Whey protein is the king of protein supplements and the most widely used muscle building supplement on the market.
Do you want to build or maintain muscle size? Great. You need to buy whey protein.
Do you know that most people train hard at the gym but don’t source enough protein in their diet?
We’re going to talk about whey today and why it’s so important for dietary supplementation, as well as review the best whey protein supplements you can buy in 2020.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a commission if you choose to purchase through a link I provide (at no extra cost to you!). Thanks for supporting the work I put into this site!
WHAT IS WHEY PROTEIN?
There’s many types of protein but they don’t all carry the same benefits.
Whey is a quick-absorbing protein that contains a great essential amino acids profile, and other nutritional benefits.
It’s been heavily studied and is widely used to build muscle mass.
HOW IS IT MADE?
Whey derives from cow’s milk.
Special enzymes are added to create a separation of curds and liquid whey as milk is processed.
It’s then pasteurized and dried into powder form after being separated from the cheese.
There are various ways to create whey and they don’t all have the same results.
Let’s talk about the three main processes companies use to create whey powder.
WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE
Concentrate is the least processed form of whey and usually contains between 70%-80% protein content by weight.
Concentrate contains relatively low amounts of fat and carbs, but more than whey isolate.
Whey Concentrate Benefits
Whey concentrate contains growth factors that make it ideal for increasing muscle strength and muscle mass.
It’s quick-digesting, so is ideal for post workout recovery.
WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE
Whey isolate goes through more processing steps than whey concentrate to produce a higher percentage of protein content by weight, at 90% or more.
Isolate sacrifices more fat and carbs than whey concentrate to reach 90% or more protein content by weight. This is great for your protein intake!
Isolate is more suitable for those of you aiming to build lean muscle without adding body fat. It’s also the better choice for those of you aiming for muscle maintenance and weight loss.
Whey Isolate Benefits
Lean Muscle Building
Whey isolate is ideal for building lean muscle because it contains high amounts of protein and very little fat or carbs (great for protein intake).
Post Workout Recovery
It’s quick-digesting, so is ideal for post workout recovery.
Low Lactose Content
Isolate is a great choice for you if you’re lactose intolerant because it contains very little lactose.
WHEY ISOLATE VS CONCENTRATE
Whey concentrate contains up to 80% protein by weight compared to whey isolate which contains 90%+. Concentrate also tends to include more fat and carbs than isolate.
What does this mean for you?
It means that isolate is the best whey protein for building lean muscle and weight loss, and concentrate is the best whey protein for increasing muscle mass.
You might think that isolate is best for both goals because it has 90%+ protein content, but it’s not as simple as that.
Whey isolate has to give up certain ingredients to achieve 90%+. Some of the ingredients it gives up are actually beneficial for building muscle.
For example, whey concentrate contains more phospholipids and lipids than whey protein isolate. This makes the best whey protein building muscle mass.
It’s not quite that simple though.
Whey concentrate is cheaper to make than whey isolate so many companies produce cost-cutting whey concentrate supplements.
If you want to produce a high-quality whey concentrate powder containing solid phospholipid and lipid profiles, you have to ultra-filtrate the whey concentrate. This is a costly process and something many companies don’t do.
The Bottom Line(s)
Whey is great for dietary supplementation.
Do you want to build muscle mass? I’d suggest whey concentrate.
Do you want to build lean muscle? I’d suggest whey isolate.
Are you aiming for muscle maintenance and weight loss? Go for whey isolate.
There’s actually some advanced whey formulas that combine whey concentrate and whey isolate. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is a fantastic protein powder that does this.
You can read my full Gold Standard Whey review HERE.
HYDROLYZED WHEY PROTEIN
Hydrolyzed whey is the 3rd type of whey I want to talk about. It’s more of a niche than concentrate and isolate, and in some ways it’s superior.
What is Hydrolyzed Whey?
Hydrolyzed whey undergoes a process that breaks whey protein down into smaller pieces than concentrate or isolate does. These smaller pieces are referred to as peptides.
Hydrolyzed Whey Benefits
It’s even faster-digesting than isolate and concentrate.
There’s arguments as to whether hydrolyzed whey is just another way to market whey protein but I wouldn’t necessarily agree.
