Athlete’s Guide to Whey Protein Powders

Athlete's Guide to Whey Protein Powders

Which is the best whey protein powder for athletes? The most affordable, best tasting, lowest in sugar, and does it contain high quality ingredients? I compared 13 different brands of whey protein powders for this review, including all the ones I was asked about most on my instagram story poll a few weeks back. I also wanted a second opinion, so I had my assistant taste test with me.

The FDA does not regulate supplements so you must always use caution when using them. Athletes should only use products that go through a third party certification, such as NSF certified for sport or Informed Sport. Required for athletes to assure they aren't taking any illegal supplements; this certification assures what's listed on the package is what's actually in the product. Even if you aren't in collegiate or professional sports, I still highly recommend seeking out a protein with this certification. Why? Because it's constantly going through rigorous testing to make sure it's legit. 11 of the 13 in this article are safe for athletes. If you don’t see your protein powder mentioned here, check this list of certified products here or check with your dietitian to assure you’re using a safe product. 

This review is not sponsored in any way. I was not paid by these brands or compensated for this review.

Each whey protein powder was ranked with a scoring system of 1-5. 1 being poor, 5 being excellent, and we took the average of our two scores. These scores were given based on:

  • Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Y/N

  • Quality of Ingredients (1-5)

  • Cost $$

  • Flavor (1-5)

  • Texture (1-5)

  • Would I buy this again? Y/N


Garden of Life Sport

Garden of Life has a few different grass fed whey options. For the sake of wanting as many certified for sport products as possible on this list, we are reviewing the ‘Sport’ Grass Fed Whey protein.

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. Both. Also sells a plant-based (vegan) version.

Quality of Ingredients: 4.5. This product contains high quality ingredients. Whey protein isolate is the first ingredient, followed by cocoa and chocolate flavors, sea salt, stevia leaf extract – also contains 2.8 g of leucine per serving. This product does however contain erythritol (sugar alcohol) and does not list how many grams on the label. Sugar alcohols in large quantities can cause GI distress (nausea, bloat, gas) in some athletes.

Cost: $39 for 23 oz. container (20 servings so $1.95/serving)

Flavor: 4

Texture: 3

Would I buy this again? We weren’t big fans of the texture by itself but did like the flavor, so mixed into a smoothie this would be much better. The price per serving is good, especially for also being a certified for sport product.


Klean Athlete Isolate

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. NSF certified for sport.

Quality of Ingredients: 5. Their unflavored whey protein isolate is as simple as can be in terms of ingredients (whey protein isolate, sunflower lecithin). Sunflower lecithin is used in protein powders as an emulsifier to help stabilize the powder. Soy lecithin is commonly used in powders as well, but in the case of this protein powder and several others on this list, they use sunflower lecithin to keep their products soy-free. Their flavors (chocolate, vanilla) are sweetened with stevia leaf extract and monk fruit extract, so I like the fact there are no artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or fiber additives. There are 2g of leucine per serving.

Cost: $50 for 18 oz. bag (20 servings so $2.50/serving)

Flavor: 5. The one we taste tested was unflavored, but they also offer vanilla and chocolate.

Texture: 5

Would I buy this again? Yes. We really liked the unflavored especially because you could mix it into just about anything without changing the taste. Liked the ingredients and the fact it’s certified for sport.


Ascent Native Fuel Whey

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. Informed Sport.

Quality of Ingredients: 5. The ingredients of this powder are almost identical to the last. Whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate are the first two ingredients, providing a blend of different milk proteins, along with cocoa, natural flavors, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, monk fruit extract, and stevia leaf extract. So again, no artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or synthetic fibers. It includes 2.7g of leucine per serving and 15% DV vitamin D.  

Cost: $39 for 32 oz. bag (27 servings so $1.44/serving)

Flavor/Texture: Did not get to taste test this product.

Would I buy this again? Hard to say since we didn’t taste test the product. But the ingredients overall looked good, it’s a safe product for athletes, and sold at an affordable price!  


Optimum Nutrition (Gold Standard 100% Whey)

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. Informed Choice.

