and it’s free range, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free. There are also no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.
Xwerks Grow is a top-notch whey that’s made from grass-fed dairy imported from New Zealand. Marketed toward functional fitness athletes (Xwerks sponsors CrossFit® superstar Noah Ohlsen), Xwerks has zero grams of carbs or fat per serving, but it’s considerably pricier than Muscle Feast: $1.63 per scoop.
SFH Pure is our third favorite all-natural whey. The dairy is grass-fed and because it’s a whey concentrate, it contains a gram of fat per serving. (The benefits of grass-fed dairy are confined to the fat content, so a grass-fed whey concentrate is a good thing.) It’s soy-free and contains nothing but whey, natural chocolate flavor, sunflower lecithin, and stevia, but it’s the most expensive of these “natural” proteins at $1.66 per scoop.
Best Value Whey Protein
BodyTech Whey Tech Pro 24 was easily the best value whey. There are cheaper wheys out there but this one tastes great with water, has a great macro split, and a 2-pound tub costs just 22 dollars for 29 servings. That’s 75.8 cents per serving or 3.15 cents per gram of protein — and if you spring for a 5-pound tub the price drops to 2.8 cents per gram of protein. Plus, whey isolate is the first ingredient, which is extremely unusual for such a low-cost protein powder.
Isopure Low Carb was our second favorite pick. It’s a whey isolate, which are usually quite expensive, but this costs 3.86 cents per gram of protein. It’s $1.93 per serving, but a serving is enormous and provides fifty grams of protein, which is about twice the size of your standard whey. Isopure also added a ton of vitamins and minerals to the product, so it’s also the most nutritious protein powder I tried.
Muscle Feast Hormone-Free Whey Isolate is also extremely good value for money. At $1.06 per serving or 4.4 cents per gram of protein it’s good value for any whey protein, great value for a whey isolate, and incredible value for a grass-fed, hormone-free, naturally sweetened whey protein.
It wasn’t easy to land on these top protein powders; we had to weigh ingredients, effectiveness, taste, and many other factors, including the fact that different consumers value totally different qualities in their health supplements. But we’re confident that we’ve selected the best whey proteins no matter what your reasons are for turning to protein shakes. All we can say now is: bottoms up!