Last updated: September 6, 2020

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As you probably know, protein is an essential nutrient for building muscle; but what about whey protein? Are you familiar with whey is and what it does? Whey protein is extracted from milk and is usually consumed in powder form. It possesses many beneficial properties.

Whey protein is considered a complete protein since it includes the nine essential amino acids that the human body isn’t able to produce by itself. Protein is critical for muscle growth and is especially important for athletes. It also offers many other nutritional advantages that you should be aware of.

Key Facts

  • Whey protein is understood to be the highest quality protein because it includes the highest number of essential amino acids.
  • The benefits of whey protein are particularly attractive to athletes because they facilitate muscle growth.
  • The primary component of this protein is whey, which is a byproduct produced during the manufacture of cheese.
  • There are basically three kinds of whey protein: protein concentrate, whey protein hydrolysate and whey protein isolate. Each one provides different pros and cons, as you’ll see below.

Our Selection of the Best Whey Protein Supplements on the U.S. Market

In this section, we’ll show you the very best whey protein supplements available on the American market. You’ll find a range of great products for all kinds of people, including athletes, vegetarians and those with certain food intolerances.

The Best Whey Protein for Chocolate Lovers

This powerful supplement from Optimum Nutrition is Amazon’s Choice for best chocolate whey protein, but if chocolate’s not your thing, you can find many other great flavors. Each serving of this 100% whey powder packs 24 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of naturally occurring BCAAs and 4 grams of glutamine.

Use the Gold Standard powder before or after exercising to help activate the muscle recovery process. Pick from a range of container sizes from 1 pound to 10 pounds to suit whatever your needs are.

The Best Gluten-Free Whey Protein

How does birthday cake, cinnamon bun and fudge brownie sound to you? Those are just a few of the amazing flavors available from Dymatize for their protein-packed whey powder. Each serving will give you 25 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of BCAAs and 2.7 grams of Leucine. All of that comes with less than 1 gram of fat and sugar.

This powder is gluten free and has less than .5g of lactose per serving. ISO 100 is made using a cross-flow micro filtration, multi-step purification process to make the very best product that will help you build muscles fast. It’s also easy to absorb and quickly digest.

The Best 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein

There’s only one ingredient in this unique powder: 100% grass-fed pure whey protein. You won’t find any artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors in this product, which is also GMO-Free, soy free and gluten free. It’s sourced straight from small farms in California!

Unlike many other brands, Naked Whey uses a cold process to ensure that there’s no contamination from chemical detergents, additives or heavy metals. And it doesn’t stop there. Each serving of this amazing powder will get you 25g of protein, 5.9g of BCAAs, 2g of sugar, 3g of carbs and 120 calories.

The Best Overall Whey Protein Powder

Here’s another Amazon’s Choice, this time for best vanilla flavored whey protein. MusclePharm’s Combat 100% Whey is an ultra-premium blend that tastes great and easily mixes into your favorite drinks. It’s designed for athletes looking to maintain muscle and recharge following a good workout.

With each dose of this powder, get 25  grams of protein, including whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. It’s gluten free, and your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed for 30 days after purchase. Beyond that, this product is also banned-substance tested and certified by Informed-Choice so you know it’s not contaminated with anything you don’t want in your body.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Whey Protein

Before buying a whey protein supplement, there is a series of questions you may want to ask yourself, including for whom these food supplements are intended or why they’re recommended for certain situations. In this section, we’ll go through the most frequently asked questions from consumers like you.

What exactly is whey protein?

Whey is the liquid that remains once milk has been curdled and strained to form cheese. Milk is previously separated from casein and fat. Whey is 94% water and 6% protein. Although it includes only a small proportion of protein, it contains all of the following amino acids: isoleucine, threonine, lysine, leucine, valine, cysteine, methionine and tryptophan.

Grant Tinsley, PhDNutrition Expert

“Whey protein is the fastest absorbing part of milk protein. Casein and whey proteins are considered high quality proteins because they give our body the amino acids it needs.”

What is tryptophan?

There’s one substance in the body that can stimulate production of the serotonin hormone, and that’s the amino acid tryptophan. It activates the metabolism in an all-natural way to produce the hormone associated with happiness. The result is that you’ll have improved balance, higher resistance to stress and better sleep.

What makes whey protein so healthy?

Whey protein is seen as the highest quality protein because it includes the most essential amino acids. These amino acids are critical because 35% of the body’s muscles are made up of branched-chain amino acids. Whey protein also has a high biological value (BV) of 104, which is above the biological value of a chicken egg.

Whey protein’s benefits are connected to a strong antioxidant known as glutathione. Those with HIV, diabetes, liver disease and various types of cancer can develop low levels of glutathione. Luckily, the body can create its own glutathione using the amino acid cysteine, which is found in whey protein.

protein scoop and shaker

Whey protein is very practical and easy to transport.
(Source: Lecic: 38729282 /

Why is whey protein so important for athletes?

