Canstar Blue’s 2019 review of protein supplements has seen Bulk Nutrients, Optimum Nutrition, Aussie Bodies, Musashi, Nature’s Way, Sustagen, ALDI, BSC, and Celebrity Slim rated on customer satisfaction.
When it comes to hitting the gym, and working out, what you put into your body could have more of an impact than how much weight you’re throwing around, or how many kilometres you’re running on the treadmill. But as many of us know, it can be tough to eat healthily, with plenty of fast food options and office snacks lying in wait to undo all your hard work. In addition, understanding nutrition can be a tricky business, with finding the right balance enough to frustrate even fitness professionals.
Regardless of how familiar you are with the fitness industry, most will know that protein is often the key to getting your dream body, with the macronutrient playing a big role in building muscles and strength. And while foods including chicken and nuts can be easy to prepare, fitting in another meal isn’t always a viable option, particularly if you lead a busy life outside the gym. As a result, supplements have become a gym kit essential for many, whether it’s protein bars or powder for shakes.
While protein supplements can be convenient when you have one you like, finding the right brand in the first place is the tricky part, with the market bulging at the seams. It almost needs a whole supermarket aisle to itself these days. That’s why Canstar Blue produces an annual review of protein supplements, to find out which are rated best by the people who use them.
This year, we surveyed over 1,000 Australian adults about the protein supplements they buy, with Bulk Nutrients retaining its place at the top of the table, scoring five stars for effectiveness, value for money, variety of flavours, as well as overall satisfaction. Read on for all the details.
Canstar Blue’s 2019 protein supplements review saw nine brands compared and rated in the following order for overall customer satisfaction:
Optimum Nutrition, Aussie Bodies, Musashi, Nature’s Way, Sustagen and ALDI were all rated four stars for overall satisfaction, with BSC and Celebrity Slim rated three stars. Despite plenty of brands looking to flex their muscles, only Bulk Nutrients and Optimum Nutrition scored five-star results this year, meaning some brands still have some areas to bulk up on, according to the Australians we surveyed.
Protein supplements are essentially an easier, and more effective way, to get more protein into your diet. Protein is essential to helping your body function, keeping your muscles strong as well as increasing muscle mass, and is a key ingredient for many looking to get fitter, stronger or a mixture of both, (provided you put in the work).
As an artificial means of getting protein into your diet, protein supplements are able to supply higher intakes of protein than other foods, often without additional carbohydrates and fats. For example, a 31g serving of Optimal Nutrition 100% Whey (Vanilla) protein powder includes 24g of protein, 1g of fat and 4g of carbohydrates – which equals to 120 calories per serving. In comparison, a 100g serving size of chicken breast will include 31g of protein, 3.6g of fats and 0g of carbohydrates, equating to a calorie intake of 165, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). To further put protein supplements into perspective, the USDA also outlines a 100g grilled rib eye steak includes 24g of protein, 22g of fats and 0g of carbohydrates, which is 291 calories per serving.
So when you add it up, Optimal Nutrition’s 100% Whey packs more of a protein punch (and less of a fats hit) than meat at a smaller serving size, meaning that it can be a useful option for those who don’t have time – or the stomach – for a full meal, or are looking for something that is full of protein without all the extras. While it may be hard to convince some to swap a juicy steak for a protein shake, if you’re looking to bump up your protein intake, it may be worth looking into.
While a bodybuilder with a protein shake may be the first thing you think of when it comes to protein supplements, there are a number of options readily available for those looking to get a protein hit in, including ready-made drinks, protein bars as well as other snacks such as protein balls or other sweets. We asked our survey respondents what supplement type they last bought, with the results below:
While we’d all have our preferences for how we get our protein fix, if you’re on the fence about which brand to pick up the next time you’re in need, read on to find out what each brand has available.
Bulk Nutrients is an Australian-owned and operated business, offering local gym-goers a wide variety of protein supplements, in addition to other products such as amino acids and pre-workout and weight loss shakes for all your fitness needs, all available online through its website. For those after protein powder, Bulk Nutrients provides a wide variety of flavours and sizes to suit your needs and tastes, regardless of whether you’re new to protein supplements or no stranger to the industry. If you’re constantly on the move, Bulk Nutrients also has you covered with travel packs, making it easier to squeeze in a workout on the go.
