Best protein powders – what’s the deal there?
No doubt you’ve seen them, those impressively big tubs of stuff often with a picture on them of some chap’s muscular torso. The basic premise of protein powders is that if you want to build strength and muscles, you need plenty of protein.
Sure – you can do that through your diet. Chicken breast, egg whites, steaks and tuna are some of the best sources of protein out there. But it can be hard to eat the amount you need, especially if you’re a big dude and you’re powering your way through mega workouts on a regular basis. That’s where protein powders come in. They are a quick and easy way of upping the protein component in your diet and can help you achieve your goals.
As we’re helpful sorts, we rounded up some of the best protein powders there are and reviewed them here. Read on for your guide to the proteins you should be taking.
Top Ten Protein Powders Review
1. Myprotein Impact Whey ISOLATE
Myprotein Impact Whey ISOLATE calls itself one of the “purest whey proteins” that are available out there. What’s the deal with whey protein and why do experts favour it so much?
For this, we need to think about milk which consists of two types of proteins – casein and whey. If you know anything about cheese making, you will know that whey is a by-product of that process. Because it contains all nine essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein and it is low in lactose, so for most people, it’s relatively easy to tolerate.
Myprotein Impact is 90 percent protein and just one percent fat, which makes it an excellent addition to the diet in terms of a clean protein that won’t add too many calories. It’s been tested by the independent verifier, Labdoor, for quality and value. It is an excellent choice for both performance and recovery.
Per serving of Myprotein Impact Whey ISOLATE, you get 22g of protein which can help to contribute to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. The product is also low in carbs which is useful if you are following a low-carb or ketogenic diet. It comes in some very indulgent flavors such as Chocolate Smooth, Rocky Road and Salted Caramel. The manufacturers recommend you take the protein powder thirty to sixty minutes post-workout for maximum benefit. You can also use it at other times of the day if you need to get more protein into your diet.
2. Transparent Labs Protein Series 100% Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate
Blimey is not just whey protein, but grass-fed whey protein. Why is grass-fed thought to be better than your common or garden cow?
Simple. A cow is meant to eat grass. It’s the best thing for their diet – and yours. Grass-fed, rather than grain-fed, is what cows are supposed to eat. Grass-fed cows will move about more. They have to do this, in order to eat enough grass and calories. This will make them leaner. Their meat will have more Omega-3s in it because they will be consuming grasses and clover. Grass-fed steak, for example, has about twice the Omega-3s in it than grain-fed.
Your average grass-fed cow has a better fatty-acid profile and doesn’t have the hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals you tend to find in the grain-fed cow. Plus, they have a nicer life so your conscience can be clearer when you eat its products.
When it comes to protein shakes, not all shakes are created equal. This one, for example, has a whopping 28g of protein per serving. It is ideal for all those who struggle to fit their daily protein requirements in. If you’re a big fella or female and you need lots of protein to match your typical daily energy expenditure, then a product that promises massive amounts of protein is going to be your new best friend. It is also low in fat and carbohydrates so maintaining that lean muscle mass will be a breeze. It digests quickly so is great post-workout.
3. NowFoods Whey Isolate Unflavoured Powder
As we’ve already pointed out, whey protein is thought to have the highest biological value of protein of any protein source. It’s superior in its essential amino acid content when compared to beef, milk, casein or soya.
This one has no artificial ingredients, mixes easily, is micro-filtered and contains branched-chain amino acids. WholeFoods Magazine named NOWFoods Whey Isolate as its winner in the 2016 Natural Choice Awards in sports nutrition making this product a number one choice for you if ‘natural’ is important to you. One level scoop of NowFoods Whey Isolate contains 25g protein, less than 1g of total carbohydrates, 0.5g of fat and all nine of the essential amino acids – 110 calories altogether.
It’s a great product for active individuals, and as it’s unflavoured, you can mix it up with anything to create a post-workout shake. (Please note – there are flavored versions of this powder too.)
We suggest you mix with milk, a couple of tablespoons of good quality cocoa or cacao powder and some manuka honey for a post-workout supplement par excellence. You’ll be getting a great hit of protein, antioxidants from the cocoa or cacao and energy and vitamins from the honey. Win, win.
4. Dymatize ISO-100
This product isn’t shy to tell you how good it is – and that opinion is backed up by plenty of others. Dymatize ISO-100 has been awarded Isolate Protein of the Year by that muscle mania behemoth, Bodybuilding.com, for four years in a row (2013-2016). It is also the world’s best-selling isolate on GNC.com and VitaminShoppe.com, the biggest sports nutrition store in the world’s largest sports nutrition market.
