Improve performance and recovery by using one of our best whey protein shakes and bars
Whether you’re a sports pro or an average Joe, everyone who works out regularly should consider their protein intake. Using the best whey protein powder as part of your workout routine can help repair and rebuild your muscles, making it essential to achieving optimal results from your training.
Protein shakes and bars are among the most popular sports supplements because they provide an easy way to get your body the protein it requires after a workout, and whey protein is often the main ingredient in those supplements.
That’s because whey is a cheap and effective form of protein, and unless you stick to a plant-based diet, it’s your best bet for getting your body the nutrients it needs when training hard.
The best whey protein: At a glance
How to buy the best whey protein for you
What types of whey protein are there?
Whey protein is derived from milk and generally comes in three forms when it comes to fitness supplements.
The two most common are whey concentrate and whey isolate. Both are filtered, but the process is more intense with whey isolate, and as a result it contains less of the milk’s fat and sugar and has a higher protein content overall. Whey isolate will generally be 90% protein, while whey concentrate, which is cheaper, is usually around 80% protein.
The third type of whey protein is hydrolysed whey, which is another very pure form of protein that is easier for the body to absorb because the protein it contains has already been partially broken down. Hydrolysed whey is the most expensive of the three common types of whey protein.
What are the different kinds available?
Whey supplements generally come in powder form, with the next most common product being protein bars containing whey.
Whey powders can be adjusted to suit different purposes. There are standard protein shakes to help repair your muscles after workouts, which are generally low in nutrients other than protein, but you’ll also find mass gainers that contain large amounts of carbohydrates and calories alongside protein to help you bulk up.
Other common products include meal replacement shakes, or weight-loss shakes, both of which can use whey to provide a large amount of protein in a serving to help you feel full after consuming them.
Can I use whey protein shakes for weight loss?
Whey protein is a common ingredient in weight-loss shakes because increasing your protein intake is a good way to lower the calories you eat overall without feeling hungry, because protein has a bigger effect on satiety than other macronutrients such as carbohydrates.
This means they can help you lose weight in the short term because they enable you to get into a calorie deficit where you’re burning more than you’re consuming, However, using meal replacement or weight loss shakes is unlikely to be an effective long-term weight management option.
How much do I have to spend?
This depends largely on the quality of the whey protein you’re looking for. Cheaper whey concentrate powders start from around £10 per 1kg, with that price rising to £50 per 1kg if you’re buying more pure hydrolysed whey or whey isolate.
It’s important to look not just at the overall price of the product you’re buying, but also how many servings it contains, because that will give a better indication of how long it will last and whether you’re getting good value for your money.
READ NEXT: The best protein powder
What ingredients should I look out for?
Start by checking out how much protein you’re getting – a minimum of 20g per serving is expected, and this can rise to over 30g per serving. Then look at the amount of fats, carbohydrates, sugars and calories you get in a serving to make sure those numbers fit with your general dietary goals.
After you’ve ticked off those essentials, you can look out for added bonuses such as vitamins and minerals or performance-boosters like caffeine, creatine and L-carnitine.
You might also want to check on the type of sweeteners the whey powder contains, especially if you’re looking to avoid things like aspartame.
READ NEXT: The best protein powder for women
The best whey protein to buy in 2024
1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein: The best all-round whey protein powder
Price when reviewed: £60 (2.28kg) | Check price at Amazon
The enduring popularity of this whey speaks to both its quality and its value – while it’s not the cheapest whey you’ll find, it won’t break the bank and is often on sale. The powder contains 24g of protein per 31g serving, with that protein sourced from whey isolate, concentrate and hydrolysed whey, so it’s rapidly absorbed by the body after a workout.
There’s really not a lot else to the Gold Standard whey powder, with just 1g of fat, 1g of sugar and 3g of carbs in a serving. It comes in a wide range of flavours, is mixed well, and simply gets the job done.
Key specs – Serving size: 31g; Protein per serving: 25g; Type of whey: Mix of isolate, concentrate and hydrolysed
2. Bulk Powders Pure Whey Protein: The best budget protein powder
Price when reviewed: From £15 (1kg) | Check price at Amazon
The price of this powder jumps around a fair bit on Amazon, but it’s always under £20 for 500g, and often comes in under £10, which is terrific value for a very solid shake. The whey used is concentrate and you get up to 23g of protein per 30g serving, depending on which flavour you choose. When it comes to those flavours, the range is enormous, and includes exotic options such as tiramisu and coconut & pineapple, alongside classics like chocolate and vanilla.
Aside from protein, there’s really very little else in a serving, with 2.3g of carbs and 2.5g of fat, and the overall calorie count is just 125 calories. If you’re looking for a solid, cost-effective whey protein powder, look no further.
Key specs – Serving size: 30g; Protein per serving: Up to 23g; Type of whey: Whey concentrate
3. Myprotein Clear Whey Isolate: The best tasting whey protein powder
Price when reviewed: £35 (500g) | Check price at Myprotein
The range of flavours available with protein powders is now wider than ever, but most still build upon the classic trio of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla by offering dessert-inspired shakes. These are often pretty thick and milky too, and sometimes after a hot and sweaty workout it’s not the most enticing thing in the world.
Myprotein’s Clear Whey Isolate powder offers something different, with juicy flavours that are far more refreshing than the usual protein shake options. You can chug down a mojito or bitter lemon shake, for example, or a tropical dragonfruit one, and the range of flavours keeps on growing.
The shakes themselves are also top-notch when it comes to the fine details, with 20g of protein sourced from hydrolysed isolate per 25g serving.
Key specs – Serving size: 25g; Protein per serving: 20g; Type of whey: Hydrolysed isolate
4. Bio-Synergy Skinny Protein: Best diet whey protein powder
Price when reviewed: £32 (700g) | Check price at Very
The Skinny Protein is a brilliant option for those looking to add a tasty high-protein/low-calorie supplement to their workout routines.
Full of all the essential amino acids, it provides 24g of protein, 1.16g of carbohydrates and only 114 calories per serving. It also contains 150mg of green tea extract which can benefit the body’s metabolism, making it a favourable choice for those trying to turn weight into lean muscle.
Key specs – Serving size: 30g; Protein per serving: 24g; Type of whey: Whey Concentrate
5. Grenade Carb Killa: Best whey protein bar
Price when reviewed: From £20 (12 bars) | Check price at Amazon
These high protein, low sugar bars are a great snack to have to hand throughout the day as well as after a workout, with the 20g of protein they contain ensuring that they will keep hunger at bay until your next proper meal.
There are enough different flavours to suit all-comers, with the birthday cake option being ideal for those who have a very sweet tooth, and you can buy a selection box to try out the different options. Along with 20g of protein each 60g bar contains just 2g of sugar and 2.5g of fibre, and the calorie count isn’t too high at around 200-250, with the nutritional content varying slightly from bar to bar.
Key specs – Serving size: 60g; Protein per serving: 20g; Type of whey: Isolate