Hydrolyzed whey is beneficial after intensive workouts because it absorbs into your system quicker than the other types of whey.
I experienced great results from Optimum Nutrition Hydro Whey when I was doing MMA.
It was easy on my digestive system and I lost a little more body fat than I had with other protein powders.
Do you need to purchase Hydro Whey? I wouldn’t say so. But I think you should if you train in sports like MMA or boxing and you have the budget.
BEST WHEY PROTEIN SHAKES
In this section, we’re going to talk about which supplements you should buy from each category.
BEST WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE
PROMIX Performance Whey Concentrate
I love the PROMIX brand and their whey concentrate.
Do you want to increase muscle mass and muscle strength? You should buy Promix Performance Whey.
Are you conscious about how your food is made? Great! You should look to source organic and natural ingredients when possible.
I really like that PROMIX Performance Whey Concentrate contains grass fed whey protein.
Just to clarify, grass fed in this instance means that the milk is sourced from grass-fed cows. I’m sure you didn’t think that the milk is fed grass!
Cold-processed microfiltration protects naturally occurring growth factors found in whey. You want to build muscle mass so this is important.
Branch Chain Amino Acid Profile (essential amino acids)
PROMIX Performance Whey Concentrate boasts an impressive branch chain amino acid profile (5.9g).
Essential amino acids play an important role in preventing muscle breakdown and decreasing muscle soreness after working out.
Do you train in a fasted state? You need to supplement BCAAs.
Protein Content by Weight
PROMIX Performance Whey Concentrate contains 25g of protein per 37g scoop. Add 5.9g of BCAAs to that and you have 30.9g of protein overall. This is great for your protein intake.
We’ve already talked about the importance of sourcing organic and natural ingredients. One of the reasons why it’s so important is because of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
Many of you struggle with protein shakes because they contain ingredients like gluten.
It can be really hard for you to find a quality protein shake that doesn’t cause stomach issues.
PROMIX Performance Whey Concentrate is gluten-free so you can drink it after workouts without spending the rest of your day on the toilet! It also tastes great as well.
PROMIX use sunflower lecithin. This enables it to mix instantly.
Is taste important to you? It’s not at the top of my pecking order but I know it is for some of you.
Luckily, PROMIX tastes great.
You can purchase it in the following flavours:
- Raw chocolate
- Peanut butter
- Chocolate peanut butter.
My personal favourite is raw chocolate. It’s delicious!
You can purchase PROMIX Performance Whey Protein from my Amazon link HERE (US).
MyoFusion Advanced Protein
I want to give a shout out to MyoFusion Advanced Protein as well. I found increasing muscle quite easy when I went through a bulking cycle supplementing it.
There’s not too much separating MyoFusion Advanced Protein and PROMIX Performance Whey Concentrate. I’ll do a full review at some point in the future. For now you can check it out on Amazon HERE (US).
BEST WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE
Legion Athletics is a company owned by Mike Matthews. He’s a great guy who I have a lot of respect for.
Mike is the author of Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger as well as a prominent health and fitness blogger.
Before I read Mike’s book I was floating around at an intermediate level for many years. Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger really helped me progress to the next level. If you’re struggling to progress you really should check out his book.
I was really pumped when Mike started Legion Athletics and produced Legion Whey+.
Let’s talk about the benefits!
Protein Content by Weight
Legion Whey+ contains 25g of pure non-GMO whey isolate per 28.9g scoop. This makes it 85.5% overall protein content per weight.
The top whey supplements usually hover around the 80% mark, so 85.5% is an impressive figure and great for your protein intake. Consider as well that the percentage is pure whey isolate and not amino acids.
Lactose, Gluten, MSG and GMO-Free
We talked earlier about whey isolate carrying more health benefits because it filters some of the bad stuff out (like lactose and gluten). You might favour Legion Whey+ for this reason. It’s easier on the stomach than most concentrate protein powders.
MSG is used in protein powders to take away the bitter flavour of whey. Although it can be beneficial in that respect, the scientific community aren’t sure that MSG is 100% safe. I believe it’s a good thing that Legion Whey+ doesn’t contain MSG, as it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
On the same token as MSG, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are another ingredient that might not be 100% safe. I believe it’s better to source natural ingredients that you know are 100% safe (and beneficial) until more research has been done.
