- 1 Whey Protein Powders 101
- 2 Possible Benefits of Whey Protein Powders
- 3 Our Way of Choosing The Best Whey Protein Powders
- 4 Reviews of The Best Whey Protein Powders in 2019
- 4.1 1. Jay Robb Whey Isolate – Best Whey Protein Powder of 2019
- 4.2 2. Pure Whey Isolate – Best Lactose-free Whey Protein Powder
- 4.3 3. Optimum Nutrition Whey – Best whey protein powder for muscle gain
- 4.4 4. ALLMAX Nutrition Isoflex Whey Isolate – Best whey protein powder for weight loss
- 4.5 5. Naked Whey Protein – Best grass-fed, stevia free whey protein powder
- 4.6 Top-rated Whey Protein Powders Comparison Chart
- 5 Third-party organizations and verifications
If you love meat, there’s a high chance you don’t need a protein supplement. But just in case you do need one, you have got to get yourself the best whey protein powder. Yes, whey.
It’s so easy to understand why the product is gaining popularity— it helps you gain muscle and lose fat. Just imagine this: every morning, you mix one scoop of powder with water or a smoothie to drink before plunging yourself into barbells and pull up bars, only to see results in a few months. Don’t know about you, but I dig that.
So, read on and with us, find the best whey for you!
Whey Protein Powders 101
First, to compare whey powders we must first understand what they are and the various types they come in.
What Is Whey Protein?
This could be the first thing you ask when it comes to whey protein powders. To understand them better, we need to look at the first step of making cheese.
After the milking process, pure milk is poured into a big tank. Then acidic substances are added. This stage is called coagulation*, after which casein**, a milk protein, is curdled and pressed into a solid block. This block is then taken out and prepared for the cheese making process.
*Coagulation: a process in which milk has an acidic substance added to it like lemon juice or vinegar. The increased acidity causes milk proteins (casein) to tangle into solid masses, or as we normally call it, curds.
With the solids removed, what’s left is a liquid that we call “whey”***. Manufacturers then process this “whey” to extract the proteins within it. This combination of proteins is called “whey protein”.
**Casein: comprises 80% of the proteins in cow’s milk and between 20% and 45% of the proteins in human milk.
***Whey: comprises 20% of the proteins in cow’s milk and about 70% of the proteins in human milk.
Types Of Whey
There are 3 types of whey protein, which differ in the production method. According to Healthline and Bodybuilding, this is how they are categorized:
- Concentrate: a result of drying whey after coagulation. Dried whey, or whey concentrate, contains 80% proteins and 20% fats and carbs.
- Isolate: a result of processing whey concentrate to reduce excess amounts of fats and carbs. Whey isolate contains 90% proteins and 10% fats and carbs.
- Hydrolysate: a result of processing either whey concentrate or whey isolate, to divide the protein structure into smaller parts. These parts are easier to digest than their larger form.
With that said, whey hydrolysate is better for muscle growth because it’s easier to absorb. But when choosing either whey concentrate or whey isolate, we should consider our needs. We need to see which ratio of fats, carbs, and proteins is most suitable for us.
Comparing Whey and Other Types of Protein Powders
Whey is only one good source of protein. There are many other types of protein powder from natural sources. The most common sources are:
Casein protein powder
It has the same origin as whey protein— milk. However casein has one unique property: when mixed with water, it forms a gel that slows down protein absorption in the body.
Egg protein powder
It’s made from egg whites. Apart from not having vitamins like the yolk, egg white contains more than 50% of the protein in eggs, and some minerals as well.
Plant-based protein powder
It’s extracted from a variety of nutrient-packed veggies, especially PAAs*. This category of protein powder can be further divided into single-plant and mixed-plant.
*Proteinogenic amino acids (PAA): 20 amino acids that our body needs to build muscle.
So, because of the difference in protein sources, those protein powders might have different PAA ratios. But since most of them are complete protein sources, this difference isn’t worth noticing. They are still able to provide us with sufficient amounts of EAA**.
**Essential amino acids (EAA): out of 20 PAAs, 9 of them are considered essential because they can’t be produced by the human body. As humans, we must get these essential amino acids from food.
