Top Whey Protein Powder Review

These days, shopping for a whey protein supplement is a bit of a minefield. Whey is easily the most popular form of protein powder on the market, and there are countless brands employing expensive marketing strategies trying to convince you that their product is the best.

which one is right for you?

which one is right for you?

We’ve taken a look beyond the packaging and reviewed some of the UK’s best selling and most popular whey protein powders, in order to find the best product for your budget, lifestyle, and even your taste buds.

Why Whey?

whey helps to lose weightWhey protein is a natural by-product of cheese making, formed by removing the casein proteins and drying out the resulting liquid to create whey protein powder. For those who can tolerate dairy, whey is arguably the best form of protein powder available due to its impressive amino acid profile and ease of absorption.

Whey contains more BCAA’s (leucine, valine and iso-leucine) than any other form of protein, which are proven to increase the rate of protein synthesis, as well as lower the rate in which muscle protein is broken down during strenuous exercise (thus increasing performance). It is also the fastest absorbing protein, so is ideal to use after a workout.

Which Whey?

There are different types of whey protein available; whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate being the two most recognised.

Essentially, whey protein isolate is a further-processed version of whey concentrate. Whey concentrate contains approximately 5% lactose, so is generally higher in fats and sugars than a whey protein isolate. On the other hand, it contains additional nutrients, the vast majority of which are filtered out during the process of creating whey isolate. Whey isolate contains very little lactose, so is a better choice for those who struggle to digest dairy. It also has a higher amount of protein than whey concentrate – whey isolate generally contains around 90% – 94% protein, compared to 75% – 85% in concentrate.

whey helps build muscles and keep the fat offThere is also a form of whey protein known as ‘hydrolysed whey protein’ – which is an even further processed form of whey. In hydrolysed whey, the larger proteins are broken down into smaller strands, which makes them absorb faster. Hydrolysed whey protein is a good choice for serious athletes, but can be very expensive.

When buying whey protein, expect to pay quite a bit more for whey protein isolate. That being said, it is important to consider the cost vs digestibility factor to work out the real value of the product. Whey protein concentrate may be cheaper, but if you’re not digesting it adequately, part of your investment will be wasted. You’ve heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’ – but it’s more important to recognise that actually ‘you are what you digest.’ Depending on the strength of your digestive system, whey isolate may actually be a more economical choice.

When choosing which whey protein to go for, consider your tolerance to dairy and your individual goals. If you tolerate dairy well, and are looking for a more nutrient dense protein, you’d be best off looking at a whey protein concentrate. On the other hand, if you want the highest amount of protein for the lowest amount of calories, you may want to consider whey protein isolate.

 

What makes a good product?

When considering which whey protein powder to go for, there are a variety of factors worth considering, including:

  • Value for money
  • Taste
  • Mixability
  • Other ingredients (are there lots of artificial ingredients, or is it a fairly ‘clean’ product? Are there additional ingredients that boost effectiveness – i.e a digestive enzyme blend, or additional amino acids?)
  • Macronutrient levels (how much protein is there compared to sugar, fat and calories
  • Effectiveness (based on reviews, recommendations, and where applicable, your own experience

It’s also worth considering your own levels of activity and performance goals when choosing which product is right for you. If you’re more active, you’re likely to benefit from a higher calorie product. If you’re not training that hard, you’ll want a product with the highest ratio of protein to carbs and fat.

 

We compared 7 of the best-selling protein powders in the UK today, based on the aforementioned criteria.

 

The products we compared were:

MyProtein Impact Whey
Bulkpowders Pure Whey Protein
Maximuscle Promax
The Protein Works Whey Protein 80
The Protein Works Whey Protein 90 (isolate)
PhD Pharma Whey
Gold Standard 100% Whey

We chose these products as they are not only amongst the best selling, they also represent different budget options – from the highly economical MyProtein and Bulkpowders, to the ‘designer’ labels of PHD and Maximuscle. Do they really live up to the standards their marketing companies would have you believe? We also wanted to make sure we included both whey concentrates and isolates, as well as products that combine the two.

