The Best Whey Protein Powders, According to a Dietitian

Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is NSF certified for sport

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Whey protein powder is a high-quality protein source that can help fill protein gaps, especially for athletes and other very active individuals. Whey protein contains all of the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein our bodies do not produce on their own. It is also typically easily digested when compared to other protein sources.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that athletes obtain around 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. This higher amount of protein is necessary for building, repairing, and maintaining muscle. Peter Pace, MS RD CSCS CPT says, “Whey protein supplements may have their place in helping humans meet their protein needs for tissue growth and repair, however, they are not a replacement for a diet rich in high-quality whole-food sources of protein.”

If you are not able to meet your needs through diet alone, our sports dietitians believe that whey protein powders can be a convenient way to boost your intake. Keep in mind that, since whey is derived from milk, it may not be a good choice if you have a milk allergy or sensitivity or follow a vegan diet.

Verywell Fit Approved Whey Protein Powders

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine, to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Given that protein powders are supplements that are minimally regulated by the FDA, the quality of the brand matters even more to ensure a safe product. If you are a competitive athlete, we recommend choosing a protein powder that is third-party tested to avoid accidentally consuming prohibited substances. Examples of third-party testing companies include NSF, USP, and ConsumerLabs.

Is Whey Protein Powder Beneficial?

We recommend turning to whole food sources of protein as a first means of obtaining protein. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, greek yogurt, legumes, tofu, and tempeh. 

However, if you are not able to meet your protein needs from food alone and do not have a milk allergy, a whey protein powder may come in handy. Since whey protein powders are typically low in carbohydrates and carbohydrates are important for exercise, mix your whey protein into a smoothie with carbohydrate-containing ingredients like milk, bananas, and flavored yogurt. You can also pair your protein shake with a carbohydrate-rich snack, such as yogurt with fruit and granola or a sandwich for a more complete meal and to fully recover from exercise.

Those who may benefit from whey protein powder include:

  • People who are active and short on time: If you are active and do not have time to fully recover with whole food sources or if you're an athlete with two events or workouts per day, a whey protein powder may help you reach your protein needs. Whey is particularly high in leucine, an amino acid that is critical for building muscle. However, casein, another protein found in milk, digests more slowly and may help prevent muscle breakdown. Consuming the two together, such as by drinking milk, may be more beneficial than whey protein alone.
  • Those who experience digestive upset from other protein sources: Some people experience stomach upset from protein powders, due to reasons such as lactose intolerance, sensitivity to dairy, or from added fiber or sugar alcohols. Whey protein comes in various forms, one of which is whey isolate. Whey protein isolates are lower in fat, lactose, and cholesterol, which may allow for quick and easy digestion.
  • Older adults: Aging is often associated with progressive loss of muscle mass and strength, which can increase risk of falls. Whey protein supplementation, when paired with resistance exercise, may increase muscle mass and prevent muscle breakdown among older adults.
  • Weight maintenance: Whey protein may help with muscle and weight maintenance among those who have trouble maintaining a high-enough weight, such as older adults or those with cancer.

Who Might Not Benefit from Whey Protein Powder

If you consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein from whole food sources, you likely do not need to use a whey protein powder. Consuming protein beyond your needs will not result in further muscle gains, especially if you are not pairing it with exercise.

The following groups might not benefit from whey protein powder:

  • Those with a milk allergy or sensitivity: You should avoid whey protein powder if you have a milk allergy and instead consider vegan protein powders. While whey is lower in lactose than dairy sources such as milk or yogurt, it does contain some lactose. If you are lactose intolerant, you may be able to use a whey protein isolate which is extremely low in lactose.
  • Those with kidney disease: If you have kidney disease, you should consult with a healthcare provider before using a whey protein supplement.
  • Those taking certain medications: Whey protein powders may delay the effects of certain drugs, including Levodopa, Albenza, Fosamex, and certain antibiotics. If you are taking medications, consult with a healthcare provider before using whey protein.

Best Overall: Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate, Vanilla

Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate, Vanilla

Amazon

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Sport Certified

  • Whey isolate form and ProHydrolase enzyme for easy digestion

  • Whey sourced from milk from grass-fed cows

Cons
  • Expensive

Who else recommends it? Healthline and The Strategist both picked Momentous Essential Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate.

Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein tops our list, because it is high-quality and rigorously third-party tested. Momentous is made with whey isolate, the form of whey that contains 90% protein and little fat or lactose, making it easy to digest. This product also contains ProHydrolase, an enzyme blend designed to enhance digestion and absorption.

In particular, we like that Momentous is both NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Sport Certified, so it has undergone third-party testing to ensure that it is not contaminated with any prohibited substances and that it contains what is listed on the label. If you are a competitive athlete, it may be important to choose protein powders with third-party testing.

