The Best Whey Protein Powders For Taste, Muscle Growth, and More

We tried dozens of whey protein powders to find the best for your needs.

Expert Verified By: Hennis Tung, MS, RD

With the click of a mouse, you can order any protein powder, and it’ll arrive at your doorstep in a matter of days. This is great news for you since protein is an essential macronutrient that repairs muscle tissue to help you gain strength, keeps you satiated, and balances your hormones. And boy, are people clicking their mouses.

In 2018, the global whey protein powder market was valued at $7.4 billion. Whey protein may be flying off of the shelves, that’s for sure. But what isn’t always certain is which brand you should buy. There is a seemingly endless number of protein powder options, but some may not be suited for your goals or lifestyle. Fear not, though. We’ve tested out dozens of protein powder supplements, from the biggest sellers to the little-known underdogs, and developed this list to help you find the best whey protein that meets your needs.

The Best Whey Protein Powders

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 the 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. 

Best Whey Protein Powders Video

You can also check out this video from BarBend, where former Nutrition Editor Nick English goes over a variety of protein powders and their benefits. 

[Related: 9 Types of Diets — How They Work and Pros & Cons]

Best Whey Protein Overall

A solid whey protein will have a balanced formula that offers a high dose of protein with minimal fat and a low dose of carbs — this pick is just that.

Jacked Factory Authentic Whey Protein Powder

Jacked Factor’s whey protein formula delivers 24 grams of protein with just two grams of fat and three grams of carbs. It’s a minimalistic formula, perfect for mixing into more nutritious shakes, baking with, or drinking straight-up with water. And the ingredient label is unusually minimal containing just eight ingredients in total — whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, cocoa powder, natural flavors, himalayan pink salt, sucralose, and stevia extract. 

Jacked Factory Authentic Whey Protein Powder
Jacked Factory Authentic Whey Protein Powder
Jacked Factory Authentic Whey Protein Powder

Jacked Factory’s protein contains 24 grams of protein, two grams of fat, three grams of carbs, and contains just eight ingredients in total. This formula is lean and clean.

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory Authentic Whey Protein Powder

  • Anyone one trying to lose weight. This supplement delivers protein with little to no extra macronutrients. If you’re looking to bulk up, you can toss this powder into a more caloric shake or bake with it. 
  • Budget-conscious buyers. Jacked Factory’s whey protein powder costs a dollar per serving, which is definitely on the low end compared to other picks on this list. 
  • If you’re looking for unique flavors, Jacked Factory offers Fruity Cereal Splash, Orange Cream, and Salted Chocolate Caramel in addition to the more basic Double Chocolate and Vanilla. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory Authentic Whey Protein Powder

  • People looking to gain weight who may want a more caloric, carb-heavy whey protein formula. 
  • Anyone who wants to buy a lot of protein powder at once. Jacked Factory lets you buy just 30-servings. (Of course you can purchase multiple tubs at once, but they don’t offer any bulk deals.)

This formula is basic, but delivers what most people looking for a protein powder want — a solid amount of protein, lower carbs and fats, and a reasonably short ingredient label, all at an affordable price. 

Best Whey Protein for Men

For men who are looking to pack on some muscle in the gym, protein content is key. This product is a great pick for both protein, and for guys who want to avoid artificial ingredients.

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate contains 88 percent protein-by-weight, which is one of the highest protein contents on the market. In addition to its 28 grams of protein per scoop, this whey isolate also contains only half a gram of fat, one gram of carbs, and under a gram of sugar. It comes in seven flavors — Chocolate Peanut Butter, Milk Chocolate, Vanilla, Cereal Splash, Strawberry, Salted Caramel, and Cinnamon Pastry. It is one of the pricier options due to its high protein content and quality grass-fed whey isolate. 

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Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

This transparent ingredient list includes a dose of calcium, iron, and potassium with 28 grams of protein, all from a company that goes out of its way to provide clear sourcing.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

  • Men looking for a whey isolate powder with a high protein-by-weight that may help with muscle gains. 
  • Athletes trying to cut back on their sugar intake — there’s no added sugar in this product. 
  • Anyone who wants a variety of flavors to choose from — this one has seven. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

  • Athletes who don’t love the taste of naturally flavored whey may want to steer clear. 
  • Anyone who’s trying to pack on a few extra pounds — each scoop of this powder only contains 120 calories. 

For men who are trying to round out their diets and gain some muscle, Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is a great way to get 28 grams of very, very natural protein.

Best Whey Protein Isolate

Whey isolate is a form of whey protein that has been filtered to reduce its lactose and fat content, leaving around 90 percent protein content behind. This whey protein packs a lot of protein, tends to be more easily digested, and contains no fat, sugar, or carbs.

