The Best Whey Protein Powders of 2023, Chosen By a Dietitian

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Whey protein (or the protein shake) is the most popular protein supplement on the market—and for good reason. It's a complete protein which means it provides all the essential amino acids (EAAs) you need—as well as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—making it the perfect supplement for muscle growth and development. The best whey protein powders easily mix in with most beverages and provide a yummy flavor. But with so many options available, how do you know which is the best whey protein powder?

Our team has worked diligently to answer this question for you. We've researched the most talked about whey protein powders and compiled a list of the 10 best. Plus, we categorized our selections by different needs so you can find the one that's right for you.

The Best Whey Protein - Our Top Picks

Why Trust Us?

The health and safety of ACTIVE's readers is of the utmost importance to us. To ensure your well-being when consuming dietary supplements, the ACTIVE.com editorial team prioritizes products that are independently tested by a third party. We've consulted with a team of nutritionists and dieticians to ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. This helps us create the most accurate, authentic review content for our readers.

Best Overall Whey Protein - Kaged Whey Protein Isolate

Kaged Whey Protein Isolate

SPECS

  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Carbs: 4g
  • Protein: 25g

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Hands down, the best overall whey protein powder is Kaged Whey Protein Isolate. Through a process known as ultrafiltration, the whey protein is separated from tag-along nutrients like lactose, fat, and cholesterol, and isolated. This forms a more rapidly absorbed and digestible protein. From there, Kaged added ProHydrolase®, a digestive enzyme created to aid in protein digestion. This enzyme helps break down protein and release amino acids into the blood in order for them to do their work of muscle building and repair. Studies have demonstrated ProHydrolase's ability to increase the amount of time amino acids circulate in the blood which is exactly what you want for muscle gain.

We also like that Kaged is committed to quality. This protein has no artificial flavors or dyes and is non-GMO and gluten-free. Plus, it's third-party tested to prove quality and purity.

What We Like

  • ProHydrolase® digestive enzyme
  • No artificial flavors or dyes
  • Gluten-free
  • Third-party tested

What We Don't Like

  • Sucralose is used as the sweetener while more natural options are available
  • No organic ingredients

BUY: Kaged Whey Protein Isolate


Best Personalized Whey Protein Powder - Gainful

Gainful

SPECS

  • Calories: Varies, custom blend
  • Sugar: Varies, custom blend
  • Carbs: Varies, custom blend
  • Protein: Varies, custom blend

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Your body, lifestyle, and goals are unique to you. Shouldn’t your protein be unique as well? Gainful thinks so. This up-and-coming protein company utilizes an in-depth questionnaire and expertise from registered dietitians to build your whey protein from scratch. From the protein source to the macros, calories, and add-ins, you have total control.

Gainful’s whey-based proteins utilize whey isolate, which makes for rock-solid macros, easy digestion, and quick mixing. You can further dial in your sourcing to be lactose-free, gluten-free, soy-free, or even dairy-free altogether if you’re looking to go plant-based. Extra calories are added (or not added, based on your stated goals and goal weight) from carb sources like oat powder and maltodextrin. The result is a clean, easy-to-understand label–and if you have any questions, you have access to a registered dietician to answer them.

But uniquely, the customization offered by Gainful extends beyond the nutritional facts. Their proteins all arrive unflavored in the bag but are accompanied by your choice of two of eight different "flavor boosts" that you can dial up or down to match your taste preferences.

What We Like

  • Easy to create a protein that matches your needs and goals
  • Range of flavors, with the ability to dial up and down intensity
  • Purchase comes with free dietitian guidance

What We Don't Like

  • Pricier by the serving than non-customized protein
  • Not easy to re-customize formula once built

BUY: Gainful Protein


Best Grass-Fed Protein Powder - XWerks Grow

Xwerks Grow

SPECS

  • Calories: 110
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Carbs: 1g
  • Protein: 25g

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Florida-based Xwerks makes a grass-fed, whey-based Grow protein that is about as simple and clean as protein powder gets. The label has just four ingredients: protein, natural flavors, xantham gum (a thickener), and stevia. It’s made with whey from New Zealand-based cows, which means they’ve never ingested pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics.

