Style over Substance?

Whey protein is now firmly established as an effective workout supplement. If you’re looking for a bit of natural help to gain muscle and shed fat, you’ve no shortage of options. The problem is … a lot of whey protein powders cost a pretty penny. But why?

When you think about it, whey was originally just a byproduct. Before its benefits were realised it was thrown away. There was probably a time where if you hung out behind a cheese factory, come the end of the day you could get dumpster loads of whey for nothing.

So how does it suddenly end up costing us $30-70? There are plenty of places you can find whey for next to nothing, so when you go high with a name brand, are you really buying quality, or just a whole load of marketing B.S?

Here we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of seriously budget protein and whey (sorry) up whether it’s really worth you spending a little more.

Upside of the cheap whey


Ok, this one is pretty obvious. Cheap whey will save you money. Remember this is a supplement you’re going to be using on an ongoing basis, eventually it’s going to mount up, so keeping the price down as low as possible makes good financial sense at least.

Also, high price is no guarantee of high protein content. Often a brand’s flash label and fancy added ingredients are there to distract from the fact that you’re actually not getting all that much of what you’re paying for.

A little bit of time spent inspecting the stats and ingredients instead of the slogans is always a good idea.

Larger amounts

For a while the trend was the smaller something was the more expensive it was likely to be. Granted mobile phones are on their way back up, but it’s still the case with things like gourmet food and iPods. Likewise whey protein.

A lot of the more established brands come in smaller containers, while it’s usually possible to pick up protein at the other end of the scale in bulk supplies. As much as a couple of kilograms.

Again, it doesn’t take an an emergency meeting of Mensa to figure out that the longer a product lasts you, the less often you have repurchase and that saves you money.

Downside of the cheap whey

Unwelcome extras

As we said earlier, high price doesn’t automatically mean high quality, but as a general rule of thumb, more established premium brands do lower your risk of filler ingredients.

Very low cost whey protein may contain components that are at best useless, at worst dangerous.

Examples might be added refined sugars or artificial sweeteners and coloring. They also may use thickening agents to improve the appearance and texture of low quality protein. These might include guar gum or locust bean gum, both of which can cause stomach problems.

Questionable protein content

Most quality whey powders will have protein content of 70-90%, but the sad fact is than some really low grade products can contain as little as 30%.

This is because some budget options still contain a lot of the fats and carbohydrates better brands remove. Again there may be a problem with worthless ingredients being added, such as lecithin.

If you’re unlucky enough to get one of these duds, it undoes the advantages you thought you were getting in saving a bit of cash. If you have to take 3X as much of a cheap choice to get the same as a higher end product, the pendulum is going to start swinging the other way.

Sure, you want money in the bank, but you also want results in the gym.

The Cattle

Whey comes from milk, and it’s fair to say milk has had its critics of late. Many feel that milk is mainly extracted in crowded, possibly contaminated areas where the cows may be given hormones and antibiotics that are not completely filtered out by the time the end product reaches us.

This is almost certainly true in some cases with cheaper milk. So if whey makers are looking to squeeze a profit out of their rock bottom priced product, this poor quality dairy might be there first stop.

There are no gimmes, so always check the label, but reputable whey proteins who charge more have more cash to spend on manufacturing and this means they can afford to source from healthier, grass fed cattle.

Even if you can’t go the lactose route and are depending on soy, you can’t afford to be sloppy. Really low cost soy proteins my be genetically modified, whereas if you go upmarket there’s more of a chance everything is organic.

Whey quality

The cheapest whey is almost always whey concentrate. This still contains a relatively high amount of lactose and fat, with a protein percentage of about 70-80%.

Concentrate isn’t terrible by any means (it usually tastes better for a start) but if you’re all about results then you better believe it’s a case of the purer the better. Serious whey proteins that ask a little more of the wallet will usually be the more expensive isolate or hydrolysate.

These will be up around 90% so that’s what you should aim for if you can.

Wheys to make sure

Like most of us you’re probably considering whey protein so you can put in extra work in the gym. That’s great, but before you make a that purchase which seems like a bargain, or looks killer, but might break the bank, why not apply that same work ethic to research?

Here are some things to check straight away:

  • Protein content – Divide the grams of protein per serving by the serving size in grams. 80% or above is best.
  • Key amino acids – Look for large amounts of L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine
  • No proprietary blends – Every ingredient should be named and dosed in full.
  • Number of ingredients – Quality whey proteins rarely have over 7 or 8 ingredients
  • Company background – What is the manufacturers track record? Are they well known, professional &trustworthy
  • User experience – How have other users found this whey? Have their experiences been positive?


This isn’t us saying you should only go with the very top end whey protein. We’re just saying be careful of being taken for a ride by supplements at both ends of the scale. Dirt cheap and uber expensive.

You don’t want to be wasting money OR time.

It’s about value more than cost at the end of the day. All the info you need to figure out whether a supplement is worth it should be right there in the ingredients list. If it’s not that’s the biggest red flag of all and there are plenty of other options out there.

Recommended Protein Supplements


100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein IsolateBuy28g0.0g0.0g

100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate

100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein ConcentrateBuy24g3g1.5g

Mass Gainer

Mass GainerBuy53g109g12g

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