Other protein supplement options include whey, muscle food mass gainer, and Protein Matrix +, which includes BCAAs for extra recovery. Available in a number of traditional flavours like vanilla, chocolate and banana, Bulk Nutrients also provides flavours such as peppermint slice and choc honeycomb if you’re looking to satisfy those sweet food cravings. Bulk Nutrients protein are available in 1kg up to 20kg packets, handy for those visiting the gym for the first time, as well as those who live for the gym.
In addition to traditional protein supplements, Bulk Nutrients also offers vegan and vegetarian options for consumers, including hemp, rice, pea and soy protein types. All are available between 1kg and 10kg sizes, with ingredients and recipe ideas listed on the brand’s website. Bulk Nutrients additionally offers packet mix protein pancakes, oats and beverages, making meal time easier for those looking to bulk up.
One of the most recognisable protein supplement brands worldwide, Optimum Nutrition is a popular option for both the fitness beginner and competitive bodybuilder. With its wide selection of products, including its Gold Standard Whey, Casein, BCAAs, pre-workout and multivitamins, Optimum Nutrition may be worth checking out if you’re looking to make a lifestyle change.
Available in small 500g tubs up to 5kg packets, Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey comes in classic flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, as well as flavours like cookies and cream, rocky road and birthday cake for those looking for a post-workout treat. If you’re looking for something that packs a bit more of a punch than the Gold Standard, Optimum Nutrition offers Hyrdrolised Whey, which contains a purer form of Whey protein with less fats.
In addition to the traditional Whey protein supplements, Optimum Nutrition also provides Casein protein for a more recovery-focussed protein hit, plus plenty of snacks to ensure you’re getting that protein intake while satisfying your sweet tooth. While a bit more expensive than most other brands, Optimum Nutrition offers enough options and varieties to suit all types of gym-goers, available at all major supplement stores and online retailers.
Aussie Bodies’ range has grown to include a variety of supplement products, including bars, powders and ready-to-go shakes for all fitness types. Available at major supermarkets and pharmacies, Aussie Bodies may be an option worth checking out, regardless of your fitness level.
Aussie Bodies’ protein powder range includes a number of products, including the Perfect Protein range, plus 100% WHEY protein. Aussie Bodies additionally offers plant protein and collagen + protein, ideal if you have specific needs. While it may not provide a wide variety of flavours, the Aussie Bodies protein powder is available in 375g, 400g and 3kg tubs, depending on the retailer and specific product.
For a quick on-the-go alternative, Aussie Bodies also provides 375ml shakes, available in the Lo Carb, Perfect Protein and Protein Revival ranges. Including a number of flavours, such as classic chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, shakes are available for individual purchase.
In addition to the protein powders and shakes, Aussie Bodies offers protein bars, which includes the Protein FX, HPLC and Lo Carb varieties. Available in packs and for individual purchase, Aussie Bodies’ bars come in a variety of flavours, including choc caramel, rocky road, peanut butter and the traditional chocolate. The FX and HPLC may better suit regular gym-goers, while the Lo Carb bar could be better suited for the casual fitness type, or those looking for cut down on unhealthy snacking.
Musashi offers consumers a wide variety of protein products, including powders, bars and drinks for your fitness needs, with the company also offering meal plans and training tips on its website. One of the more well-known brands available, you can pick up Musashi supplements at select supermarkets and health food stores.
Regardless of your training and body goals, Musashi will likely have you covered when it comes to protein supplements, with its range of powders covering low-carb, mass gainers and 100% whey varieties. These are available in up to 3kg tubs, with Musashi offering a number of flavours per product, including classics such as chocolate and vanilla, plus additional flavours such as mocha, choc mint and banana smoothie on select powders.
