The Best Whey Protein Powders To Buy in 2023

This article was updated in November to reflect any price changes and the latest deals.

Navigating the deluge of training supplements is no easy feat, so if you’re struggling to find the best whey protein powder for building muscle faster and more efficiently, you’re not alone.

It’s an important choice to make. If you've been training hard, sticking to a diligent diet plan and counting your macros, you need a product you can rely on for that extra bit of oomph. Nutrition aside, you want it to taste good, too.

Finding the right whey protein powder for you is dependent on a range of factors, including budget, ingredients, macronutrients, mixability and flavour. But with so many on the market, it's easy to feel lost in the sports nutrition aisle.

Panic not, because the Men’s Health Lab recruited a 200-strong panel to test some of the most popular powders out there, including Bulk, Myprotein and more. Our list of the best caters for every need, whether you’re after a budget buy, a filling post-workout smoothie or something a little lighter on the stomach.

The Best Whey Protein To Buy in 2023

In a hurry? Here's a quick breakdown of the best whey protein powders we've tested. For a more detailed review of each, keep scrolling.

Why Whey Protein?

Milk contains two main types of protein: whey and casein. Whey is found in the watery portion of milk. Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey and is considered a complete protein. In other words, it contains all nine essential amino acids.

The body can't produce these amino acids, which is why a well-rounded diet, or supplement, is so important for muscle gain. Whey protein generally contains low levels of fat and carbohydrates (lactose) that help minimise gut distress. Research has also shown it can play a pivotal role in weight loss.

There are three types of whey protein you need to know about

Whey protein concentrate: WPC contains more nutrients than any other type of whey, due to how it's manufactured.

Whey protein isolate: Isolate is usually quicker to digest than WPC or WPH (below) and is generally more suitable for people with lactose intolerance. Most of the fat and carbohydrate content has been removed.

Whey protein hydrolysate: 'Hydro whey' to some, WPH is designed to break down proteins into a state that makes them easier for your body to absorb.

How Much Whey Protein Do I Need?

Your age, goals and weight are just a few factors that will determine how much protein you need to build muscle. Not sure how much is enough? Our complete guide to protein will help.

It's worth noting here, however, that the majority of your protein intake, and macronutrients in general, should come from your diet. Supplements are there to do just that: supplement. Real foods contain more nutrients, fibre and minerals and are far easier to digest.

When Should I Use Whey Protein?

The theory used to be that your muscles' ability to absorb nutrients is at its strongest in the hour immediately after your gym session. But, according to our expert, there's no magic window, and consuming protein at any point after a workout will be helpful.

'There was some research in the early 2000s that showed muscle protein synthesis – the mechanism by which you build mass – was stimulated by consuming whey protein within an hour of finishing a workout,' explains sports dietitian Rick Miller. 'But the benefits scientists found were so small that they would barely be noticeable over a 10-year period.'

'Following a tough session, the rate of protein synthesis will remain raised for 24 hours,' he adds. 'During that time, your body will be sensitised to protein and will automatically build muscle.'

How We Test

In the Men's Health Lab, we asked a panel of 200 testers – made up of gym-goers and experts – to try a range of whey protein powders to find the very best on the market. They tested them out for four weeks, before rating them for nutritional content, impact on athletic performance and ease of use.

Our testers also judged them on flavour, texture and aroma, because finding a protein powder that tastes good isn’t always easy. Extra points were awarded for packaging, clarity of instructions and nutritional guidance.

Our winners have been stamped with the MH Lab Approved badge, while the remaining whey protein powders have been handpicked by our editors, so you're bound to find one worth trying.

Bulk Pure Whey Protein

Per 30g serving: 114kcal, 22g protein, 3.6g carbohydrates, 1.2g fat

Previously known as Bulk Powders, Bulk is one of the most popular nutrition brands in the business, but does its pure whey protein live up to the hype? Oh, yes. It’s loaded with protein (22g), essential amino acids and BCAAs (5g) to help your body to repair, recover and build muscle after a tough session.

Our testers said it was ideal for an energising post-workout shake or a filling snack to keep you on track between meals. They appreciated the ratio of protein, carbs and fats per serving, and described it as a good all-rounder. The chocolate flavour proved tasty yet subtle, but there are over 20 other flavours to try if this one isn't for you, including iced latte, rocky road and lemon meringue.

PE Nutrition Performance Whey Protein

Per 30g serving: 108kcal, 21.5g protein, 2.5g carbohydrates, 1.2g fat

An impressive performance for its price point, our testers particularly liked the vanilla blend (but there's also chocolate, banana, strawberry, salted caramel and cookies & cream to choose from). Made using three types of whey – concentrate, hydrolysate and isolate – it offers a punchy 21.5g of protein with just 108kcal due to minimal carbs and fats, and it’s naturally lower in lactose than some other powders. Testers described the texture as ‘milkshake-like’. We’re going to call it the Stacked Donald’s shake.

Bulk × Millions Clear Whey

Per 27g serving: 95kcal, 20g protein, 1.8g carbs, 0.2 fat

Inspired by the nostalgic sweets of the 90s, Bulk’s collab with Millions is a treat for the tastebuds. Our testers found the strawberry flavour super sweet and fruity, but there’s also bubblegum, apple and cola to try.

Give it a go if you don’t enjoy the thicker, milky texture of most whey proteins as it’s thin and slightly syrupy, similar to an electrolyte drink. It’s also the lightest powder on our list – just 95 calories and 0.1g sugar per serving. Oh and a respectable 20g protein, so it’s ideal for when you’re cutting.

