Best and Worst Protein Supplements

As part of some research I’m doing for another project, I looked into protein supplements. For myself, I’ve always confined my choice of protein supplement to the best ones, and haven’t looked around a lot in general. I also asked some of Twitter peeps if they’d recommend candidates for the worst protein supplements. While this post is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, here’s a quick tour d’horizon of the best and worst protein supplements. I confined myself to ten of them.

Best Protein Supplements

These are not in any particular order.

  1. Immunocal. This whey protein supplement is clinically proven to raise glutathione, and therefore it’s good for people suffering from an illness that increases oxidative stress. (Most of them do.) Immunocal is non-denatured and unflavored. Downside is that it’s quite expensive. While if I were ill I’d be happy to spend the money on it, this product is more than what athletes and bodybuilders need; they can use a less expensive product without loss of effect.
  2. NutraBio Whey Protein Concentrate. I’ve long recommended this protein. Cold-processed, non-denatured, moderately priced. NutraBio has both flavored and unflavored types. The flavored contain artificial flavors and sweeteners, so avoid those if you’re concerned about them.
  3. Bulk Supplements Whey Protein. Unflavored, great quality, and inexpensive. This may be the best protein supplement for the money, at 20 bucks for a kilo.
  4. MyProtein IsoPro 97. This one gets high marks for purity and quality, according to my research. Probably a bit harder to find, but it’s available at Amazon
  5. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder. This may be among the best of the big-selling brands. Artificially flavored/sweetened.
  6. Vega Sport ProteinI doubt if I have many vegans in my audience, but if you want a vegan protein option, here it is. The protein comes from  pea, pumpkin, organic sunflower seed, and alfalfa. There’s some interesting research that plant proteins can be as effective for muscle growth as animal-based protein if you get enough, or possibly more. This one has 30 g a serving, so it would likely do the job.

 

Worst Protein Supplements

Again, in no particular order.

    1. Muscle Milk. Lousy protein combo, spiked with glutamine, contains maltodextrin, corn fiber, fructose, sunflower and canola oil. Only 16 grams of protein per 150 calories serving. Just, no.
    2. Optimum Serious Mass. While two scoops has 50 grams of protein, it also has 1250 calories, maybe half of what a normally active, moderately sized man needs. This might be good if you’re a malnourished ICU patient, but even then there must be better choices. The mass you gain is likely to be fat. First ingredient is maltodextrin. Mass gainers make a lousy choice as a protein supplement.
    3. Odwalla Vanilla Protein Drink. Hipster protein. First two ingredients, soy milk and sugar. Enough said. A whopping 43 grams of sugar, or about 10 teaspoons. 370 calories. Good Lord, where do they come up with this stuff?
    4. Gatorade Whey Protein Recover Bar. 360 calories.   Look at the garbage ingredients: sugar, vegetable oil, nonfat dry milk, etc. Avoid. And avoid protein bars generally, even if you need the protein, although there may be a few good ones – I don’t know, I never eat them.

 

There must be thousands of protein supplements out there. If you want to supplement protein, you should look for a short list of ingredients with few of them artificial. For those seeking the highest purity, unflavored is best. Chocolate and other flavors are usually artificial, as are sweeteners. Others may contain vegetable oils, sugar, and unpronounceable artificial ingredients.

By the way, what do you eat for protein if you’re on the go and want something quick, but without the lousy ingredients in protein bars? keep a supply of hard-boiled eggs in your fridge. They’re 8 grams protein each, have lots of healthy fats, and are low calorie. Perfect.

This list is far from comprehensive and is just meant as a quick view of protein supplements. If readers have suggestions or, God forbid, criticism, I’d be happy to hear them.

PS: Check out my books, Dumping Iron, Muscle Up, and Stop the Clock.

PPS: You can support this site by purchasing through my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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34 comments
Best and Worst Protein Supplements says February 10, 2017

[…] post Best and Worst Protein Supplements appeared first on Rogue Health and […]

Reply
JP says February 10, 2017

Only thing I don’t like about NutraBio is it doesn’t like to “stay mixed” in milk. Quickly separates into little globules. Gonna try Bulk Supplements and see how that works.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 10, 2017

    You’ll probably be disappointed in Bulk Supplements if that’s a concern.

