These days, many people are turning to whey protein supplementation to improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean muscle mass. Unfortunately, many people don’t really understand what protein is and how it works. They just take it because it’s the thing to do- and so many other people in the gym are doing it.
In this article, we’re going to explore whey protein powder, the benefits and risks, and the various types of whey protein powder. Then, we’ll review the top 7 protein powders on the market today and close by answering a few frequently asked questions about this fitness supplement.
Before we get started, the first thing you should be aware of is that milk is made up of two proteins:
- 80% is casein
- 20% is whey
During the cheesemaking process, the fatty parts (curds) coagulate to make cheese and the liquid is drained off. The liquid is known as whey. When you open your yogurt and see that liquid on top, you’re looking at whey. Before it was discovered that whey actually had value, it was discarded.
Now, during the process, once the whey is separated from the curds, it is processed to a powder. This is the whey that we are most familiar with. You can use this powder to make shakes, in protein bars, as meal replacements, and so many other ways you can imagine- the sky’s the limit. Of course, it’s important to remember that whey does not have a very good taste alone- which is why the manufacturing companies often add natural and artificial flavorings to or add it to foods with flavor.
Whey contains all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body needs but does not produce. Therefore, it is considered a complete protein. Additionally, the good thing is that it is very low in lactose- so even if you are lactose intolerant, you should not have any issues at all with whey protein.
According to the experts, there are lots of benefits associated with whey protein, and more potential therapeutic uses are always being discovered. If you are not getting enough protein, whey protein powder is a great way to boost your protein intake. Of course, while you should not have any issues if you are lactose intolerant, it is still dairy- so if you have a dairy allergy, you’ll want to discuss it with your physician before you get started.
Benefits & Dangers Associated with Whey Protein Powder
Just like every other fitness supplement you’ll encounter, there are benefits and dangers associated with whey protein powder. We’ll explore these below.
Benefits Associates with Whey Protein Powder
As mentioned, whey protein powder offers a variety of benefits, including the following:
- Helps with weight loss
- Lowers cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Offers potential anti-cancer properties
- Reduces risk of cardiac issues
- Improves immune response in patients with asthma
Of course, you should always keep in mind that everyone is different, and results vary from one person to the next. More research is necessary to confirm or refute the current results.
Potential Dangers Associated with Whey Protein Powder
As you can see, there are lots of benefits associated with whey protein powder- but it’s also important to acknowledge that there are some potential dangers associated with whey protein powder as well. We’ll explore those below.
For anyone that has a dairy allergy, it may be due to whey. In moderate doses, whey typically does not result in adverse reactions. However, if you do consume high doses of whey protein powder, you may experience some uncomfortable side effects, including:
- Stomach pain/cramps
- Reduced appetite
Additionally, it’s important to note that consistently consuming high doses of whey protein powder can cause acne breakouts.
3 Types of Whey Protein Powder
When it comes to protein powders in general, there are a lot of options. You have whey, casein, pea, hemp, egg, soy, and so many more. However, whey is the most common one you will encounter. There are actually 3 types of whey protein powder on the market today.
- Whey protein concentrate
- Whey protein isolate
- Whey protein hydrolysate
Some people find them confusing at first, but once you understand the difference, it’s actually pretty easy to keep them straight. Below, we’ll explore the three most common types of whey protein powder.
Whey Protein Concentrate
The first type of whey protein we’ll investigate is whey protein concentrate. This is the most common type of whey protein on the market because it’s cheap. In fact, when companies use this, they save a lot of money, and they pass that savings on to consumers.
Of course, while whey protein concentrate may save you money- the potential for negative side effects is much higher. The fat content in whey concentrate is much higher than with whey isolate or whey hydrolysate. Additionally, there are typically fillers that prevent your body from properly digesting/absorbing the protein. Some people have even reported negative gastrointestinal impacts.
Whey protein concentrate is 30% to 89% protein.