Aside from the benefits that come from its Southern Hemisphere roots, Grow has all the benefits that come from whey isolate, rather than whey concentrate or milk protein isolate. It blends like a dream and is very light on the stomach since it’s lactose-free. Even people who normally can’t digest dairy products often do well with simple whey isolate.

What We Like

  • High-quality, complete protein with just four ingredients
  • New Zealand’s dairy standards mean no pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics
  • Lactose-free, sugar-free, and VERY low-carb (1g per scoop), making it equally suitable for weight loss and muscle gain

What We Don't Like

  • Higher cost than competitors on a grams-per-dollar basis
  • So low-calorie and low-carb, you might need to add calories to your shake if you live up to the product’s name and “grow”

BUY: Xwerks Grow


Best Whey Isolate Protein Powder - Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

SPECS

  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Carbs: 2g
  • Protein: 28g

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We chose the Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate because not only is it made with grass-fed whey from American-grown cows, it has more protein per gram of powder than most other protein powders on the market. With each scoop of powder, you get a whopping 28 grams of protein. Why does this matter? Whey protein in the isolate form is now the gold standard in protein powders because it has been separated from the fat, cholesterol, and lactose that normally accompanies it.

We also like that this option is third-party tested for composition and purity, proving that what they claim on the label is actually in the bottle. Lastly, there are no artificial flavorings, dyes, gluten, or sweeteners, leaving a clean, easily absorbed protein supplement for improved muscle synthesis and recovery.

What We Like

  • Grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • Third-party testing
  • Lack of artificial flavors, dyes, and sweeteners

What We Don't Like

  • Higher end of the price spectrum
  • No organic ingredients

BUY: Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate


Best Whey Protein Powder for Weight Loss - Jacked Factory Authentic ISO

Jacked Factory Authentic ISO

SPECS

  • Calories: 110
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Carbs: 1g
  • Protein: 25g

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At only 110 calories per serving, the Jacked Factory Authentic ISO is ideal for those looking to lose weight. It doesn't make a dent in your overall daily calorie allowance, plus it has whey protein isolate as its primary form of protein. This means the protein is more easily absorbed for better results and consumption. And, this option comes sweetened with sucralose and stevia making it free from gluten, fillers, and dyes.

What We Like

  • Grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • Manufactured in the USA
  • Lacks gluten, dyes, and fillers
  • Easy return policy

What We Don't Like

  • Not third-party tested
  • Some say the flavor is a bit too sweet

BUY: Jacked Factory Authentic ISO


Best Whey Protein Powder for Women - Cira Bright Whey Protein

Cira Bright Whey Protein

SPECS

  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Carbs: 2g
  • Protein: 25g

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For women looking for the best whey protein powder, we recommend Cira Bright. This protein powder contains both whey protein isolate (whey protein in its purest form) and whey protein concentrate, which has been less processed. With all the talk about the benefits of whey protein isolate, it doesn't hurt to mention that because whey protein concentrate has been processed less, it still has a significant amount of immunoglobulins from milk. Immunoglobulins are a set of proteins that act as antibodies to aid in immune function.

Bright Whey is sweetened with both sucralose and Stevia extract, and will not spike blood sugars. And the addition of Himalayan sea salt provides electrolytes for post-workout replenishment.

What We Like

  • Combination whey protein isolate and concentrate
  • Gluten-free
  • Generous return policy

What We Don't Like

  • Grass-fed whey not used
  • No third-party testing

BUY: Cira Bright Whey Protein


Best Tasting Whey Protein Powder - Ghost Whey Protein Powder

Ghost Whey Protein Powder

SPECS

  • Calories: 160
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Carbs: 7g
  • Protein: 25g

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Looking for the best-tasting whey protein? Ghost Whey Protein Powder offers a variety of flavor options, most of which are reminiscent of sweet treats like cookies and cream or chocolate ice cream. Ghost has partnered with brands like Oreo, Chips Ahoy, and Nutter Butter to bring these delicious flavors to the market in protein powder form.

