Whey Protein Supplements: How To Guide Before You Over Spend!

Protein supplements are one of the most popular dietary supplements on the market. Is the market hype worth it? I’m usually a ‘meet in the middle’ type of dude, but the truth is most people can benefit from some form of protein supplementation if they lack it in their diet. Protein aids in strength and muscle gain…which in turn burns more fat overtime! Incorporating more protein into one’s diet COULD BE a helpful tool.

What is Protein?

Please refer to my first blog about protein for all of these questions, comments, and concerns.

Protein: It’s Very Important

In short: Proteins or amino acids are the building blocks for lean tissue and other fat-free mass. In regards to exercise when we work out, our bodies need protein to build and repair the tissue. If we do not get them, we will at most go back to baseline after we recover. Protein SYNTHESIS (muscle building) must be GREATER than muscle breakdown over time. So no, you cannot simply NOT break down the tissue in order to build more!

Sorry, exercise is still needed!

Now that we know what protein is we can confidently relay that supplementing with a protein product maybe helpful for us to get more protein in throughout the day. How much do we need in a day? Please refer to my OTHER blog regarding this. In short though, there is a limit on how much we need and can use in a day!

How Much Protein Should We Have In A Day?

Whey Protein

Protein powder supplements come in a variety of forms with multiple purposes and uses based one’s goals and budget! Before I go any further I will tell you one thing about protein supplements… They do not replace a well-rounded diet! Protein comes from animals and plant-based products. Eating the protein from food is a surefire way to know you’re getting what you paid for. With that said, protein powder supplements can have a place in a healthy, well-rounded diet still.

Whey protein is the most common used protein in dietary supplements. It is commonly used for a few reasons.

  1. It’s a by product of cheese, which means it has no real use in food other than being tossed. So it’s pretty plentiful for companies to use for their protein supplements. [2]
  2. Whey protein…for it being a byproduct of cheese is of exceptionally high quality. Whey protein has one of the best amino acid profiles for building muscle. If you read the blog I posted above, protein is a bundle of amino acids and some proteins are better suited for different jobs. Whey protein specifically has an amino acid profile that is well equipped for building and repairing lean muscle mass!
  3. It’s preferred for post workout nutrition. This reason is horribly overstated..but it’s true. Whey protein is fast acting. So basically your body utilizes whey protein faster than say… the protein from a sirloin steak. Faster does not always equal better. But for the sake of the benefits of whey protein, it’s helpful information to know for now!

Quick Consumer Tip

Supplement salesman may get very wordy when it comes to selling you whey protein. The “30 minute anabolic window” is not something you need to be worrying about. Strength and muscle gains are made with nutriton that is done around the clock from the time you wake up until when you go to bed. Do not let anyone sucker you into over buying something based on this magical 30,60, 90 arbitrary window they talk about!

Which Way Should I Turn For My Whey?

Supplement labels and store clerks will say and do whatever they need to do in order to get you to buy their products…remember that statement!

Whey Concentrate


Whey protein concentrate is the lowest grade of whey. It has a very low level of fat but does contain some carbs. Many concentrate brands come with ~8-9 grams of carbs per serving. All of the carbs in concentrate are lactose, which is the sugar that many humans have an intolerance to. This is worth noting if you are lactose intolerant. It is the cheapest of the three main options outlined since they do not remove much of the fat or the carbs from it. As someone who holds a PHD in spending too much hard earned money on supplements, concentrate is a solid option if you’re not sensitive to dairy nor carefully tracking each and every calorie you take in. Plus, it’s naturally the lowest cost of the 3 main options! “Lowest grade” does not mean bad, it simply means there are other options out there. Think of it like comparing regular gas to premium. Most cars do just fine with regular, some need premium. Why spend more than you have to?

My Recommendations On Products For Whey Concentrate

Optimum Nutrition Performance Whey

Now Foods Whey Concentrate

Whey Isolate

Isolate is produced as a way to remove the fat and lactose. What is left is something with a  much higher protein count by weight than concentrate. [3] So naturally it will have less calories per serving and have more protein. If you are sensitive to dairy and/or someone carefully in need of tracking every little calorie they take in…this one will be for you. If you do not have those requirements, there is not a huge need to spend the extra $$ on their product. Isolate is GOING to cost more…and if it doesn’t? We’ll go over that soon if you keep reading 🙂

Recommendations For Whey Isolate

Now Foods Whey Protein Isolate

Whey Hydrolysate

Whey protein hydrolysate is taken one step further to deliver you faster aborption and bioavavilabilty. The protein is partially digested (not naturally don’t worry lol!) to promote better absorption. This means that your body theoretically may absorb it more efficiently so you do not need to take as much of it and take in more calories. [4] Think of isolate but even more isolated! Extra step in producing means extra money. So again, if you are an extreme dieter this one maybe helpful. But if you are looking for a product to get more protein in throughout the day, this one will not be needed due to its high price tag. Personally, if you have a need for isolate there’s no reason to spend money on hydrolysate.

Recommendations For Whey Hydrolysate

Optimum Nutrition Hydro Whey


Lactose Intolerant

I am not condoning anyone who is lactose intolerant delve right into drinking whey protein. But isolate and/or hydrolysate MAY allow you to take a whey protein since all you’re left with is the protein and not a whole lot of the dairy.

Combos Of The Three Common Wheys

You may see some companies label their products with a blend of the three whey proteins. This is totally fine and normal as I touch on it above. It’s a money saving technique for them. The problem that could come up is if a product has a high price tag but it’s first ingredient is whey concentrate. If a product comes with a high price tag compared to the rest of the one’s you’re shopping for and has a protein blend it SHOULD be whey isolate or hydrolysate as it’s first ingredient.