One scoop of Momentous Whey Protein provides you with 20 grams of high-quality protein, with 2.3 grams of leucine, the branched chain amino acid important for muscle growth. Leucine consumption should be between one and three grams per meal or snack to optimize muscle protein synthesis. Since this powder is low in carbohydrates, we recommend pairing it with carbohydrate foods for complete recovery. 

Momentous does also make a Recovery powder with whey protein isolate and 10 grams of carbohydrates, which is still a low amount of carbohydrates but might help you further kickstart post-exercise recovery when paired with a meal. Mix one to two scoops of vanilla or chocolate flavored Momentous Whey Protein into water, smoothies, or another liquid of choice.

Form of protein: Whey isolate | Protein: 20 g | Leucine: 2.3 g | Total fat: 1.5 g | Calcium: 90 mg | To use: Mix 1 scoop into 12 oz liquid of choice

Best Budget: Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate, Unflavored

MyProtein Impact Whey Isolate, Unflavored

Amazon

Pros
  • ConsumerLab approved

  • Contains only two ingredients and no sweeteners

  • Whey isolate form for easy digestion

Cons
  • Thin drink when mixed with liquid

If you are looking for a whey protein isolate, one of the main drawbacks is that this form of whey tends to be more expensive than other protein powders. Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate offers a quality whey isolate protein at a more affordable price. This protein powder is also verified by ConsumerLab, one of our top third-party testers.

Most flavored protein powders contain alternative sweeteners such as stevia or monk fruit to cut down on sugar content, but they come with their own potential drawbacks. Myprotein offers an unflavored version, which does not contain any added sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or fillers. Since it is unflavored, you can also add it to savory dishes such as soups or baked goods such as breads or protein bars. 

With only two ingredients, Myprotein Unflavored contains 22 grams of protein per scoop. The minimal ingredient list means that mixing this powder with water may result in a thin consistency, but you can easily add this powder to a smoothie to give it the consistency and flavor you like.

Form of protein: Whey isolate | Protein: 22 g | Leucine: Not listed | Total fat: 0 g | Calcium: 100 mg | To use: Mix 1 scoop into 6-8 oz liquid of choice

Best Whey Protein Concentrate + Isolate Blend: Ascent Native Fuel Whey, Chocolate

Ascent Native Fuel Whey, Chocolate

Amazon

Pros
  • Informed Sport Certified

  • Blend of whey protein concentrate and isolate

  • Free from artificial ingredients

Cons
  • Processed on equipment with tree nuts and peanuts

Ascent Native Fuel Whey contains both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate, providing a slightly higher (although still quite low) fat and carbohydrate profile. This allows for a smooth product that mixes well and does not cause clumping like some other protein powders. 

Ascent Native Fuel Whey is free from artificial ingredients and comes in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, lemon sorbet, vanilla bean, and unflavored. One scoop contains 25 grams of protein with 2.7 grams of leucine to support recovery.

This whey protein comes in single-serve packets, so you can test the powder out before committing to a larger bag. It is certified gluten-free as well as Informed Sport Certified, a certification program that verifies that sports supplements are free from banned substances.

Form of protein: Whey protein concentrate + whey protein isolate | Protein: 25 g | Leucine: 2.7 g | Total fat: 1 g | Calcium: 138 mg | To use: Mix 1 scoop into 8 oz liquid of choice

Best Tasting: BiPro Elite Whey Protein Isolate, French Vanilla

BiPro Elite Whey Protein Isolate, French Vanilla

Amazon

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • Whey isolate form for easy digestion

Cons
  • Expensive

If you are looking for a delicious protein powder that is still high-quality, consider BiPro Elite Whey Protein Isolate. This protein powder does not contain any added sugars or fillers. It is sweetened with stevia leaf extract and is available in french vanilla, chocolate, or unflavored versions. The manufacturer suggests mixing it with your favorite smoothie or breakfast foods, such as waffles, oatmeal, or yogurt. Adding it to these carbohydrate-rich foods can also be a great way to ensure that you obtain adequate carbohydrates following a workout.

BiPro Elite contains 20 grams of protein from whey protein isolate per scoop, along with 2.5 grams of leucine. BiPro oversees the process from start to finish, beginning with milk sourced from cows in Idaho and Minnesota. This whey protein isolate comes in single-serve packets that you can take on the go, or as larger bags that you can keep at home. It is also NSF Certified for Sport, so you can be sure that it contains what it says it contains without harmful contaminants or banned substances.

BiPro verifies that its powder contains a low-enough level of lactose that those with lactose intolerance won’t experience any symptoms.

