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Best Whey Protein?

If you're new to supplementation, with the huge variety of protein shakes available, you might well feel daunted and equally as confused as to what really is the best choice.

Deciding Factors

In our view there are three things to consider when buying a protein supplement :

  1. 1. The type of protein supplement that will suit your fitness goals
    Look at the navigation bar above, for a selection of the main variants of whey protein supplements. If you're unsure as to what type of protein shake would suit your specific goals, see the protein finder below.
  2. 2. What you can afford on a monthly basis
    Fitness is a way of life. If you're a dedicated enthusiast supplementing protein should be something that's considered in addition to your regular diet. To really feel the benefits and see noticeable results from protein supplements, you need to take them regularly. If you're actively involved in sport, supplementing protein on a regular basis could help improve your performance. If you play football once or twice a week, (providing you maintain a balanced diet) you probably don't need to supplement. If your sport is more demanding, or if your goal is to maintain an athletic physique then you will need to maintain regular, higher protein levels. If you can't maintain the requirements through food, the most economical option is to supplement with protein powders. Depending on your goal that could mean supplementing anywhere from 500 grams to 5 kilograms a month. Look at the nutritional content on the products, gauge how much you'll need, and work out a monthly budget that you can afford.
  3. 3. Taste and reaction
    There's no getting away from it, taste is an entirely personal thing. Even if you read every review online, based on the taste factor alone, it's almost impossible to say what would be a suitable protein. Likewise, with no easy way to say it, protein supplements are notorious for causing windy bottoms. The reviews are testament to this, but the truth is everybody has a different reaction to different supplements. The only way to find out what suits you is by trial and error. Luckily there are enough brands that provide samples of their products, so we encourage you to try them out and find out what works best for you.

Premium or budget?

As with any industry there are premium brands, which unsurprisingly attract premium prices; then of course there are the budget brands and everything in between.

Far be it from us to say what brands are premium and which aren't, but based on our experience some of the cheaper protein powders are equally on par with the quality of brands that can cost anywhere from 25 - 50% more. Over the years we've used the branded "best of the best" as well as cheaper brands, too. In our view, while it's true to say there are incremental advantages in terms of the nutritional profiles, taste and mixibility, there really isn't a wide disparity between premium and so called budget brands. Just be sure to read reviews and if you're picky on taste see if samples are offered.

Protein Finder

Each of the categories gives a fuller description of the types of protein. Whey concentrate is marginally different to a whey isolate and likewise all-in-one supplements (which often get mistaken for protein shakes) are different again to a pure protein supplement. If you're unsure as to what's the best choice to match your goals, take a look at the profiles and see where you fit in.

I want to maintain general fitness

girl running

If your goal is simply to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep your fitness on track, so long as you've got your diet in check you probably don't need to supplement extra protein. However, for what it costs and for the added peace of mind, it won't hurt to add a scoop of protein to your post workout meal. You don't need to go overboard, a simple 908 gram / 2 pound tub should last a couple of months. A whey concentrate would be perfectly adequate, but there are several options to consider.

I want to increase my endurance


Marathon runners and triathletes put particularly taxing demands on their bodies. For these athletes, it's the fuel - the levels of carbohydrates and the fats - that are more important. That said, there's no escaping the wear and tear that prolonged exercise takes on bones, muscles and ligaments. Even if you've planned and trained methodically, after taking part in your first marathon you will struggle to walk normally for several days after.

Supplementing protein well in advance of a race and immediately post-race will help offset what are called DOMS - Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. The day after when your body feels like it's been put through the mill, the pain is due to the tiny muscle fibers breaking down during exercise. Obviously time is a factor, but you can help aid your recovery by supplementing protein. The benefits of a whey protein are that it will provide what's called a "complete" profile. This means your body will have access to a fast, full amino acid profile that is essential for replenishing fatigued muscles. A mixed blend includes whey and all the benefits just described, but it also contains other sources like egg, milk, soy and sometimes rice protein. These proteins digest at different speeds so the advantage is that your muscles are offered a fuller, mixed profile over a sustained period. Unlike whey, a slow release protein such as micellar casein (milk protein) digests very slowly. Where a whey protein will typically be passed through the digestive system in less than an hour, caseins can take as long as seven hours. This provides muscles with a constant drip feed of amino acids.

I want to lose weight and tone up

man doing press ups

It's a fact, there's no supplement out there that will shed weight for you. There are supplements like fat burners and thermogenics that will help, but if losing weight is your primary goal, you first need to look at how you can optimise your diet. Once you are in control of what you eat and have your workouts in order, everything else should, fingers crossed, begin to fall in place. Losing weight and toning up is all about diet and exercise. Even if you're overweight, you can help things along by supplementing protein in your diet. Remember, muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. It's a common misconception that just by supplementing protein that it will give you big muscles, it won't. We see both men and women at the gym who have been been advised by personal trainers to introduce a simple protein shake into their diets. One lady we know has lost over 50 pounds of fat and she supplements a low calorie diet with whey protein concentrate. Providing you put in the time at the gym, you eat sensibly and you don't overdo the protein shakes, you don't have to worry about gaining fat or bulging biceps.