Xwerks Grow

Xwerks Grow has 25 grams of protein, and no lactose, carbs, fats, or sugars. While most whey isolates contain very low doses of those ingredients, it’s rare that an isolate pulls zeros for all four. This powder also packs a solid 21 percent of the recommended intake of calcium. Sourced from 100 percent New Zealand grass-fed whey, this pick contains six grams of BCAAs per serving, which may help build muscle and aid in recovery. Xwerks Grow is also free of artificial flavors, sweeteners, or coloring, and comes in Chocolate, Vanilla, Peanut Butter, and Strawberry. 

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Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow

One of the very few protein powders with no carbs or fat whatsoever, this product contains 25 grams of whey protein isolate and is great for anyone looking for a leaner protein option. Get 10% off with discount code BARBEND10

Who Should Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Athletes who prefer a whey isolate protein powder over whey protein or hydrolyzed whey. 
  • If you’re looking for vitamins and minerals in your protein powder, this blend may help balance out your nutrient intake.
  • Folks who value having BCAAs in their protein powder, which may aid muscle retention and muscle recovery.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Those who want a higher dose of carbs, fats, or sugars in their protein powder — this powder contains none of the above. 
  • Vegans who want a powder that isn’t derived from animal products will want to look for a vegan-friendly protein powder.

While most whey protein isolates contain low doses of carbs, fats, and sugars, Xwerks Grow doesn’t contain any of these macros. It also packs 25 grams of protein and a nice boost of calcium — with no artificial ingredients to be seen.

Best Whey for Weight Loss

Whey isolate is a popular pick among people looking to lose weight as it’s high in protein and low in fat, carbs, and sugars — meaning the overall calories are low.

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.

Xwerks Grow

Because of its ingredient profile, Xwerks Grow was our favorite protein for weight loss. It’s very low in calories, offering just 110 calories, 25 grams of protein, no fat, no carbs, and no sugar. Though low in calories, this product still has over 20 percent of your daily calcium intake, which is important for bone health and possibly fat loss. On top of that, this mixture dissolves easily in water without any clumping, and has no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. 

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Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow

One of the very few protein powders with no carbs or fat whatsoever, this product contains 25 grams of whey protein isolate and is great for anyone looking for a leaner protein option. Get 10% off with discount code BARBEND10

Who Should Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Anyone trying to lose weight who may want a protein powder lower in calories — this one only has 110. 
  • People who want a protein powder with extra calcium — this is twice as much per scoop than you typically get in a whey.
  • Athletes who prioritize a powder that dissolves easily, leaving no clumps behind. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Customers who want a protein powder with more carbs, fats, and calories to supplement their diet — this one is low in all three. 
  • Folks who prefer the stronger flavors you can get from artificial ingredients.

Your caloric intake will always dictate which way the scale tips, but this protein may also help curb hunger, so you’re less likely to indulge in unnecessary calories. 

Best Whey Protein for Women

Though this protein powder is marketed toward women, it’s actually a solid choice for anyone on the hunt for a great whey protein with desirable macros. Low in fat, carbs, and sugars, but high in protein, this supplement is our top pick for women.

Cira Bright Whey

At just 120 calories, Cira Bright Whey packs 25 grams of protein (a blend of whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate) into each scoop. It contains only one and a half grams of fat, two grams of carbs, and 1 gram of sugar. It does include natural and artificial flavors and sweeteners, so if you’re trying to stay away from those ingredients, this pick may not be for you, but it does come in two really tasty flavors: Cinnamon Swirl and Cookies & Cream. 

Cira Bright Whey
Cira Bright Whey
Cira Bright Whey

Cira targets female consumers specifically, but this protein powder is great for anyone who wants a tasty blend that’s low in calories and carbs. Bright Whey comes in two great flavors — Cinnamon Swirl and Cookies ‘N Cream.

Who Should Buy Cira Bright Whey

  • Women who are looking for a lower calorie whey protein with very few carbs, fats, and sugars will appreciate the macros in this formula. 
  • Customers who are interested in more unique flavors like Cinnamon Swirl and Cookies & Cream instead of the basic chocolate and vanilla. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Cira Bright Whey

  • Folks who are trying to bulk up may want a higher calorie protein supplement that contains more carbs. 
  • Buyers who are looking for more traditional chocolate and vanilla flavors — which are great to blend into smoothies or coffee for a boost of protein.
  • Athletes who aren’t interested in a blend of proteins; this pick is made of a blend of whey concentrate and whey isolate. 

Though this supplement is a solid choice for anyone looking for a whey protein, it’s marketed specifically to women. It’s lower in calories, fat, sugar, and carbs than many whey proteins, and the flavors are a nice change from the sea of chocolate and vanilla.

Best Whey Protein for Muscle Gain

It’s no secret that protein can play a key role in muscle gains. This pick is a whey protein isolate, which means it has a high protein content and also one of the highest doses of protein on this list.

