Arguably, the most essential supplement that you should use if you desire to build muscle is whey protein powder.
In fact, you probably eat it everyday without even knowing it! Whey is one of two essential protein components in milk.
There is a good reason why whey protein is so popular among runners, athletes, and people in general; it quickly aids in muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth) when consumed 20 to 30 minutes after the end of your resistance training workout.
If you are serious about building your muscles naturally, especially if you are an exercising beginner or an athlete, then whey protein is a perfect supplement to add to your training program.
This article will educate you about the health benefits of whey protein and other protein sources.
Top 7 Whey Protein Powders (2021 Updated)
1 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey (Editor's Choice)
Optimum Nutrition offers a range of supplements designed to help you maximize your time in the gym, and their Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder leads the way.
This is made to be high-quality, ultra-filtered whey protein that contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) your body needs to recover quickly from even the most demanding workout.
ON Gold Standard whey protein powder is low in carbs and calories, low in sugar, is gluten-free, and devoid of banned substances.
Each serving provides 5.5 grams of BCAAs, so you'll not only recover faster, but you'll build bigger, leaner, more resilient muscles as well.
- Contains a full day’s supply of BCAAs
- Low in calories and cholesterol
- 24 grams of whey protein per serving
- Essential muscle support before and after your workout
- Contains artificial flavors
This protein powder is tried and tested to be dependable and cheaper than most options while providing more benefits than its competition.
With more than 20 flavors to choose from, no wonder it is considered the gold standard of whey protein powders.
2 - BSN Syntha-6
This Syntha-6 from BSN is a premium whey protein powder that contains 22 grams of protein per serving along with 10 grams of essential amino acids, including valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
Valine, leucine, and isoleucine are the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) your body uses to repair damaged muscle tissue by building bigger, stronger, more durable muscle tissue in its place.
- 10 grams of essential amino acids in each serving
- Considered a reliable protein shake in the market.
- Low in trans-fat and calories
- No artificial sweeteners
- Contains soy and dairy
Where BSN really separates itself from most of the competition, however, is in taste. While most people have come to expect their protein shake to be a chalky, bland experience, Syntha-6 comes with a taste that you can enjoy.
3 - Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
Dymatize ISO100H is comprised of 100% whey protein isolate with 5.5 grams of essential BCAAs in every serving.
ISO100 is digested quickly by the body and gets to work in no time repairing muscles that have been stressed to the limit.
The BCAAs ensure that your new muscle tissue is stronger, leaner, and more resilient so that you are continuously positioned to progress and not just tread water in the gym.
- 5.5 grams of BCAAs per serving
- 100% pure whey protein isolate
- Safe for those who are lactose intolerant
- Lots of flavors to choose from
- Contains sucralose
ISO100 Hydrolyzed Whey Protein is lactose and gluten-free, contains less than 1 gram of sugar and fat per serving and exhibits the proper BCAA balance of 2:1:1.
If you like taking your protein powder with workout drink, this can turn your plain post-workout drink into a mouthwatering vanilla milkshake.
Some users find it sweet though, but if you have sweet tooth, then this will turn out great for you.
We also featured ISO100 as one of the best lactose-free whey protein powders.
4 - MuscleTech Phase8 Protein Powder
MuscleTech Phase8 takes a slightly different approach to protein supplementation.
Instead of bombarding your system with a single big dose of protein, their whey protein powder is formulated to release itself gradually throughout 8 hours.
This way, you get to have a more efficient and effective use of the essential BCAAs that are so vital to muscle recovery and rebuilding.
- Releases the proteins you need over 8 hours
- Helps enable optimal use of BCAAs.
- 97% Whey protein isolate
- Not for the lactose intolerant
While Muscle Phase8 is comprised of 97% whey protein isolate, there are other high-value sources on tap as well to provide a well-balanced protein dose that will address a range of physiological needs.
5 - Isopure Whey Protein Isolate
This whey protein isolate contains no artificial flavor or sweeteners, 25 grams of protein per serving, and is dairy and gluten-free.
Isopure made a high quality, keto-friendly whey protein powder that mixes well with a variety of liquids and tastes surprisingly good.
It also has zero carbs and fat and low calories, while providing vitamins A, C, B6 and B12 to help ensure a favorable level of overall health.
- 100% pure whey protein isolate
- Contains numerous vitamins and minerals
- Lactose and gluten-free
- Contains artificial flavors and sucralose
If you're looking for a protein powder that easily goes down and will enable you to build stronger, leaner muscles, you'll likely find that with Isopure.