Ghost Whey Protein has also added digestive enzymes to decrease the chances of bloating and stomach upset. However, if you're looking for a protein powder that's free of artificial flavoring and coloring, this isn't the one, but sometimes taste is worth the trade-off.

What We Like

  • Unique protein blend
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Exclusive flavors
  • Third-party tested

What We Don't Like

  • Artificial flavors and coloring
  • No organic or grass-fed ingredients

BUY: Ghost Whey Protein Powder


Best Organic Whey Protein Powder: Garden Of Life Organic Whey Protein

Garden Of Life Organic Whey

SPECS

  • Calories: 130
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Carbs: 7g
  • Protein: 21g

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Garden of Life's Organic Whey Protein Powder was an easy choice as our pick for the best organic whey protein powder. It's made with whey protein concentrate and comes from humane-certified, grass-fed cows. The protein is also cold processed which helps to maintain amino acid quality. Sweetened with organic Stevia extract, this protein powerhouse also has two billion CFU of probiotics to support gut health.

Garden of Life takes their social and eco-consciousness to the next level with each product. They are a completely carbon-neutral company which means they rely solely on sustainable practices. Plus, all products are third-party tested so you can rest assured that you are getting safe, high-quality products with each purchase.

What We Like

  • Grass-fed protein
  • Contains probiotics
  • Organic, non-GMO verified, humane-certified
  • Carbon neutral
  • Have to take 2 scoops to get 21g of protein

What We Don't Like

  • Taste may vary depending on flavor
  • Some report clumping when mixing

BUY: Garden Of Life Organic Whey Protein


Best Whey Protein Powder for Men - Dymatize® ISO100® Hydrolyzed Whey Protein

Dymatize® ISO100® Hydrolyzed Whey Protein

SPECS

  • Calories: 110
  • Sugar: Less than 1g
  • Carbs: 1g
  • Protein: 25g

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For men looking to maximize their gains, we recommend the Dymatize® ISO 100® Hydrolyzed Whey Protein. Hydrolyzed whey protein isolate is the active ingredient in this powder which makes it more unique compared to the others. Through the hydrolyzation process, protein isolate molecules are broken down into even smaller pieces. This is similar to pre-digesting the protein molecule to make actual digestion faster and easier.

Dymatize as a company is a well-known and trusted brand for over 25 years. Plus, we like that they employ third-party testing to ensure composition and purity.

What We Like

  • Third-party tested
  • Many flavors to choose from
  • High-quality protein

What We Don't Like

  • Use of sucralose while more natural sweetener options are available

BUY: Dymatize® ISO100® Hydrolyzed Whey Protein


Best Whey Protein Powder for Weight Gain - Jacked Factory Authentic Whey

Jacked Factory Authentic Whey

SPECS

  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Carbs: 1g
  • Protein: 24g

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If you're looking to max out your gains, Jacked Factory made our list once again with their Authentic Whey. This protein powder combines both whey protein isolate and concentrate for a well-rounded protein source. It is also a complete protein, including all EAAs and BCAAs.

Although this is a great source of protein, it's important to remember that for weight and muscle gain, you must consume more calories than you burn. At 120 calories per serving, this powder can also be added to smoothies and baked goods to help boost calorie intake.

What We Like

  • No artificial dyes
  • Well-rounded protein source
  • Manufactured in the USA
  • Money back guarantee

What We Don't Like

  • Not third-party tested
  • Sucralose used as a sweetener

BUY: Jacked Factory Authentic Whey


Best Sugar-Free Whey Protein Powder - Isopure Unflavored

Isopure Unflavored

SPECS

  • Calories: 100
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Protein: 25g

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The spot for the best sugar-free whey protein goes to Isopure Unflavored. This protein offers so much with so little. That is, with just two ingredients, this protein powder packs a protein punch while steering clear of all other unnecessary ingredients. We like that Isopure Unflavored allows you to take the reins and be creative in how you flavor it. You can also add it to hot foods like soups, stews, and baked goods.

Isopure has been around since 1998 and has consistently offered quality protein supplements since. Products are tested by a third party to ensure not only safety but that what you read on the label is actually what's in the bottle.