However, when it comes to mixed-plant proteins, we should care about whether or not the product contains all the EAA we need.
Related post: Best Vegan Protein Powders Review
Whey and Lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance isn’t a rare health condition. And since whey and lactose are in milk, many people worry that somehow they are related, and that whey protein might trigger the condition of lactose intolerance.
Whey and casein are two proteins, while lactose is a type of sugar. Although the three seem closely related, people with lactose intolerance are safe consuming whey or casein.
However, what we should be aware of is whether or not there is lactose residue in the product. To do this, we need to find the nutrition label and verification(s) of the product. If you wish to know more, proceed to find out in our section below.
Whey is a complete protein source, capable of providing all 9 essential amino acids.Although whey and lactose are in milk, it’s safe for people with lactose intolerance to ingest whey. To be sure, check the label for relevant warnings.There are 3 types of whey protein: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Hydrolysate is often sought for as it’s easier to digest.
Possible Benefits of Whey Protein Powders
Whey protein powders are potentially beneficial. This is NOT to say that its assets can be harvested by just about anyone. Not unless in the right manner.
Here is the full disclosure of these potential benefits and of course, how to get them.
Whey Protein Powders Promote Muscle Gain
This might be the main reason that drives so many bodybuilders and athletes to want to own protein powder. This is not to say that it will definitely make you muscular. Not if you don’t know the right way to include it in your diet and life. And by that, we mean consuming proteins ALONG WITH DOING PHYSICAL EXERCISE.
When we lift weights, our myofibrils* are damaged. When we rest, our bodies repair the damage by fusing myofibrils to form thicker ones. This is called myofibrillar hypertrophy**.
*Myofibrils: a unit that builds up the muscle cells.
**Myofibrillar hypertrophy: a growth in size of muscle cells, leading to an increase of skeletal muscle.
Without exercise, the growth doesn’t happen. Meanwhile, the body naturally and gradually converts a small part of the muscle into energy. The result is that over time we have less muscle, even if our protein intake rises. What happens to this excess protein? It is excreted from our bodies, and that seems wasteful to me.
In short, protein powder has to work together with physical exercise to result in muscle growth.
Whey Protein Powders Can Help Weight Loss
Protein shakes or whey protein shakes promote weight loss in two ways:
- They make the body feel full for longer by altering the quantity of some digestive hormones.
- They increase the body’s muscle mass (with the help of physical exercise), which enhances metabolism, helping us burn more fat.
Briefly put, whey protein also helps you lose weight, and the effect will be greater if used in combination with physical exercise.
Whey protein helps gain weight, ONLY in combination with physical exercise.Whey protein helps lose weight if consumed in moderation and in the correct manner.
Our Way of Choosing The Best Whey Protein Powders
There was a lot of research and discussion that went into picking these products. In the end, we managed to compile a list of criteria that we believe a good whey protein powder should meet.
Since supplements directly impact our health, we should always try to find out how reliable they are. This reliability is usually indicated by the verifications granted by health-related organizations.
Currently, the FDA* is the only health-related organization that belongs to the government and regulates supplements. Their duties include evaluating dietary supplements’ safety if concerns arise. However, the following is not included:
- Approving how safe dietary supplements are before they go to the market.
- Confirming the conformity of the information on the label in relation to the product’s actual content.
*The FDA: The U.S Food and Drug Administration. They are in charge of protecting the health of U.S citizens.
And so, to select most supplements, we tried to find products with verifications from third-party organizations. They run tests on products and approve their safety, as well as the accuracy of the information provided on the product’s label.
Third-party organizations and verifications mentioned in this article:
- GMP— Good Manufacturing Practices
- NSF— the National Sanitation Foundation
Most of the verification-related information isn’t provided on the label. We found them by either emailing the manufacturer or searching the web.
If you want to know more about these organizations, we have a section for that right below our reviews.
Protein spiking, aka “amino spiking” or “nitrogen spiking”, refers to the act of stuffing nonessential amino acids into a protein powder. This allows manufacturers to diminish the product’s quality, without many consumers knowing.
Surprisingly, protein-spiked products aren’t harmful, but instead, still comply with FDA standards— they contain no harmful substances and fully disclose the ingredients on the label. These products are, however, of poorer quality than they claim to be and not worth what they cost.