Similar to the powders, Musashi’s protein bars are available in both low-carb and mass gainer varieties, helping you meet your protein intake regardless of which diet you’re following. Predominantly available for single purchase, Musashi does offer 12-pack options at select retailers. 375ml drinks are additionally available for those on the go, with flavours including chocolate, iced coffee and creamy vanilla, each providing 30g of protein per hit, available in single purchase or pack of six.
Known for its range of multivitamins and using natural ingredients, Nature’s Way has also diversified into the protein supplement market, offering a number of options, including vegan products and supplements with additional benefits claimed, including a collagen boost for healthy skin and hair.
Available for purchase online or at local supermarkets and pharmacies, the Nature’s Way protein range includes Hemp protein, Instant Natural Protein and specialised proteins like protein with super greens or protein with additional magnesium. Each is predominantly made out of plant-based proteins, making them an ideal option for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet, with ingredients listed on the website.
Available in tubs ranging between 168g and 375g, Nature’s Way might not be the best brand for you if you’re looking to stock up at the checkout, but may be worthwhile if you’re looking to incorporate more protein into your regular diet.
Operating under the Nestle brand, Sustagen offers consumers a variety of products to help make sure you’re meeting your intake of vitamins and minerals. Its line-up features the Sport range, which includes a higher level of protein for those regularly hitting the gym or playing sport. While it may not provide as high a protein pack as other brands, Sustagen may be better suited for those just starting at the gym, or for growing kids.
The Sports range includes flavours including chocolate and vanilla, with both flavours coming in a 900g tub. Sustagen is widely available at most supermarkets and pharmacies, with the products also available online through the Sustagen website.
Regardless of what you’re shopping for, ALDI seems to always come up with the goods, with protein supplements no exception. For your protein hit, ALDI offers the Slim and Trim range, which includes powders and bars, although the range and flavours will be dependent on which store you visit.
One of the more affordable ranges on offer, you can pick up either a bar or individual powder sachets at ALDI and can expect an 18g protein hit from the 55g powder, with 15g protein intake from a 55g bar.
Another Australian company, BSC – otherwise known as Body Science – offers a wide variety of products for those keen on their fitness, including compression clothing, as well as protein supplements. Available for purchase via its website, BSC is also on offer at supplement stores and major pharmacies.
BSC provides plenty of protein powders, including Lean Muscle, Low Carb, Whey Isolate, as well as a vegan protein option, giving shoppers plenty to choose from. Available in tubs of up to 3kg, BSC offers flavours such as vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter and espresso on select powders, with each powder gluten free.
For those looking for a quick option on the go, BSC offers a 450ml Muscle Protein Shake, available in flavours including chocolate, banana and espresso, with the shakes containing no artificial flavours or colouring, as well as being gluten and GMO free. In addition to protein shakes and powders, BSC offers a number of protein bars and balls to help those who are prone to snacking, or are simply looking for an extra protein boost. BSC’s protein bars are available in packets of 12, with protein balls available in packets of eight or 10 via the website, ensuring you have enough to get you through your workouts.
While primarily a weight loss program, Celebrity Slim offers a number of supplements that can help increase your overall protein intake. Offering a variety of shakes and bars, Celebrity Slim’s products are primarily available online via its website, and generally come in packs to have you sorted for the week.
Shake flavours include café latte, chocolate, vanilla and a number of low-sugar or low-carb options if you’re looking to cut down on the sweet stuff. You can also sift through Celebrity Slim’s range by key features, including high protein options, as well as vegan, gluten free and dairy free alternatives to suit all eating habits and lifestyles. If you’re looking for a snack, you can also pick up a 12-pack of choc chip meal bars, which include almost 16g of protein per 55g serving.
Similar to carbs, protein has four calories per gram, while fat has nine calories per gram. That’s why you will have to keep an eye out for what your protein supplement is made of, because you don’t want to be filling up on something that doesn’t help you reach your body goal!
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) has slightly less protein content per 30g, but is a more densely-packed form of protein, allowing more powder per scoop. Other vegetarian and vegan-friendly proteins, such as pea or hemp proteins, are generally lower in protein content again, at around 15-20g per 30g scoop.
