It’s likely you’ve seen ON’s Gold Standard whey protein as it’s so well-known – but is it really good enough with such an affordable, mid-range price tag? Check out Ben Hardman’s Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Review for the latest low-down…
Written by: Ben Hardman
Fact Checked by: Editorial Team
Editorial Process: Our team of health and fitness professionals test each product in house. This review process is independent of the company and we always look to provide an unbiased assessment of the product in question – read our full editorial process here.
Fitness Brain is reader supported. Content may contain links and purchases made may earn us a commission. Find out more
Are you wondering if Optimum Nutrition whey protein is really worth the hype? Can Gold Standard whey genuinely support your muscle growth and fitness goals?
As someone who is committed to fitness and having tried countless protein supplements over the years, I understand the importance of making an informed decision. You don’t want to be ripped off, and you want to make sure the supplement you’re buying is effective.
I’ve bought and used ON’s Gold Standard whey protein a number of times. And the headline is this: it’s a solid, reliable and effective whey protein. It packs in plenty of benefits and not too many disadvantages. There’s a reason for its success and continued popularity.
This detailed Optimum Nutrition whey protein review will take a full look at the product, ingredient profile, macro content and who it’s ideal for. Let’s get to it.
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey Protein has long stood well respected within the protein powder arena, and quite rightly too.
It is easily available, at an affordable cost, and is suitable for anyone looking to build lean muscle mass – whatever your gender or experience level.
ON Gold Standard whey is not big on bulking. Instead it’s your reliable solution to packing the protein you need for muscle growth and recovery.
With a vegan option too and some great, mixable flavours, you can’t go too wrong with this long-standing competitor.
Overview of ON Gold Standard Whey Protein
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein is a well-renowned product. In fact, the Optimum Nutrition (ON) website says it’s ‘the world’s bestselling whey protein powder‘. Quite the accolade.
It’s certainly a popular protein powder and seemingly available everywhere. In the UK, you often see Gold Standard whey in supermarkets and the bargain shops. This ubiquitous nature does put me off a little bit. I think it cheapens the product somehow.
But that said, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey should be judged on its quality and effectiveness.
The main goal from taking a protein powder supplement is to support muscle growth – ON’s Gold Standard whey protein does this. It’s a no-nonsense protein supplement. I’ve used this protein powder a fair bit in the past and it’s always been very good.
The macronutrient content is excellent for lean growth and it comes in a range of good, tasty flavours. Serving size spans from a small 310g tub to a 4.54kg bulk bag and by today’s standards, it’s quite affordable.
All in all, I’d say that the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is a great buy for anyone looking to build lean muscle mass.
Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Ingredient Profile
The whey protein powder by Optimum Nutrition is a popular, tried-and-tested choice for recreational lifters and athletes. This comes mainly down to the good-quality ingredient profile. After all, if the ingredients don’t stack up, the product won’t stay popular for long.
When I’m buying protein powder, my go-to flavour is chocolate. So, let’s take a look at the ingredients for ON’s Double Rich Chocolate flavour:
- Whey protein blend (93%) – consisting of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, hydrolysed whey protein isolate and soy lecithin (an emulsifier)
- Fat reduced cocoa powder
- Xanthan gum (thickener)
- Sweeteners (sucralose and acesulfame K)
ON’s Gold Standard whey primarily uses whey protein isolate as its main source of protein. This is good, as isolate is one of the best forms of whey protein, containing the most amount of protein per gram. Isolate (and hydrolysed isolate) is quickly absorbed by the body, making it an efficient choice for post-workout recovery.
Alongside the whey isolate is whey concentrate. Concentrate is a cheaper form of whey protein with a slower absorption rate. In a way, it’s beneficial to have more than one type of whey protein to ensure a continuous stream of protein absorption.
You may notice that ON plug the fact that Gold Standard contains BCAAs. Branched-chain amino acids are still a bit of a buzzword and the mention will open a few people’s eyes. In reality, they’re a bit of a non-starter here.
All of the BCAAs in Gold Standard are the naturally-occurring BCAAs in whey protein – namely leucine, valine and isoleucine. These are three of the nine essential amino acids our body needs.
All nine BCAAs can be found in any complete protein source. As a supplement on their own, I think BCAAs aren’t that effective. I prefer EAAs instead.