The body processes whey protein very quickly, making it especially suitable for building muscle. Many athletes take whey protein because the muscles can quickly absorb the whey, since it’s made up of very small molecules and the intestine can metabolize it quickly as well.

Whey protein makes muscle recovery after exercise faster and more effective.

Furthermore, it’s very important to consume a high level of protein on a daily basis in order to boost or maintain muscle mass. For athletes, muscle mass is key to an energetic workout and for burning calories when in a passive state.

Layne Norton, PhDMetabolism Expert

“Protein is needed to repair liver tissue and for the conversion of fats to lipoproteins. This is the only way that lipoproteins can be effectively removed from the liver.”

What is the biological value of whey protein?

Many different types of protein exist, and each kind has a corresponding biological value. This value reflects the amount of cellular structures the body is able to synthesize from a set dose of protein.

The higher the biological value of a source of protein, the less your body needs so it can build muscle mass. In the below table, we’ve compared the biological value of whey protein to that of other protein-rich foods:

Protein source Biological value
Whey protein 104-120
Whole egg 100
Egg white 88
Casein 77
Soy 74-90

Can whey protein affect asthma symptoms?

Studies show that consuming whey protein increases the body’s glutathione levels. Other reports indicate that whey protein moderately impacts asthma symptoms, inflammation following a stroke and some liver conditions by indirectly boosting glutathione levels.

Are whey protein supplements beneficial?

Whey protein supplements offer high quality protein for your diet, but health organizations will always advise you to get protein directly from food. Studies suggest that taking whey protein supplements prior to or following exercise can increase muscle strength, growth and immunity.


Were you aware that many studies say that whey supplements and protein in general can help you lose fat and feel full longer than any other macronutrient?

Whey protein supplements are more than just protein: whey includes a number of nutrients that offer incredible biological effects. It’s no wonder that whey is one of the most researched supplements in the world.

guy with whey protein

Whey protein is especially important for athletes who are hoping to increase muscle mass. 
(Source: Elnur Amikishiyev: 107214240 /

When should I take whey protein?

Taking whey protein supplements right after exercising may be particularly helpful because whey contains a high level of leucine, which is an easily absorbed amino acid.

Take a look at the table below to see when you should take whey protein:

After training Before training Before sleeping
As was mentioned, it’s positive because it promotes muscle repair. After taking the protein, it’s recommended to eat at least every 2 hours for the next 6 hours. Taking it just before a workout will have little effect. So take your protein shake at least one hour before you begin training, instead of waiting until the last moment. When you sleep, your muscles continue to recover, so it’s a good idea to maintain protein levels for as long as your body goes into mild starvation mode.

How much whey should I take?

Experts advise taking 1 g of protein per pound of body weight. This amount is recommended for athletes and others looking to maintain muscle mass. Nonetheless, it all depends on your specific goals: a higher level of protein is recommended for those who are trying to lose weight. This process is very common among bodybuilders.

The safety of whey protein supplements varies according to the dose. Excess protein is stored in the body as fat and can increase the risk of dehydration. Additionally, there are a handful of adverse effects if you consume an excessive amount of whey protein:

  • Kidney problems. Excessive intake of whey protein can result in kidney problems, especially if you already have kidney issues. Experts suggest limiting your whey protein intake and checking with your doctor before you begin supplementing.
  • Liver problems. Too much whey protein can aggravate liver issues, so it’s important to consume whey in moderation. In this case, it’s also a good idea to consult with your doctor before taking whey protein, since it can interfere with the impact of medications you may be taking for your liver condition.
  • Increased blood acidity. Another side effect of taking whey protein is an increase in blood pH. When there is an excess of protein in the blood, the kidney has difficulty metabolizing it. The result is an increase in blood acidity.

Is whey protein suitable for vegans and people with lactose intolerance?

Whey protein is a product of animal origins, so it’s not suitable for vegans. Whey is also a dairy product, so anyone who’s allergic to milk products should stay away from this protein.

Those with lactose intolerance should also be cautious. The protein isolate is 90% protein and contains little or no fat, cholesterol or lactose, but the concentrate increases them. Additionally, protein supplements can result in kidney tension.

Nonetheless, there are special whey protein supplements without lactose. As part of the product preparation, the lactose is taken out so that it can be consumed by those who are lactose intolerant.

food with protein

Whey protein is a great choice for attaining the protein needed each day. 
(Source: Dolgachov: 54776184 /

Does whey protein interact with other medications?

Yes, whey protein can result in some issues if used simultaneously with some medications. You should always check with your doctor before you use whey protein. Here are some cases in which you shouldn’t use whey protein while on medication:

  • It may limit the effectiveness of levodopa, a medication used for Parkinson’s disease. Do not use whey protein and levodopa at the same time.
  • It may lower the amount of alendronate absorbed by the body. Alendronate is a medication used for osteoporosis. Don’t use whey protein until at least two hours after taking the medication.
  • It may limit the absorption of some antibiotics. It is advised that you take antibiotics one hour after consuming whey protein.

