Full disclosure: I'm one of those annoying people who got into working out over quarantine. After years of half-hearted gym pursuits abandoned after a mere month or two, I finally found a program I liked and stuck with it. With this new workout obsession, though, came others: tracking my macros, monitoring my activity through a shiny new Apple Watch, and changing my eating habits to complement my goals. This introduced me to the wide world of protein powders — the exploration of which has been a ride all of its own.
As a vegetarian who's focused on building muscle, I quickly became aware that I'd need to find ways to add protein to my diet other than eating obscene amounts of peanut butter and hummus. After a little Google search, I discovered whey, a protein made from milk that's easily digestible (unless you have a lactose or dairy allergy, in which case you should avoid it). Upon a little more research, I decided whey protein powder would most benefit my diet and fitness goals. Why exactly? Apparently whey protein can limit muscle breakdown and help with muscle repair and rebuilding, especially when consumed within 60 minutes of your workout, Heidi Skolnik, a New Jersey-based sports nutritionist, previously told Shape.
Hoping for the best, I somewhat hesitantly bought the smallest bag of whey protein powder I could find. That hoping must have worked, because the first one I tried ended up being the one I've liked most. Enter: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder in double rich chocolate (Buy It, from $52, walmart.com), my absolute favorite protein powder. (Related: The Best Protein Powders for Women, According to Nutritionists)
Buy It: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder, from $52, walmart.com
After trying other powders, I can confidently say that Optimum Nutrition Double Rich Chocolate is the best-tasting protein — at least in my opinion. The thought of drinking it actually helps me power through my workout, knowing that I'll get to reward myself at the end. It tastes like a super rich chocolate milk with maybe a hint of brownie, and it has no chemical-y or gross aftertaste. Mixing it in a shaker bottle with oat milk is simply divine.
Not only is it delicious, but it's also seriously filling, too. I've learned not to make the mistake of drinking it too close to dinnertime, because otherwise it ruins my appetite. And I can feel confident knowing I'm putting a high-quality formula in my body. FYI, when shopping for protein powder, your best bet is to look for whey protein isolate — not concentrate — as it contains the highest protein concentration (90 to 95 percent) and very little fat, according to Skolnik. This particular protein powder has a blend of both, but contains more isolate than concentrate, which makes it a solid choice. Per scoop, it also has only 1g of sugar, 25g protein, and over 5g of branched-chain amino acids (aka BCAAs, a group of three essential amino acids — building blocks of protein — that are super important for muscle growth and fitness performance). Meaning, it more than supplements my otherwise low-protein diet. (Related: Why You Might Want to Ignore the Recommended Daily Allowance for Protein)
I'm not the only one who's obsessed with the protein's unbelievable taste and quality. Walmart shoppers who've reviewed it say that it's the best protein powder they've tasted, and that it helps build muscle without causing bloating. (Worth noting: The lactose in whey protein powders can sometimes cause digestive issues, such as bloating, cramping, and diarrhea, especially in people who are lactose intolerant.) One reviewer even said that they switched from their usual go-to brand after trying Optimum Nutrition, and haven't looked back since.
Even though I started with a 1-pound bag, it didn't take me long to upgrade to the 5-pound tub. I've shopped around for various other protein powders, but none have lived up to Optimum Nutrition. Normally, the 5-pound jug can be found on other retail sites for $60, but it's discounted to $52 at Walmart right now. And, if you're not a huge chocolate fan, you can also snap up the same powder in a vanilla ice cream flavor — which I can only believe tastes just as delicious, and like a vanilla milkshake. (Related: Unflavored Protein Powder You Can Add to Anything and Everything)
You were warned: When you try Optimum Nutrition's delicious Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder, you may never search for another protein powder again.