    Reply
BC says February 10, 2017

I have found TrueNutrition to be a good and surprisingly inexpensive source of whey and other protein powders. They have a wide variety of various proteins, grades and flavorings that let you mix and match according to taste and budget.

https://truenutrition.com/search.aspx?searchterm=whey+protein
https://truenutrition.com/search.aspx?searchterm=protein

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SH says February 10, 2017

I can attest to the ON Gold Standard – it’s all I use. I did enjoy the protein that GLL/Red Supplements put out, but there wasn’t a lot of bang for your buck at $38 for 18 servings.

It has a few more carbs (~7g) than others you listed, but the mixing quality was superb, in addition to tasting pretty good. Tough to justify spending that much though, considering ~70 servings of ON can be had on Amazon for just over $50.

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Ross says February 10, 2017

Like to hear some PD-prognostications on whey/casein blend, and on putting a dash of decent carbs in the protein.

BTW, aye aye to the dudes on True Nutrition: very configurable and good value.

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    P. D. Mangan says February 11, 2017

    Hi Ross, the chief difference between whey and casein is speed of digestion and BCAA level, with whey having faster speed and higher BCAAs. That being said, some studies have shown good gains using casein. It could be especially good if one goes for a long period without anything else; the casein supplies a steady stream of amino acids. However, post-workout, whey seems to give better gains, assuming that protein intake at other meals is adequate. I prefer to get casein via cheese, as you get lots of other healthy things with it, such as vitamin K and healthy fats.

    Reply
      Nick says February 12, 2017

      We discussed German “sour milk cheese” and quark here some time ago, when I discovered them and their AA concentrations. I’m a believer, and will have one or the other (normally quark, the Sauermilchkäse is *really* salty) for a bedtime snack on lifting days, to theoretically give me a night-long supply of casein AAs when I need them most. And then I have it mixed with whey, yogurt, berries, and seeds/coconut for breakfast on recovery days.

      When I was in the US last year, I tried to find quark. There was some stuff from Vermont at Whole Foods, but it was more like sour cream, and the nutritional data didn’t match up to the German stuff. And it was ridiculously expensive. (Quark here is sort of the consistency of light cream cheese, but nearly fat-free. And very bland. Have to mix it with stuff to get it down me gullet.)

      Googling reveals http://lifewaykefir.com/products/cheese-farmer-cheese-fat-free/ which might well be very similar to what I’ve got here. In England, Waitrose carries a very good quark.

      Reply
Julian says February 10, 2017

PD, the best tasting protein I’ve had has been Reservage Organics Vanilla. Have you tried it? Fantastic taste, very pure, with a bit of stevia (I’d pay a premium if they made it with a dabble of sugar instead because I find Stevia sickening).

Regarding the point on vegans, you have a few for sure. I’m a vegetarian. I eat dairy. Any starting suggestions for how to lose the skinny fat look and put on muscle? Willing to try anything as long as it doesn’t involve meat/eggs.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 11, 2017

    Thanks, Julian. Losing the skinny fat look proceeds the same way for everyone: lift weights and get enough protein. You’re not trying to lose weight but to change body composition. Make sure your food is whole, unprocessed, get 30 g protein with each meal, take a whey (or vegan if preferred) shake after lifting, keep carbs moderate to low. And persist: progressive weight training, no eating of crap food.

    Reply
Andreas says February 10, 2017

Protein Factory ( https://proteinfactory.com ) has a wide range of protein powder and supplements. The used to provide the ability to custom mix, but I think they’ve stopped doing it.

I have no affiliation, they just provide great products at reasonable prices.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 11, 2017

    Thanks, Andreas.

    Reply
David says February 10, 2017

Would you recommend any particular supplement for those who are chronically underweight? I’ve tried some “mass gainers” but without effect.