6 - Nuzest Clean Lean Protein
Clean Lean Protein is more than just a catchy name. It's sourced from organically grown peas, so it's 100% vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
It also consists of beneficial BCAAs, so it will help you recover faster and build the lean, intense musculature that you want.
It won't create any allergy issues as it doesn't contain any funky artificial fillers or flavors. It's also one of the most heart healthy whey protein powders, having zero cholesterol and trans fats.
- 19 grams of protein per serving
- Sourced from organically grown peas
- Naturally full of branched-chain amino acids
- Free of gluten, soy, lectin, dairy, and GMOs
- You might need 2 scoops instead of 1
- The flavor isn’t going to produce a lot of smiles
While there isn't any discernible aftertaste, the taste itself isn't going to win any awards. But, you don’t use protein powders for culinary reasons. You use it to build muscle, and Nuzest will help you do just that.
7 - BPI Sports ISO HD
BPI Sports ISO HD Whey Protein Powder is extremely low in carbs and contains zero trans fats while providing 25 grams of protein in every serving.
It mixes well with most liquids and will generally do well in rebuilding your muscles after working out at the gym. This pure whey protein isolate also claims to help lessen your recovery time.
Basically, it gets busy immediately after your workout by creating bigger, leaner, and stronger muscles so by the time you hit the gym again, you'll feel less muscle soreness.
- 100% whey protein isolate & hydrolysate (25 grams of protein)
- Can be absorbed by the body quickly
- Keto diet friendly - Only 3 g of carbs per serving
- Great price for the dollar per serving ratio
- Contains high fructose corn syrup
The only downside with this protein powder is the presence of high fructose corn syrup which is associated with weight gain, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Types of Whey Protein
Whey is one of the two major proteins found in milk, where casein is the other. Pure whey contains a large amount of the milk sugar lactose, as well as a variety of proteins and fat.
You'll find that there are three main types of whey protein namely:
- Whey protein concentrate (WPC) are typically 70-85% protein, which makes it reasonably low in fat and lactose. It is one of the cheapest and simplest forms of protein which can be found in any type of supplement store (and some grocery stores) you go to. Whey protein concentrate is recommended for beginners that are trying to add some protein to their diet. 
- Whey protein isolate (WPI) are typically greater than 85% protein, with some being over 90% protein. Whey isolate can also be a great pre and post-workout protein powder because it is absorbed very quickly in the body and can get right into the muscles where it needs to be to stay anabolic.
- Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) is the most expensive source of protein that you will find in a supplement store because it is also the highest quality protein available. This type of whey protein is easily absorbed by the body and has a great anabolic effect when taken. In addition, whey protein hydrolysate is very gentle on the digestive system when compared to other proteins.
For more info, read the post on: Understanding the big difference between whey protein concentrate and isolate
Both whey protein concentrate and isolate are already fast-digesting, so a whey protein hydrolysate, which digests minimally faster, may not be worth the taste tradeoff and extra cost for the small benefit.
- Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D., R.D., Nutrition Express
Whey vs Casein Protein
Whey and casein are brothers and milk is their mother. Unfortunately, like Cain and Abel, they both hate each other - or do they?
In fact, whey and casein work better together when it comes to protein supplementation.
To see why, let's do a quick comparison of both proteins.
Whey is the "fast“ brother that quickly aids the body with muscle building after a strenuous workout. Studies show that whey increases protein synthesis but does not alter protein breakdown.
Casein is the "slow“ brother that prevents muscle loss over several hours. Studies reveal that casein decreases protein breakdown but hardly effects protein synthesis.
So why are some people in the fitness world trying to pit casein and whey against each other? It makes little sense because they both cancel out each other's weaknesses. With that said, consider investing in a quality casein protein powder as well.
What to Look for in Whey Protein
1. Flavor - There are plenty of flavors to choose from, but you can never go wrong with chocolate or vanilla flavored protein powders. You can mix it in shakes or smoothies, and it will still taste good.
If you don't like taking it pure, you can also add it to the flour used in pancakes, waffles, and baked goods.
Less common flavors might be risky, so we recommend that you buy small samples to determine if you will like it.
2. Ingredients - When buying any kinds of supplement, the first thing you need to do is to look at the ingredient label. Your protein powder must have whey as the main ingredient and the ingredient list must be simple and short as possible.
Always choose a protein powder made with natural ingredients, as well as those that have added health benefits like essential vitamins and minerals, added greens, probiotics, and many more.
Don't forget to check for the amount of BCAAs—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—which are essential amino acids that have been scientifically proven to enhance muscle building, lessen muscle soreness, and reduce muscle fatigue.
Opt for something with no more than 150 calories, at most 10 grams of total carbohydrates, and at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. It's important to have enough fiber on top of protein to help with satiety.