Foodspring Whey Protein

Per 30g serving: 113kcal, 23g protein, 2.2g carbohydrates, 1.4g fat

One serving of Foodspring’s whey protein will provide 24g of protein from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows, plus 9.8g of essential amino acids for building muscle proteins after exercise. The refreshingly short ingredients list is free from added sugar and added hormones, and it’s non-GMO too. Our testers loved the umami taste of the chocolate flavour and scored it top for mixability, but they preferred blending it with milk as it felt too thin in water. The vanilla flavour is also seriously delish.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

Per 31g serving: 116kcal, 24g protein, 1.3g carbohydrates, 1.4g fat

Optimum Nutrition is known for its supplements, and for good reason. This whey protein powder packs a mega 24g protein, essential amino acids (a building block for protein) and 5.5g of BCAAs to enhance performance and boost muscle growth.

Flavour-wise, it's smooth and chocolatey, without tasting artificial or sickly. It also earns a big tick for convenience – our testers raved about how easy it was to prepare, measure out and mix. Overall, a strong choice.

Barebells Vanilla Milkshake

Per 330ml serving: 191kcal, 24g protein, 13g carbs, 4.6g fat

This pre-mixed Barebells shake has a sweet vanilla flavour, with notes of cocoa butter and white chocolate, which proved a big hit among our testers, who also rated its smooth, creamy texture.

It doesn’t just deliver on flavour though, packing an impressive 24g protein per serve. Its sugar and fat content is higher than the other products on our list, but it’s great for chucking in your gym bag and guzzling after a high energy session. Break up any lumps by giving it a good shake first.

Solgar Whey To Go Natural Protein Powder

Per 29g serving: 130kcal, 20g protein, 10g carbohydrates, 1g fat

One of the more premium products in our roundup, Solgar’s natural protein powder is made with grass-fed whey from pasture-raised cows in New Zealand (fancy) and offers a good 20g protein per serve.

It's on the pricier side but if you’re looking to invest in a high-quality whey protein, our testers said it ticked every box in terms of taste (a rich, natural cocoa flavour), texture (no lumps reported) and ease of use. It's a bit watery, though, so mix it with milk if you prefer a thicker shake.

Optimum Nutrition Hydro Whey Protein Isolate

Per 39g serving: 141kcal, 30g protein, 3g carbohydrates, 1g fat

As ON's 'most advanced whey protein', the Hydro Whey Protein Isolate comes with a whopping 30g of protein per scoop — 10g more than other brands. ON claims the way this whey protein is made helps the body absorb it faster, with added BCAAs.

Bulk Pure Whey Isolate 90

Per 30g serving: 107-110kcal, 24g protein, 1g carbohydrates, 1g fat

Containing a whopping 24g of protein per scoop, Bulk's Whey Isolate is hard to beat when it comes to upping your macro intake on the regular. Loaded with five-star reviews, it's a customer favourite, as whey protein isolates are far higher in protein due to additional processing steps. Bulk also provides quick delivery and a range of flavours including chocolate, chocolate peanut, chocolate orange, banana, strawberry, salted caramel, vanilla and white chocolate. Not bad.

Reflex Nutrition Instant Whey Pro Protein Powder

Per 25g serving: 90kcal, 20g protein, 1.1g carbohydrates, 0.5g fat

This is Reflex Nutrition's flagship whey protein powder, and has been for nearly two decades, blending whey protein concentrates and isolates as well as milk protein concentrate. It's also hormone and antibiotic free, as it's made from the milk of grass-fed cows, making it richer in omega-3 fatty acids and high in CLA. Handily, it's also suitable for vegetarians.

MyProtein – THE Whey

Per 29g serving: 114kcal, 25g protein, 1.8g carbohydrates, 0.5g fat

MH opted for the chocolate flavouring of MP’s THE Whey. Naturally, there are other flavours – from Decadent Milk Chocolate to Salted Caramel – but we went with the OG. Packing 25g of protein per 29g serving, it mixes well with no signs of remaining lumps which makes for a welcome post-workout shake that tastes richer (and, admittedly, more genuine) than a lot of competing brands. The 6.5g of BCAAs per serving are a welcome boost, which will aid muscle repair.

Maximuscle Max Whey Protein Powder

Per 30g serving: 113kcal, 22.5g protein, 1.4g carbohydrate, 1.5g fat

This is a fantastic no-frills whey powder from Maximuscle. The inclusion of BCAAs helps build muscle more efficiently than leucine on its own, while the packaging has clear and simple guidelines, making this powder perfect for first-timers. The chocolate taste is sweet without being cloying, but benefits from mixing with milk instead of the suggested water.

A solid protein count and a great taste makes this product a decent first-time buy without restricting itself to gym newbies. A quality powder that's ideal for general use.

Applied Nutrition ISO XP Whey Isolate

Per 25g serving: 93kcal, 22.4g protein, 0.4g carbohydrates, 0.2g fat

Packing 22.5g of muscle-building whey protein, Applied Nutrition ISO XP houses a scoop that packs more protein, and better flavours, than the brand has offered before. With next to no sugar, carbs or fat, it's ideal for those watching their calorie intake, plus each serve is loaded with 5.5g of BCAAs. Whether you're a gym rookie, seasoned CrossFit zealout or an all-star squat rack regular, this will slot well into your diet, mixing well with water or milk.

Read more: Best protein bars | Best vegan protein powder | Best pre workout | Best energy gels and chews | Best casein protein powder

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