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    René says February 11, 2017

    Hey David,
    just build your own “mass gainer”. If you have a blender (you should have one!) you could put in whey, eggs, almond butter, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, maybe some berries if you like it sweat and full-fat cream. Its far better that any mass gainer you can buy and it gives you enough calories to get bigger.

    Reply
      P. D. Mangan says February 11, 2017

      René, excellent suggestion, thank you for writing that. That recipe would indeed be far healthier than any commercial mass gainer.

      PS: When I started lifting, I gained 35 pounds (~15 kg). One thing I did was add half-and-half (American product, half milk, half cream) to my whey protein. Full cream would work as well too, or half cream and half water. That provides a high-calorie, high-protein drink without the garbage found in mass gainers.

      Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 11, 2017

    See René’s answer, a very good one.

    Reply
René says February 11, 2017

Nice article!
Do you think grass-fed whey is worth the extra money? It goes for 35 Euro/Kilo in general, but has only about 80g Protein per 100g.
And what’s your opinion regarding beef protein powder?

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 11, 2017

    Thanks, René – I do not think grass-fed whey is worth the extra money, because the point of grass-fed beef (or anything) is to change the fatty acid composition of the final product, meat or cheese or other dairy. Whey of course is dairy, but it has next to zero fat in it. Grass-fed whey should be biochemically almost indistinguishable from regular whey.

    Reply
      René says February 11, 2017

      Thank you for your quick answer! Your explanation makes absolutely sense to me. So no need to spend that much more money for grass fed whey.

      Is there any concern regarding soy lecithin as the most common instantising agent?

      And for us European readers who sadly can’t get our hands on a lot of the recommended products: What are the most important “thing” to look for in a good whey product besides as few ingredients as possible?

      – BCCA amount?

      Natural Whey Protein Isolat 90 with soy lecithin costs 22 bucks per kilo.
      Natural Whey Protein Isolat 97 with noting else and 23g BCAAs (12g Leucin) per 100g whey, costs 35 bucks per kilo.

      Is it worth the extra money.

      Reply
        René says February 11, 2017

        A quick correction:
        The natural whey protein isolat 97 has 23g BCAAs (12g Leucin) per 30g serving and not per 100g.

        Reply
        Nick says February 12, 2017

        I’ve been buying Orgainic for several months now, and love it.
        https://orgainic.com/produkt/bio-whey-protein/ I mix 2:1 vanilla & chocolate (30 – 40 gm total depending on which workout) with 150 gm water & 100 – 150 gm coconut water, as well as lemon juice and my citric-flavoured mineral supplements, and enjoy it at the end of a workout.

        I also usually mix 10 – 15 gm in my quark/yogurt/seeds breakfast, on the days when I eat breakfast.

        Beware, it is not only grass-fed, but organic/bio. It’s a philosophical question for me; Mrs & I have been buying organic for many years now, as much as possible.

        Another selling point: notice the packaging. No gigantic plastic barrel, they switched over to these nice, easily-storable bags a few months ago.

        (I don’t know if it’s available outside Germany.)

        Reply
          René says February 13, 2017

          I (unfortunately?) bought some grass-fed whey before P.D.Mangan wrote this article. It is in the same prize range like that orgainic whey. It tastes good, has no other ingredients and is cold processed. Nevertheless, I thing the prize difference is too much for me. 35 Euro vs. 22 Euro per Kilo.
          Your tip about Sauermilchkäse or sour milk cheese is great. I bought it regularly before I switched to LCHF, but wasn’t aware of its excellent casein content. Will definitely buy it again. Thanks!

          Reply
          Nick says February 14, 2017

          You’re welcome. I use http://www.naehrwertrechner.de to look up the values, it lists the various amino acids.

          I also buy the basic, 0.2% fat sort of quark, because I figure fat just slows down absorption of protein, which is not what I want. And I think quark is naturally fat-free; they add cream to make the 20% and 40% sorts.

          Handkäse/Sauermilchkäse can be a bit of a challenge; it’s pretty odd.