Which is why we will now share with you how we put these products up for elimination.
While looking through the products, we took a thorough scan across the amino acid profile. In this list, we expect to find a collection of amino acids that belong to the essential group. These essential amino acids are what we need to look for in a whey protein powder, or protein powders in general.
If a nonessential amino acid is found, we cross the product off of our consideration list for it is excessive.
Factors that we consider to be less significant but still important include flavor, texture, price, volume, and additives. Since each product has its unique properties, we will mention these as we discuss them in detail.
A third-party organization’s verification increases a product’s reliability.A clear table of amino acids that includes only essential amino acids generally makes a good whey protein powder.
Reviews of The Best Whey Protein Powders in 2019
With the criteria clearly stated, we now officially introduce our selection of the best whey protein powders.
- Jay Robb Whey Isolate – Best whey protein powder of 2019
- Pure Whey Isolate – Best lactose-free whey protein powder
- Optimum Nutrition Whey – Best whey protein powder for muscle gain
- ALLMAX Nutrition Isoflex – Best whey protein powder for weight loss
- Naked Whey Protein – Best grass-fed, stevia-free whey protein powder
1. Jay Robb Whey Isolate – Best Whey Protein Powder of 2019
Before taking you through the list of what this product features, we’d like to introduce the founder of this brand. He’s a clinical nutritionist and with nearly four decades as a professional in the field, he founded the first product line in 1980 and finally, Jay Robb Protein in 1989.
Throughout our research, we came across certain concerns that could not be resolved using only information on their website. So we decided to reach out to their email and were able to discover some impressive features:
Jay Robb Whey Isolate is verified by Microbac and Labdoor.
Method of processing
Jay Robb’s whey protein powder comes from milk that is flash-pasteurized for approximately 15 seconds at 72° C (161° F) (Cold-processed). This causes very little denaturing* of the raw materials. No further heat is applied at any other phase.
“This special process DOES NOT DENATURE the protein.”- they stressed.
*Denaturation: the process in which proteins lose their original structure by application of external stress (heat, radiation, acid, etc.) This can result in an insoluble form of protein chains (amino acids within the protein chain are not destroyed).
- Heavy metals
- Fat, cholesterol
- Added sugar
- Artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners
Taste and texture
The powder mixes well with water, giving a solution with a similar taste and texture to milk.
And of course, with the pros come the cons.
At the time of writing, the 75-serving version of the product is priced $114, which means $1.52 every day (if you are only having one serving) for two and a half months. This, to us, is pricey.
Although it comes in 4 flavors, all of the versions contain stevia, a natural sweetener, which might be too strong for some. To many perfectionists, this could pose a problem. However, in comparison to all of its strong points, we still see it as the best product of all.
2. Pure Whey Isolate – Best Lactose-free Whey Protein Powder
Although lactose and whey are separate substances, they are both present in milk. This explains why most whey protein products we found contain a small percentage of lactose that could potentially affect consumers with lactose intolerance.
Keeping this in mind, we tried to find a lactose free whey protein powder and found this product. Besides this, here is what we find interesting about it:
Pure Whey Isolate is GMP-verified by NSF. The certification belongs to its manufacturer, SDC nutrition, not the brand itself.
Isolate— the form of processed whey that is packed with 90% proteins.
- Heavy metals
Besides these good points, we found that the product contains an artificial sweetener named Splenda, a.k.a sucralose.
In our opinion, artificial sweeteners aren’t actually that bad. As long as they are in amounts approved by the FDA, they should do no harm to our body, in low concentration. But in the end, we came to an agreement that artificial sweeteners should be listed under the “cons” category, as they aren’t favored by the majority.
3. Optimum Nutrition Whey – Best whey protein powder for muscle gain
There are 2 main reasons why we put this product in this position:
- The brand has been thriving for over 30 years, in possession of a wide range of premium protein powders.
- The protein in the product is from hydrolyzed whey isolate, which is very easy to digest and is the top choice for muscle building.
Apart from these, here are some other things we love about this product:
Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydro Whey is verified by Informed-choice.org, Labdoor and NSF.
