Gold Standard Whey Protein Review: Is the Best-Selling Protein Superior?

Gold Standard Whey Protein Review: Is the Best-Selling Protein Superior?

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Gold Standard Whey is one of the most popular supplements sold by Optimum Nutrition. This protein is available in nearly every major retailer in the US, and the brand claims it’s “The World’s Best-Selling Whey Protein Powder.”

But does Gold Standard Whey contain an effective protein dose? Does it have any unhealthy additives? How does the price compare to other popular whey protein powders? And how do real users rate and describe Gold Standard Whey?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Gold Standard Whey based on medical studies to give our take on whether or not it provides an effective protein dose and whether or not it’s healthy.

We’ll highlight some questionable additive ingredients, feature unsponsored customer reviews and provide a cost comparison to show both how the price-per-serving of Gold Standard Whey stacks up to other brands, and which retailer sells Gold Standard Whey for the best price.

Ingredient Analysis

Optimum Nutrition Banana Cream ingredients

The ingredients in the Banana Cream flavor of Gold Standard Whey are shown above.

Protein Blend is the most important ingredient, and Gold Standard Whey provides 24 (g) of protein per serving.

A medical review on protein supplementation for muscle growth concludes that “...20-25 g of a high-quality protein maximizes the response of [muscle protein synthesis] following resistance exercise,” so we consider Gold Standard to provide an effective protein dose.

Beyond the active ingredient (protein), this supplement contains a surprising number of additives that may be questionable from a health perspective.

Natural and artificial flavor is included, and artificial flavorings were shown to be toxic (at least to animals) in a clinical trial published in the Toxicology and Industrial Health journal.

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that’s clinically shown to have negative effects on inulin function, as we documented in our Body Fortress Whey Protein reviews article.

Acesulfame potassium is another artificial sweetener that was shown in animal studies to disrupt gut function.

Yellow 5 is an artificial colorant, and a 2012 medical review found that some synthetic food dyes could cause cancer and could damage DNA.

Overall, we consider Gold Standard Whey Protein likely to support muscle growth due to its effective protein dose, but we do not currently recommend this brand due to the myriad questionable additives it contains.

In our opinion, this is one of the least healthy protein powders we’ve reviewed to date on Illuminate Health.

But how does its price stack up to other popular brands? We’ll answer that question in the next section of this article.

Is Gold Standard Whey Affordable?

Protein powders are sold at a wide variety of different serving sizes and protein doses, so to simplify our comparison, we’ll break down the cost per-gram of protein from Gold Standard and other popular brands, at the time of publishing this article:

Vega Protein Powder: $0.11

Orgain Protein Powder: $0.09

Ghost Protein Powder: $0.07

Gold Standard Whey: $0.05

Gold Standard Whey outperforms on price, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. This product is available for purchase in large tubs, and buying in bulk typically allows for cost savings.

Real People Try Gold Standard Whey

A YouTube creator named “ImChillToo” has a video testing Gold Standard Whey that has over 100,000 views:

A YouTube creator named Gabriel Duncan has a video sharing his experience taking Gold Standard Whey where he suggests the brand is a good choice for muscle gain and fat loss:

Where to Buy Gold Standard for the Best Price

Gold Standard Whey is sold at a large number of online retailers. Here’s a price breakdown for the 73-serving version at the time of publishing this article:

Brand website: $85.99 (free shipping, link)

Walmart: $84.99 (third-party seller, link)

GNC: $84.99 (free shipping, link)

Amazon: $75.95 (free shipping, link to official Amazon listing)

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is currently 12% cheaper on Amazon than on the brand’s website.

Impressive Third-Party Test Results

One major plus of Gold Standard Whey is that this protein brand has passed multiple different types of third-party testing.

ConsumerLab, which is an independent testing organization that we trust, tested the heavy metals in Gold Standard Whey and gave the brand a passing grade.

This whey protein powder has also been Informed Choice Certified for nearly 10 years, and this testing process ensures that the finished product contains no banned substances (like steroids).

As we documented in our 310 Nutrition reviews article, some popular protein supplements have been found to be high in lead, so all things being equal, a tested and certified product in this category is safer than an untested product.

While we don’t recommend Gold Standard for regular consumers, these test results may make the brand a good choice for elite athletes or any group that gets professionally drug-tested for steroids.

Our Clean Protein Picks

Bulletproof Collagen Protein is our top overall protein powder pick, and costs only $1.32 per serving at the time of updating this article.

The main reason is its formulation: Bulletproof's protein powder only contains one single ingredient: collagen protein sourced from grass-fed animals.

As the core structural protein in skin, supplemental collagen is clinically shown to reduce visible signs of skin aging like wrinkles, which is a secondary benefit not offered by other types of protein like whey protein.

Promix Whey Protein is our top whey protein powder, and costs only $0.93 per serving at the time of updating this article when you purchase the 5 pound bag.

This brand uses grass-fed whey protein and no sweeteners or flavoring additives. Whey protein is a "complete" protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

Complement Organic Protein is our top vegan protein powder.

The only ingredients in this protein powder are a blend of nutritious plant proteins: organic yellow pea protein, organic pumpkin seed protein, organic almond protein, organic sunflower seed protein and organic chia seed protein.

All three of the products mentioned in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy or unsafe.

Real Customers Review Gold Standard

Amazon is a better resource for honest customer reviews than a brand’s website in our opinion.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey has been reviewed over 215,000 times on Amazon with an average review rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

The top positive review from a verified purchaser comes from a user named “Andrei” who gives the product a 5/5 star rating and likes the taste and product effects:

“it has also helped me achieve my fitness goals. My muscles feel more toned, and I have noticed a significant increase in my energy levels during workouts. The taste is great, and it blends smoothly into my shakes without any clumps.”

The top negative review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named “Gary Sites” who dislikes the taste:

“I've been using protein powders consistently for 45 years, and this powder is in the top 3 of the worst I've ever tried. The double chocolate flavor doesn't even taste like chocolate. Put it in water, and it tastes like dirt water.”

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey has a review rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Google.

Pros and Cons of Gold Standard

Here are the pros and cons of Gold Standard Whey in our opinion:


  • Effective protein dose
  • Great price
  • Highly positive online customer reviews
  • Third-party tested
  • May be good choice for athletes who are steroid-tested


  • Contains artificial sweeteners
  • Some flavors contain artificial color
  • Contains artificial flavor
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


Gold Standard Whey is one of the leading protein powders on the market, but isn’t a brand we currently recommend.

While this product provides an effective dose of protein for building muscle, it contains a range of questionable additives including artificial flavors and artificial sweeteners.

Consuming protein powder that's free of these additives would be a healthier choice in our opinion.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is one of the most cost-effective protein powders on the market on a per-gram-of-protein basis. It’s twice as cheap as some other popular brands at the time of publishing this article.

Online customer reviews of this product are highly favorable.

Gold Standard Whey has passed both ConsumerLab and Informed Choice third-party testing, which ensures this supplement has low or non-existent heavy metals levels, and that it’s free of steroids. That makes this product potentially a good choice for athletes who get drug tested.