Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Review — Is More Leucine Better?

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The California-based supplement company Designer Protein has been in the business for 25 years and their business is protein: they sell a women’s protein, a low-calorie protein, four kinds of vegan protein, and several different wheys. We decided to take a look at their Native Whey Isolate, which is a little unusual in that it contains added free-form branched chain amino acids for an extra big hit of leucine. We’ll discuss what that could mean below.

Shop Designer Whey Isolate.

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Ingredients

We grabbed the Chocolate Milkshake flavor and the first ingredient is the Designer Whey Muscle Mass Activator. The first ingredient is their whey: non-GMO, grass-fed whey isolate. Then there’s glutamine and the branched chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Then there’s some alkalized cocoa, stevia leaf extract, vitamin E, and sunflower lecithin. There are no artificial ingredients or soy.

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Ingredients
Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Ingredients

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Nutrition Info

At 41 grams, one scoop is large, about 30 percent larger than most whey protein powders.

One serving provides 150 calories: 32 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat (none saturated) and 3 grams of carbs (1 gram sugar and 1 gram fiber).

This is also very low in sodium (35 milligrams or 1 percent of the RDI) and there’s a decent hit of calcium and magnesium at 10 and 9 percent of the RDI respectively.

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Benefits and Effectiveness

Again, there are no artificial ingredients or soy in this product, plus it’s been 3rd party tested for impurities.

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Review
Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Review

So what about those extra BCAAs? One scoop of Native Whey Isolate has 9.6 grams of BCAAs, about 35 percent more than you’ll find in 41 grams of some other whey proteins. It also has extra glutamine, though there’s also little evidence that supplementing with glutamine is better for gaining muscle.

Designer Whey claim that the extra leucine makes for superior performance during workouts and earlier muscle recovery after exercise. The tub of protein suggests visiting Designer Protein’s FAQ section for more information, which says that it’s “a clinically tested and clinically proven whey protein isolate with outstanding results in muscle output” and that,

(C)linical studies measured the performance of Native Whey Isolate in head-to-head tests against other proteins including conventional whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, micellar casein and placebo.  Results have been published in scientific reviews.

Designer Protein sent me several in-house studies that concluded leucine-enriched whey is better than casein for muscle protein synthesis among aging rats and men over 65 — aging is characterized by a decreased sensitivity of muscle protein synthesis to leucine, so this could be good news for older athletes.

I also found a randomized clinical trial that came out in a 2017 edition of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition titled “Native whey protein with high levels of leucine results in similar post-exercise muscular anabolic responses as regular whey protein.” While it does note that Native Whey resulted in more blood leucine than regular whey (they used WPC 80 whey concentrate), it didn’t show more muscle protein synthesis. So the studies are pretty mixed as to whether more leucine in whey is actually better for muscle protein synthesis, with evidence leaning toward it being beneficial for older athletes.

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Price

You can pick up one tub of 21 servings for $45, which is $2.14 per serving or 6.7 cents per gram of protein.

That’s pricier than your standard whey proteins, which are usually around 3 or 4 cents per gram, but for a grass-fed whey isolate, this is a pretty standard price.

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Taste

I thought Chocolate Milkshake flavor tasted great. Since it’s naturally flavored, I was expecting an earthy, cocoa-like flavor but I’d say this tastes more like the milk left over from a bowl of Cocoa Puffs: mild, cocoa-y, and just a tiny bit fruity. It also mixes very well, leaving no clumps in the shaker.

The Takeaway

At 3 grams per serving it’s higher in carbs than a lot of whey isolates and it hasn’t been conclusively shown that the extra BCAAs and glutamine are better for muscle protein synthesis, but this is nonetheless a tasty, well-priced whey isolate that’s free from artificial ingredients, free from soy, and 3rd party tested.

Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate

Per Serving: $2.14
8.4

Ingredients

9.0/10

Effectiveness

7.0/10

Price

7.0/10

Taste

9.0/10

Mixability

10.0/10

Pros

  • No artificial ingredients
  • Contains extra BCAAs
  • 3rd party tested

Cons

  • Pricier than regular whey
  • Higher in carbs than most isolates
  • Evidence for better muscle protein synthesis is mixed

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I’m a journalist and content producer with over seven years' reporting experience on four continents, with most of that spent covering health-related issues. My resume includes covering cholera outbreaks in Kenya and the clubbing scene in Shanghai, which is also where I wrote my first ever health article for an English language magazine. (It was on diarrhea.)After returning to Australia to finish up degrees in Journalism and International Relations I wound up in New York City where I’ve worked for Men’s Health, VICE, Popular Science and others. I try to keep health relatively simple — it’s mostly vegetables and sweat — but I live to explore the debates, the fringes, the niche, and the nitty gritty.