If Arnold Schwarzenegger made a protein powder would you buy it?
Ladder is banking on a “yes.” This is a very hot supplement company that’s not just backed by the Terminator it’s also got LeBron James, Lindsey Vonn, and Cindy Crawford as their founders.
If you’ve been taking supplements for a while, you may be wondering how anybody can do anything new or interesting with whey protein. It’s about the most common workout supplement you can find and you could be forgiven for thinking we’d done everything we can with whey.
Without overselling it, Ladder has produced something that stands out in the market. While it’s not super low in carbs it’s all natural, soy free, contains a surprising amount of vitamins, plus it delivers a hit of probiotic bacteria, which have a host of benefits for athletes.
Let’s take a closer look.
[Don’t miss our complete list of the best whey protein powders on the market!]
What Is Ladder?
Besides Schwarzenegger, James, Vonn and Crawford, there are a few interesting things that are interesting about Ladder. The fact that there are such big name athletes attached to it means it has to be athlete friendly, so every one of their products is tested by NSF. That’s a product testing, inspection, and certification organization that makes sure there are no banned substances in the products. (Some might feel that’s unnecessary for a whey protein, but athletes can’t be too careful with supplements.)
Ladder is also only available direct to consumer, so you can’t get it in your local store, and the products are exclusively sold in little packets so that there’s no question of how much to take per serving.
Finally, the company offers customized supplement plans for you based on a short quiz you can take on their site. It’s pretty basic, asking if you take protein with every meal, if you take vitamin supplements, how often you work out, and so on. Then it delivers a recommendation for which of their supplements you should take and how often.
If you lift weights, it’s probably a good idea to take some whey every day. (At least, it makes that high protein intake easier to deal with.) Here’s what you’ll get with Ladder.
Ladder Whey Nutrition
One packet delivers:
6g carbs (2g fiber, 3g sugar)
The Chocolate and the Vanilla flavors have slightly different macronutrients — the Vanilla has 0.5 grams of fat and 1 fewer gram of carbohydrate. (Ladder still says they both have 130 calories, though Chocolate should be closer to 137 calories.)
But there’s more! This has a bunch of vitamins and minerals added to it and you’ll get 15 to 30 percent of your daily Vitamins A, C, E, magnesium, phosphorus, and a few others. It’s highest in calcium (44% of the RDI) and biotin (200%), a B-vitamin linked to healthy hair and skin.
Finally, there are 2 billion CFUs of probiotic bacteria in here from eight different strains.
Ladder Whey Ingredients
Milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate are the first ingredients, meaning that whey isn’t actually the main protein in this product. (More on that below.) For the Chocolate flavor the rest of the ingredients are cocoa, cane sugar, natural flavors, salt, stevia, monk fruit extract, silica (an anti-caking agent), and a thickener blend (guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan).
The Vanilla flavor has pretty much the same ingredients but there’s no cocoa and it contains sunflower lecithin.
Ladder Whey Benefits & Effectiveness
The ingredients are milk protein isolate (24.8 grams) and whey protein isolate (5.5 grams) and since milk protein is 80% casein, this actually has a lot more casein than whey. Casein is a slow digesting protein and whey digests more quickly, so combining the two may result in a shake that’s more filling and results in amino acids being released into the bloodstream more gradually over time.(1)
[Some say this makes casein more anabolic, others disagree — find out in our video comparing whey versus casein!]
The protein is also grass-fed, which is rare. Grass-fed whey has higher levels of beneficial fats like CLA, but there’s just 1 gram of fat per serving so the fact that it’s grass-fed won’t make much of a practical difference to your health.(2) But grass-fed cows are guaranteed to spend more time outside running around so it might bring some peace of mind in that respect.
Finally, the probiotic bacteria are a real standout. A very exciting area of nutrition research, having a gut with a lot of probiotic bacteria from a lot of different strains has been linked to better immunity, lower inflammation, and even better mental health.(5)(6)(7)(8)
Ladder Whey Price
The more you buy, the cheaper the product gets. If you just want to try it out and not subscribe for regular shipments, you need to buy 8 bags, which come to a little over $3 per serving or 10 to 12 cents per gram of protein.
If you subscribe to 12 per month the cost drops to $2.40 to $2.60 each, or between 9 and 10 cents per gram of protein. Sign up for 30 per month and it drops to $1.90 to $2.10 per serving, or between 7 and 8 cents per gram.
Now, the average protein powder is between 3 and 5 cents per gram so this is on the pricier side, especially if you don’t subscribe. Then again it’s all natural, there’s no soy, it’s got vitamins, it’s got probiotics, amd it’s NSF certified, so there is a lot more going on here than with your standard whey.
Ladder Whey Taste
I tried the Chocolate and the Vanilla flavors. The good news is the Chocolate is great: it’s not too sweet but not too bitter. I’d say it’s more like dark chocolate than milk chocolate but there’s also a real undercurrent of maltiness that helps to round out the flavor.
The Vanilla isn’t that great. It’s quite sweet, closer to an ice cream than a vanilla crème; I’d say it’s bordering on birthday cake. That’s not a problem for me, but it has chalky texture that coats the tongue after you drink it. That element is also there with the Chocolate but it’s more noticeable and unpleasant with the Vanilla.
Ladder Whey: The Takeaway
- All natural, grass fed, no soy
- NSF certified
- Extra vitamins
- Has probiotics
- Much higher in casein than whey
- Not particularly low carb
- Gums can cause digestive discomfort
The biggest downsides here are that Ladder’s whey contains added sugar, isn’t that low in carbs, it’s expensive, and it has more casein than whey. (The casein content doesn’t make it any less anabolic, it just makes the label seem a little inaccurate.)
But it’s NSF certified, it’s all natural, the dairy’s grass fed, there’s no soy, it’s got a bunch of vitamins, and it delivers a big hit of probiotic bacteria. This definitely stands out in the market and if you like Chocolate, I think it might be worth the money, especially if you’re an athlete.
1. Boirie Y, et al. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Dec 23;94(26):14930-5.
2. Dhiman TR, et al. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci. 1999 Oct;82(10):2146-56.
3. Cinar V, et al. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23.
4. Christensen R, et al. Effect of calcium from dairy and dietary supplements on faecal fat excretion: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2009 Jul;10(4):475-86.
5. Carvalho BM, et al. Influence of gut microbiota on subclinical inflammation and insulin resistance. Mediators Inflamm. 2013;2013:986734.
6. Le Chatelier E, et al. Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature. 2013 Aug 29;500(7464):541-6.
7. Messaoudi M, et al. Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. Br J Nutr. 2011 Mar;105(5):755-64.
8. Schmidt K, et al. Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 May;232(10):1793-801.