Gold Standard Whey Protein Review: The “Most Famous” Brand

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As a supplement store manager, personal trainer, and writer, I have tested more than 50 different protein brands and types in my career. 

Working in the supplement industry for the past decade, I’ve seen a lot of turnover as far as brands coming and going and products dying out. 

But there is one product that has stood the test of time and proven itself over every single other brand and product in my store: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein. 

It has become a product that, as a store manager, we don’t have to advertise at all. The product literally sells itself due to its prominent brand recognition. 

While it’s not the best product we’ve reviewed as far as taste, mixability, and overall protein content, it’s a high-quality product that is definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for a protein powder.

Top Reasons Why

  • It’s available in a wide variety of flavours (18 flavours plus 3 naturally flavoured options) making it likely you’ll find one you like
  • It is reasonably priced, ranging from $1.00 to $1.10 per serving (average cost per serving in the industry across all whey proteins is $1.34)
  • It is Informed Choice Certified, meaning it undergoes additional testing for quality and purity standards

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Gold Standard Whey Protein

Overview

  • Each raw ingredient is tested to ensure product quality, and the company receives a Certificate of Analysis for each one

Features

  • Available in 18 different flavors
  • Uses a blend of whey isolate and whey concentrate
  • Below average price for whey

Best For

  • Someone looking for an “any time of day” protein
  • Someone on a budget

About Optimum Nutrition 

The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Protein tubs are some of the most recognizable tubs in the industry. 

Their overall look and aesthetic hasn’t changed much in the past 10 to 15 years at least. (This is possibly longer, but I’ve been in the industry for nearly eleven years now and the aesthetic of the products hasn’t changed in my time).

old tubs vs new look of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Protein
The old tubs (left) vs the new look – Incredibly similar!

Aside from some changes in labeling standards over the years, the product has looked virtually the same all the way through. 

This has been great for the brand, as it has created a lot of brand recognition. When customers walk into my store for the first time shopping for protein powder, they often point out the Gold Standard Whey tubs and say things like ““Oh! I recognize that one from online, I’ll take that”. 

Optimum Nutrition was founded in 1986 and prides itself in being a front-runner for its commitment to quality and innovation. 

Their flagship product, and our topic of discussion today, Gold Standard Whey is now sold in more than 130 countries and has seen over 40 different flavor varieties in the past 36 years. 

To ensure product quality, each raw ingredient is tested and the company receives a Certificate of Analysis for each one (Note that these are not available for public knowledge like the Transparent Lab Whey Protein certificates are). 

The plant is cGMP certified and is Sport and Informed Choice registered. This means that the products all undergo more vigorous testing for quality and purity to ensure that they are safe for elite athletes who participate in drug-tested sports. 

Overall this all means that you can be more confident that you are consuming a high-quality product whose ingredients match the label claims. 

Gold Standard Whey Protein

Gold Standard Whey Protein

ON Gold Standard Whey uses a blend of whey isolate, whey concentrate, and whey peptides. It’s available in a wide variety of flavors making it likely you’ll find one you like.

Overview of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder 

ON Gold Standard Whey uses a blend of whey isolate, whey concentrate, and whey peptides. 

Whey isolate is your fast-digesting protein, and is found in the highest quantity. Whey concentrate is a slightly slower digesting protein and is the source of the small number of carbs and fats found in the formula. 

The ones found in the smallest concentration, whey peptides, are amino acids (the building blocks that make up protein) that are isolated from longer whey protein chains, and have potential immune-boosting properties, heart health benefits, and may improve the rate of muscle growth.

macronutrient breakdown of Gold Standard Whey Protein

The macronutrient breakdown of Gold Standard Whey Protein is: 

  • Protein: 24g  
  • Carbohydrates:  3g
  • Fat:  1.5g
  • Sugar: 1g

With approximately 120 calories per scoop, ON Gold Standard Whey offers around 80% protein per scoop. 

By Feastgood standards, this puts Gold Standard Whey in the “good, not great”, category. (For us, great quality proteins start at 85% protein per scoop). 

There are definitely higher protein options, like the Transparent Labs Isolate – 93% protein per scoop (click to read my review) but we’ve also seen some that have been significantly lower, like Muscletech at 57%

There is a lot of disparity between the quality and number of additional ingredients found in the Gold Standard formula depending on flavor. 

They all use two sources of artificial flavors (sucralose and acesulfame-potassium) and a few ingredients to keep the product shelf stable (like sunflower lecithin, which is common among all protein powders)

One thing that stood out that I didn’t like was the use of artificial food dyes in some of the flavors. Banana for instance has yellow 5, and Delicious Strawberry and Strawberry Banana have Red 40. 

Both of those dyes have been found to have been contaminated with cancer-causing agents and the cause of hypersensitivity reactions. 