Quality of Ingredients: 3. The first ingredients are a blend of whey isolate, whey concentrate, and whey peptides. To follow are natural and artificial flavors, soy lecithin, cellulose gum, xanthan gum, salt, two different artificial sweeteners sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda) and acesulfame potassium, and lactase (enzyme to help digest lactose). That’s the ingredient list for their vanilla, which is actually the best of the bunch, as their other flavors (such as strawberry) also contain corn syrup solids and mono and diglycerides.  

Cost: $30.99 for 2 lb. container (29 servings so $1.06/serving)

Flavor/Texture: 4

Would I buy this again? No. While the pro is the low price tag per serving, you’re getting a lot of unnecessary ingredients along with it. While in small amounts these ingredients may not have a large impact, for athletes that consume several servings a day it could raise some concern. Plain and simple there are better products out there for close to the same price.


Orgain Clean Whey

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Considered food product (therefore regulated by FDA). Also sells plant-based (vegan) version.

Quality of Ingredients: 3. Whey concentrate is the first ingredient (no isolate), followed by erythritol (sugar alcohol), creamer (acacia, high oleic sunflower oil, inulin, rice dextrin, rice bran extract, rosemary extract), alkalized cocoa powder, natural flavors, cellulose gum, xanthan gum, sea salt, potassium chloride, and stevia. This protein powder only contains whey concentrate, which ranges anywhere from containing 30-89% concentrate with the remaining coming from primarily fat or lactose. Whey isolate is >90% protein. The product also contains sugar alcohols, and you also have to consume twice as much (2 scoops or ~41 grams) to get 21 grams of protein.  

Cost: $30 for 1.82 lb. container (20 servings so $1.50/serving)

Flavor: 4

Texture: 4

Would I buy this again? Probably not. Only containing whey protein concentrate, it’s not a very high quality protein and contains several unnecessary ingredients. There are other protein powders available for the same price or even cheaper with higher quality ingredients.


NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes, Informed Sport. Also sells plant-based (vegan) version.

Quality of Ingredients: 5. Just like Klean Athlete (above) and BiPro ELITE (below), their unflavored protein only contains 2 ingredients – whey isolate and sunflower lecithin. Also contains over 2.7g leucine per serving. Their vanilla and chocolate flavors do contain xylitol (sugar alcohol-in small amount only 1g), natural vanilla flavor, xanthan gum, and stevia.

Cost: $35.99 for 1.8 lb. container (26 servings so $1.38/serving)

Flavor/Texture: Did not get to taste test this product.

Would I buy this again? Hard to say since I didn’t taste test the product, but based on very minimal ingredients in their unflavored and the price I would say yes!


BiPro ELITE Whey Protein Isolate

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes, NSF Certified for Sport.

Quality of Ingredients: 5. Their unflavored whey protein isolate is as simple as can be in terms of ingredients. Their products are lactose free (isolates in general though are typically very low, if any lactose) contains no fillers, and contains 2.5 g of leucine per scoop. Their flavors (chocolate, vanilla) are sweetened with stevia leaf extract, so I really like the fact there are no artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or fiber additives.

Cost: $37.99 for 2 lb. bag (39 servings so $0.97/serving)

Flavor: 5. The one we taste tested was unflavored, but they also offer vanilla and chocolate.

Texture: 5

Would I buy this again? Yes. The taste, texture, ingredients, and price were all great. And it is NSF certified for sport, so a win-win all around. This was the most affordable option per serving.


We Are Ladder Whey Protein

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. Both. Also sells plant-based (vegan) version.

Quality of Ingredients: 4. Always like to see the first ingredient being whey protein isolate. To follow are cocoa, cane sugar, natural flavors, salt, steviol glycosides, monk fruit extract, silica and thickener blend, guar gum, xanthan gum, and carrageenan. Unlike the last few I just reviewed, this product does contain a little bit of sugar and a few food additives such as gums and thickeners.

Cost: $50 for 15 servings ($3.33/serving)

Flavor/Texture: Did not get to taste test this product. Not sold in stores, and only place it’s available for sale online is their website. Cheapest order looks to be 15 packets for $50. There’s also the option to buy 30 servings for $75, so you save some money there. They also do not sell large containers, only individual packets.

