If you’re looking to bulk up or add some extra protein to your diet, you’re probably in the market for a quality protein powder. You also have probably heard that not all protein powders are created equal.
If you’re new to the protein powder scene, there are a lot of factors that you’ll need to be aware of while finding the best protein powder product for you.
In this article, we’ll inform you about the qualities of protein powder that you should be aware of, then give you a roundup of some of the best products out there. We’ve also reviewed the best protein powders for gaining weight and the best protein powders specifically for women over here.
|Bulk Powders Pure Whey||Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard||Musclepharm Combat Powder||The Protein Works Whey Protein||Cytosport Musclemilk|
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|Taste & Flavours|
|Value For Money|
Protein Powder Reviews
The ranking that you put these issues on will depend on your priorities. Sticking with a widely reviewed and third-party verified powder will solve a lot of your issues, though. In this section, we’ll look at five of the best protein powders on the market.
- Dirt cheap
- High quality
- Many flavours to choose from
- Low calorie, low fat, and low sugar
- Mixes easily
- Doesn’t contain any nutrients
- Flavours aren’t exceptionally good
- May not mix into things other than shakes well
- Comes in a pouch rather than a jar, so it’s easier to spill
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder, Double Rich Chocolate
The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard powder is a prototypical protein powder derived from whey and intended for mainstream bodybuilding use. While pricey, if you’re looking for a whey protein based protein powder the Gold Standard has a lot to offer.
This powder also contains calcium, iron, a little bit of sugar, and a little bit of fat. These components of the powder should be considered bonuses rather than features, as it isn’t as heavy in these nutrients as other powders.
Theoretically, the extra calcium, sugar, and fat allow your body to operate more effectively during a workout so that you’ll be able to bulk up more effectively by not burning any of your stored fat.
Aside from coming in many different tasty and strong flavours (including unflavored), the Gold Standard powder contains a substantial amount of sodium and cholesterol. Sodium isn’t inherently bad, but you should be conscious of the amount so that you maintain a good salt balance. Cholesterol is more problematic.
Finally, Optimum Nutrition includes a couple of cool recipes for shakes on the back label. These tricks and recipes won’t blow your mind, but it’s still nice to have a reference card to ensure that you can easily mix whatever quantity of powder into the correct volume of liquid.
- Nutrient mix helps pack on pounds
- Many flavours to choose from
- Strong flavors
- Mixing guide
- Comes with scoop
- Contains cholesterol
- Contains sodium
- Flavours may be too strong for some users
MusclePharm Combat Powder
The MusclePharm Combat Powder is a very interesting product that caters to advanced bodybuilders who are interested in combinations of proteins which are released over time at different rates.
To accomplish this, the Combat Powder contains instant-release whey protein and a slower releasing protein surrounded by fat bubbles. The idea behind the Combat Powder is that your body will have a continuous supply of protein and never too much to handle at any given moment.
The Combat Powder also contains some calcium, some sugar, some potassium, and some fibre. Like other protein powders derived from animal products, the Combat Powder contains a whopping 46mg of cholesterol per serving—you’ll have a hard time finding many other food products with that much cholesterol aside from powdered eggs.
You can pick from a few flavours, all of which are of average potency.
- Time release protein
- Contains potassium to fuel muscle contraction, unlike other powders
- Contains dietary fats and sugars
- Decent taste
- Average value
- Tonnes of cholesterol
- Contains egg products which some users may be allergic to
- Unimpressive flavors
THE PROTEIN WORKS Whey Protein 80 Concentrate Shake, Chocolate Silk
THE PROTEIN WORKS Whey Protein Concentrate Shake is a basic protein powder that will please anyone looking to build muscle while packing a sweet tooth. While its candylike flavours aren’t for everyone, anyone can take advantage of the inexpensive and high quality powder.
It’s clear that this powder’s main appeals are its flavour and its value. The powder’s sweetness will overpower anything that it gets mixed into, which might be perfect if you’re just interested in making a shake. The powder easily mixes into water, and you may be tempted to dilute it more than usual to sip on over a longer period.
Despite its sweetness, this powder isn’t any heavier in calories than others, and in fact clocks in on the low side. The sweetener in the powder is sucralose, which some people may be allergic to. If you find yourself looking for chocolate after pumping iron, this shake is a great alternative.
- Time release protein
- Great value
- Good documentation on shake preparation
- Low calorie
- Average value
- Extremely sweet
- Contains sucralose
- Taste will overpower anything else
CytoSport Muscle Milk Protein Powder
The CytoSport Muscle Milk Protein Powder is a power-packed product which can serve many of your dietary needs other than protein. In the Muscle Milk powder, you’ll find large volumes of vitamins and nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc, Niacin, and many others. The Muscle Milk brand is tried, tested, and a weight lifter favourite.