What We Like

  • Simple, unflavored protein
  • Third-party tested
  • Free of sugar, carbs, fillers, lactose

What We Don't Like

  • Whey is not from grass-fed cows
  • No organic ingredients

BUY: Isopure Unflavored


Best Whey Protein Powder for Mixing - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey

SPECS

  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Carbs: 3g
  • Protein: 24g

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Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey protein powder slides into our final spot as the best protein powder for mixing. This protein blend consists of highly absorbable whey protein isolate, as well as whey protein concentrate. The protein powder mixes in with any beverage quickly and easily regardless of the flavor option.

Gold Standard Whey protein powder is consistently given the highest reviews for a reason. And although the protein is not third-party tested, it is in-house tested for quality and safety.

What We Like

  • Protein blend
  • 18 flavors
  • Easy mixability

What We Don't Like

  • Not third-party tested
  • Sweetened with sucralose while there are more natural sweeteners available

BUY: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey


How to Choose the Best Whey Protein

As mentioned earlier, due to whey's popularity, there are an abundance of options available to choose from. Let's discuss what to look for when attempting to purchase your next whey protein supplement.

Macros

Be sure to take a closer look at the macros to be sure you're getting what you want out of your protein.

  • Protein. Most whey supplements average around 24-25 grams of protein per serving. Look for a high-quality, grass-fed whey whenever possible. Whey in the form of whey protein isolate (when compared to whey protein concentrate) is more easily absorbed by the body, and some feel it is more easily digested. Whey protein concentrate is also less processed and less expensive but retains the natural immunoglobulins that come from milk.
  • Carbs. Whey protein supplements are just that, protein. Manufacturers usually try to keep total carbohydrates as low as possible to avoid blood sugar spikes. If you'd like a more balanced meal, consider adding carbohydrate-rich food along with protein powder. One example is to blend whey protein with fruit like a banana or apple.
  • Fat. Fat slows digestion and can lead to fullness and sluggishness which is the last thing you want if you are drinking your protein powder before a workout. Therefore, fat is also kept low in most cases.

Ingredients

Aside from the macros, the supporting ingredients are also very important. A solid whey protein can be muddied by low-quality supporting ingredients. Look for whey protein powders free from artificial colors and flavors. Natural sweeteners like Stevia leaf or Monk fruit extract are great options when used as sugar substitutes.

Third-Party Testing

Because protein supplements are not monitored by the FDA, companies can get away with skimping on certain ingredients or not following through with their claims. To avoid this, as well as prove their quality to the consumer, many companies have their products third-party tested. That is, an outside lab steps in and tests the products for composition and purity. We recommend choosing a whey protein powder that has been third-party tested whenever possible.

FAQs About Whey Protein Powder


Can you use whey protein daily?

Absolutely. The idea behind taking a whey protein supplement is to meet daily protein requirements for muscle growth and synthesis. If you feel that you need more protein than your diet is currently providing, a whey protein powder can be perfect to fill in the nutritional gap.

Who should use whey protein?

Whey can be used by anyone that is not meeting their protein needs through diet alone. Whey certainly doesn't discriminate, as both men and women can stand to benefit from protein powder if they aren't meeting their needs through their diet. Whey protein is also a good choice for those who engage in strength or resistance training since it can assist with building muscle. However, it's always important to consult with your doctor to be sure you don't have a condition that requires a lower protein diet.

When is the best time to take whey protein?

There are benefits to taking a whey protein supplement at various times. There are benefits to taking it before and after your workout, or even before bed. However, what is most important is the total amount you consume over the course of the day. Therefore, take whey protein when it is most convenient for you, but more importantly, take enough to meet your daily needs.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

About the Author

Bryee Shepard, MS, RD

Byree is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition. Bryee is fascinated by food science and biochemistry but also enjoys simple recipe creations as she loves breaking down evidence-based info into digestible guides.

See More from Bryee

Byree is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition. Bryee is fascinated by food science and biochemistry but also enjoys simple recipe creations as she loves breaking down evidence-based info into digestible guides.

See More from Bryee

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