If you’re looking to build muscle and strength, whey protein powder is the ideal supplement to help you reach those goals (provided you are training hard of course!)
Numerous studies have proven that consuming whey protein powder is effective in building lean muscle mass, and reducing exercise recovery time, without adding excessive calories to your diet. The ideal supplement to pack on muscle without getting fat.
In this article I’m going to be reviewing the best whey protein powders on the UK market, and explaining the features that differentiate them.
Essentially, I’ll provide you with everything you need to make an informed decision on which whey protein brand is right for you, in order to get the best results from your training.
Optimum nutrition gold standard whey protein
The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is the headline protein from Optimum Nutrition. It’s a blended whey, mixing whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate and hydrolysed whey protein isolate to improve digestibility.
Its recipe and high quality raw materials place the Optimum Nutrition protein at the premium price end of the market.
The blend is designed to be taken at any time of the day and is available in 5, 6 and 10lb tubs, plus there’s a 24 x 30g sachet option. It is known to mix well and taste good, making it particularly palatable in a choice of 12 different flavours.
The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard provides (per serving):
- 24g of protein
- 5.5g of BCAA (branch Chain Amino Acids)
- 1 – 3.3g carbs
- 1 – 1.7g sugar
- 1.0 – 1.7g fat and 113 calories
Bulk powders pure whey protein powder
The Bulk Powders Pure Whey is a pure whey protein available in 19 different flavours. It’s a unique protein powder in so much that it is derived from purely grass-fed cows, so if you like to follow a Paleo or Ancestral Health approach to nutrition it could be perfect for you. It’s a mid-range price offering, so won’t break the bank.
The Bulk Powders protein has a wide BCAA profile and is particularly low in lactose which may help anyone sensitive to dairy products. The sweetness profile varies from flavour to flavour, so look at the sugar content of each flavour before you buy.
It is available in 500g to 5kg bags – the bigger the pack, the better value for money you get.
Each serving contains:
- 24g of protein
- 122 calories
- 1.5g of carbohydrates
- 2g of fat and 1.5g of sugar
PhD Nutrition diet whey powder
PhD Nutrition Diet Whey is a product aimed squarely at the dieting bodybuilder. With a blend of protein sources designed to release over a longer period of time, it’s a low-calorie protein shake to help you stick to strict calorie targets. There are 11 different flavours to choose from and it’s priced in the mid-range of the market.
The protein in the mix is derived derived from milk, soy, oats and barley. In order to further support for weight loss it contains CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid), L-Carnitine, Green tea extract and Flax seed all of which have been linked to aiding fat burn.
The product is available in 500g, 1kg and 2kg bags
Each serving contains:
- 17g of protein
- 91 calories
- 1.3g of fat
- 3g of carbohydrates
MyProtein Impact whey protein
MyProtein have rapidly become the largest supplier of nutrition products in the country with their low-priced, high volume products. Their Impact Whey protein is no different – it’s priced at the lower end of the market and comes in 1, 2 and 5kg bags.
There are 41 flavours to choose from in the range, from normal fruit type-flavours, to very exotic ones (personally I stick with the simple ones, as the unusual ones can be a bit sickly)
There aren’t a lot of ingredients present, which can be helpful to those with sensitive digestion.
Each 25g serving contains:
- 100 calories
- 20g of protein
- 2g of fat
- only 1g of carbohydrate (making it one of the better choices for anyone looking to drop body fat)
USN All-in-one muscle fuel
The USN Muscle Fuel is a unique product in this line up because it isn’t strictly a whey protein – it’s an all-round mass gainer shake, designed to support periods of muscle building and intense training. It’s aimed squarely at the mass-builder market. This is not a dieting supplement.
USN’s Muscle Fuel contains creatine and various other nutrients associated with muscle building, in addition to the whey itself. The dose size and frequency depends on the size of the user and the phase during which they’re taking it, but typically it’s 2-3 servings of 100-150g. The product itself comes in 2, 4 and 5.32kg tubs and is available in 7 different flavours. It’s at the premium price end of the market, and is aimed more at serious bodybuilders.