This powder is more than a weightlifting product—it could address holes in practically anyone’s diet. The Muscle Milk contains a lot of fat, and a lot of cholesterol, so it isn’t a low-calorie powder by any means. You may find that you have trouble with your cut if you’re using this powder.
Muscle Milk is notable for its inclusion of chromium. It’s unclear whether chromium is a necessary nutrient, so it’s a bit odd to find in the powder. The powder also includes a large volume of copper, which is an essential nutrient but may be dangerous in excess. Consume accordingly.
- Comprehensive vitamin and mineral makeup
- Love-it-or-hate-it flavors
- Good value
- No sugars
- Easy to mix
- Contains chromium, which may not be necessary
- Contains copper, which may result in too much copper consumption
- Flavours won’t be enjoyable to everyone
What Should I Look For In A Protein Powder?
You only need to care about three things when it comes to your protein powder: sourcing, flavour, and value.
Source / Quality
The issue of sourcing is twofold when it comes to protein powders. First, is the powder derived from an animal source, or a plant source?
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, this first division will rule out quite a few options, so pay attention. If you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan, you shouldn’t think of the vegetable derived powders as worse.
The largest section of the protein powder market uses whey protein or common vegetable proteins like from soy, peas, hemp, or rice.
There are some health-related reasons which you might want to consider when picking a protein powder, so be sure to study up on the consequences of the protein source of your choice.
Animal-derived powders are typically more concentrated, which means that you’ll have to tolerate less of the powder’s flavour to accomplish the same amount of supplementation. Some people claim to be able to tell the difference by taste or texture, too.
Animal-derived powders tend to dissolve into other foodstuffs more easily because there’s less powder by volume. There are many exceptions to this, however, so you could still end up with a lumpy smoothie while using an animal derived powder if the binders in the powder interfere with smooth mixing.
Try sampling a couple of vegetable derived powders and comparing them to a few animal derived powders. If you typically find the powder’s flavour or texture palatable regardless of the amount you supplement, vegetable powders should always be an option on the table for you.
The other half of the sourcing issue is manufacturing quality. Many powders suffer from occasional quality control issues which may make their nutrition value less than is advertised. In the same vein, some powders have quality control issues bad enough to make users sick.
Poor quality protein powders sometimes have trace amounts of cadmium and lead, which are toxic to the human body in any quantity. Be sure to check the news releases about your protein powder manufacturer of choice to make sure you’re not poisoning yourself by using a low-quality source.
Flavour / Mixability
Protein powders can come flavoured, or flavourless. As bodybuilders know, even the “flavourless” protein powders have a detectable taste that can sometimes get in the way of mixing it into smoothies or elsewhere. Some flavourless powders are bitter, whereas others taste rancidly sweet or even like bleach.
Flavourless powders are sometimes the best route to go if you prefer a stealthy powder rather than a powder which adds a commanding flavour to whatever you blend it into. For example, if you plan on blending your protein powder into pancakes or crepes, a flavourless powder is typically the right choice because it’ll be invisible to your tongue once it’s locked inside the batter and potentially smothered in maple syrup.
As far as the flavoured powders go, most will agree that despite a galaxy of flavour choices, few are genuinely palatable in the way that the real food the flavour emulates would be. Basic flavours like vanilla and chocolate are extremely popular and tend to approximate the flavour that they claim to be.
More crazy flavours like cake batter, banana cream, orange creamsicle, or graham cracker might suit your palate, but there’s no way to know before you try. Some of the more extreme flavours are outright revolting, but that’s entirely dependent on your specific tastes.
The main issue with the flavour of your powder is that flavours can either disrupt or complement your attempts to mix the powder into another food or beverage. It’s easy to mix in vanilla or chocolate flavours into an after-work out fruit smoothie, but the more complex flavours won’t blend as easily.
You don’t necessarily get what you pay for when it comes to protein powders. Some powders are vastly more expensive, yet offer a smaller volume or a smaller quantity of protein.
More expensive powders typically have flashier marketing and more outrageous flavours, but remember that your muscles can’t tell the difference between an expensive protein source and a cheap one.
That wraps up our roundup of what to look for when you’re checking out protein powders and our reviews of the best protein powders on the market.
Remember, powders can vary in their content, but your muscles can’t tell the difference between the source of protein that they get after a hard workout. Your stomach and tongue can tell the difference, however.
Don’t underestimate the mixability and digestibility of powders, either. The easier your protein powder is to consume and the less your body and tongue complain during consumption, the more likely you’ll be to supplement using the powder when you need to.
Be sure to stay aware of the contents of whichever powder you use, and do your best to fill in any nutrition gaps so that your body will bulk up at maximum speed.