Whey Protein Isolate
The second type of whey protein we’ll look at is whey protein isolate. This is also known as pure protein. In fact, since there is nothing at all added to this form of protein, it truly is the purest protein you will find. Some of the other proteins on the market contain fats, fillers, and other things that are not so healthy. If you want to get in shape and improve your overall health, you obviously don’t want those additives.
One of the reasons it’s so pure is because of the lack of additives. However, it has also been through a filtration process in which all of the natural unhealthy ingredients, such as lactose, carbs, and fats are filtered out.
Whey protein isolate is usually 90%+ protein.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
The third form of whey protein we’ll look at is whey protein hydrolysate. There is a bit of debate around the nutritional supplement world about this form of protein. Some believe that it is healthier than whey protein isolate. However, there really is only one difference between this form and isolate.
Whey protein hydrolysate has been through one extra step, referred to as enzymatic hydrolysis, which is a process that breaks down the protein particles into smaller particles, which makes them a lot easier to digest and absorb.
Additionally, the allergen risk is much lower with whey protein hydrolysate than with other forms because of the filtration. This is why it’s commonly used in medical protein supplementation and infant formulas.
Top 7 Best Whey Protein Powders At-A-Glance
|Steel Supplements WHEY-PRO||
|Ladder Whey Protein||
|Transparent Labs Whey Protein||
|Ghost Lifestyle Whey||
|Onnit Whey Isolate Grass Fed||
|Legion Whey Isolate||
Top 7 Best Whey Protein Powder Reviews
These days, everywhere you look, you have options. The same thing is true for whey protein powders. There are so many different choices and every day it seems like there’s something new added. While options are nice to have, it can also be overwhelming and frustrating when you’re trying to find something that you can trust to be effective. That’s where we come in. We have chosen what we feel are the top 7 protein powders on the market today. Below, we’ll go over each one of them in detail, which will hopefully help you decide which one is most likely to help you reach your own personal goals. Only you can make the ultimate decision- all we can do is give you the information.
The very first whey protein supplement on our list is XWERKS Grow. This product is a 100% whey isolate that is sourced from grass-fed dairy cows on farms in New Zealand. The primary reason this is number one is because it’s an isolate, so it’s basically pure protein. It’s been through an advanced filtration process, removing carbs, lactose, and fat.
Since it’s been through this extra filtration, it’s easier for your body to digest and absorb- plus, gas and bloating isn’t a major issue and it’s soy-free and gluten-free.
Each serving of XWERKS Grow contains all you need in a protein powder. It features a stellar nutrient profile:
- 25 grams protein
- 0 carbs
- 6 grams BCAAs
- 0 fat
XWERKS Grow is available in 4 traditional flavors:
- Peanut butter
|Type of protein||
Steel Supplements WHEY-PRO
Steel Supplements WHEY-PRO is new to the fitness industry. According to their website, it provides you with high quantities of essential protein. It features ingredients such as “pure whey derivatives”, as well as other protein isolates that have been shown to facilitate the development of muscle mass. Some of the key benefits associated with Steel Supplements WHEY-PRO include:
- Muscle development
- Delicious flavor
Steel Supplements WHEY-PRO is made from whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. Each serving provides 25 grams of pure protein.
There are plenty of unique flavors available with this product, including:
- Hot Cocoa
- Milk Chocolate
- Peanut Butter
- Vanilla Cream Pie
- Strawberry Cheesecake
- Blueberry Muffin
- Banana Pancakes
- Cookies & Cream
- Butter Pecan
The only potential downside to this company is their satisfaction guarantee policy. They only accept new, unopened/undamaged packages for return and charge a 15% restocking fee. However, the good news is, they do offer sample packages of several of their products, so you can try it without buying a full container.
|Type of Protein||
Ladder Whey Protein
There are two very well-known and respected names behind Ladder Protein: Lebron James and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition, it is supported by Cindy Crawford and Lindsey Vonn. Since it is supported by these big names, why would you not be willing to give it a try? According to their website, Ladder Whey Protein can:
- Improve recovery
- Support muscle development
- Increase endurance
The macronutrient profile on this supplement is absolutely amazing. It features the following:
- 7 grams BCAAs
- 14 grams amino acids
- 26 grams protein
- 2 billion CFUs of probiotics
Ladder is not the option for you if you are looking for a lot of flavor options. At this time, they only offer two traditional flavors:
It’s also important for you to know that Ladder is NSF Certified for Sport, which means it’s undergone some pretty serious testing to make sure it’s free from anything that may have been banned from competitions.