No Artificial Sweeteners or Flavouring
I don’t want to harp on too much about natural vs unnatural so I’ll keep this one short and in line with what I’ve already said. I think it’s best to stay away from artificial ingredients like sweeteners and flavouring, so I give another thumbs up to Legion Whey+ for being as natural as possible.
Whey Sourced from Hormone and Antibiotic-free Cows
Have you researched much into meat and dairy production? It’s pretty grim.
Animal treatment is an issue I’m not going to discuss here. I’m talking more about food standards and harmful ingredients.
Many meat and dairy milk products are sourced from cows that are pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. This results in poor quality meat and means you could be consuming products that contain antibiotics and hormones.
You can avoid potential risks by purchasing Legion Whey+ (as it sources whey from hormone and antibiotic-free cows).
Legion Whey+ includes whey isolate sourced from Ireland. I’m from the UK so I know first-hand just how heavy government regulation is. In fact, lots of American products aren’t sold in the UK because they don’t pass regulation standards.
I was surprised when I first learned that Legion Whey+ sources its whey isolate from Ireland, and it really impressed me that they’re willing to cover the extra expense to do this.
Most farms in Ireland allow cows to roam free most of the year and they don’t pump them full of antibiotics and hormones. The fact that Legion Whey+ contains whey isolate sourced from Irish cows speaks volumes about their consumer care.
Taste and Mixability
Legion Whey+ tastes great and mixes very easily.
You can buy it in the following flavors:
- Chocolate peanut butter
- Strawberry banana
- Mint chocolate
- Mocha cappuccino
My favourite flavour is cookies and cream. It tastes great!
You can purchase Legion Whey+ from my Amazon link HERE (US).
I want to give a shout out to Dymatize ISO 100 as well. I’ve used ISO 100 for building lean muscle and it’s fantastic.
You can check Dymatize ISO 100 out HERE (US).
BEST WHEY PROTEIN HYDROLYZED
Optimum Nutrition Hydro Whey
Optimum Nutrition are a great brand and I’m sure many of you have already purchased products made by them.
Let’s discuss the benefits of their Hydro Whey.
100% Pure Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolates
ON Hydro Whey is made entirely with hydrolyzed whey protein isolates. What does this mean? There’s no excess fat, cholesterol, or lactose.
ON have created a very fast digesting, high-quality protein powder by using the hydrolyzed process.
Protein Content by Weight
Hydro Whey contains 30g of protein and 8.8g of BCAAs per 41g scoop. Technically this takes the overall protein content by weight up to 94%. Very impressive!
Essential Amino Acids Profile
ON Hydro Whey contains a whopping 8.8g of BCAAs.
BCAAs aren’t hard to source through natural dieting but supplementing them before your workout is important if you train for long periods in a fasted state. Why? Because they help prevent muscle catabolism and soreness.
At 8.8g, Hydro Whey contains more BCAAs than any other whey supplement I can think of. Most whey supplements that feature BCAAs contain 5g-6g per scoop.
ActiTOR is a source of whey protein peptides that helps support muscle synthesis by promoting the activity of the protein kinase, mTOR. It also helps promote more efficient utilization of amino acids from food source.
Hydrolyzed whey digests even faster than isolate and concentrate because it’s been broken down into smaller chunks. This makes Hydro Whey a great post workout shake.
Taste and Mixability
The chocolate mint flavor tastes and mixes great!
You can purchase ON Hydro Whey from my Amazon link HERE (US).
BEST HYBRID WHEY PROTEIN (combining all 3 types of whey)
The Bottom Line(s) on Whey Protein
There are very few supplements that have gone through rigorous testing and come out with such glowing results.
I’ll ask you the same question I asked at the start of the article. Do you want to build muscle? Great. You need to supplement whey protein.
Protein for Women
I’ll finish off with a quick side-note for women. I read a great article on protein for women recently on mindfullymonica.com HERE.
Monica discusses the different types of protein suitable for women (including whey and other powders).
Head on over if you want to learn more!
Thanks for reading this article!
You might also enjoy my Ultimate Creatine Guide for Building Muscle.
Have a great day!