          Reply
          Paloma says February 13, 2017

          Hi Nick! Great advise, I am going to try it. They send it to Spain! I hate the way artificial sweeteners taste!

          Reply
          Nick says February 14, 2017

          I must admit, this is the only kind of whey powder I have bought, so I don’t know how it compares to others. The vanilla and chocolate flavours are there, but it’s not sweet.

          Glad I can help!

          Reply
bigmyc says February 11, 2017

No criticism here. I also go with the most simple format of protein powder. I still can not get over the need to place crappy ingredients and sweeteners into supplements like this. I suppose it’s because people actually buy them…..

Anyhow, I like to take the opportunity to turn my protein shakes into a multi-vitamin in a glass. I’ll go with coconut water/coconut milk, the protein isolate, a green banana for the minerals and resistant starch, maybe some chia seeds for O3, cacao powder/cinnamon/ ginger/etc., maybe some Matcha green tea powder, yogurt for the K2 and probiotics and maybe some fruit. d

Actually, now that I’ve type that out, I have just come to the realization that it’s been a while since I made my last one…gonna go ahead and fix that…gotta go..

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Ole says February 11, 2017

No thanks, but I’ll pass on that. The addition of BCAAs to a high-fat diet contributes to the development of insulin resistance, impaired glucose homeostasis that can occur independent of body weight.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4511294/

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    P. D. Mangan says February 11, 2017

    Amino acid supplementation, heavy in BCAAs, improves blood glucose and insulin sensitivity in elderly people with diabetes.
    BCAAs increase lifespan in mice.

    Personally, I want to be fit and strong in older age, not a paunchy, noodle-armed couch potato. Furthermore, refined carbs and sugar are a far more potent promoter of insulin resistance and obesity than protein will ever be. You’d probably be more at home reading Carb Sane or something.

    Reply
      Ole says February 11, 2017

      quote: ‘Our study clearly demonstrated that, given in CONJUNCTION with conventional antidiabetic therapy, use of AA supplements in elderly subjects with poorly controlled type 2diabetes is safe and significantly improves metabolic control and insulin sensitivity’

      In other words, would the researchers have reached the same conclusion, had the test persons been healthy (non-diabetic) and not given anti-diabetic drugs?

      I think it opens more questions, than it answers. Btw. I’m not suggesting that one should replace BCAA with refined carbs and sugar.

      Reply
Is Grass-Fed Beef Worth the Money? - Rogue Health and Fitness says February 13, 2017

[…] the recent post about best and worst protein supplements, a reader asked me whether I thought grass-fed whey was worth the money, and I answered in the […]

Reply
Drifter says February 19, 2017

Supposedly Hemp protein is good quality. I mix it with (A2) yogurt. Also, when I know I am going to be having a meal of lower quality protein such as an Indian vegetarian dish, I take leucine powder along with it which supposedly makes it the equivalent of high-quality protein. Doing this with the vegan protein would likely make it much more anabolic also.

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    P. D. Mangan says February 19, 2017

    Yes, leucine will do exactly what you say it will in those cases.

    Reply
Matt says March 2, 2017

Hey PD,

Based largely on your advice, I’ve integrated whey protein into my diet. I generally take it after lifting weights two to three times a week. I bought my first batch from the grocery store without much research, but this article and others have me convinced there are better options out there. In any event, I was just about to pull the trigger on the Bulk Supplements Powder you recommended when I noticed the label says it includes soy and soy lecithin. You’ve written on the potentially negative effects that soy consumption may have on testosterone. Is there a reason you’re not concerned about the inclusion of soy in whey protein powder?

Thanks for all you do with this blog. I’ve found it extremely useful. Also bought, read, and benefited from your “Top 10 Reasons We’re Fat” e-book.

Best,

Matt

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says March 3, 2017

    Hi Matt: lecithin is fine, this happens to be made from soy, and it’s a small amount used as an emulsifier, so it’s not like eating a bunch of tofu or protein made from soy. I don’t worry about it.

    Reply
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