The other ingredients in Gold Standard Whey Protein are fairly standard. The emulsifier and thickener help to create a smooth texture and the non-calorie sweeteners help with the taste, although it is possible to use too much sweetener and create that nasty, artificial flavour.
Despite the name, the Double Rich Chocolate isn’t too sweet and they’ve struck a nice balance here.
Optimum Nutrition Nutritional Facts
Ok, we’ve looked at the ingredients, but what about the nutritionals? The macronutrient content is very important as this is what will be going towards building muscle and supporting recovery.
Looking at the Double Rich Chocolate flavour again, here are the nutritional stats for ON’s Gold Standard whey protein per 1 scoop (31g) serving:
- Protein: 24g
- Carbohydrates: 1.6g per serving
- Sugars: 1.0g per serving
- Fats: 1.4g per serving
- Saturated fat: 0.5g
- Fibre: 0.7g
- Calories: 116 calories
The big three macronutrients we want to look at are protein, carbohydrates and fat.
This highly regarded whey protein supplement provides 24 grams of whey protein per serving. This is a good amount of protein and roughly the same as you get in a 160g of tuna.
If you’re looking for lean growth without the bulk, the Optimum Nutrition whey protein hits the spot. This Gold Standard whey contains only 1.6g of carbohydrates and 1.4g of fats. To all intent and purposes, this is negligible.
Overall, you’ll be taking on board 116 calories. For the amount of protein you’re taking on, this is a low calorie intake.
Taste and Mixability
In terms of taste, Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard whey is very good. I haven’t tried all of the flavours, but the Double Rich Chocolate is a firm favourite.
Optimum Nutrition offers a variety of choices to cater to different preferences. I tend to find the other gimmicky flavours, like caramel toffee fudge, far too sweet. After a couple of shakes, you quickly become sick of them.
For me, you can’t go wrong with a good chocolate flavour. Of course, personal preference prevails here.
Other Gold Standard flavours include:
- Banana cream
- Chocolate mint
- Extreme milk chocolate
- French vanilla
- Ice cream vanilla
- White chocolate raspberry
Plenty of choice to go off. The majority of other independent reviews give Gold Standard a thumbs up in terms of taste. It’s fair to say they have a lot of satisfied customers across the globe.
On to mixability. The Gold Standard protein mixes absolutely fine here, as you’d expect. The emulsifier ingredient, soy lecithin, helps with good mixing with liquids.
Depending on how many calories I want to take in and if I’m coming straight out of the gym, I tend to mix my protein powder with water or milk.
I’ve also put it into my blender when I’m making a morning smoothie. Top marks from me for Optimum Nutrition’s mixability. I’ve never had any issues.
I also like the fact that most Optimum Nutrition whey protein sizes come in a tub, rather than a resealable bag. I find the bags a bit of a pain to use. Most never zip up properly, which is annoying as you don’t want your protein powder constantly exposed to air. A tub prevents this problem, they’re easy to stack and store, plus you can reuse them or recycle them when you’re done.
Benefits of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
Being one of the most popular whey protein supplements in the world, you’d expect there to be plenty of benefits to Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard. And you’d be right.
ON’s Gold Standard packs in three different types of whey protein – isolate, concentrate and hydrolysed isolate. Each has different absorption rates, which is beneficial for funnelling protein to your muscles for recovery.
With each 31g serving, you get 24g of protein. This is a sufficient amount to help repair and grow your muscle fibres, which is the aim of the game when taking a whey protein supplement.
For lean growth, Gold Standard is low in carbs, sugars and fats. It also contains just 116 calories per serving. This is all great for those who are conscious about taking on extra and unnecessary calories.
The ingredient list is quite small. This is a benefit as it shows that Gold Standard isn’t fluffed up with filler and junk ingredients.
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard comes in a good range of flavours, which on the whole taste nice and mix well.
Key Benefits Of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein:
- Three types of whey protein for efficient protein delivery
- 24g of protein per 31g serving
- Low in carbs, sugars and fats for lean growth
- Just 116 calories per serving
- Minimal ingredient list without unnecessary fillers or junk
- Available in a variety of flavours
- Mixes well
Cons of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
Although Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein is favoured by many, there are a few downsides to consider.