The Evaluation Process

Type of Protein

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Budget protein powders use whey concentrate as a base

As a logical first step, in order to get our whey protein comparison results we compared the type of protein used in all of the products. MyProtein Impact Whey, Bulkpowders Pure Whey and The Protein Works Whey Protein 80 all contained a base of whey protein concentrate.

The Protein Works Whey Protein 90 had a base of whey protein isolate. Maximuscle Promax was a blend of isolate and hydrolysed whey. PHD Pharma Whey and Optimum Gold Standard Whey both contained a blend of all three.

 

Value for Money

Price wise, we compared the prices on each product by working out the cost per 25g serving.

 

PHD Pharma Whey was the most expensive product in the test at £1.10 per serving (300% of the cheapest product). Click to buy on amazon

PHD Pharma Whey was the most expensive product in the test at £1.10 per serving (300% of the cheapest product). Click to buy on amazon

The whey concentrates were the cheapest; MyProtein Impact Whey and Bulkpowders Pure Whey were the cheapest options, both costing approximately £0.32 per serving for unflavoured and £0.39 for flavoured.

This was closely followed by The Protein Works Whey Protein 80, which cost approximately £0.40 for unflavoured, and £0.45 for flavoured.

The Protein Works Whey Protein 90 was next up at £0.55 / £0.60 per serving, followed by Maximuscle Promax at £0.80, Optimum Gold Standard Whey at £0.81 and finally PHD Pharma Whey at an eye-watering £1.10 per serving.

There is a clear correlation here between the types of protein used and the price of the product, with the ‘budget’ products using whey protein concentrate and the ‘premium’ division (using isolate and hydrolysed) clearly visible – and The Protein Works Whey 90 sandwiched comfortably in between.

Ingredients and Transparency

As you’d expect, the ingredients were largely the same, but with a few variables (both positive and negative) in each product. Interestingly, all of the ‘budget’ options seemed to contain the cleanest ingredient list; both MP Impact Whey and Bulkpowders were simply whey protein concentrate and soy lecithin (an emulsifier) – with various additions depending on the flavour.

All three of the premium products contain artificial flavourings and sweeteners, and do not offer unflavoured options. Click to buy PROMAX on amazon

All three of the premium products contain artificial flavourings and sweeteners, and do not offer unflavoured options. Click to buy PROMAX on amazon

The Protein Works Whey 80 had the same base, but also included a patented system of digestive enzymes designed to increase absorption called Aminogen – an excellent addition in our eyes, bringing us back to the ‘you are what you digest’ comment earlier. The Protein Works Whey 90 also had a clean ingredients list – just whey protein isolate and soy lecithin. Both The Protein Works products are also recognised as non GMO.

Each of the three premium products contain additional ingredients. Maximuscle Promax contains Taurine, whilst both PHD and Optimum Gold Standard contain a digestive enzyme blend, similar to that of The Protein Works Whey 80. PHD contains added Glutamine and BCAA’s, however it also comes with a few questionable ingredients – Xanthan gum and Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose being the most notable. All three of the premium products contain artificial flavourings and sweeteners, and do not offer unflavoured options – so these are best avoided for those looking to stay away from unnecessary additives.

Macronutrients

Interesting comparisons can be drawn when comparing the macronutrient values of each product. One would expect the protein supplements containing whey protein isolate to have the best ratio of protein to calories, carbs and fat. Not so:

MyProtein BulkPowders Maximuscle Protein Works 80 Protein Works 90 PHD Optimum Gold Standard
Kcal (per 100g) 393.2* 393.3* 394 404* 368* 392 378
Protein (per 100g) 78.4* 82* 76 82.4* 92* 74 81.6
Carbs (per 100g) 6* 6* 6.7 6* 2* 9 5.5
Fat (per 100g) 6.8 6.67* 6.7 7.2* 2* 6.6 3.3

As you can see from the table above, The Protein Works Whey 90 contains the best ratio of protein to carbs and fats, and it is also the lowest calorie choice. The Protein Works Whey 80 also has an impressive breakdown, especially for a concentrate, and is comparable with Optimum Gold Standard despite being nearly half of the price.