What To Look For On A Label

Clearly Worded Ingredients

The label should be straight forward and not have much other added frills to it. If it does, be weary.

As you can see above. This is a label from a product I recommend Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey. They provide a blend of whey isolate and whey concentrate. This is a money saving technique for them as isolate is more expensive than concentrate. So in order to keep the price in line with market they add concentrate to add protein. But it does provide the best bang for your buck based on all the competitors. It also does not taste like dirt either!

Avoid Proprietary Blends

Look for words like “proprietary blend” or some other kind of “blend.” If I see this, instantly something seems fishy to me. The FDA needs to prove that the product is safe and that what is on the label is accurate. But a proprietary blend means they are giving you the ingredients but not disclosing how much of each is in it. Whenever you read a label it always goes by greatest ingredient down to least common occurring. But, as you know many compounds are dose dependent. So they may have the ingredient you’re looking for but they may shaft you on the amount to save money. So if you see a label like the one below…I’m not buying it. In an unregulated business to not reveal how much of each ingredient is in your product is asking for a rip off.

Price Matters

If you see two products on the shelf and one blows the other out of the water in regards to its protein count, protein quality, AND price…it’s probably too good to be true. Supplement companies are out to make money. That brings me into my next point. A 5lb tub of whey concentrate should never be less than $45 and a 5lb tub of isolate should never be less than $55-$65… ever!

Is It Cold-filtered Or Ion Exchange?

Woah, big words being thrown out here. I’ll spare you the chemistry lecture. If you would like to learn about the difference between whey protein that is cold-filtered and ion exchange check out the link to a blog post from tigerfitness.com.

Or check out this infographic on the subject! Most likely no body will sales pitch you on this. But if they do remember this infographic.

What NOT To Look For!

Added Amino Acids

If you look at a label and it touts how it has  5 grams of glutamine or 10 grams of branch chain amino acids do not use that as a justification to spend more. Why? Glutamine naturally occurs in whey protein and branch chain amino acids are naturally high as well. So you get no added bonus by buying something that advertises that and it should not reflect in the overall cost.


Products that contain taurine should run for the hills. Although taurine does have benefits it does not have a place one’s protein product. Taurine is a non-essential amino acid. Non-essential, but an amino acid regardless. You toss in 5 grams of that bad boy into a product and it will reflect in the overall protein count. So that product that claims to have 30 grams of protein per serving really only has 25. 25 is STILL a great number… but if they do that with taurine is it safe to say they’ll do it with other nonessential amino acids? Think with your head, not your wallet or eyes.


Do not be blinded by taste. All taste represents is one’s ability to mix it in smoothies or drink it on its own. Yes it should be palatable, but do not let your taste buds get the best of you. This most definitely should not be the driving force to you buying your favorite product…ever.

Branch Chain Amino Acids

Branch chain amino acids or BCAAs are abundant in whey protein already as is. Adding MORE does not mean better. So do not be swayed in the direction of buying this certain product or spend MORE on it based on that. BCAAs are a great tool for some people to get more quality amino acids in their diet. But if you already consume enough protein there’s no reason to take in more. And there’s certainly no reason to spend extra money if they’re added to your product!

Lowest Price

I cannot emphasize this enough that if you price shop your protein you are making a huge mistake. Prices are low on a product oftentimes because they will short change the good stuff in exchange for the cheaper filler options such as taurine! The only reason a product should be low is for reasons stated below…

  1. It notably comes with zero flavor. It’s the raw protein powder without any added tastes or flavors. Good luck stomaching that. But that is an option at hand and it will reflect in a lower price!
  2. It is purely whey concentrate. Remember, whey concentrate is cheaper to make because it is less labor intensive and less desireable since it has a few more carbs and fat.
  3. It is a store brand in store or on a whole seller’s website. Naturally a company can boost it’s own sales if you buy their own product from their own label. So you’ll save a few dollars on that end. But that still does not always mean quality.
This is one of the leading products found in major retailers. It has a high protein count but is also wearily lower in price than other major competitors. Do not be fooled!

Shop At Your Own Risk

So I hope this has been a helpful road map to allow you to make an educated decision on what type of protein to buy. Unfortunately… the supplement market is an unregulated industry. The Food & Drug Administration is always on the previous page when it comes to quality control and banned substances on the market. So what does this mean? There really is no way of TRULY knowing what is in the product unless it has been GMP certified and third party lab tested. [1]

So We Guess?

Not necessarily! I used the webite http://www.supplementlabtest.com/ to check to see if the products I use are being factual on their labels. If you do not see your product on there you can always donate to them in order to see if your product fits the bill!


Whey protein is an excellent way to get more protein into your diet if you do not get enough. And furthermore it is incredibly convenient to get in the form of powders with a simple shaker cup. Remember, don’t be fooled by the sexy labeling in some of the products. There’s alot of smoke and mirrors in the supplement industry so keeping it simple will always rule the day!

  1.  Institute of Food Science & Technology (2012). Food and Drink – Good Manufacturing Practice – A Guide to its responsible management. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 280. ISBN 9781118318232.
  2.  Spurlock, D. “Isolation and Identification of Casein From Milk Course Notes”. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  3. Lee YH (November 1992). “Food-processing approaches to altering allergenic potential of milk-based formula”. J. Pediatr121(5 Pt 2): S47–50
  4. Lee YH (November 1992). “Food-processing approaches to altering allergenic potential of milk-based formula”. J. Pediatr121(5 Pt 2): S47–50