Skip those with artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and Splenda, and instead, look for those that uses natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract. This can prevent unwanted effects like weight gain and bloating from artificial sweeteners.
3. Amount of protein per serving - According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults who regularly workout must take 1.1 - 1.4g of protein/kilogram of body weight on a daily basis while those who are involved in heavy-endurance training must take 1.5 - 2g.
So if you weigh 80 kilos or 176 pounds and want to build muscles, you’ll need 160g protein per day. Look for the supplement with the highest protein content if you want to bulk up.
You may want to pick a protein powder that has at least 20 grams of protein per serving, just like the ones we reviewed above.
4. Third party tested for quality assurance - Since protein powders are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some companies fill in their products with useless fillers. This is the reason why certain companies choose to undergo third-party testing to officially verify the safety and purity of their products.
This is to ensure that what you see on the label is what’s actually on the product and there are no hidden ingredients that can jeopardize your health.
See our other recommended protein powder's buyer's guide:
6 Health Benefits of Whey
1. Boosts Muscle Size And Strength - Whey protein helps build strength and muscle size and countless studies show that people who take whey protein powder have increased muscle synthesis.
This means that if you hit a strength plateau in your workout, whey protein powder will likely get you over the hump.
2. Helps Burn Fat While Maintaining Muscle Mass - When you exercise, you are putting your body in a catabolic state (i.e. breaking down muscle tissue).
Studies have shown that taking whey protein powder post workout helps burn fat while preserving muscle mass .
3. Decreases Appetite - One study showed that people who drank 50 grams of whey protein had drastically reduced their levels of ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates your body to eat) up to 4 hours after drinking it. This can be relatively beneficial, especially if you're a big snacker.
4. Boosts Immune System - Research revealed that protein powder revitalizes the immune system. In addition, studies show that exercise has a positive effect on your immune system, so as flu season approaches, make sure to exercise and try using whey as your medicine. 
5. Alleviates Stress - If you have been heavily stressed lately, I suggest you turn to whey protein powder for relief. Research suggests that individuals who consume whey protein express fewer symptoms of depression and a better mood than those who didn't consume it.
6. Aids In Cancer Prevention - Does cancer run in your family? If so, then investing in whey protein powder may be a lifesaver. Several studies show that whey and other dietary milk products may aid in fighting cancer.
While you should get regular screenings for cancer (especially if it runs in your family), whey protein can help prevent it. 
How Much Protein Powder Should You Drink Per Day?
For beginners, I recommend to drink no more than 1 to 2 scoops of protein powder per day (1 to 2 protein shakes). As you get a better sense of how whey interacts with your system, you can up your dosage to 3 to 4 scoops.
Remember, whey protein powder is a supplement, not a substitution for real food or even a mass gainer shake.
When Should You Take Whey Protein?
The best time to drink whey protein is 30 minutes before your workout and within 30 minutes after your workout. The reason for this is to maximize protein synthesis, also called the muscle building phase.
But you can also take it with breakfast, especially for those who struggle to have a protein-rich meal first thing in the morning. It can definitely give you an extra energy boost and stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Are There Any Side Effects To Taking Whey?
Most people show little or no side effects when they take a moderate dosage (1 to 2 scoops) of whey. However, if a person is allergic to milk, they shouldn't take whey powder. Also, taking too many doses of protein powder can cause:
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To avoid these issues, limit your intake to 1 to 2 scoops per day, preferably around the time you workout.
What Should You NEVER Do To Whey?
- Never expose whey protein powders to high temperatures and direct sunlight for extended periods.
- Avoid leaving protein in a hot car, next to the oven in the kitchen, or any other source of heat.
- Avoid using whey protein powders in recipes that use high heat (muffins, pancakes, etc.) as this may denature the protein as well.
Any Differences In Whey Protein Powders For Men And Women?
How Often Can I Take Protein Powders?
It is recommended to take protein powders not more than twice daily.
Since even the best protein powders do not contain essential vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants, it's best to use it only as a protein boost during meals or snacks. It's never a good idea to treat it as a meal replacement shake because that might just ruin your weight loss or fitness efforts.
The good news is that it's quite easy to incorporate protein powders to your regular meals and snacks so make sure to choose neutral-flavored ones to prevent taste and texture issues.
What is the Best Whey Protein Powder?
The best whey protein powder greatly assists in your muscle building, fat-burning, and athletic endeavors so finding the top option is truly essential in reaching your body goals.
With that, we recommend Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard as your whey protein supplement of choice.
It is packed with 24 grams of protein per serving to help enhance muscle development and recovery.
Also, it will help keep you super energized especially during intense workouts.