Interestingly, the highest price product, PHD, contains the lowest amount of protein and the highest amount of carbohydrates. One can only assume from these results that the additional ingredients in the likes of Maximuscle and PHD negatively impact the actual protein count.

 

Taste & Mixability

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The Protein Works products mix and taste well

When the taste was compared, the most popular was Bulkpowders, closely followed by The Protein Works (both products). Bulkpowders didn’t have as wide a flavour range as the likes of MyProtein, but the general consensus was that the flavours they did have were highly enjoyable. The Protein Works had an outlandish selection of flavours, including Butterscotch Ripple and Lemon Shortcake – all of which were very popular. Both Bulkpowders and The Protein Works received great feedback for their mixability as well, although The Protein Works 90 didn’t seem to mix as well as The Protein Works 80.

PHD and Optimum Gold Standard both scored well on taste and mixability, with PHD generally considered slightly better tasting but slightly less mixable. Both MyProtein and Maximuscle scored poorly in comparison with the rest in this category.

Effectiveness

Finally, and crucially, we also scored each product based on its effectiveness for its users. The best feedback went to The Protein Works Whey 80 and Optimum Gold Standard Whey – both of which were considered highly effective. Optimum Gold Standard Whey acknowledges this in the various awards it has won over the past few years, but The Protein Works Whey 80 is on a par with it, despite not being as well celebrated.

It is worth noting that both of these products contain a digestive enzyme blend. The rest of the products were all considered marginally less effective, but still scored very well – apart from Maximuscle, who’s effectiveness received distinctly average reviews.

Results Summary

 

How Have We Compared? 

As a logical first step, we compared the type of protein used in all of the products. MyProtein Impact Whey, Bulkpowders Pure Whey and The Protein Works Whey Protein 80 all contained a base of whey protein concentrate, whilst The Protein Works Whey Protein 90 had a base of whey protein isolate. Maximuscle Promax was a blend of isolate and hydrolysed whey, whilst PHD Pharma Whey and Optimum Gold Standard Whey both contained a blend of all three.

Price wise, we compared the prices on each product by working out the cost per 25g serving. The whey concentrates were the cheapest; MyProtein Impact Whey and Bulkpowders Pure Whey were the cheapest options, both costing approximately £0.32 per serving for unflavoured and £0.39 for flavoured. This was closely followed by The Protein Works Whey Protein 80, which cost approximately £0.40 for unflavoured, and £0.45 for flavoured. The Protein Works Whey Protein 90 was next up at £0.55 / £0.60 per serving, followed by Maximuscle Promax at £0.80, Optimum Gold Standard Whey at £0.81 and finally PHD Pharma Whey at an eye watering £1.10 per serving. There is a clear correlation here between the types of protein used and the price of the product, with a ‘budget’ and ‘premium’ division clearly visible – and The Protein Works Whey 90 sandwiched comfortably in between.

7_whey_supplements_best

As you’d expect, the ingredients were largely the same, but with a few variables (both positive and negative) in each product. Interestingly, all of the ‘budget’ options seemed to contain the cleanest ingredient list; both MP Impact Whey and Bulkpowders were simply whey protein concentrate and soy lecithin (an emulsifier) – with various additions depending on the flavour. The Protein Works Whey 80 had the same base, but also included a patented system of digestive enzymes designed to increase absorption called Aminogen – an excellent addition in our eyes, bringing us back to the ‘you are what you digest’ comment earlier. The Protein Works Whey 90 also had a clean ingredients list – just whey protein isolate and soy lecithin. Both The Protein Works products are also recognised as non GMO.

Each of the three premium products contain additional ingredients. Maximuscle Promax contains Taurine, whilst both PHD and Optimum Gold Standard contain a digestive enzyme blend, similar to that of The Protein Works Whey 80. PHD contains added Glutamine and BCAA’s, however it also comes with a few questionable ingredients – Xanthan gum and Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose being the most notable. All three of the premium products contain artificial flavourings and sweeteners, and do not offer unflavoured options – so these are best avoided for those looking to stay away from unnecessary additives.