|Type of Protein||
Whey Protein by Transparent Labs
If you are choosy about the protein powder you consume, Whey Protein by Transparent Labs may be a good option. This product is 100% whey isolate and the reason that it made our list of the best protein powders is because it is such a high-quality product.
Each scoop of Whey Protein by Transparent Labs is 32 grams- and 28 grams of that is pure protein. Therefore, each scoop of this protein powder is 88% protein, which is really high. The whey protein used in this protein powder supplement is sourced from grass-fed cows raised in the United States. They are raised on dairy farms where the farmers only feed them natural grass. They are never given any supplements, hormones, or anything unnatural. Plus, they never add anything else into their products in the manufacturing process. Therefore, you can be sure you’re getting a clean, pure protein supplement, providing your body with one of the best options on the market.
Every serving of Whey Protein by Transparent Labs contains the following:
- 28 grams protein
- 1 gram carbs
- Up to 120 calories (depending on flavor choice)
- Less than 1 gram sugar
Not only is Whey Protein by Transparent Labs known for their amazing macronutrient profile, it is also budget friendly. This product is proof that you don’t have to break your budget to get high-quality protein powder.
Finally, they have some unique and interesting flavors, along with some more traditional ones as well. They are as follows:
- Milk chocolate
- Chocolate Peanut Butter
- Salted Caramel
- Cinnamon Pastry
- Cereal Splash
If you want some variety with flavors and a high protein content that won’t break your budget, this may be the best option for you.
|Type of Protein||
Ghost Lifestyle Whey
Ghost Lifestyle Whey protein is a lot like many of the other options out there. It is made of a blend of whey isolate, whey hydrolysate, and whey concentrate. The difference with this brand as opposed to others is the fact that they use “lecithinated” protein. This basically just means it’s ultra-purified.
Each serving contains the following:
- 12.5 grams whey isolate
- 10 grams whey concentrate
- 2.5 grams whey hydrolysate
Ghost Lifestyle offers several flavor options, including:
- Coffee Ice Cream
- Milk Chocolate
- Cereal Milk
- Fruity Cereal Milk
- Cinnamon Cereal Milk
- Peanut Butter Cereal Milk
- Marshmallow Cereal Milk
The only downside is that their satisfaction guarantee is only 15 days and the product must be unopened, in the original packaging.
|Type of Protein||
Onnit Whey Isolate Grass-Fed Protein
Onnit Whey Isolate Grass-Fed Protein powder is sourced from grass-fed dairy cows raised in New Zealand. This protein powder is quite popular in the fitness arena and each serving contains the following:
- 20 grams protein
- 0 sugars
- 100 calories
At this time, Onnit is only offering 2 traditional flavors:
According to their website, Onnit Whey Isolate Grass-Fed Protein powder speeds up recovery time following intense workouts, as well as promises increased muscle gains. In addition, you can expect to enjoy all of the other benefits associated with a high-quality whey isolate protein powder.
|Type of Protein||
Legion Whey Isolate
Legion Whey Isolate is sourced from dairy cows raised on family owned and operated farms in Ireland. The primary reason this protein powder made our list is because the company only works with farmers that follow SDAS, or Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme. This is a set of strict regulations regarding farming practices, so you can be sure you’re getting clean, healthy milk. In fact, it’s some of the best in the world.
