by Alex Nerney on March 18, 2013

Depending on one's budget, how motivated you are at a particular time (aka how close you are to summer) and your swole friend's latest suggestion, there can be a myriad of decisions to make. 

But wait, isn't all protein powder the same? I mean, how much difference can there really be? Well, tbt, the answer is about as sticky as your 7th grade summer. On the one hand(pun intended), protein is protein. Your body will digest and process 1 gram of protein the same way every time. On the other hand (aka lefty, aka stranger in the night), there can be a wide variety of difference in the nutritional facts, the discrepancy of the company, and the quality of protein used.

You see, supplements do not fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Meaning, these companies can say their protein has 20 grams whey concentrate in it, but it really has 20 grams Uncle Rico's special sauce. Because of this, you want to choose well-established companies with a strong positive history in the industry.

I know that this list is important to bros and chicks as well, so below are the top 10 protein powders rated based on taste, nutritional content, and cost. There is some subjectivity here obviously, so keep an open mind.

10. Optimum Casein (Specialty Powder)

Cost: High  |  Quality: High  |  Taste: Low

Calories: 120
Fat: 1g
Carbs: 4g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 24g

Price: 2lbs. $31.87 / 4lbs. $53.98

Casein is the exact opposite of whey, but can be very useful. Casein protein is very slow releasing into your blood steam. If you struggle with gaining weight, it can be a good idea to take casein protein before bedtime. This will keep your body satiated during the night. This product will not taste very good, but can be a good addition if you have hit a plateau. 

9. Cytosport – Cyto Gainer (Specialty Powder)

Cost: Mid  |   Quailty: Mid  |  Taste: High

Calories: 560
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 74g 
Sugars: 8g
Protein: 54g

Price: 3.3lbs. $29.99 / 6lbs. $40.99

This is a protein shake for those looking to gain mass in general. It is full of carbohydrates and protein that will help you bump up your calories. I used it back when I needed to gain weight and can testify that it did help. Keep in mind, this is not a protein to be used on a regular basis, only for those who really need to gain weight. 


8. Cytosport – Muscle Milk

Cost: Mid  |  Quality: Low-Mid  | Taste: Like brownie mix

Calories: 310
Fat: 12g
Carbs: 18g
Sugars: 4g
Protein: 32g

Price: 2.5lbs. $24.98 / 5lbs. $49.99

Muscle milk is an interesting brand. People swear by it, but it is really not a great protein powder for you. Too much fat and costs too much. However, if your goals are to sit on the coach and drink something delicious, go for it. I wouldn't really recommend it, but do whatever you want bro. 


7. Dymatize – ISO 100

Cost: High | Quality: Jesus took this protein  | Taste: Mid

Calories: 106
Fat: 0g
Carbs: 1g 
Sugars: 0g
Protein: 24g

Price: 3lbs. $48.99 / 5lbs. 67.44

ISO -100 is one of the highest quality protein you can get. Basically, they added enzymes to your protein in order to feed your muscles faster. It would be ranked higher, but I have seen some controversial data on the subject that suggests that a mix of proteins (isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate) are better for muscle recovery.


6. Muscle Tech – Phase 8

Cost: High |  Quaility: Mid-High  |  Taste: Mid-High

Calories: 150
Fat: 2g
Carbs: 7g 
Sugars: 0g
Protein: 26g

Price: 2lbs. $29.97 / 4.5lbs. $49.97

I hope you're a stock broker. The cost for muscle tech is too high for most people, but seems to be a good product in general. Overall, it has recieved good ratings from the people I know and the internet. 


5. Muscle Pharm – Combat Powder

Cost: Mid  |  Quality: Mid-High  |  Taste: Low-Mid

Calories: 130
Fat: 1.5g
Carbs: 4g
Sugars: 2g
Protein: 25g

Price: 2lbs. $24.99 / 4lbs. $39.99

Muscle Pharm has been getting a lot of press lately and for good reason. They bring a solid product to the market. However, if you care about the taste of you protein, look elsewhere. Getting an 8/10 on is a sure sign that, for most people, it will taste pretty bad. They also got docked for their rating on that Reddit Protein Experiment.


4Dymatize – Elite Gourmet Protein

Cost: Low  |  Quality: Mid  |  Taste: High

Calories: 140
Fat: 2.5g
Carbs: 9g
Sugars: 4g
Protein: 21g

Price: 2lbs. $20.99 / 5lbs. $39.99

This protein powder is great. I remember the good ol' days when this stuff first came out and cost $25 for a massive container. Now things are a little bit different because the company got popular. Great nutritional facts and tastes amazing. 


3. BSN – Syntha 6 

Cost: Mid-High  |  Quality: High  | Taste: High

Calories: 190
Fat: 6g
Carbs: 13g 
Sugars: 3g
Protein: 22g

Price: 2.9lbs. $29.74 / 5lbs. $46.99

BSN is another quality company that has been around for a while. The main reason they are not number 1 or 2 is because of the amount of carbs per serving. However, keep in mind that being a top three brand makes this protein a great choice.


2. Champion Nutrition – Pure Whey

Cost: Mid |  Quality: Mid-High  | Taste: High

Calories: 130
Fat: 2g
Carbs: 6g
Sugars: 3g
Protein: 21g

Price: 2.2lbs. $26.27 / 5lbs. $52.77

Right now, this is what I am taking. I didn't even realize it until J.Camm (janitor at BroBible HQ) mentioned how much he loved it and I checked mine to realize I was on the same stuff. Solid all the way around- tastes great and is reasonably priced. (J.Camm's Note: Been blowing Champion Nutrition farts since '06, love it.)

1. Optimum Gold Standard 100% Whey

Cost: Mid  |  Quality: The Best  |  Taste: Mid   

Calories: 120
Fat: 1g
Carbs: 4g 
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 24g

Price: 2lbs. $25.98 / 3.3lbs. $40.87

If you spend some time in the gym, you will hear about ON because somebody will be taking it. Basically, in an oversaturated market, ON has somehow found a way to stand out for quality. I was not surprised that on the reddit post, ON was one of the top performing companies. The taste is so-so and the cost is middle of the road, but as far as quality comes, it is hard to beat.

*All prices obtained from Keep in mind that these price were valued without shipping and handling. 

Hope this helps! Leave your questions and other recommendations in the comments below.

See you next week. Bros,
Alex Nerney – Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Lord of Broscience.

Follow Alex Nerney's twitter HERE Alex Nerney's Ebook/before and after photo's: Fitness in College, A College Guy's Guide to Getting Ripped.

  • ProteinFan

    Hey there,
    great review! But what i am always wondering about: How do you measure the quality of the powders apart from the taste? You say ON Gold Wheys quality is hard to beat, but it has only about 80-85g of protein per 100g and a lot of carbs, which is at least average and a lot of powders have stats like that. So what makes the quality so good?