Each 100g serving contains a minimum of:
- 376 calories
- 36g of protein
- 51g of carbohydrates
- 2.2g of fat
- 5g of creatine
- These figures are high, but bear in mind it’s a mass gainer, and will often result in some fat gain alongside muscle gain.
The Protein Works Whey Protein
The Protein Works Whey Protein is priced in the lower mid range, but mixes and tastes like a more premium product. It’s a non-heat treated protein, meaning you end up with a high bioavailability (the amount of protein which is absorbed by the body) and a very pure protein.
It’s a low fat, low calorie and low carbohydrate protein mix, making it an ideal product for someone looking to drop body fat and lose weight whilst still maintaining a good proportion of muscle mass.
The Protein Works whey comes in 21 different flavours. It is available in 500g, 1kg and 2kg tubs.
Each 25g serving contains:
- 101 calories
- 20.6g of protein
- 15g of carbs
- 1.8g of fat
- 1.5g of sugar
USN Premium Whey Protein
The USN Premium Whey is exactly what it says on the tub – a premium quality whey protein. It’s priced at the higher end of the market, but with a blend of Whey Protein isolate, Hydrolysate and Concentrate the ingredients list is superior to most. This particular mix is known to improve absorption of the protein by the body, giving you more usable protein per gram.
The USN Premium Whey has a higher dose of protein per serving than most others and is known in fitness circles to be a product that mixes really well and tastes great, which isn’t always the case with protein at the lower price end of the market – and is available in 908g and 2.28kg sizes across five different flavours.
Each 34g serving serving contains:
- 24g of protein
- 129 calories
- 3.6g of carbohydrate
- 2.3g of fat
Sitec nutrition whey protein
The Sitec Nutrition Whey Protein is another of the premium why protein products on the market, with a price point to match. It’s made from a blend of whey concentrate and whey isolate, improving the overall bioavailability. The mixture is fortified with extra BCAAs and digestive enzymes.
Sitec whey is known to be one of the best ‘mixers’ on the market – whether you use milk or water to mix your protein there are no lumps of powder in your drink. Research your flavour carefully though, because Sitec typically make sweeter blends, so if you don’t have a sweet tooth give your flavour selection some thought.
Tubs are available across 24 flavours and in 920g, 2.35kg, 2.82kg and 5kg tubs.
A 30g serving contains:
- 112 calories
- 22g of protein
- 2g of fat
- 1.4g of carbohydrate It’s a low carb mix so will help dieters.
Optimum nutrition serious weight gainer
The Optimum Nutrition product is another one aimed purely at the mass gainer market. Keep this front and centre of your mind – this is NOT a diet product! The serious mass gainer is a very high calorie and very high protein product designed to support a person looking to add a lot of weight to their frame.
A product like this is designed to support periods of very intense training and as such as been fortified with 25 vitamins and minerals, creatine and amino acids. The serving sizes and frequency are suggested to make sure you pack on the weight – a 2.72kg tub contains only 8 servings, such is the size of the dose (but they are very big servings compared to most powders). The tub is available in 6 flavours.
A 340g serving contains:
- 50g of protein
- 1250 calories
- 252g of carbs
- 5g of fat
Farmhouse organic whey protein powder
The Farmhouse Organic Whey Protein Powder is a premium protein designed for the more quality-conscious user. If you’re a ‘clean’ eater then this is the protein for you, given it comes from grass-fed cows milk that is GMO free, gluten free, soy free and uses no artificial flavourings or sweeteners.
The protein powder mixes well and has a more natural flavour than any of the others, given it’s only available unflavoured. With an ingredient profile that consists of organic milk only, there are no additives at all, making it the perfect base for smoothies, shakes or even food recipes.
It is a fantastic product for anyone who is looking to drop body fat – it contains very few calories (even lower than ‘diet’ proteins) and each serving is low in fat and carbohydrate
The protein comes in a 400g pouch, and each A 20g serving contains:
- 16g of protein
- 81.6 calories
- 1.6g of fat
- 0.8g of carbohydrate
Why should you add whey protein powder to your diet?
This section will explain the differences between the products, helping you to understand which features you may want to pay attention to. Each recipe and blend is unique, designed to assist your training in a variety of ways – some help recovery, others are more about mass gaining, some are designed to help you maintain muscle mass whilst keeping calories low.
