Shopping for whey protein supplements these days can be very confusing if you don't know what you're looking for, especially due to the countless different brands and types of whey protein you can get that are often heavily marketed to you as a "magic pill" solution.
They all claim to have the best whey product that is somehow better than the next one, and use typically-bogus claims like "ground-breaking new formula" and "transform your body in a week" to catch your attention.
With this article I hope to clear things a little for you so that you know what to look for and which products are worth your money.
The first thing you need to know is that the majority of the different whey products out there aren't all that different. They all basically all do the same thing - but it is true that some are higher quality than others.
So I highly suggest sticking to a large, proven best-selling brand when choosing whey so that you're not taking any risks. From there I would simply whichever you can find for the best price.
If you're not sure which brands are good check out my current supplement stack. I ONLY stick to the very best brands out there.
There are also 2 main types of whey - isolate and concentrate. I buy either isolate, which is a little more expensive and the higher quality of the two, or a combination of isolate and concentrate to save money.
If you wish to know more about these 2 types of whey then read on.
Isolate Vs Concentrate
The BV (Biological Value) of a protein is a measure of how efficient a protein source is. Whey protein isolate has the highest BV rating of all the protein sources out there, at around 150.
This means that whey protein isolate is the fastest absorbing protein source available. Isolate is ideal for use in the morning just after rising, and also immediately following a workout, because at these times your protein levels have been depleted.
So what about whey protein concentrate? Concentrates have a BV rating of approximately 100, as opposed to isolate being at around 150. This means that concentrates aren't quite as efficient as isolates, but the good thing about whey concentrate is the price. Whey concentrate is the best value type of protein.
If money isn't a factor to you, or your need for whey isn't excessive, then go ahead and buy whey protein isolate. On the other hand, if you want to save some money then getting whey protein concentrate is a good choice.
Although, you will find that the majority of experts out there agree that the benefits whey isolate provides over concentrate is not worth the extra price tag. So it doesn't really matter which one you use, both are very high quality protein sources.
So like I said, if money isn't a problem just get isolate. On the other hand, stick to concentrate to save money.
You can also get a whey blend product, which provides the best of both worlds. It contains both whey isolate and whey concentrate in the same product, and it usually is slightly more expensive than pure whey concentrate, but costs less than pure isolate.
Anyway, the main thing to take out of this is not to lose sleep over the type of protein you are taking. Just focus on reaching your daily protein goals from quality sources, no matter whether it be whey isolate, whey concentrate, eggs, chicken, fish, lean beef, or another quality source.
Hopefully this article helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land. Information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly-structured, intelligently-crafted and well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan that's based on actual scientific principles of building muscle mass (not bro science like you'll see practically everywhere you look online).
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular mainstream bodybuilding/fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in a classroom).
To truly build that strong, ripped, lean muscular body that you want - and to not just leave it to chance and hope/pray that you'll get results - your training and eating program needs to be solid. Otherwise, you'll be wasting a ton of time in the gym for little return, which is unfortunately what happens to most guys who start hitting the gym as they eventually start spinning their wheels and getting nowhere due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of what actually works most effectively.
So the question remains, how do you ensure you're implementing an effective bulking program that will 100% get you the results you seek? You basically have three paths to take here, so choose whichever fits your situation best.
Path A: Design Your Own Effective Bulking Program (Recommended for Some Beginners & Intermediates)
If you're the patient type who also likes to know how every little detail works, and are willing to spend the time and effort necessary to study the most effective muscle building training and nutrition strategies out there right now to strategically piece together the best information that you find from credible sources to sculpt your own custom bulking program, consider the DIY path of creating your own program from scratch.
However, if you're a beginner, or intermediate lifter who hasn't been getting the results you want, you'll want to make sure that you get your advice from sources and people who understand what it's like to gain muscle starting out as a skinny hardgainer, which is a different beast compared to building muscle as a more naturally bigger guy with more favourable genetics. You also ideally want someone more experienced to look over your program just in case, because there are various things you could miss or do wrong, such as creating an imbalanced program that will lead to posture issues, muscular imbalances, or worse (injuries).
Up for the challenge? To get started planning your own muscle building program from scratch check out our full introduction to building muscle mass as a hardgainer which covers some important basic principles, strategies, and tips.
Path B: Follow A Proven Time-Tested Bulking Program (Recommended for Most Beginners)
If instead of creating your own program from scratch you'd rather follow an already-made complete program that has been proven to work for others in your shoes (ie skinny hardgainers) this is the path for you. Spending the few bucks to get your hands on a well-crafted, respected program that's specifically been designed with hardgainers in mind can really save you time and effort having to design your own program, and it ensures you don't miss out on the various important details that makes a good program.
This is what I'd recommend if you're just starting out or quite inexperienced in the gym, as you'll get off on the right foot to kick-start great results. Although this is also a smart path for intermediates, because if you've been training for a while and not getting great results, getting your hands on a fresh new program created by a natural bodybuilding expert could be the game-changer you need to spark the best results of your life. Sean Nal's Body Transformation Blueprint Program is currently the most comprehensive, polished bulking program for beginners on the market, and is the program that actually helped me the most when I first started out as a newbie so I can't recommend it highly enough if you're new and wanting to all but guarantee great results over the next few months and beyond.
There are other good premade mass gain programs out there that were created specifically (and scientifically) for hardgainers, but there's also a lot of overpriced, overly-marketed and low-quality programs that you should avoid out there so be on your toes when looking for the right program to follow to avoid wasting your money. I've personally used a ton of different programs and I compiled the best, highest-quality ones that I can comfortably recommend in my list of the best comprehensive bulking programs for hardgainers here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't going to be for everyone as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably consider if you have any type of injury or health problem, or obviously if you have the money to burn and want someone to carefully monitor what you're doing in the gym and be able to give you specific feedback.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)