Form of protein: Whey protein isolate | Protein: 20 g | Leucine: 2.5 g | Total fat: 0.5 g | Calcium: Not listed | To use: Mix 1 scoop into 8 oz liquid of choice, smoothies, oatmeal, or other soft foods

Best Organic: Garden of Life Certified Organic Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder Chocolate

Garden of Life Certified Organic Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder Chocolate

Amazon

Pros
  • Certified USDA Organic

  • No artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives

  • Affordable

Cons
  • May not be appropriate if lactose intolerant

  • Contains erythritol, which may cause stomach upset in some

Garden of Life Organic Whey protein is a USDA Organic and non-GMO certified protein powder from grass fed and hormone free cows. This protein powder contains whey protein concentrate, which tends to be more affordable than whey isolate. 

Garden of Life whey protein contains 21 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, and 7 grams of carbohydrates per serving. This slightly higher fat and carbohydrate content may help keep you full, but you should still pair it with carbohydrate rich-foods post-workout. This product also contains 4.7 grams of branched chain amino acids, with 2.2 grams of leucine to help with muscle repair.

Garden of Life does not contain any added sugars and is instead sweetened with organic stevia leaf extract and erythritol, a sugar alcohol. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you should note that this product also contains 12 milligrams of naturally occurring caffeine.

Form of protein: Whey protein concentrate | Protein: 21 g | Leucine: 2.2 g  | Total fat: 2.5 g | Calcium: 82 mg | To use: Mix 2 scoops into 6 oz of water

Best with Collagen: Natreve Whey Protein Powder, Fudge Brownie

Natreve Whey Protein Powder, Fudge Brownie

VitaCost

Pros
  • Informed Sport Certified

  • Contains greens blend and marine collagen

  • Whey sourced from milk from grass-fed cows

Cons
  • Contains inulin, which may cause some people digestive upset

Natreve is a sustainability-focused wellness company. Its Whey Protein Powder contains whey protein isolate from grass-fed and hormone-free cows. In addition to whey isolate, it contains two grams of marine collagen, which some studies show may support skin elasticity and improve a wrinkled appearance.

Collagen powders on their own might not be ideal post-exercise supplements, since collagen is lower in the branched chain amino acids, such as leucine, that are necessary for building muscle. This powder allows you to get a boost of collagen along with the amino acids present in whey.

As an added bonus, this powder contains an organic greens blend of kale, broccoli, and spinach. It does contain inulin, a prebiotic fiber that may be beneficial for gut health for some, but others may find it difficult to digest.

Form of protein: Whey protein isolate | Protein: 28 g | Leucine: Not listed | Total fat: 1 g | Calcium: 95 mg | To use: Mix 1 scoop into 10 oz liquid of choice

Best Animal-Free: Natreve Mooless Animal-Free Whey Protein Powder, Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Natreve Mooless Animal-Free Whey Protein Powder, Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Natreve

Pros
  • May be good option for plant-based eaters

  • Low environmental impact

  • No artificial colors or sweeteners

Cons
  • Not suitable for those with milk allergies 

  • Expensive

If you are a plant-based eater, you might be interested in Natreve’s Mooless Animal Free Whey Protein Powder. This whey protein powder is made completely without animals—instead, they rely on a fermentation process using a copy of DNA corresponding to cow’s milk protein. The resulting product is molecularly identical to whey protein. As an added bonus, Natreve states that compared to conventional whey protein powder, this powder involves less water consumption, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Natreve Mooless powder comes in individual packets, making it easy to take with you on the go. Each packet provides 20 grams of whey protein isolate and 2.1 grams of leucine per serving. Mooless protein also comes in a variety of delicious flavors, including chocolate fudge brownie, cookies & cream, vanilla bean cupcake, and strawberry shortcake and can easily be added to your favorite smoothie or other liquid of choice. It is sweetened with stevia and monk fruit, which may or may suit your taste preferences and dietary habits.

It is important to note that, since this whey is molecularly identical to conventional whey, it is not suitable if you have a milk allergy. It is, however, lactose-free, so it is suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.

Form of protein: Non animal whey protein isolate | Protein: 20 g | Leucine: 21. g | Total fat: 0.5 g | Calcium: 0 mg | To use: Mix 1 packet into 12 oz liquid of choice

Final Verdict

Our top choice for a whey protein powder is Momentous Essential Grass Fed Whey Isolate, because it contains easy-to-digest grass-fed whey protein isolate and is NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Sport Certified.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here. 

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest-quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third-party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look for in a Whey Protein

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab, where they are tested to ensure that they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  • Third-party testing does not test to see whether a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure that the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  • Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  • The third-party certifications we trust are: ConsumerLab, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  • Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive in an effort to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  • Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of manufacturers and calling them and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide whether you feel comfortable consuming the supplements.