Each serving of this whey isolate protein powder contains the following:
- 22 grams protein
- 6 grams BCAAs
- 0 added sugars
- 2 grams carbs
- 120 calories
- 5 grams fat
Legion Whey Isolate protein powder is available in 12 unique flavors, along with an unflavored version for those who want something they can add to their favorite food/drink without influencing the taste. Flavor options are as follows:
- Dutch Chocolate
- French Vanilla
- Mocha cappuccino
- Cookies & Cream
- Salted Caramel
- Birthday Cake
- Strawberry Banana
- Mint Chocolate
- Fruity Cereal
- Cocoa Cereal
- Cinnamon Cereal
- Mint Chocolate
If you are looking for a whey protein isolate powder that you can be sure is clean and natural and provides an array of benefits, Legion Whey Isolate protein powder may be your best option. Plus, there’s plenty of flavor variety, so you don’t have to worry about getting bored.
|Type of Protein||
Common Questions about Best Whey Protein Powder
When you’re just getting started with something new, there are bound to be questions that come up. While we’ve tried to explain everything we can about whey protein powder in the article above, we’ve gathered a few of the most common questions about whey protein powder here so that you can do a quick look to get the answers you’re looking for.
Why add protein powder to your diet?
As you read above, there are lots of benefits associated with protein powder. The most important one is that it helps to ensure that you are getting the recommended daily requirement of protein. Plus, it helps with weight management and is the ideal meal supplement for those who are on the go and don’t have time to stop and eat. Protein fills you up and keeps you feeling full without feeling overstuffed and gives you energy that lasts.
Can protein powder be mixed with other recipes?
When using protein powder, most people opt for shakes. After all, they’re quick and easy and can be made on the go. That being said, this is definitely not the only option when it comes to this fitness supplement. There are a variety of ways that you can incorporate protein powder into your daily diet. You can sprinkle it on the top or mix it into your cottage cheese or yogurt. When you’re baking cookies or muffins, you can add it into your dough. When you’re mixing up your pizza crust for a homemade pizza, add some into your dough as well. To be honest, when it comes to using protein powder, your only limitation is your imagination. There are so many easy ways to include it as part of your diet- and if you can’t think of anything, a simple online search will unearth more options for you.
Can you use protein powders if you’re on prescription medications?
If your physician has prescribed you certain medications, you’ll want to consult with them before starting anything new- even a supplement like protein. After all, you never know what may interact with a medication and what will be safe. Unfortunately, it’s not clear at this time how safe protein powder is when taking prescription medications. Therefore, be sure to do your research and talk with your physician before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.
When should you use protein powders?
Generally, a protein powder should be consumed before or after a workout session. Of course, there are some athletes who are really committed to training and do both to maximize the effects. Of course, it’s important to note that it really doesn’t matter when you consume your protein. The only thing that truly matters is that you’re getting the recommended daily required protein for your body. When working out, it’s important that you feel full and satisfied but you don’t want to feel overstuffed. If you’re too full or you’re hungry, it makes for a miserable workout. When your workout is over, you’ll want to refuel to give your body what it needs to recover from the workout.
Can whey protein be used by vegans or vegetarians?
As we mentioned previously, whey protein is the most common form of protein on the market. We also mentioned that it comes from dairy, which means it’s sourced from animals. Vegans typically avoid anything that is sourced from animals and will probably prefer a plant-based protein. The only thing vegetarians typically avoid is meat. They are typically fine with milk products. The only others that might want to avoid whey protein are those who have a dairy allergy. That being said, if you’re lactose intolerant, you should be fine with whey protein, especially the isolate version because the lactose has been removed.
Are there any additional advantages associated with whey protein over others?
Once again, whey is the most common type of protein on the market. This is primarily because it is considered a complete protein because it contains the 9 essential amino acids that your body needs but does not produce. Since your body does not produce them, you need to get them somewhere, why not through protein supplementation? Whey protein is water soluble, and whey protein hydrolysate is even more water soluble because it’s been processed further so that the particles are smaller. Whey protein has the most research behind it, which is perhaps why we know about all of these advantages associated with it. We need more research into the other types to learn more about them.
What are amino acids?
Your cells are built from amino acids, there are 21 amino acids. Your body makes 11 of them, protein contains the 9 essential amino acids that your body needs but does not produce. This is why it’s important to make sure you’re getting plenty of protein in your diet- whether through natural sources or through supplementation.