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

Sourced from 100 percent grass-fed American cows, Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate packs 28 grams of protein into each scoop. At 88 percent protein-by-weight, it also has one of the highest protein-by-weight ratios on this list. Clean of artificial sweeteners, food dyes, gluten, and preservatives, this whey isolate also contains only half a gram of fat, a single gram of carbs, and no added sugars. It comes in seven flavors and you can buy up to three tubs at once for a discounted rate.

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Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

This transparent ingredient list includes a dose of calcium, iron, and potassium with 28 grams of protein, all from a company that goes out of its way to provide clear sourcing.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

  • Bodybuilders looking to pack on muscle. This isolated whey ensures you’re getting just protein and essentially no other macros. It’s the equivalent of eating a four-ounce chicken breast, except it’s more convenient for when you’re in a pinch.
  • Customers who are wary of artificial sweeteners, dyes, and preservatives — this pick is free of all three. 
  • Anyone who wants a variety of flavors to choose from will like that this product comes in seven flavors. 
  • Folks who are looking to buy their protein powder in bulk — you can buy up to three tubs at once for a discounted rate. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

  • Athletes who want a higher calorie or carb content to potentially help pack on more weight, or for more energy during tough training sessions.
  • If you’re not concerned with protein-by-weight, there are less expensive whey concentrates you can buy instead to save some cash. 

Whey protein isolate is one of the best options to potentially help with muscle gain because of its high protein content — just be aware that you may have to dish out a little extra money for it. 

Best Tasting Whey Protein

Sometimes all you’re looking for in a protein supplement is a great taste that will keep you hooked for a while. This pick has not just one but four great flavors to choose from. 

Xwerks Grow

Xwerks prioritizes quality, and their Grow formula is tangible proof. Formulated from 100 percent New Zealand grass-fed whey, a single serving of Grow offers up 25 grams of protein (23 grams for the peanut butter flavor), and two grams of carbs and fat. It’s free of soy and gluten, and relies on stevia — instead of artificial sweeteners — for flavor. Speaking of flavors, Xwerks Grow comes in four: Chocolate, Vanilla, Peanut Butter, and Strawberry. One thing worth noting: Grow is pretty pricey, which may turn some folks off. 

10% Off
Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow

One of the very few protein powders with no carbs or fat whatsoever, this product contains 25 grams of whey protein isolate and is great for anyone looking for a leaner protein option. Get 10% off with discount code BARBEND10

Who Should Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Quality fiends who want to put only the best ingredients into their body. 
  • People who value flavor and taste. Xwerks uses natural flavorings to enhance the taste of their shakes. 
  • Folks who have a tough time handling dairy. Even though it’s not dairy-free, Xwerks’ microfiltration process removes the lactose from the product. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Anyone looking for a budget protein powder. Xwerks Grow costs two dollars per serving. 
  • Folks who are after more unique flavors. Though delicious, Grow comes in four flavors. 

This whey protein powder is produced from New Zealand cows, and doesn’t contain any artificial flavorings. It’s low in carbs and fat. It’s high in protein (25 grams per serving). It comes in four great flavors. 

Best Organic Whey Protein

Ingredient-conscious folks will most likely prefer a protein powder that’s derived from natural ingredients and free of artificial flavorings. Since it’s quite difficult to find a fully organic whey protein, this plant-based pick is a great organic option, and a solid protein powder in general that’s very similar to whey.

Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

It’s often difficult to find a whey protein certified as organic, which is why we suggest Future Kind Vegan Protein — a solid plant-based alternative that is organic. This vegan protein is made from pea and hemp protein, which is easier for some people to stomach compared to dairy-based whey and whey isolate. Future Kind’s formula is made with organic flavors and organic stevia and is free of both dairy and sugar. It also contains a full spectrum of amino acids, and each serving delivers 20 grams of protein, three grams of fat, and four grams of carbohydrates. You can buy this powder in either Chocolate or Vanilla.

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Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder
Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder
Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

Future Kind delivers 120 calories broken up into 20 grams of protein, four grams of carbs, and just three grams of fat in a single serving. It's made from a blend of pea protein and hemp protein.

Who Should Buy Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

  • People who care about eating organic foods. Future Kind is made from ingredients such as pea protein and hemp protein, and is free of artificial flavors. 
  • Those who want a powder low in carbs and fat. One serving of Future Kind’s blend contains only four grams of carbs and three grams of fat. 
  • Plant-based eaters will like that Future Kind’s formula is 100 percent vegan. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

  • Anyone who doesn’t particularly care about eating an organic diet. Generally, the “organic” label can increase the price of the product.
  • Lifters who want an actual whey protein — this pick is organic, but it’s also plant-based. 
  • People who prefer a wider variety of flavors. This product only comes in Chocolate and Vanilla. 

Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder is an organic formula free of dairy, sugar, and artificial ingredients. It packs a solid amount of protein, comes in two classic flavors, and will satisfy anyone who wants a natural product.

Best Grass-Fed Whey Protein

If you’re on the hunt for a protein that’s derived from 100 percent grass-fed whey, this pick has you covered. 

Xwerks Grow

Xwerks Grow is made from 100 percent New Zealand grass-fed whey protein isolate. The grass-fed cows graze throughout the countryside of New Zealand, which is one of the strictest countries in the world for dairy quality — all of this to say, you won’t find any hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides lingering in your protein powder. In addition, this product contains 25 grams of protein, no carbs, sugars or fats, plus twice the calcium of a typical whey. This powder also comes in four tasty flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Peanut Butter, and Strawberry. 

10% Off
Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow
Xwerks Grow

One of the very few protein powders with no carbs or fat whatsoever, this product contains 25 grams of whey protein isolate and is great for anyone looking for a leaner protein option. Get 10% off with discount code BARBEND10

Who Should Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Customers who prioritize whey protein isolate derived from grass-fed dairy will like this blend. 
  • Athletes who are trying to limit their carb, sugar, or fat intake — this product doesn’t contain any of these ingredients. 
  • Folks who want an added dose of calcium in their protein powder. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Xwerks Grow

  • Athletes who are trying to gain weight and may want a protein powder with a higher calorie or carb count. 
  • Anyone who wants a straight protein supplement, and doesn’t care about having added vitamins and minerals. 
  • People who prefer to have a digestive enzyme blend in their protein powder. 

This grass-fed whey isolate is not only chock-full of calcium, but it’s also one of few protein powders that contain zero carbs, sugars, or fats — it’s a solid pick for anyone looking for a lean, antibiotic- and hormone-free protein powder. 

Best Whey Protein Meal Replacement

If you want a whey protein with plenty of additional micronutrients to help nourish you, this product is going to be a great fit.

Kaged Clean Meal

Whey protein is great for folks who want just protein and nothing else, but it’s not the most filling or nutritious option. If you’re on the hunt for a protein that offers more carbs and fats for muscle recovery, or a formula that can replace a standard meal, then this pick is your best bet. Depending on if you take two or three scoops, Clean Meal delivers either 270 or 360 calories, respectively. For three scoops, you get 42 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbs, and seven grams of fat. It also contains 21 vitamins and minerals and is made with real whole foods, like quinoa and oats. 

KAGED Muscle Clean Meal
KAGED Muscle Clean Meal
KAGED Muscle Clean Meal

When you're on the go or trying to slam calories, Clean Meal boasts either 270 or 360 calories-worth of nutrition with balanced macros from whole food ingredients. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off your purchase. 

Who Should Buy Kaged Clean Meal

  • Anyone who wants a protein powder that can replace an entire meal. 
  • Athletes who need more calories and carbs overall to recover from tough workouts. 
  • If you’re always on the go and need an easy-to-consume meal to take with you, this meal replacement is the way to go.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Clean Meal

  • People who use protein purely as a supplement and prefer to eat their carbs and fats.
  • Anyone who doesn’t want to drink their calories will want to look for a protein bar.
  • Lifters on a cut. You’re only allowed so many calories, and meal replacement drinks, though filling, aren’t as satisfying as regular foods. 

You want your meal replacement powder to maintain a balanced macro profile that simply scales along with the calorie count. Clean Meal does, and, better yet, it’s formulated from whole food sources like oats and quinoa. 

Best Sustainably-Sourced Whey Protein

Legion contains effective and transparently sourced ingredients, is free of potentially harmful fillers, and delivers on taste.

Legion Whey+ Protein 

Legion Whey+ contains zero artificial flavors and sweeteners, is GMO- and lactose-free, and is made of 100 percent grass-fed whey protein isolate from sustainable dairy farms in Ireland. It’s also higher in calcium compared to other protein isolate powders. We like that Legion Whey+ mixes well in water and milk. It comes in various flavors: Salted Caramel, Mocha Cappuccino, Cinnamon Cereal, and Mint Chocolate, in addition to the normal variations of chocolate and vanilla you’ll often see from manufacturers. However, if you want to avoid soy or maltodextrin, then look elsewhere; this protein powder contains both of those ingredients. 

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Legion Whey+
Legion Whey+
Legion Whey+

An all natural, non-GMO, fat-free whey that's cheaper than many competitors, Legion Whey+ is made from 100 percent grass-fed whey protein isolate from sustainable dairy farms in Ireland. It's also higher in calcium compared to other powders on the market.

