In the minds of most people, whey protein powder is directly linked with packing on lean muscle. And for good reason; the popular protein powder is extremely good at supporting muscle growth.
But, it's not just as simple as grabbing the first whey you see. There are tons of different types of whey out there, and everyone claims that their particular blend is somehow superior and will pile on more muscle than the competition.
So, faced with all of these options – and competing opinions – you're likely left wondering: what is the best whey protein powder for building muscle?
Start with The Best
Here's something most people don't realize about all of these competing whey protein powders: most of them come from the same place. There are just a few major producers that supply the raw materials to the vast majority of protein companies around the world.
This is a problem for lots of reasons.
First, it exposes the fact that most whey companies really have nothing to back up their claims of superiority. But it also means that the chief concern of these farms is quantity, not quality. For you, the consumer, that translates to a low-quality product – one that is less bio-available, has a weak amino acid profile and needs to be bolstered with additives.
So, how can you avoid this protein pitfall?
Stick with the highest quality whey you can find. You'll want something that was sourced from grass-fed cows that have never been exposed to any Genetically Modified Organisms (which are commonly used as feed), hormones or antibiotics.
All of these factors will either negatively impact the amino acid profile of the end product or contribute less-than-desirable ingredients. In addition, avoid whey products that come China.
Due to a high degree of pollution and low government safety standards, supplements manufactured in China are commonly found to be tainted with heavy metals and other pollutants – including prescription drugs.
Watch The Processing
Unfortunately, many companies start with a fantastic, clean, grass-fed whey and then ruin it with poor processing practices. To really understand how this works, though, we need to be clear about how whey is made.
Like casein, whey is a derivative of milk – making up the liquid portion. When milk is exposed to heat, acids or other curdling agents, the solids clump together and float to the top. The pale liquid left behind is whey – which can then be dehydrated and powdered.
At this point, the whey powder still contains some of the fat and sugars than naturally occur in milk. Whey processed to this degree is called “whey protein concentrate.”
Because it has retained these other components and is minimally processed, whey protein concentrate has the most overall health benefits. But the amino acids that contribute to muscle growth as also left relatively undisturbed, making them more useful to your body.
In an effort to get their protein numbers up, though, manufacturers sometimes process the whey even further – removing the fats and sugars. What results, called “whey protein isolate,” has a greater concentration of protein but lacks many of the other beneficial nutrients.
The excess processing can also damage the amino acids and reduce their bioavailability.
For muscle building purposes, then, stick with whey protein concentrate. While it has slightly less protein, your body will be able to make better use of the amino acids that are present.