Does whey isolate cause you to gain weight?
Protein alone does not cause weight gain. The primary reason that people gain weight is because they consume more calories than they burn. They have a caloric surplus. So, protein can cause weight gain, when used in that way. On the other hand, whey protein can be used to facilitate weight loss by using it as a meal replacement and to keep yourself feeling full so that you don’t snack or make unhealthy choices, and create a caloric deficit.
Is whey protein only for athletes?
No, whey protein is not made only for athletes. That being said, it is a good idea to be active. Of course, this is true whether you consume protein powder or not. After all, whey protein powder shakes do have calories. If you are consuming them and not burning any calories, it’s easy to have a caloric surplus and you may end up gaining a few pounds. If you want to get in shape by using whey protein powders, you need to be active. They are not magical potions that will do it all for you. You have to put in some effort to the cause.
There are lots of different types of protein powders on the market. Whey protein powder is the most popular. You’ll find it more often than you will most of the others. There are three different kinds of whey protein: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. Ideally, you want to consume an isolate or hydrolysate. Concentrate is the cheapest, but also the most dangerous because you don’t know what has been added to it.
As you can see, whey protein is associated with a variety of health benefits- but it’s also important to note that there are some risks as well, especially if you overdo it. Make sure that when you’re consuming whey protein powder that you’re staying at or under the recommended dosage.
When choosing a whey protein powder supplement, you may find yourself overwhelmed and confused by all of the options. That is why we’ve created this list of the 7 best whey protein supplements on the market today. We hope that this has been helpful for you to learn more about whey protein powder and also help you find one that you would like to try. Of course, you don’t have to pick one and stick with it. Feel free to experiment until you find one that you like that seems to fit your goals.
“9 Essential Amino Acids.” PurMEDICA, 24 Sept. 2015, www.purmedica.com/9-essential-amino-acids/.
“Calorie Deficit: Weight Loss, Dangers & How to Calculate It.” Https://Fcer.org/, fcer.org/calorie-deficit/.
“CASEIN PROTEIN: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews.” Www.webmd.com, www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1575/casein-protein.
“Enzymatic Hydrolysis – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” Sciencedirect.com, 2018, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/enzymatic-hydrolysis.
Foegeding, E.Allen, et al. “Advances in Modifying and Understanding Whey Protein Functionality.” Trends in Food Science & Technology, vol. 13, no. 5, May 2002, pp. 151–159, 10.1016/s0924-2244(02)00111-5.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Whey Protein.” Mayo Clinic, 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-whey-protein/art-20363344.
“SDAS – Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme.” Www.agridata.ie, www.agridata.ie/SDAS.html.
Vasconcelos, Quezia, et al. “Whey Protein Supplementation and Its Potentially Adverse Effects on Health: A Systematic Review.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 23 July 2020, 10.1139/apnm-2020-0370.
“What Is a Calorie Surplus?” Straight Health, 18 Apr. 2017, straighthealth.com/what-is-a-calorie-surplus/.
“What Is Whey Protein Concentrate? + Benefits and Uses.” Natural Force, naturalforce.com/blogs/nutrition/what-is-whey-protein-concentrate.
“What Is Whey Protein Hydrolysate.” Formula Sense, formulasense.com/ingredient-interpreter/what-is-whey-protein-hydrolysate.
“Whey Protein Isolate – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” Www.sciencedirect.com, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/whey-protein-isolate.
The links contained in this product review may result in a small commission if you opt to purchase the product recommended at no additional cost to you. This goes towards supporting our research and editorial team. Please know we only recommend high-quality products.
Please understand that any advice or guidelines revealed here are not even remotely substitutes for sound medical or financial advice from a licensed healthcare provider or certified financial advisor. Make sure to consult with a professional physician or financial consultant before making any purchasing decision if you use medications or have concerns following the review details shared above. Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed as the statements regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA, or Health Canada approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and do not provide any kind of get-rich money scheme. Reviewer is not responsible for pricing inaccuracies. Check product sales page for final prices.