If you are an athlete engaging in competitive sports, you may prioritize choosing a protein powder that has been third-party tested. While risk is low, protein powders may be contaminated with heavy metals, although that is typically less of a concern with milk-based proteins, such as whey, especially whey isolates. This is possibly due to the processing.

Form

Whey protein powders usually contain whey in three forms, depending on how they have been processed:

Whey concentrate: Whey concentrate contains at least 25% protein, with common amounts being 35%, 55%, and 80% protein. Whey concentrate is slightly higher in fat and lactose.

Whey isolate: Whey isolate is around 90% protein and contains less lactose and fat. Individuals who are lactose intolerant can often safely use whey isolates. However, this is often the more expensive form. 

Whey hydrolysate: Whey hydrolysate is whey that has been broken down, so it is easily digested and rapidly absorbed. Non-broken-down whey is already quickly absorbed, so the difference is likely small. This form is also typically more expensive.

The various forms of whey have similar effects on the body, so it is important to consider factors such as lactose intolerance, taste, or price when deciding which may be best for you. When it comes to protein, your total daily intake will be more important than a few grams of difference here or there in your whey supplement.

Ingredients and Potential Interactions

It is essential to read the ingredients list and the nutrition facts panel of a supplement carefully to know which ingredients (and how much of each one) are included, relative to the recommended daily value of each one. Please take the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Whey protein powders differ in their ingredients. Many protein powders contain non-nutritive sweeteners, such as stevia or monk fruit, and some may contain added sugar, vitamins, minerals, herbs, or caffeine. It is important to review nutrition labels to see whether a protein powder contains added ingredients you do not want.

You should not use whey protein if you are taking the medications Albenza, Fosamex, or Levodopa. Whey protein may decrease the amount of medication the body absorbs, lowering its effect. It can also decrease the efficacy of certain antibiotics and bisphosphonates. If you are using medications, you should consult with a healthcare provider before using a whey protein powder.

Whey Protein Dosage

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine, to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and to understand which dosage to take.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that active individuals consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (0.5-0.9 g/lb). Daily protein intake should be spread throughout the day, with the consumption of 20 to 40 grams of protein about every three to four hours, along with adequate carbohydrate and overall calorie consumption.

While there are no official recommendations for whey protein powder dosage, it is typically taken in doses of around 20 to 30 grams, which is similar to the amount of protein found in three to four ounces of meat, poultry, or fish. You should follow the directions provided on your protein powder of choice to determine proper dosage.

How Much Is Too Much?

High doses of whey protein can lead to side effects such as increased bowel movements, acne, nausea, thirst, bloating, reduced appetite, tiredness, and headaches. Consuming protein beyond your needs will not result in extra muscle gain.

If you are allergic to milk or have a lactose intolerance, you may want to avoid whey protein powders, although some people with lactose intolerance do well with whey isolate. While rare, allergic reactions to whey protein supplements have also occurred in a few individuals who did not have an allergy to milk.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does whey protein have lactose or gluten?

    Whey protein contains small amounts of lactose. Whey protein isolate is lower in lactose than whey protein concentrate, so you will likely be able to tolerate whey isolate if you are lactose intolerant. Whey protein in its pure form does not contain gluten, but it may be found in gluten-containing sports products. Some whey protein powders may also be produced in facilities that manufacture gluten-containing products, so there may be risk of cross contamination unless the product is labeled gluten-free.

  • Does whey protein cause acne?

    There is not a good deal of research on the connection between whey protein and acne. However, some studies suggest that high doses of whey may cause acne in some individuals.

  • Is whey protein vegan?

    Whey protein is derived from milk, so it is not vegan. If you are looking for a vegan protein powder, you might consider powders made from pea protein, hemp protein, or soy protein.

  • Does whey protein powder have calcium?

    Whey protein powders contain some calcium, an important mineral for active individuals. Most whey protein powders list the amount of calcium along with the percentage of the daily value. Our top choice, Momentous, contains 90 milligrams of calcium per scoop, or 7% of the daily value. It should therefore not be your only source of calcium. Other foods that contain calcium include yogurt, dark leafy greens, and tofu.

  • How do I use whey protein powder?

    Whey protein powder can be added to liquids such as smoothies or water, or mixed into soft foods or baked goods such as oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, or muffins. Follow the instructions on your powder of choice for dosage instructions.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Tamar Kane, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and marathon runner. She is the founder of Tamar Kane Nutrition, a virtual practice that focuses on helping runners learn to fuel their running and their lives.

Tamar has a master's degree in nutrition and exercise physiology from teachers College Columbia University and specializes in working with plant-based athletes. Her goal is to help people understand how to properly fuel their bodies (and supplement if needed!) to optimize performance and well-being.

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