Firstly, some flavours can be quite sweet. I stick to Double Chocolate, but of the flavours that sound good on the surface (I’m looking at your Cookies and cream and Caramel toffee fudge), they’re just too sweet for me. A one-off shake is fine, but when you’re taking it everyday, it becomes too much.
Optimum Nutrition is tested by third-parties to make sure the products have in them what they say they do. Interestingly, some tests have showed that Gold Standard might have slightly less protein content than what’s advertised on the packaging. Some found 21-22 grams of protein per serving, as opposed to the claimed 24 grams. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but may be important for some people to know about.
Being derived from whey protein, which comes from milk, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey protein isn’t suitable for those with a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy. Of course, it’s not suitable for vegans.
However, Optimum Nutrition do offer a Gold Standard plant-based protein option, which is a great shout to cater for this market with a high-quality product.
Lastly, the product’s cost needs to be taken into account. Gold Standard isn’t cheap, but it’s not at the expensive end either. With today’s prices, it’s reasonable and sits somewhere in the middle.
Summary Of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard cons:
- Some flavours can be too sweet
- Actual protein content might be slightly lower than advertised (around 21-22g vs 24g)
- Not suitable for those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies – plant-based Gold Standard version is available
- Mid-range cost
Comparison with Other Whey Proteins
Ok, so Gold Standard is pretty good in its own right, but how does it compare to a couple of other whey protein powders?
I’ve recently been enjoying the 100% Tri-Protein powder from Crazy Nutrition, so I decided to compare the macros. There’s almost no difference between the two.
With the Tri-Protein, per 1 scoop serving you’re getting 23g protein, 1.9g of carbs, 0.9g fats and 111 calories. This is versus 24g of protein, 1.6g of carbs, 1.4g fats and 116 calories of ON Gold Standard. In my view, both of these protein powders stack up very well from a macronutrient perspective.
Like Gold Standard, the Tri-Protein formula also contains more than one type of protein. However, I think Tri-Protein has a better blend: whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, hydrolysed isolate and micellar casein.
For me, the Tri-Protein has a better taste and shades it overall.
I then compared Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein to Myprotein’s Impact Whey Protein, another product I’ve used many times over the years.
With Myprotein’s Impact (chocolate smooth flavour), you get 19g of protein, 1.9g of carbs, 1.9g of fat and 100 calories. Again, not too much in it but slightly less protein content. With the Impact Whey you only get whey protein concentrate and no other forms of protein. Even more, Myprotein’s Impact is significantly more expensive than Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard.
Who Is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein suited for?
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein is well-suited for anyone who engages in regular resistance training.
Whether you’re training at home or in the gym, lifting weights and taking part in strength training breaks down muscle fibres. Having a protein-rich diet has been scientifically proven to benefit muscle growth and recovery.
ON’s Gold Standard is a good entry-level protein powder. Equally, it’s just as good for experienced lifters. This is because it contains good-quality protein and not much else.
There are no secret ingredients or latest fads here, just a good macronutrient profile for lean growth. With its low calorie content, Gold Standard 100% Whey will fit into a variety of diet plans without compromising your nutritional goals.
Women or men, Gold Standard protein can support your fitness goals and is a great option for those who want a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
I’d say Gold Standard isn’t suitable for those looking to bulk up. Per serving, this whey protein only contains 116 calories. Good if you’re cutting, but not good for bulking. For putting on more muscle, you’re better off with a mass gainer.
For example, the Gold Standard Gainer contains 55g of protein per serving and 771 calories. One step further, the Serious Mass blend from Optimum Nutrition contains 50g of protein, 250g of carbs and a whopping 1,250 calories!
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey has been highly praised across various fitness communities and around the world.
It has a good-quality nutritional profile, tastes good, and it’s reasonably affordable. I’d say it’s a very reliable choice as a whey protein supplement to support lean muscle growth.
In terms of flavour, my preference is the Double Rich Chocolate. This isn’t overly sweet and mixes perfectly with milk and water. It also tastes particularly good with my breakfast smoothie of oats, banana and a dash of cinnamon.
In truth, there aren’t many downsides to Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard. It gets the seal of approval from me.