Who Should Buy Legion Whey+

  • People who want an all-natural whey protein without sacrificing flavor or variety of flavors.
  • Athletes on the go who want a smooth-mixing protein powder will appreciate how easily this powder mixes with water. 
  • People who care about the welfare of the animals that provide their protein. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Whey+

  • People who want to avoid maltodextrin at all costs. This is a common additive in many whey proteins to help with flavor, and Legion’s Whey+ does contain some. 
  • If you’re avoiding seed oils at all cost, you may want to look elsewhere. Whey+ contains a tiny amount of sunflower oil to help with flavor. 

For people who are environmentally-minded, Legion+ Whey ensures that their whey is sourced sustainably from American cows, with a protein-by-weight ratio of 88 percent. 

Related: Read our full review on Legion Whey+ Protein

Best Non-Whey Protein for Vegans

Whey protein is the industry standard for protein supplementation, but whey also isn’t vegan-friendly as it’s a byproduct of making dairy products like milk and cheese. Others may want to avoid whey due to potential spoilage (though this is rare if the right storage conditions are met) or unappealing smells or tastes. 

Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

Future Kind’s plant-based protein is made from pea and hemp protein and contains a full spectrum of amino acids. Compared to other vegan protein powders, Future Kind is pretty low in fats and carbs, boasting only three and four grams, respectively. While those numbers are a tad high compared to whey protein isolate formulas, they’re pretty low for a plant-based powder. You can buy this protein in two flavors — Chocolate and Vanilla — but if you’re looking for more interesting flavors or a wider variety of flavors, you’ll have to opt for a different brand.

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Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder
Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder
Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

Future Kind delivers 120 calories broken up into 20 grams of protein, four grams of carbs, and just three grams of fat in a single serving. It's made from a blend of pea protein and hemp protein.

Who Should Buy Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

  • Plant-based eaters who want a vegan formula as this product is made with a blend of pea and hemp protein. 
  • Anyone who wants a vegan protein that closely resembles the macronutrient makeup of a whey protein powder.
  • If you like buying in bulk, you can buy this powder in packs of two or three bottles for a lower cost per bottle.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

  • Anyone who wants a whey formula — this formula is made from plant-based protein.
  • Folks who want more flavors to choose from as this product only comes in two. 

It’s not uncommon for plant-based proteins to be higher in carbs and fats (due to the source ingredients), but Future Kind’s macro profile is closer to whey than many plant-based proteins we’ve seen. 

Best Whey Protein for Weight Gain

The best whey protein for gaining weight is a mass gainer that contains whey. You’ll get more calories, and protein per serving, allowing you to bulk up without having to chew through yet another chicken breast. 

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

If you’re looking to bulk up, and maybe can’t stomach another bite of food with your current macros, then you’ll appreciate the 750 calories per scoop that Transparent Labs Mass Gainer delivers. Each two-scoop serving (196.7 grams) provides 53 grams of protein, 114 grams of carbs, and 14 grams of fat. The whey comes from grass-fed cows, and the carb sources include organic tapioca, oats, and sweet potatoes. Instead of sugar, Transparent Labs sweetens their product with stevia and monk fruit. 

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Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

With nothing artificial, whey from New Zealand, a good amount of fiber, and little sugar, this mass gainer will satisfy most athletes. It's a clean mass gainer that focuses on simplicity over added bells and whistles.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

  • People who want all-natural protein; this mass gainer is grass-fed and free from artificial ingredients.
  • Folks who want a true mass gainer for extra calories. 750 calories is a lot, and the delicious flavors — Cookies N Cream and Vanilla — make it easier to stomach. 
  • Bodybuilders or strength athletes who are in a mass-gaining phase. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

  • Anyone who is cutting down. Taking this product will not help you lose weight, if that’s your goal. 
  • Those on low-carb diets — this product is much higher in carbs than typical whey protein powders.
  • Penny pinchers will find that this product is pricier than conventional whey.

This basic mass gainer is high in calories and flavor, but free from fillers that a lot of people may want to avoid in their whey powders or mass gainer supplements. 

Best Hydrolyzed Whey Protein 

When it comes down to it, most proteins will offer just about the same muscle-building benefits. That said, price is a significant factor for many folks, and we think that Dymatize offers one of the best quality hydrolyzed proteins at a competitive price. 

Dymatize ISO 100

Why Dymatize? Besides the fact that it tastes great with water — some may find it too sweet — the first ingredient in the product is hydrolyzed whey protein. We dive deeper into the science further down in this article, but the long and short of it is that hydrolyzed whey absorbs faster than other forms of whey. That’s because enzymes partly break it down, and this fast absorption is what makes it more expensive. However, Dymatize ISO 100 offers one of the best price points for hydrolyzed whey that you will find.

Dymatize ISO 100
Dymatize ISO 100
Dymatize ISO 100

Dymatize ISO 100's hydrolyzed whey absorbs faster than other forms of whey as enzymes partly break it down. Plus, this product is sweet and tastes great mixed with water. 