Interesting comparisons can be drawn when comparing the macronutrient values of each product. One would expect the protein supplements containing whey protein isolate to have the best ratio of protein to calories, carbs and fat. Not so:

MyProtein BulkPowders Maximuscle Protein Works 80 Protein Works 90 PHD Optimum Gold Standard
Kcal (per 100g) 393.2* 393.3* 394 404* 368* 392 378
Protein (per 100g) 78.4* 82* 76 82.4* 92* 74 81.6
Carbs (per 100g) 6* 6* 6.7 6* 2* 9 5.5
Fat (per 100g) 6.8 6.67* 6.7 7.2* 2* 6.6 3.3

As you can see from the table above, The Protein Works Whey 90 contains the best ratio of protein to carbs and fats, and it is also the lowest calorie choice. The Protein Works Whey 80 also has an impressive breakdown, especially for a concentrate, and is comparable with Optimum Gold Standard despite being nearly half of the price. Interestingly, the highest price product, PHD, contains the lowest amount of protein and the highest amount of carbohydrates. One can only assume from these results that the additional ingredients in the likes of Maximuscle and PHD negatively impact the actual protein count.

When the taste was compared, the most popular was Bulkpowders, closely followed by The Protein Works (both products). Bulkpowders didn’t have as wide a flavour range as the likes of MyProtein, but the general consensus was that the flavours they did have were highly enjoyable. The Protein Works had an outlandish selection of flavours, including Butterscotch Ripple and Lemon Shortcake – all of which were very popular. Both Bulkpowders and The Protein Works received great feedback for their mixability as well, although The Protein Works 90 didn’t seem to mix as well as The Protein Works 80.

PHD and Optimum Gold Standard both scored well on taste and mixability, with PHD generally considered slightly better tasting but slightly less mixable. Both MyProtein and Maximuscle scored poorly in comparison with the rest in this category.

Finally, and crucially, we also scored each product based on its effectiveness for its users. The best feedback went to The Protein Works Whey 80 and Optimum Gold Standard Whey – both of which were considered highly effective. Optimum Gold Standard Whey acknowledges this in the various awards it has won over the past few years, but The Protein Works Whey 80 is on a par with it, despite not being as well celebrated. It is worth noting that both of these products contain a digestive enzyme blend. The rest of the products were all considered marginally less effective, but still scored very well – apart from Maximuscle, who’s effectiveness received distinctly average reviews.

The Winners

Based on our research, we’re delighted to declare the following our top three whey protein powders on the market today:

3rd-The-Protein-Works-Whey-Protein-90-(isolate)

 

3rd place: The Protein Works Whey Protein 90 – an impressive product at very good value for a whey protein isolate. It contains the best macronutrient values of the group, and is ideal for those following a limited calorie diet. However, it doesn’t taste quite as good as some of the other options, and does not contain an absorption blend to aid digestion. However, if you’re looking for a whey isolate, this will be your best choice. Available in both flavoured and unflavoured to suit your preference.

2nd-The-Protein-Works-Whey-Protein-90-(isolate)2nd place: Bulkpowders Pure Whey – an extremely economical choice, Bulkpowders Pure Whey matches Myprotein on price but beats them on taste, mixability and macronutrient comparison. It is incredibly cheap at just £0.32 per serving (unflavoured) – however keep an eye on the delivery cost when ordering online. Also considered the best tasting product.

3rd-The-Protein-Works-Whey-Protein-90-(isolate)

1st place:

The Protein Works Whey Protein 80 – it is ever so slightly more expensive than Myprotein and Bulk Powders, but it is the outstanding quality of this product that sees it reach for 1st place on our list. It contains a highly impressive macronutrient ratio, especially for a concentrate. It is available in some really exciting flavours (is also available unflavoured) and mixes really well. The ingredients are clean, it contains a patented absorption blend and is certified non GMO. It has also ranked as the joint most effective protein supplement with Optimum Gold Standard – but at half the price, there could only be one winner. It may be priced as a budget supplement, but it meets all the criteria of a premium.