Similarly, protein bars can also vary, although are generally between 10-15g per 60g bar, although some have as much as 25g.
To get the best bang for your buck, your protein supplement should ideally have as much protein per serving as possible, while being low in carbs and fats, although this will also be dependent on what you want out of your protein supplement, as you may not mind having a few extra carbs to fuel a big gym session.
How much protein you should be having is a big topic of debate, with plenty of people weighing in with their opinions. At the end of the day, how much protein you should have in your diet will ultimately come down to how active your lifestyle is, what your body goals are, as well as a number of individual factors. So, while the big dog at your gym may recommend a certain amount of protein, if you’re only just starting out in the weights section, chances are you’ll need a different amount.
According to studies published within the CSIRO Protein Report, protein intakes vary depending on lifestyles, with 0.8g of protein per kilo of bodyweight recommended for those with sedentary lifestyles, while 1.6g per kilo is recommended for those with highly-active lifestyles, or those who require higher protein intakes. Similarly, if you’re looking to bulk up (i.e. put on muscle and body mass) then increasing your protein intake will be the first step.
If you’re not 100% sure about how much protein you should be adding to your meals, it’s always best to consult your GP or a medical professional before embarking on a new health kick.
With protein playing an important role in building and maintaining muscle, the more you have the better, right? Potentially not. While many bodybuilders swear by high-protein intakes – and seemingly have the bodies to prove it – there is evidence, such as a study published by the Medicine National Institute of Health, that indicates high protein diets can put unnecessary pressure on the kidneys and liver, although another study published by the same institute, outlines that how much protein is too much protein will depend on the individual.
If you’re worried about how much protein you should be getting in your diet, it may be worth consulting with your GP, or a nutritional expert before beefing up your diet.
While most of your focus will be on whether or not your protein supplement works, swigging down something that doesn’t taste great makes getting your protein intake a lot harder than it needs to be. Thankfully, most brands offer a wide variety of flavours to entice you, with some sticking to the classic chocolate or vanilla flavours, while others are more adventurous with flavours, such as ‘birthday cake’ available as an after-gym treat.
But which flavour do Australians prefer? We asked our survey respondents what their favourite flavour of protein supplements is, with the classic flavours coming out on top:
Getting to the gym on a consistent basis can be tough, especially when life gets busy. So, if you’ve missed the gym, is that tub of protein powder you bought ages ago still good to take? While it doesn’t expire or go off like other foods do, protein powder can lose its effectiveness over time in a process known as Maillard Browning, which is when protein reacts with left over sugar from when the Whey protein is extracted from milk.
The best way to tell if your protein powder has lost its edge is to taste test. So, if you’re triple choc protein powder tastes closer to cardboard than chocolate, it might be time to throw it out and stock up some new supplements. If you’re not willing to taste test, most supplements will also have an expiry date for you to keep an eye on.
There’s a lot more to a protein supplement than simply how much protein it’s packing, with the levels of fat, carbs and ingredients also important to consider before you hand over your hard-earned money. In addition to taste and texture, factors such as price and even how easily you can get your hands on each particular brand will also influence which supplement you go with. And while the beast in your gym may recommend a certain brand, it may not be the best fit for you as you may have different body goals, as well as require different intake levels, meaning there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
Ultimately, which protein type and supplement brand you choose will be your own personal decision, but researching what’s out there, and looking into the nutritional information of each product, can help ensure you see results you want before summer comes around.
Photo Credit: Syda Productions/shutterstock.com, Monkey Business Images/shutterstock.com, NatalyaBond/shutterstock.com, George Rudy/shutterstock.com, PICADORPICTURES/shutterstock.com, lakov Filimonov/shutterstock.com, Elnur/shutterstock.com
Our latest customer satisfaction research on protein supplements saw a number of brands rated best in different categories:
Canstar Blue surveyed 6,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased and consumed a protein supplement in the last 6 months (Note: this includes protein shakes/powder/whey and protein bars/balls that are designed to supplement a regular diet, NOT be a meal replacement) – in this case, 1,085 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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