Who Should Buy Dymatize ISO 100

  • People who like mixing whey with water; this powder tastes great without adding milk or any other ingredients to the shake.
  • Low-fat dieters; there’s no fat at all in most of Dymatize’s flavors.
  • Anyone who’s interested in an easy-to-absorb whey protein — hydrolyzed whey is typically your best bet.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Dymatize ISO 100

  • People who are looking for all of their whey to be hydrolyzed; while it’s the first ingredient, there’s also some regular whey isolate in there.
  • Folks without a sweet tooth; this product is really quite sweet. That’s why it’s great with water.

If you’re a serious lifter who desires the low-fat, low-carb formula that hydrolyzed whey offers but can’t deal with the sticker shock, then this is the pick for you.

The Benefits of Whey Protein Powder

Protein powders usually offer a higher protein concentration than food, but they may also lack other nutrients that naturally accompany proteins found in meat, fish, dairy, and whole grains. Protein from food offers vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and healthy fats often unavailable in protein powder. We would never recommend that you take protein powder as a complete protein substitute — just a dietary supplement.

whey protein powders
Tacar/Shutterstock

[Related: Should Athletes Consume Soy at All?]

There’s plenty of debate among bodybuilders and strength athletes alike about whether a post-workout shake significantly improves recovery and muscle growth.

Some research suggests that taking a protein shake after you work out might be better for muscle gain than whole foods. A study published in Physiological Reports suggests that taking 40 grams of whey protein is better than 20 grams, so maybe you should have two protein shakes. (1) Another study suggests pre-workout protein is even more important. (2) As for the type of protein you should consume, does it have to be whey? Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, at Precision Nutrition told us:

“Whey protein has an incredibly high biological value, incredibly high leucine content, and it’s digested rapidly so you get this quick rise in muscle protein synthesis. And if you look at short term studies, two hours after a workout you see this rapid rise in protein synthesis with whey more so than soy.”

Leucine is linked with muscle protein synthesis, and whey is super high in leucine, according to a 2012 protein comparison published in Nutrition & Metabolism. (3)(4)

[Related: What’s the Difference Between Grass-Fed Whey Vs. Regular Whey?]

If you’re regularly engaging in strenuous exercise, you need to calculate your macros and consume a relatively large amount of protein (and calories overall) to build muscle, recover properly, and get stronger for the next workout. Whey is a fantastic way to help with that.

How We Decided On These Whey Proteins

It may look uncomplicated, but assessing the key differences between different protein powders is no easy task. It’s important to emphasize that some of the areas we note below aren’t necessarily good or bad. Some athletes prefer foods without artificial sweeteners, and some try to limit soy. That said, there’s not much evidence that either has adverse effects; we simply point out the details to help you make an informed decision. Here are the ingredients and factors we take into consideration when putting together this guide.

[Related: We Decide the Best Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Flavor]

Types of Protein Powders

Whey proteins typically contain one or more of three kinds of protein: concentrate, isolate, and/or hydrolysate. They each have their own pros and cons: Whey concentrate is cheaper and extracted with an enzyme or acid; whey isolate is lower in fat and carbs; hydrolyzed whey digests more quickly and could be safer for those with allergies. All of this is taken into account, and we’ve included all types of whey on this list — no matter your preference, there’s an option for you here. 

Protein Per Calorie

A gram of protein has four calories, and many measure the protein density of a supplement by how many calories it provides per gram. If a shake offers 25 grams of protein, then you’re getting 100 calories (if there aren’t any added carbs and fat.) To keep calories lower, you typically want a protein powder with fewer grams of carbs and fats. So, pay attention to this number.

Artificial Sweeteners

We’re not taking a stance on whether artificial sweeteners are unhealthy, but we can’t ignore that many athletes prefer to avoid them. To that end, we point out the presence of aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and anything else used to sweeten the product like stevia or sugar alcohols, which can cause digestive issues among a small portion of the population.

whey protein shake
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Protein Powder Additives

Some people avoid soy at all costs, but soy is a trendy addition to protein supplements as a means to improve mixability. Perhaps you have issues with thickeners and stabilizers like xanthan gum or carrageenan, which can cause digestive discomfort. Again this is about your preference, but we take these ingredients into account.

Protein Powder Taste

Chalky, smooth, sweet, earthy, bitter…there are many ways a powder can taste. We consider the real taste test to be how a protein powder tastes with water — it’s not as hard to make something that tastes good with milk.

What’s In Your Protein Powder?

Aside from protein, there can be a range of added nutrients included in your protein powder. Here’s a guide to the most common ingredients you’re likely to find in a tub.