ISO100 HYDROLYZED is a premium combination of hydrolyzed whey protein isolate and whey protein isolate. Through the process of enzymatic hydrolysis, whey protein is broken down partially into amino acid chains, thus making it very easy to digest. It is free from sugar and fat and has less than 116 calories per serving when you mix it with water alone.
Each serving contains 25g of protein, 5.6–5.8 g of branched-chain amino acids, including 2.6–2.7 g of the key amino acid, l-leucine, depending on the flavor of the product you choose. It is gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians. Like most of the products we have been reviewing here, ISO100 HYDROLYZED is low in carbohydrates so ideal for you when you are watching those macros.
The manufacturers suggest you have one to two portions a day, before workouts, after, or anytime you feel in need of a protein kick. Reviewers report that the flavors are good – not too sweet because the sweetener used is stevia, which is a lot less sweet than Aspartame. The product is also good value for money too.
5. Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein
Nowadays, you can’t do a protein powder review without touching on a vegan alternative. We know. In days gone by, bodybuilders would have scoffed. Vegan bodybuilders. Come on… they’ll have fainted before they’ve even got halfway around the weights room.
Thankfully, there’s no reason for people to scoff anymore. Vegan bodybuilders have gained traction over the last few years, mainly thanks to the posting of their efforts on the likes of YouTube and Instagram. Step forward Torre Washington, Joe Coleman, Ivan Blazquez and Derek Tresize and let your rippling muscles and defined physiques tell their own story about why animal protein isn’t necessary for building bulk.
Into the picture has come vegan protein powders. If those people consuming animal proteins need top-ups for their workouts, the vegans need them too. Raw Organic Protein is a certified, organic, non-GMO raw vegan protein powder made from 13 raw sprouted proteins. It’s dairy-free, but it still manages to deliver all the essential amino acids together with whole-food fat-soluble vitamins, enzymes and probiotics.
Each serving provides 22g of protein. The manufacturers say raw matters as heat can denature proteins, making them less useful when consumed. The product is made at low temperatures to stop this from happening. It is easily digested and good for those who are sensitive to milk and other such proteins. It is a good idea to follow a varied diet in general and mix up your protein sources, so vegan protein powders have their place in any bodybuilder’s diet – not just the ones who eschew meat, fish and dairy products.
6. SunWarrior Warrior Blend Raw Protein
And the vegan protein powders keep on coming… As we’ve said, recent years have seen growth in such products as the popularity of the veganism lifestyle increases.
Warrior Blend brings together the power of several rich vegetable protein sources into one formula. It also contains medium-chain triglycerides from coconut to create a raw, plant-based protein powder that has a complete amino acid profile rich in arginine, lysine, leucine and branched-chain amino acids.
What’s the deal with medium-chain triglycerides? MCTs are thought to offer many health benefits. They are found naturally in coconut oil. All dietary fats are molecules that are made up of carbon atoms. These are linked in chains. Long-chain triglycerides are about 12-18 carbons long – these constitute the bulk of fat in Western diets. MCTs are about six to 10 carbons in length.
The shorter chain length is thought to enhance human health. The fats are absorbed intact and go directly to the liver to be used for energy – other types of fat need to be broken down in the intestines before they can be utilized. It also has anti-inflammatory properties so it can be useful for recovery after intense exercise.
SunWarrior is 100 percent gluten, soya, wheat and dairy-free. It’s lower in protein per serving than most of the other powders featured here, with only 15g per serving. The protein content comes from raw pea protein, organic goji berries, raw hemp protein and organic whole-ground coconut. Reviewers say the smooth texture and flavor work well with other ingredients.
7. Bulk Powders Pure Whey Isolate 97
If you want your whey protein in a very pure form, then this product is for you. Pure Whey Isolate™ 97 contains 97g of protein per 100g (99 percent of its calories). It is made from dairy whey which has been isolated and then spray-dried. It doesn’t have any carbohydrates per serving and only 0.1g of fat and therefore should be an easy addition to your diet without tipping you over your daily TDEE total.