By the end of the section you’ll understand the differences properly and it’ll help you decide what is important to you.
Build lean muscle
Primarily, the reason we add whey protein to our diet is to support the muscle building process. When we train, we create a level of muscle ‘damage’, which is repaired by the body. During this repair, the muscles and connective tissues are made bigger and stronger. Consuming whey protein after training helps to make this repair process faster and more effective, as protein is essentially the building blocks of muscle
A supplement can take the place of a meal. It’s much easier to drink a whey protein shake immediately after your workout than it is to sit down to a meal. There’s a significant amount of research that shows the quicker you can consume your protein post workout, the quicker it reaches your muscles. A shake means you can drink it straight away, whereas a meal takes prep and cooking and time.
Speed of digestion
When you are looking to stop muscle break down, and get protein to prepare and build muscle quickly. – speed of digestion is crucial. With whey protein being consumed in drink form you’ll have already by-passed the first stage of digestion (mechanical digestion, also known as chewing), making the digestive process quicker still. Finally, whey protein is known to be the fastest absorbing protein of all, so you’ll be delivering protein to the muscles quicker with whey than any other form. Some of the recipes contain digestive enzymes to help the digestive process too.
What to look for in a whey protein powder
Each and every recipe is different, all designed to support a different goal. You should consider the features mentioned in this section before committing to a protein powder….
Grams of protein per serving
It’s important for anyone looking to gain muscle or maintain muscle during a dieting phase to hit their daily protein target. Obviously most of this will come from food, but the rest will be made up from supplemental protein. If you have a high protein target, you should be looking at protein powders that pack in a lot of protein per serving – ideally at least 20g per serving.
Flavour is subjective to the individual, so do some research around what other people think. Some brands are known for their high sweetener content, others have a higher carb (therefore sugar) content. There are a massive variety of flavours across the market and as a typical rule of thumb, the more premium the brand, the better the taste.
If you prefer to take your protein in smoothie (blended with fruit for example) form, I’d always suggest you go for unflavoured.
This is a big point in the protein world – if you are looking at to gain mass, the products you should be considering will contain a lot of carbohydrate which may come from simple sugars. This will make the powder taste better and more natural (sweeteners aren’t to everyone’s taste), but will also make them less healthy.
If your aim is to drop body fat, you should be looking for lower carbohydrate and lower sugar content protein powders.
There are all kinds of different whey proteins, but they are all derived from milk. The difference is in the processing. The main different types of whey you’ll find in protein powder form are…
Whey Protein Concentrate – This is the most common whey protein and is typically the cheapest. The protein content varies depending on the source and the manufacturing. The cheaper it is, the less quality protein it’ll contain. The protein range is anywhere between 25-89% protein, 4-52% lactose and 1-9% fat.
Whey Protein Isolate – This is the purest form of protein. It undergoes further processing to remove non-protein content such as fat and sugar. You pay more for it, but it’s around 90-95% pure protein, 0.5-1% fat and 0.5-1% lactose.
Hydrolysed Whey Protein – This is the pre-digested form of protein. The longer protein chains are broken down into smaller ‘peptides’, which are easier for the body to absorb and less likely to cause an allergic reaction. The process doesn’t affect the nutritional quality of the protein, so it is still high quality. Typically it’s 80-90% protein, 0.5-10% lactose and 0.5-8% fat.
How to use whey protein powder
Different brands and recipes require different frequencies and sizes of dose, so always pay attention to the labels, for example a mass gaining protein will need much bigger and more frequent doses than a standard protein.
The one thing they all agree on is that a whey protein is best taken as quickly as possible after a workout.
How you take it is up to you – if you want to lose weight, I’d suggest mixing it with water to keep the calories down. If weight gain is your goal, perhaps mix it with whole milk. If you’re just looking to maintain, make a decision based on your calorie goals.
Taste is also an important consideration, because if you prefer it with water or milk, go with that.
Best UK whey protein powder for your training
There is a lot to consider when making a decision about the whey protein you’d like to take, but hopefully with everything I’ve highlighted in this article you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the best protein for you and your health and fitness goals.