The enzymes (Aminogen, Maltodextrin, Amylase, Protease, Cellulase, Beta-D-Galactosidase, Lipase) naturally occur in our body. They act as a catalyst in the digestion of proteins from food.
The purpose of adding more enzymes to the product is to further enhance the digestion of proteins.
- Heavy metals
Taste and texture
The powder easily mixes with water and tastes pleasant to many consumers.
In comparison with other factors, the taste and texture of protein powder are usually what gets the most attention. And although the flavor of this product receives lots of thumbs up, it is in part because there are 2 artificial sweeteners, acesulfame potassium and sucralose.
4. ALLMAX Nutrition Isoflex Whey Isolate – Best whey protein powder for weight loss
As previously said, to lose weight effectively and healthily, one must lower their calorie intake (especially from carbs and fats) and spend some time doing exercise. By doing so, we restrict the formation of body fat and burn it if it forms.
Do remember that you should only LOWER carbs and fats. DON’T CUT them out completely from your diet. Carbohydrates are essential to fuel the brain and body, and fats are involved in important metabolic physiological reactions. There are more to their functions, but this is to say that we can’t restrict these macronutrients without damaging our body.
With this in mind, we recommend this product with 0g of carbs, 0.5g of fat and 27 whey proteins. It’s better not to gain carbs and fats from supplements because they are quite easily obtainable from your diet.
ALLMAX Nutrition Isoflex Whey Isolate is verified by informed-choice.org.
Method of processing
Hybrid-Ratio Ion-filtration technique (HRI): this is a combination of two technologies used to make whey isolates purer. They are applied at a specific ratio to produce a better version of whey protein isolate.
- Heavy metals
- Added sugar
And as aforesaid, although the artificial sweeteners (acesulfame potassium and sucralose) are listed as a con, we found the substances to be legal and not harmful to the human body in small concentrations.
5. Naked Whey Protein – Best grass-fed, stevia free whey protein powder
NAKED Nutrition says that “We sell products with only the purest ingredients”. We love the brand because they have managed to do what they say— putting no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors in their protein powder.
And here are more reasons for us to keep falling in love:
Naked Whey Protein is verified by Informed-choice.org and Silliker.
Concentrate. Although whey isolate is higher in protein content, NAKED Nutrition believes that producing whey isolate is an excessive act of processing milk. This, to them, destroys the present micronutrients. In the end, their decision is to keep whey in its least-processed form, concentrate.
Method of processing
Naked Whey is made using the cold-processed method. In our recent email, they explained that milk is flash-pasteurized at 163 °F for only 17 seconds. This is to assure no nutrients in the milk are compromised.
- Heavy metals
- Artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners
Despite these good points, the product is yet to be popular for two reasons: inability to dissolve with ease in water and a taste that’s not for everyone. We still want to keep this product on the list, because there aren’t that many brands on the market that aim to deliver natural products.
And after many trials, we actually found one solution: blending the powder with a smoothie. The texture and flavor from a smoothie can easily mask any unpleasant taste this all-natural whey powder might bring.
Top-rated Whey Protein Powders Comparison Chart
|Product||Flavors||Processing method||Whey type||Artificial|
Third-party organizations and verifications
- GMP— Good Manufacturing Practices: the guidelines of product manufacturing recommended by authorized organizations. “These guidelines provide minimum requirements that a manufacturer must meet to assure that their products are consistently high in quality, from batch to batch, for their intended use.”
- NSF— the National Sanitation Foundation (not to be mistaken with National Science Foundation): an organization that “test and certify products and systems”.
- Informed-choice.org: an organization that runs tests on a product every once in a month to make sure it’s safe for consumers. Their inspection includes evaluation of “ formulation, label claims, nutritional labeling, and contaminant testing”.
- Microbac: an organization that is specialized in many fields, including supplements. Their steps of verification include label verifying, allergen declaration, contaminant detection and GMO analysis.
- Silliker: an organization that performs third-party audits on manufacturers’ plants, to verify their compliance with current regulations and industry practices through program reviews and on-site observations.
Labdoor: specified in collecting supplement products and perform tests in an FDA-approved laboratory to declare the products’ purity and honesty.