What are the signs of a whey protein overdose?

Allergies, skin issues and liver and kidney damage due to excessive protein intake are especially common. Skin and allergy issues, like an increase in acne, may go away if the dose is changed. In addition to speaking with your doctor, you should consume lots of fluids if you would like to prevent liver and kidney damage.

What is the correct dose of whey protein?

About 30g of powder is considered ideal. Muscle accumulation is maximized by consuming about 20 to 30 g of protein powder per meal. More powder will not promote faster muscle growth. Additionally, regarding weight loss, the body can’t process a larger dose of protein.

  • To determine the appropriate dosage of whey protein per day and meal, the total amount of protein should be considered. Take into account that between 1 and 2 grams of protein per pound is ideal, and adjust accordingly.
  • On average, and depending on an individual’s sex and weight, the total amount of protein needed per day is around 100 grams, making it hard to meet the requirements without adding the powder. Because the body excretes proteins that are not needed at the same time, overdose with the powder is prevented.

Which types of whey protein are available, and which one is best for me?

Generally, there are three kinds of whey protein: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate and whey protein hydrolysate. The concentration of whey protein and its benefits vary in each, as you’ll see below:

Whey Protein Concentrate

This kind of whey contains low levels of fat and low levels of carbohydrates. It’s the most natural form of whey protein, and, for this reason, the cheapest. It includes between 70 and 80% protein, and the rest is fat and carbs. It’s also considered to be the tastiest. It strengthens the immune system and is an antioxidant.

  • Affordable
  • Tasty
  • Improves the immune system
  • Antioxidant effect
  • Digestion problems (gas, bloating)
  • Not recommended for those with lactose intolerance
  • High amount of fat and carbohydrates

Whey Protein Isolate

This type contains over 90% protein and is processed to remove most of the lactose, carbohydrates/sugars, calories, cholesterol and fat. It’s especially useful for anyone who wants to lose weight and for people with lactose intolerance.

  • Higher level of protein
  • Suggested for weight loss due to its low fat content
  • Suitable for people with lactose intolerance
  • Doesn”t result in stomach problems
  • More pricy than whey protein concentrate
  • More processed than whey concentrate

Whey Protein Hydrolysate

This kind of whey allows for faster absorption. It also boosts insulin much more than the concentrate or isolate, but also reduces the potential for allergic reactions. It is the most expensive of the three kinds and generally is seen as having the worst taste. This type is principally designed for post-training use.

  • Good absorption and digestible
  • Avoids allergic reactions
  • Not suitable for people with diabetes
  • More expensive than the concentrate and isolate
  • Bitter taste

Shopping Criteria

In this section, we’ll go through the different whey protein products to figure out which criteria you should consider when buying a supplement. Using these specific factors, you can easily choose which product is best for you.


A useful formula is to calculate the price of a gram of powder and compare that to the daily dosage suggested by the manufacturer.

BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)

Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are three essential amino acids that share one very important characteristic: they can be used directly by muscle tissue. Because of this, muscle growth results and muscle regeneration is accelerated.

Please be aware that whey protein contains at least 7 of the 8 essential amino acids that our body requires but can’t create by itself.

Here are the levels at which amino acids should be found:

  • Isoleucine: 6.2 g – 9.5 g
  • Leucine: 4.3 g – 9.9 g
  • Lysine: 4.3 g – 9.9 g
  • Valine: 6.1 g – 9.3 g
  • Phenylalanine: 1.0 g – 3.6 g
  • Threonine: 3.3 g – 6.9 g
  • Methionine: 0.8 g – 2.4 g
  • Tryptophan: 0.4 g – 2.1 g


Common allergens include eggs, soybeans, milk, fish, gluten, shellfish and some types of nuts (like peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.). If you’re allergic to any of these things, a good option to look for is Xcore Xtreme 100% Whey Protein.

Protein Quantity

Pure hydrolysate offers 95% protein. When purchasing a powdered mixture, keep in mind that the amount of amino acids can be lower, so make sure that it’s at least 75% protein.

If this isn’t the case, the hydrolysate may not be pure or its amount is very low. The price of whey protein is sometimes high merely due to the brand name and not the nutrients it contains.


Taste is certainly important, but the challenge is that you need to buy a brand in order to try the taste. So taste is more of a factor when you decide to get the same product for a second time.


As you’ve learned, there are a number of different whey protein options, so you’ll want to get the one that’s right for you and your body. Whey protein offers many benefits, especially for athletes, but moderate intake is key.

Don’t let elegant labels persuade you. Be sure to read the package instructions carefully before choosing which brand to purchase. Marketing sells, but it definitely doesn’t make a great product on its own.

If you found this guide on whey protein useful, please leave a comment and share this article with your friends!

(Source of featured image: Wstockstudio: 65226004 /

Why you can trust me?

Ava Kirk Journalist
Ava has specialized in medical journalism and not only writes about the human body, but also knows her way around food supplements. She also studied sports science in college.