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If you’d like to turn your chocolate whey protein powder shake into a mocha delight, add a quarter cup of room temperature coffee to the mix.
If you’d like to turn your chocolate whey protein powder shake into a mocha delight, add a quarter cup of room temperature coffee to the mix. (BestReviews)

If you hit the gym hard, then you're familiar with the saying, "you are what you eat." It's true, and when it comes to rounding out macros and eating clean, whey protein powder can help you reach your nutritional goals.

Whey protein powder comes in three forms: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate. This protein-dense supplement typically has between 15 and 30 grams of protein per serving. It helps your body to build muscle, especially when consumed after workouts. While it's usually added to shakes, if you're a savvy cook, you can work it into everyday recipes, too.

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Let whey protein powder pump you up in time for your next workout. Our top pick is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder. Its double-rich chocolate flavor is a favorite among competitors and extreme athletes.

Considerations when choosing whey protein powders

Why choose whey protein?

Whey, which is derived from milk, is one of the more affordable options for protein powder. It's chock-full of nutrients like protein and amino acids, both of which are essential to muscle growth. Provided you're not lactose intolerant, whey protein is also easy on the stomach compared to other proteins, such as soy.

Types of whey protein powders

Concentrate

Whey concentrate contains between 50% to 80% protein and is often the most affordable variety. Concentrate formulas are also popular for their broad range of flavors, which makes regular consumption enjoyable.

Isolate

Whey protein isolate contains approximately 90% protein, as the formula removes most fat and nutrients. It's a solid choice to help you reach your daily protein intake goals and limit your carb intake, and it can even serve as a meal replacement.

Hydrolysate

Hydrolysate powder is more nutrient-dense than isolate and is formulated for quick absorption. It's considered a better choice for a post-workout protein, although there haven't been as many studies on its impact as other whey protein types.

Features

Nutrient contents

In addition to protein content, it's important to consider the whey protein powder's nutrient contents, which will vary depending on the type and purity of the powder. Some varieties are packed with vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, or fiber. There are also whey protein powders that keep certain nutrients on the lower side, such as fat, sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates.

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Flavor

Whey protein powder's most common flavors are chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. There are manufacturers with as many as a dozen varieties, though they're usually more expensive.

With flavored whey protein powder, keep in mind you'll also end up with sweeteners of some kind. This can affect your overall nutritional impact, so if you're on a strict nutritional plan, opt for unflavored varieties.

Food sensitivities and allergies

Whey, as it comes from milk, obviously isn't recommended for lactose-intolerant individuals. If you have other food sensitivities or allergies, always read the packaging. Some varieties are made in facilities that also manufacture nuts, soy, fish, or gluten.

Container

Whey protein powders are sold in resealable containers, usually as jars or self-sealing bags.

Jars are more reliable when it comes to an airtight seal, but they take up a lot of space in a cupboard or on a counter. Self-sealing bags certainly save on space, though many of them come with substandard seals. This means you may need to put the powder in another container.

Price

Inexpensive concentrates and isolates in small packages run between $10 and $20. If you'd like more flavor and size varieties in concentrates, isolates, and hydrolysates, expect to spend closer to $40. Larger containers, especially three- to five-pound ones, cost between $40 and $80. When comparing products, be sure to consider the price per ounce -- not just the price of the package.

FAQ

Q. Does whey protein powder ever expire?

A. Yes, and the expiration date should be clearly marked on the containers. Even if you aren't close to the date, if you haven't used it for a couple months, it may be rancid or begin to smell off -- so it's best to buy smaller packages to avoid wasting powder as well as money.

Q. I like my whey protein powder better than others, but I'm bored with the flavor. What are my options?

A. Healthy, flavorful additions like protein ice cream, peanut butter powder, or stevia could give your powder a total makeover. Some people even add a tablespoon of sugar-free powdered pudding mix for a pop of flavor.

Whey protein powders we recommend

Our take: Rich, flavorful choice with 24 grams of protein per serving. Contains only safe ingredients.

What we like: Clump-free mixing, even in shaker bottles. Easier on the stomach than other protein powders, and you'll feel full longer.

What we dislike: Certain flavors contain sucralose. Fairly expensive for daily consumption.

Best bang for your buck: Isopure's Whey Protein Isolate

Our take: Comes as sweetened or unsweetened. Contains 25 grams of protein per serving and zero carbs, fat, and sugar.

What we like: Available in 17 flavors. Popular low-carb choice, and is also gluten-free, lactose-free, and keto-friendly.

What we dislike: Uses artificial sweeteners, and flavors are hit-and-miss for consumers.

Our take: Thicker formula with 25 grams of protein per serving. Has genuine shake consistency if you seek a better texture.

What we like: Available in eight flavors that are delicious and appeal to cravings. Popular for those with sensitive stomachs.

What we dislike: Thorough mixing required to avoid clumping. Uses artificial sweeteners.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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