Are you confused by all the protein options currently available? It’s easy to see why. After all, there’s whey protein, but not just whey protein, it’s either concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate. Then, there are whey blends. If you are new to protein powders, you may get lost in the shuffle of all the different companies making whey. You just want a basic understanding of what whey is, and some ideas on the best choices. Whey Protein – A Buying Guide covers the basics of whey protein and offers the best choices illpumpyoup.com has available.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey comes from milk. It’s a by-product of the process of milk being turned into cheese. If you look closely at whey, it contains proteins, peptides (protein segments), lactose (milk sugar), fat, salt, and water.
Whey Protein Quality
Despite the recent onslaught of premium quality plant proteins, whey is still the highest quality protein on the market. It’s a rich source of BCAAs, in fact, it contains the highest BCAA levels of any natural food source. There are 26g of BCAAs per 100g of whey. Furthermore, it’s a fast-digesting protein. That makes it ideal for morning and post-workout and morning use.
Several methods are used to determine the quality of a protein. Biological value, or BV, is one common method. BV is the measure of the efficiency of a protein, how it’s absorbed and how it’s used by the body. For decades, egg protein has been the standard with a BV of 100. That is until whey protein hit the market in the 90s. The BV of whey can be as high as 170, depending on the type of whey. To overcome the dominance of 100% egg white protein, and establish whey as the new protein King, this was used as a key selling point when whey was introduced.
The Three Types Of Whey Protein
There are three types of whey, let’s look at each one. (1)
- Isolate – This is the purest form of whey. This has the least amount of lactose and fat. It consists of at least 90% protein.
- Hydrolysate – This is whey isolate broken down into smaller particles for faster digestion and better absorption. It’s not quite as popular as whey concentrate and isolate due to a slightly bitter taste.
- Concentrate – This is not as pure as isolate and has more fat and lactose. Whey Concentrate consists of 70-80% protein, the rest is lactose and fat.
What About Protein Blends?
It’s common to see products with a blend of whey protein. Usually, you’ll see a whey concentrate and isolate blend. Most of these do not break down the content of each, so you might be getting 90% concentrate and only 10% isolate. Of course, protein blends also include whey blended with casein, a milk protein. Some companies, primarily 5% Nutrition, use real food sources of protein. For example, 5% Nutrition Shake Time consists of beef, chicken, and whole egg protein. Redcon1 also uses whole food protein sources, but it’s part of their meal replacement powder, aptly called MRE.
What To Look For
When you’re considering whey powder, what should you look for?
- Ignore Advertising Hype – You’re after the facts of the product, not the hype.
- Read The Label – Check protein grams per scoop, and also check sugar and total carbohydrates per scoop. You want low to no carbs of any kind. Finally, make sure sodium is under 100mg.
- High-Quality Ingredients – Look for the cleanest possible formula. That means limited artificial ingredients, fillers, or additives.
- Uses – Many protein powders can be used for more than just shakes. The better ones allow you to bake with it or use it in yogurt and oatmeal. Check the label for recipe ideas.
Here’s a trick to determine how much protein you’re actually getting. Divide the amount of protein per serving by the scoop size. For example, let’s say you have 25g protein per serving, and the serving size is one 34g scoop. 25 / 34 = 73% protein. This means the rest of the serving consists of carbohydrates, fats, and whatever goes into the making of the protein. This could include fillers. To be transparent, this is not a real label, it’s only an example. (2)
What does this tell you? First of all, don’t just go by protein grams per scoop. You may have a powder with 30g whey protein per serving, but it also might have a huge scoop. Here are two real labels for comparison.
Label # 1 – “Mass Retailer” Protein – Whey Protein Blend
This is not a specific brand, but a typical mass-retailer protein powder. One scoop provides 30g of whey concentrate and isolate. The scoop size is 49g. Here’s the calculation: 30 / 49 = 61% protein. There’s also 2.5g fat, 8g total carbs with 2g sugar, and 1g fiber. There are also maltodextrin, sunflower lecithin, and natural as well as artificial flavors. Finally, there’s cellulose gum and artificial sweeteners. The only advantage of this product is the price. It is not an ideal choice but it works if you are on a strict budget.
Label # 2 NutraBio 100% Whey Isolate Protein- available here: Nutrabio 100% Whey Protein Isolate – I’ll Pump You Up (illpumpyouup.com)
One scoop provides 25g of whey isolate protein. The scoop size is 31g. Here’s the calculation: 25 / 31 = 80% protein. Now, NutraBio has the most transparent labels in the business. There’s zero fat, 2g of total carbohydrates, and zero sugar. If you look in the “Other Ingredients” section, they tell you in mgs how much flavoring there is (750mg natural cocoa, 700mg natural and artificial flavor). There’s 550mg of salt (that is high, it should really be under 100mg). Plus, there’s 210mg xanthan gum, 75mg sucralose, and 75mg acesulfame potassium.
Yes, you will pay more, but do you see the difference in quality? Not to mention, this is 100% whey isolate, the highest quality form of whey.
Whey Protein Buying Guide
Here’s a look at some of the best choices we have available.
- MTS Nutrition Machine Whey – The good news is, every primarily whey concentrate powder we carry also has isolate. The labels do not usually provide a breakdown, but concentrate is listed first. In keeping with the way a prop blend works, that means there’s more concentrate than isolate. Still, the combination creates a higher quality protein than concentrate alone. Finally, this is 66% protein as per our calculation. Not mind-boggling to be sure, but better than our “mass-retailer” protein.
- NutraBio 100% Whey Protein Isolate – 80% protein based on our calculation. As noted, this is an extremely transparent protein powder, as are all the products sold by NutraBio.
- AllMax IsoFlex – This product is an impressive 90% protein! It’s 100% isolate and includes digestive enzymes to enhance digestion.
Find it here: AllMax IsoFlex – I’ll Pump You Up (illpumpyouup.com)
- Rule 1 R1 Protein – This one’s 86% protein. It’s a combination of regular whey isolate and hydrolysate. There are also added BCAAs. This product does contain artificial flavors and sweeteners.
- Rule 1 R1 Whey Blend – Here’s a blend of whey concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate that’s 72% protein. This blend also contains 1.5g fat and 3g total carbs with 2g sugar and 1g fiber. There are also artificial ingredients.
- Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard – This is a blend of isolate, concentrate, and whey peptides with a protein content of 77%. What are whey peptides? They’re whey protein but in a smaller form. The major component of protein is amino acids. Regular whey protein contains chains or sequences of amino acids. Peptides are smaller sequences of these aminos. (3)
The brands listed here are some of the very best whey powders on our site. Of course, illpumpyouup carries a wide range of quality protein powders. This guide gives you a great place to start and the basics of what to look for. Use this information to choose your whey today, and while you’re here, stock up on all your supplements!
- Whey Protein 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide (healthline.com)
- Whey Peptides Market – Global Industry Analysis 2026 (transparencymarketresearch.com)