Whey Concentrate, Isolate, or Hydrolysate

Usually a byproduct of cheesemaking, whey concentrate is the cheapest form of protein and contains the most fat and carbs, including lactose. Whey isolate has been processed through a microfilter and results in fewer carbs and less fat, sometimes none at all. In contrast, hydrolysate (aka hydrolyzed whey) has been further broken down with enzymes, so it digests the fastest.

Casein

Sometimes included with whey protein powders, casein is the other protein found in milk. (Milk protein is about 80% casein, 20% whey.) Used to make cheese — it’s not a byproduct of cheesemaking, it is the product — casein digests more slowly and is more filling. It also thickens really easily, so it’s great for making protein puddings and “ice cream.”

Artificial and Natural Sweeteners

Protein powders often contain either artificial sweeteners like sucralose or acesulfame potassium, as they’re widely recognized as safe for human consumption. The FDA recommends a daily limit of 15 milligrams of artificial sweeteners. Some of the protein powders we’ve included on this list contain no artificial sweeteners though. These products are sweetened naturally with ingredients like Stevia. 

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Lecithin

This is a fatty substance used to improve mixability. Lecithin is usually made from soy, but sometimes you’ll find the more expensive sunflower lecithin in products that are more geared toward the soy-phobic Paleo crowd. There’s no good reason to fear soy lecithin unless you have an allergy or sensitivity — reams of research has found no correlation between soy ingestion and reduced testosterone or muscle mass. (5)(6)

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive Enzymes may help break down proteins, lipase fat, amylase carbs and lactase lactose, and many protein powders include a blend of these enzymes (which may include Protease, Lipase, or Amylase). Some interesting evidence suggests they might help to increase the absorption rate and reduce the risk of indigestion. (7)

When To Take Whey Protein Powder

There isn’t necessarily a “best time” to take your protein powder. Just because you don’t consume your shake directly after your workout does not mean you’ll lose the muscle you worked so hard for throughout your session. As long as you are consuming enough protein throughout the course of the day, your gains should remain. If you can get a shake in immediately after a workout, that’s a great way to ensure you’re boosting your overall protein intake, but it’s not a requirement to keep you on track to hit your goals. 

You Don’t Have to Take Protein Before, During, or After a Workout

There are many myths perpetuated by 1990s bodybuilding magazines — one of them is that you need to down a protein shake minutes after your workout to feed your starving muscles. While that might not be a bad idea for an Olympia competitor who already has all of their calories, macros, micros, sleep, hormone levels, and everything else dialed in, it doesn’t matter for the average person. Your total calories and macronutrients determine whether you gain muscle and lose fat, not when you eat.

How Much is Whey Protein Powder?

If you just look at the cost of the container of whey protein that you’re buying, it’s going to be hard to tell what you’re actually getting for your money. To find out how much whey protein you’re actually getting for your money, you’ll want to compare the cost of the container and the number of servings — you’ll likely find the cost per serving to be around $1 to $2, varying by brand and ingredients.

Best Whey Protein Powder Overall Jacked Factory Authentic Whey Protein Powder $26.99

$0.90 per serving

Best Whey Protein for Men Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate $59.00

$1.97 per serving

Best Whey Protein Isolate Xwerks Grow $49.00

$1.63 per serving

Best Whey Protein for Weight Loss Xwerks Grow $49.00

$1.63 per serving

Best Whey Protein for Women Cira Bright Whey $39.99

$1.33 per serving

Best Whey Protein for Muscle Gain Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate $59.00

$1.97 per serving

Best Tasting Whey Protein  Xwerks Grow $49.00

$1.63 per serving

Best Organic Whey Protein Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder $44.95

$1.50 per serving

Best Grass Fed Whey Protein Xwerks Grow $49.00

$1.63 per serving

Best Whey Protein Meal Replacement Kaged Muscle Clean Meal $44.99

$2.25 per serving

Best Sustainably Sourced Whey Protein Legion Whey+ $44.99

$1.50 per serving

Best Non-Whey Protein for Vegans Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder $44.95

$1.50 per serving

Best Whey Protein for Weight Gain Transparent Labs Mass Gainer $69.00

$4.60 per serving 

Best Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Dymatize ISO 100 $74.99

$1.05 per serving 

 Cost is affected by the type of whey powder, additives, protein density, and other factors. The more natural, organic, or transparent your protein powder is, the more likely it is that the cost will be higher. In addition, added helpful ingredients (like digestive enzymes or probiotics), may also jack up the price tag. You’ll find that the most basic protein powders (some of which may include artificial flavorings) will generally be the least expensive. 

What to Know Before You Buy Protein Powder

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the process of buying a whey protein powder. Here are the most important things to keep in mind.

Whey Concentrate Might Not Be Great for Those With Lactose Sensitivities

It’s the cheapest form and has the most calories, but whey concentrate isn’t bad: The difference is usually two or three grams of protein when compared to isolate. But concentrate does contain lactose. It’s not a lot, you may want to consider buying a hydrolyzed whey — which is typically easier on the stomach — if you’re really sensitive.

