7 Types of Natural Whey Protein Powder

After plumes of vanilla colored protein powder filled my kitchen (I’m talkin’ Pablo Escobar style), I’m ready to make some recommendations that will help you find a good natural whey protein supplement.

I began by identifying which whey concentrate and whey isolate brands didn’t use any artificial sweeteners. If it contained aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and/or acesulfame potassium, it got rejected. Products with Stevia and Swerve were acceptable.

From there, preference was given to products made from the milk of cows that aren’t injected with rBGH (also referred to as rBST). Gluten-free brands and those processed without acid or bleach got bonus points as well.

Of course, taste was also rewarded. Almost any whey protein tastes amazing when you blend it with milk and peanut butter, so I specifically wanted to mix the protein with only 12 ounces of spring water and three ice cubes to assess true flavor.

Lastly, I penalized the spendy boutique brands like BioTrust and BulletProof because they aren’t sold on Amazon. That might not be something that bothers you, but I question the decision to shelter their products from thousands of loyal Amazon shoppers. Maybe I’m just being salty, but it reminds me of TV infomercials peddling items “Not Sold in Stores.” I have nothing against their company – just their distribution method. Consequently, I won’t be reviewing them in this article.

Whey Isolate vs. Whey Concentrate

If you’re unsure about which type of whey protein to buy, here’s a simple way to decide. Whey isolate is the better option if you’re somewhat lactose-intolerant and looking for the least amount of carbs. The trade off, however, is that this form requires extra heat and processing which denatures the protein. If you wish to avoid this, choose the whey concentrate form. It has a few more carbs, but it’s a more natural form of protein.

The Top 5 Brands

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.03.11 PM5) Gold Standard Natural 100% Whey – 5 lbs for $53.99

At just under $11 per pound, buying Gold Standard can be considered a bargain. It makes the most sense if you’re planning on bulking up by consuming multiple protein shakes per day. It has rich flavor with a solid dose of both whey concentrate and isolate protein, but also yields the highest carb and sugar content.

  • 24g of protein
  • 5g of carbs
  • 3g of sugar
  • Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.03.39 PM4) NOW Foods Whey Protein Isolate 5 lbs for $64.99

NOW Foods offers a reasonably priced 5-lb container at $13/lb. I like the fact that it has the least amount of carbs and sugar, plus it’s unflavored. If you’re not interested in taste, and just want to pound protein shakes while training for a role in the next Hercules movie, this is the way to go.

  • 25g of protein
  • Unflavored, gluten-free

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.04.18 PM3) Jay Robb Enterprises Whey Protein Isolate – 1.5 lbs for $33.77

Taste wise, it’s great. Their customer service department was exceptional. Heads up though, it’s a pricey option at $22.55 per pound. They advertise “No MSG” on the bottle, but according to some of the research I found (and conversations with a biochemist), all manufactured whey protein has MSG in it. Jay Robb disagrees, however, and stands by his belief that whey protein doesn’t contain MSG. I’m not going to argue with him. I’m sure he knows more about whey protein than I’ll ever know… but it’s important to note that no other manufacturer made such claims. The whole topic of MSG is murky. Everyone has an opinion, so it’s hard to decipher right from wrong.

  • 25g of protein
  • 1g of carbs
  • 0g of sugar
  • 100% rBGH-free
  • No casein or gluten
  • Vanilla, Chocolate

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.02.51 PM2) Jarrow Formulas Whey Protein – 2 lbs for $20.69

Jarrow truly provides the most bang for your buck. At $10 per pound, they offer a terrifically natural protein that’s hard to pass up. The only downside is that it’s only 18g per serving, so you’ll need to scoop more into your protein shakes. But at this price, that’s not a deterrent. If I had to award “1st place” for best unflavored protein, Jarrow wins.

  • 18g of protein
  • 2g of carbs
  • 1g of sugar
  • Gluten-free
  • rBST-free
  • French Vanilla, Unflavored

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.04.47 PM1) Blue Bonnet Whey Protein Isolate – 2 lbs for $41.80

In terms of flavor, ingredients, and potency, Blue Bonnet rings my protein bell. It’s a bit costly at nearly $21 per pound, but I found myself routinely comparing the other protein powders to this brand. It’s a well-deserved winner for the the way it mixes, stays blended, and tastes as a stand alone drink with just ice water. But I encourage you to stick with the vanilla or chocolate flavor – strawberry gets two thumbs down from me.

  • 25g of protein
  • 100% rBGH-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry

Top 2 Totally Raw Organic Unflavored Whey Protein Brands

I had every intention of including these in the rankings above, but ultimately had to differentiate them because the makers of Raw and Source don’t process their protein using bleach or acid treatments. They also don’t use soy lecithin as an emulsifier. It sort of became it’s own category when comparing them to the options above, especially since the packaging is so much smaller.

Taste wise, there was no discernible difference between these two brands. They’re both plain. After the first sampling, I tried spicing it up by adding cinnamon and PB2 (separately) before blending. Both of these brands somehow managed to neutralize the extra flavor.

I’d recommend these for anyone who has severe food intolerances, or is hyper-vigilant when it comes to ingredients.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.05.18 PM2) Raw Organic Whey Protein – 1 lb for $35.00

Now, about the serving size… “14 servings per container” can’t be right if you’re dishing out the recommended serving of 5 tbsp. One ounce of powder equals 3.84 tbsp. That means a 12 oz bag has about 46 tbsp. If you’re consuming one full serving per shake, you’re only going to get 9.2 servings for $35. That’s $3.80 per homemade protein shake compared to $0.53 per shake made from Jarrow’s product.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 1.05.43 PM

1) Source Organic Whey Protein  1 lb for $29.99

Like the Raw brand above, this organic whey is soy-free, gluten-free, and processed without acid or bleach. It’s non-GMO, and offers 20-21g of protein per serving, but also adds up to only 9.2 servings per container. That’s about $100 for a month’s supply if you’re consuming it daily. I was impressed with their customer service, and don’t want to imply anything negative about these two companies. But at the end of the day, the price really stings.

Runner Up

If there were a 6th place, I’d give it to MRM All Natural Whey. I personally chose to eliminate them from the top 5 due to health concerns over one of the ingredients – carrageenan.

Dr. Andrew Weil has some interesting things to say about this additive and its link to gastrointestinal problems. This might not concern you though, so I felt they deserved an honorable mention.


Update as of 2015:

Goat Protein

Naked Goat ProteinAn alternative for those of you whose stomachs wage war on dairy products, go for goat protein. There’s literally no difference in taste or consistency compared to whey protein made from cow’s milk. And it’s every bit as pure as the raw organic protein powders mentioned above. I sampled “Naked Goat” and am strongly considering never going back to regular whey protein again. Keep in mind, however, that this particular brand is completely unflavored. So unless you like the taste of nothing, be prepared to add berries, cocoa powder, peanut/cashew butter, or stevia to give it some character.

2 Responses to “7 Types of Natural Whey Protein Powder”

  1. Thanks for this list, Dr. Tanase. I used to use Gold Standard about 10 years ago. It’s junk and really sweet! I really enjoy Jay Robb and Blue Bonnet WPI, because delicious, smooth, no sugar, and clean products. Also they use grass-fed whey instead of conventional whey in Gold Standard.

  2. Martin Kaufman Reply 12/23/2016 at 08:48

    This is very helpful and informative, I love your blog!

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