What Kind of Whey Protein is Best?

We’ve had a few people writing in and asking what type of whey protein is best for them to add to smoothies, yogurt, and other foods.

Are you an athlete that uses whey protein powder to add protein and nutrients to smoothies, yogurt, or other foods?  Whey protein is sold all over the place and there are far too many choices, so I’m here to help.

Here are my criteria for a good quality whey protein powder:

  • UNDENATURED whey protein.  This means it was not pasteurized at the high heat, which renders many healthy components of cow’s milk useless, and denatures (chemically changes) the proteins.  Un-denatured proteins contain the natural forms of L-cystein, L-glutamate, and glycine that provide the raw materials for your cells to make glutathione.  If you haven’t heard of glutathione, it is simply one of the most powerful antioxidants our bodies can use.  It is responsible for detoxifying our cells and reducing oxidative stress and free radicals.  It increases the activity of other antioxidants in our bodies.  If the only type of whey protein you’re getting is pasteurized and denatured, you’re missing out on a huge benefit.
  • Protein from cows that have NOT been treated with hormones such as rBST or rBGH.  These hormones are used to increase the milk production of many cows in America, but are not allowed in Canada, Europe, and Australia.  Some claim that they are safe, primarily the manufacturer of the hormone and government, but many others believe they can increase estrogen in human bodies – not a good thing for fat loss or overall wellness.
  • Whey protein powder should have as few ingredients as possible.  My top pick is usually unflavored – no sweeteners, artificial or natural, and no extra ingredients.  If you want some flavor, look for Stevia, natural chocolate or vanilla, and minimal other ingredients.  There’s no point in putting harmful ingredients, colorings, and flavors into your body when you’re trying your hardest to keep it running clean and strong.
  • Some of my favorite brands include Natural Factor’s Whey Factors, Bluebonnet Whey Isolate, and Dr. Mercola’s Miracle Whey, – look for <100 calories, <3 grams of sugar, 15+ grams whey protein per scoop (approximately 20 grams or ¼ cup), undenatured, hormone-free.  Beware of whey protein powder drinks which are often loaded with sugar (it’s a much better idea to add it to a fresh smoothie or whole-food drink) and watch out for whey “candy bars.”
  • Whey protein can offer a lot of benefits if you’re choosey with your brands.  Like all nutrition decisions, stay away from a list of 20+ ingredients and chemical additives.  You usually get what you pay for.

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

  • Jen

    I would love to see an article comparing other types of protein vs. whey. I recently switched to brown rice protein and would like to see how that compared to whey, pea, etc. I have done my research, but would love to hear from someone who has more knowledge in nutrition.

    • Kelli, RD

      That’s a great idea Jen – and, there’s plenty to talk about with it.  Historically, there’s always been an emphasis on whey b/c it works well with recovery as a fast-acting protein…but, there’s good research out there to support longer lasting proteins (such as albumin or casein) and vegetarian proteins.  Look for that to come sometime in the future.  Thanks!

  • Eric Hutchins

    Kelli, I think this is an excellent post, well written to the point and informative. Darryl, great info to have on your blog.
    Thumps UP!

    • Kelli, RD

      Thanks Eric! 

  • Kelli, RD

    For anyone looking for whey brands, another favorite of mine that I’ve been introduced to recently is Tera’s Whey.  Very high quality, and a mix of goat and cow whey.  I’m not affiliated with any brand, but I do like to recommend a variety good ones!  Kelli, RD

  • Bethel

    Darryl, I really like the nutrition info you always provide. Timing seems to always be perfect. Keep them coming. Looking for something to help me lean out? Any advice?

    • Kelli

      Hi Bethel,
      Thanks for the comment!  For fat loss, I often recommend increased protein intake (with decreased carb intake, especially refined carbs) during Daily Nutrition – so, take your normal meals, cut down carb sources such as grains in half, and add more protein.  Undenatured whey is a good source.  For example, if you normally eat oatmeal in the morning, cut down the portion and add whey.  It can keep you filled up and may reduce fat storage by reducing the need for insulin (b/c you’ve cut down carbs).  There are more details than this, but it’s a start! Kelli, RD

  • Cyktrussell

    There have been studies that show Whey protein is a cancer agent. 

    • Azorch

      I’d be interested in checking out your sources. I thought preliminary studies had indicated whey protein might actually be an anti-cancer agent.

    • Kelli, RD

      Thanks for the comments Cyktrussel and Azorch – I’d also be interested in these sources!

  • Azorch

    At the risk of hyping a specific brand, I have found EAS to meet my own personal needs. As a diabetic and a very active rider, I find that I need to strike a very fine balance between carb and protein intake. (My blood sugar levels and overall health are managed almost entirely through physical activity and diet, and the necessary caveat here is that this plan was developed and is monitored through my physician.) That caveat aside, my own personal plan calls for elevated levels of protein and decreased levels of fat and carbohydrates – ironically, a bit at odds with the conventional rhetoric that abounds regarding carb loading. I’m a long distance rider and not a racer; “bonking” is less of an issue for me over a couple hundred kilometers with regular nutritional intake – lots of small “meals” –  than maintaining recommended glucose levels throughout the day. I have eliminated nearly all processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup and breads from my meals plans. Which is where whey protein comes in: I look for a product that is tasty (some are sickeningly sweet to my taste), provides a protein “punch,” and low in carbs. For a protein rich/low carb/low fat breakfast staple or evening snack that’s very tasty, I’ll mix a partial scoop of chocolate flavored protein supplement with plain greek yogurt (NOT flavored!), some fresh berries, and perhaps a VERY small sprinkling of Grape Nuts or homemade granola to add a bit of crunchy texture. 

    • Kelli, RD

      Thanks for your comment!  I agree that EAS is a good whey source - and it claims to be processed at a low temperature as well.  I can’t verify that the proteins and amino acids remain undenatured, but it’s possible. I only checked quickly, but I also could verify that the whey is from cows that have not been treated with antibiotics or hormones.  This is another entire post, but improtant to me.
      Thanks again, Kelli, RD

    • Eric Hutchins

       I also use EAS Whey Protein, for me its easy to digest, I like the ingredients and taste, all around good product i think.