I want to add lean muscle

lean muscle man

Unless you've been granted your metabolic genes by the gods, adding lean muscle can be a finely tuned regime in itself. Along with diet and exercise, genetics and age also play big contributing factors as to how much or how little muscle mass you gain. We see guys in the gym all the time who through little effort are able to maintain an envied, ripped physique. They're 20 minutes in, a protein shake down the hatch and they're good to go. Equally there are the guys who workout relentlessly, night after night, and never seem to put on a pound. It could be down to a bad diet, a bad workout routine, sometimes both, but usually there's more to it.

Lean gainer supplements are essentially first and foremost a weight gainer, and although they contain whey protein and are often categorised as "protein shakes" there's more to them. If you're even marginally overweight or like most people you carry a few unwanted pounds around your mid section, then a lean gainer is probably not for you. If your goal is to trim up, then you should look at a whey concentrate, a whey blend, a mixed blend protein or a vegan alternative. If on the other hand you're fortunate to be blessed with great genes and you can get away with eating pretty much what you want, then an all-in-one lean gainer would be a great choice.

Lean gainers, or all-in-one's, are a blend between proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other muscle enhancing ingredients like creatine, taurine, HMB and added amino acids. Lean gainers are popular with teenagers and athletes in their twenties who are naturally in a better position to control their waistlines. Thirty plus it gets all the more difficult maintaining a lean physique. With your goal to get leaner, and you might well think you're on the right track buying a product which promises "lean gains", but if you're not careful you could unwittingly be adding unwanted fat. Think about your metabolism, your diet, your age and your exercise plan. If you're in any doubt or if you're even slightly overweight consider supplementing with a whey concentrate first.

I want to gain weight


If you're serious enough about bodybuilding to consider a full blown weight gainer, you probably already know how they differ from standard protein shakes. For those who don't or are just now considering a step up, gaining weight is not only about maximising your daily caloric intake, it's about getting the right blend of proteins / carbohydrates and good fats that are right for you. There's no one size fits all solution when it comes to gaining weight, as our metabolisms all respond differently.

In today's fast-paced world it's not always easy getting access to cheap, good quality calories. When food's not an option, don't turn to the easy option of fast food! Instead, look for a good weight gainer as your next best option. Weight gainers are essentially a blend between proteins, carbohydrates and good fats. If you look at the nutritional data you'll notice there's a far higher concentration of carbohydrates. On average, you can expect the ratio of proteins to carbohydrates to be somewhere in the region of 1:2 / 1:3, although in some products they can go as high as 1:5. The higher the carb ratio the higher the calorific content, so bear in mind not all gainers are equal. Obviously each product's serving size varies but it's common to see recommendations go over 1,000 calories. It's easy to see how people using these supplements can inadvertently gain fat instead of muscle. Before you embark on a weight gaining regime it's important you know how your body responds to different macros (percentage of proteins, carbohydrates and fats).

But Wait - I'm lactose intolerant!

Lactose Intolerant

The general consensus is that 2/3 of all adults worldwide suffer to some degree from lactose intolerance, with higher percentages are individuals of Asian and African decent. For those who don't know, people who are lactose intolerant have a problem digesting lactose - the sugars that are present in milk based products. It can cause bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, nausea and flatulence. The best way to avoid these symptoms is to avoid consuming products that are derived from milk, and as an athlete, especially for a bodybuilder, that's easier said than done when whey is the best and cheapest bio-available source of protein on the market. It's certainly not impossible though. In more recent years there have been some excellent non-dairy protein powders released. They might not have the same amino profiles, but there some great quality alternatives like egg, pea, hemp, soy and rice. They are all gaining popularity, and not just amongst people who are necessarily lactose intolerant. Some actually prefer to change their supplement protein sources. Due to the high demand, and hence the higher cost of whey protein, there are many people turning to lower priced vegan proteins as an alternative.

We will soon be launching a website that will list vegan alternatives. For the time being all of the following products are recommended:

Another option is to look at whey protein isolates. Isolates, while they're almost always priced at the top end of the market, have very minimal, if any, sugars (lactose) and fats. Most pure isolates are over 90% pure protein and average around 5% lactose. Bulk Powders even offer a 97% whey isolate that contains virtually no lactose or fats. You could also look for a product that has digestive enzymes added to the formula, as many of the leading brands do this now. If a product has digestive enzymes, we'll have noted it to the bullet points, but as we always recommend, read the product information in full before deciding on a product.

All these whey isolates contain 3% or less of carbohydrates.

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