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Hydrolyzed Whey Is Best for the Elite Few

It’s the most expensive form of whey, and yes, some studies have found it useful for athletes who work out twice per day and need to recover really fast. However, for the average person, it won’t make a practical difference. A caveat here is that hydrolyzed whey is so broken down that it’s usually the whey of choice for people with milk allergies. (8) (If you have a milk allergy or any food allergy for that matter, consult with your doctor before taking a protein powder.) The downsides of hydrolyzed whey — one of which being that it’s more expensive and tastes worse — probably aren’t worth it to most people.

You Probably Don’t Need to Worry About Soy Lecithin

The vast majority of protein powders contain a dash of soy lecithin because it helps to improve mixability. Concerns over soy raising estrogen levels or lowering testosterone levels have been floating around the strength training world for years, but studies show that most people’s hormone levels are unaffected by soy. If you want to learn more about the effects of soy, check out our video below where we dive deeper into the studies surrounding this topic. 

And note that if you’d rather avoid plant estrogen, you’ll also need to cut out coffee, oatmeal, apples, and a lot of other foods, too.

Grass-Fed Whey Probably Won’t Have a Practical Difference On Your Health

Grass-fed dairy is indeed higher in antioxidants and healthful fats, like Omega-3s and CLA, than regular dairy. (9)(10) That said, whey has almost all of the fat taken out of it anyways. For context, people supplement with one or two grams of Omega-3s when consciously trying to consume more.

Whey has about three grams of fat, and less than five percent are polyunsaturated fats. Even less of that fat Omega-3. (11) The same dosage goes for CLA, of which you’d find 0.06 grams in a scoop of grass-fed whey. (10) Grass-fed cows probably live happier lives with more time spent outdoors, which is a valid reason to prefer it. But don’t think taking grass-fed whey over regular whey is like taking a multivitamin. (12

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Final Word

It wasn’t easy to land on these top picks; we had to weigh ingredients, effectiveness, taste, and many other factors, including how different consumers value totally different qualities in their health supplements. But we’re confident that we’ve selected the best whey protein powders no matter what your reasons are for turning to protein shakes. All we can say now is bottoms up.

FAQs

What is whey protein powder?

There are two types of protein in milk: whey and casein. The two get separated in the cheesemaking process, and while whey used to be considered something of a waste byproduct, it’s a very high quality protein that can be processed into powder. Usually, flavorings are added to make for a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to consume protein.

What is whey concentrate?

Whey concentrate is the most basic, unprocessed, and inexpensive form of whey protein powder. It also contains the most carbohydrates (including sugar, and lactose) and fat. It’s nonetheless relatively low in carbs and fat, with about two to five grams of each for every 20 to 25 grams of protein.

What's the difference between whey concentrate vs isolate?

Whey concentrate is the least processed kind of whey protein powder, so it has the most carbohydrates and fat. (About three grams each per 20-25 grams of protein.) Whey isolate is further processed in a way that reduces most of the carbs and fat. Some whey isolates contain no carbs or fat whatsoever. This makes it more diets that severely restrict carbohydrates and/or fat, though the taste does suffer somewhat.

References

  1. Macnaughton LS, et al. The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. Physiol Rep. 2016 Aug;4(15).
  2. Stark M, et al. Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Dec 14;9(1):54.
  3. Norton LE, et al. Leucine content of dietary proteins is a determinant of postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in adult rats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Jul 20;9(1):67.
  4. Breen L, et al. Leucine: a nutrient ‘trigger’ for muscle anabolism, but what more? J Physiol. 2012 May 1;590(9):2065-6.
  5. Hamilton-Reeves JM, et al. Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):997-1007.
  6. Kalman D, et al. Effect of protein source and resistance training on body composition and sex hormones. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Jul 23;4:4.
  7. Oben, J et al. An open label study to determine the effects of an oral proteolytic enzyme system on whey protein concentrate metabolism in healthy males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr . 2008 Jul 24;5:10.
  8. Potier, M et al. Comparison of digestibility and quality of intact proteins with their respective hydrolysates. J AOAC Int . Jul-Aug 2008;91(4):1002-5.
  9. La Terra, S et al. Increasing pasture intakes enhances polyunsaturated fatty acids and lipophilic antioxidants in plasma and milk of dairy cows fed total mix ration. Dairy Sci. Technol. 90, 687–698 (2010).
  10. Dhiman, TR et al. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci . 1999 Oct;82(10):2146-56.
  11. Månsson,HL et al. Fatty acids in bovine milk fat. Food Nutr Res . 2008;52.
  12. Jude, C et al. The environmental impact of corn-fed vs. grass-fed beef finishing systems. J. Anim. Sci. 88 (E-supplement 2):686.