Pure Whey Isolate™ 97 is also lactose-free and has a staggering 29g of protein per serving – the highest of the powders we have reviewed so far. If you are in the process of bulking up and adding muscles, then this powder is going to go a long way to helping you achieve your goals. Per serving, Pure Whey Isolate™ 97 has 12 percent leucine and 50 percent essential amino acids (there are 23g of BCAAs per 100g of product, by the way…)
Users report that this product foams a lot – and most of us will have an aversion to drinking anything foamy. The recommendation is that you mix the product well in advance of when you intend to drink it. You could also use an electric blender to mix it up. Particularly if you want to blend it with soya milk or almond milk. Opinions seem to be divided on the taste (it’s an unflavored protein powder), so if trying for the first time, it might be safer to mix this with something else or make it up into a smoothie.
8. Nature’s Best Zero Carb ISOPURE
Isopure specializes in pure protein. Isopure Zero Carb is a 100 percent whey protein isolate powder designed to help recovery and muscular development without adding unwanted weight in the form of fat.
There are two choices – zero or low carb and, really, it’s nit-picking here whether you go for either, but if you’re an obsessive type who counts every single gram, then, by all means, feel better about yourself by opting for the zero carbs one.
Both products have 25g of protein per serving, and they do not contain gluten lactose, or impurities. They are made through a microfiltration process into a milk protein product that is completely clear when dissolved in water. There’s a whole host of vitamins here too, including those energy-giving B ones.
Isopure Zero Carb comes in a range of flavors, and the website helpfully offers up recipes to help you make the most of your tub. Hey, we all get bored from time to time, so nice cheat-sounding recipes can spell the difference between sticking to your super-healthy, muscle-building diet or blowing it with a Big Mac and fries. The powder has 210 calories per serving – higher than most other powders which come in at about 100 cals per serving, but you might feel your workouts justify it.
9. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey
Optimum Nutrition…well, it sounds like a reassuring product, doesn’t it? Is there anyone who doesn’t want a protein powder that doesn’t give them the best possible results?!
Gold Standard, 100% Whey, is a whey protein supplement, and it’s one of the oldest products there is. It’s a best-seller too, so the company has obviously been doing something right for many years.
It is made up of over 90 percent pure protein and each serving has 24g of protein, 5.5g of branched-chain amino acids and 1g of fat. It also has glutamine in it. Consume it between meals, after your workouts and before bed, depending on what results you are looking for.
Reviewers say the product tastes great if you go for the chocolate malt or coffee flavor, but they advise you to steer clear of vanilla. The trouble with many vanilla-flavored products is they often taste artificial and cloying. Users report great results in the gym while using with muscle gains occurring, and it is also a reasonably priced product.
10. Vega Sport Protein
Our final protein powder review and we’ll celebrate with one of the newcomers, a vegan powder. This one has 30g of plant-based protein and 6g of branched-chain amino acids per serving. Here’s where it differs from the others – you will also be ingesting 1 billion CFU probiotics.
There is no sugar added, and the complete multi-source plant-based proteins come from peas, alfalfa, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. The probiotics are shelf-stable, so they can work their magic on your gut and keep you healthy. (And/or regular – though if you are already following a vegan diet, we doubt staying regular is any kind of problem for you.) The manufacturers suggest you mix the product with non-dairy milk such as soya, almond, or rice but you can mix it with regular milk too if you’re not a vegan.
As we have pointed out, it is a good idea to get protein in your diet from a variety of sources, so you don’t develop an intolerance to anyone. Non-vegans and vegetarians can make use of plant-based protein powders just as happily as vegans can. Your health and nutrition certainly won’t suffer. Reviewers say the product has changed its formulation in recent times and the result is a much better-tasting supplement that mixes more easily too.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to choose the best protein powder?
– Quality ingredients
– Brands with a good reputation
– A price that suits your budget
– The price per serving
– Mixability/reviews of the taste – it’s no use shelling out lots of money on a protein powder you can’t drink because it’s so disgusting
– Application to goals – higher calories if you need to bulk, low carbs and fat if you are looking to lean out.
What are the best protein powder companies/brands?
Few supplement companies don’t offer protein powder. It’s a staple of the nutritional supplement industry. Look for products that offer whey protein, branched-chain amino acids and added extras such as B vitamins and glutamine.
What is the best protein powder source?
Whey is regarded as the king of protein shakes, and there is plenty of research to show how effective it is as a product. But for ethical reasons, you might want to avoid whey, and modern-day plant-based proteins offer a good alternative. They are formulated to contain the complete nine essential amino acid profile so you can drink them in the confidence that they’ll help muscle development too.
As for eggs, we love eggs, and we think they belong in most people’s diets. Vegans don’t eat them, but the rest of us should be tucking in regularly. They are nutritionally dense and delicious, and there are a lot of things you can do with an egg. Choose free-range and organic where possible.