Would I buy this again? Hard to say when I didn’t taste the product. I like the fact it’s a certified for sport product, but the price tag is definitely a con for athletes on a budget.


Momentous AbsoluteZero Grass Fed Whey

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. Both. Also sells plant-based (vegan) version.

Quality of Ingredients: 5. One thing we thought was really cool about this brand is their transparency with ingredient sources. There’s a map showing you exactly where they source each ingredient, along with a description to help explain what it is. The AbsoluteZero is their whey protein isolate, which also contains prohydrolase (their proprietary blend of digestive enzymes) which can reduce the bloating or indigestion that some experience with whey protein powders. Beyond just grass fed whey isolate, this product also contains salt, sunflower lecithin, steviol glycosides and organic Reb A (which is another name for stevia).

Cost: $70 for 1.35 lb. container (24 servings so $2.91/serving)

Flavor: 5

Texture: 5

Would I buy this again? Yes. Probably one of the best tasting in our opinion. The only downfall for athletes would be the price. Monthly subscriptions do offer a discounted rate, and their website lets you order samples before buying an entire container.


Advocare BodyLean

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. Informed Choice certified.

Quality of Ingredients: 3. The ingredients are a protein blend of whey concentrate, milk concentrate, whey isolate, calcium caseinate. Then fructose, natural and artificial flavors, xanthan gum, sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame K.

Cost: $72.95 for 2 lb. container (28 servings so $2.60/serving)

Flavor: 1

Texture: 1

Would I buy this again? Definitely not. Overpriced, tasted terrible, and poor quality ingredients. Plenty of better options on this list. 


Biosteel Whey Protein Isolate

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? Yes. NSF certified for sport.

Quality of Ingredients: 4.5. Whey protein isolate, leucine, glutamine, ginger extract, enzyme blend of protease and lipase, natural vanilla extract, stevia, and xanthan gum.

Cost: $59.99 for 1.8 lb. container (24 servings so $2.50/serving)

Flavor/Texture: We did not get to taste test this product.

Would I buy this again? Hard to say when I didn’t taste the product. I like the fact it’s a certified for sport product, and overall the ingredients are pretty good, but the price tag is a bit high compared to similar products.


PEScience Select Protein

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? No. I do not recommend this product to drug tested athletes.

Quality of Ingredients: 3.5. Their protein powder is a whey and casein blend. Ingredients are a blend of milk protein isolate, casein protein, whey protein concentrate, sodium chloride, natural and artificial flavors, guar gum, two artificial sweeteners – sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame potassium, and vanilla beans.

Cost: $34.99 for 1.85 lb. container (27 servings so $1.30/serving)

Flavor/Texture: We did not get to taste test this product.

Would I buy this again? No. Because it lacks any sort of third party certification with NSF or Informed Sport, I wouldn’t recommend it to athletes. That in combination with the below average ingredients just really makes it not worth your money. There are plenty of better options on this list.


1st Phorm (Phormula-1)

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport? No. I do not recommend this product to drug tested athletes.

Quality of Ingredients: 1. First ingredient is whey protein isolate, then natural flavor, followed by a whole bunch of unnecessary junk – corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, silicon dioxide, soy lecithin, titanium dioxide color, salt, sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame potassium. And that’s just if you get the vanilla. Flavors like cherry lime also have red #40, neotame (aspartame) and dimethylpolysiloxane. If you look at the about page on the website, they talk about how they only use the ‘highest quality ingredients’ that are ‘top grade, premium, results driven’ – so just know if you ever see this catch phrase, it literally means nothing.

Cost: $54.99 for 1.98 lb. container (32 servings so $1.72/serving)

Flavor/Texture: We did not get to taste test this product.

Would I buy this again? No. Because it lacks any sort of third party certification with NSF or Informed Sport, I wouldn’t recommend it to athletes. But I also wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. You have to really question the price here when the company isn’t having to pay the cost to have a third party tested certification, and lacks quality ingredients. This is by far the worst on the list. Any other product on this list would be a better option.