Both of those dyes, though, are also approved by the FDA, so ultimately it is up to you whether you choose to include them in your diet or not. Ultimately for me, they don’t add anything functional to the product so I find it a waste to include them. 

Looking on the website, some of the ingredient labels included lactase, which is the enzyme needed to break down lactose. I consider this a positive aspect of protein blends because it helps people who otherwise might have a dairy sensitivity be able to tolerate the product. 

However, lactase wasn’t listed as an ingredient across all of the flavors (based on the US Optimum Nutrition Website). For instance, Vanilla Ice Cream listed lactase in its ingredients, whereas Double Rich Chocolate didn’t. 

When I looked at the flavors I had in stock in my store, of the 9 available flavors, only 2 (Vanilla Ice Cream and Mocha Cappuccino) had lactose in their formula. I’ve been testing the Double Rich Chocolate and noticed some digestive upset, and this might explain why (I have a small dairy sensitivity). 

Highlights: What I Liked About Gold Standard Whey Protein

Pros vs Cons of taking Gold Standard Whey Protein

Variety of Flavors

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is available in 18 different flavors plus 3 naturally flavored options. 

With so many flavors to choose from, it’s likely that nearly all consumers will find a flavor that appeals to them. 

They have traditional flavors like chocolate and vanilla and fruity options including strawberry, strawberry banana, and banana. 

They’ve also got some more unique flavors like mocha cappuccino, rocky road, white chocolate, and chocolate coconut. 

I found that the flavors weren’t too sweet, which will be a pro or a con depending on your personal preference. 

Versatile

Gold Standard Whey uses a blend of whey isolate and whey concentrate. The combination of both fast and medium-release protein makes it a good option post-workout or any time of day. 

Whey isolates are typically the preferred protein source for post-workout because they break down quickly and the body is able to use the amino acids to enhance recovery. 

The potential downside to an isolate is that because they digest quickly, they’re not great for feelings of fullness and satiety. 

With the addition of whey concentrate to their formula, you get both post-workout recovery as well as slightly more prolonged satiety, making it a great protein for any time of day. 

Cost

Gold Standard Whey is available for $1.00-$1.10 per serving on average. For 24g of protein, this is a great deal. 

If you buy the smallest available size (2lb), the cost does go up a bit more to $1.55 per serving. If you are able to invest in the 5lb or 10lb (75-150 serving) containers, the cost comes down to $1.00-$1.10 per serving. 

For comparison, Rule 1 protein which offers a similar blend (whey isolate and concentrate) and the same 24g of protein per scoop costs $1.30 to $1.66 per serving. 

Drawbacks: What I Didn’t Like About Gold Standard Whey Protein

Mixability

Gold Standard Whey mixed up quite thin and usually had small leftover clumps and residue on the side of the cup. 

Whether you like your protein thick or thin is definitely a personal preference. However, I did often find that there was residue left over on the side of my shakers. 

The clumps weren’t massive in the sense that they made me want to not drink the protein, but the product left an overall feeling of “grittiness” in my mouth whether mixed with water or milk. 

Digestibility (& label inconsistencies)

Only some of the flavors contain lactase, so this product might be reactive for people with milk and dairy sensitivities.

I genuinely thought I was losing my mind when I was trying to figure out which flavors had lactase in their formula. In my store, only 2 flavors (vanilla ice cream and mocha cappuccino) listed lactase in their formulas. 

On the Optimum Nutrition website, they displayed different labels for the same flavor and some of those labels contained lactase, while others didn’t. 

Optimum Nutrition website displayed different labels for the same flavor

For example, here is the label for vanilla ice cream. The label on the left is for the 2lb tub of powder, the one on the right is for the individual stick packets of the same protein. The powder is listed as having lactase, but the stick packets do not. 

Optimum Nutrition chocolate coconut nutrition labels

Here is the information from Amazon.com (left) and the Optimum Nutrition website (right). Both are for the 71-serving container of chocolate coconut. The Amazon label does not state lactase as an ingredient, but the optimum nutrition website does. 

So, to be honest, I am not really sure how to make a recommendation here for anyone with lactose sensitivities except to double-check your label. 

I found my personal digestibility to be really hit or miss. Some days I felt fine, other days I felt a bit nauseous after taking it. 

My most common use was post-workout on an empty stomach, which may have been the biggest contributing factor to my nausea. 

Taste

Despite being available in a wide variety of flavors, the flavors did seem a bit bland.

This is definitely a subjective experience, but I found the taste overall to be quite watered down/bland. 

The taste of the protein definitely wasn’t bad per se, but I found that when I went to take my post-workout protein, I was gravitating towards wanting other products that I had available versus this one that I was supposed to be testing. 

Gold Standard Whey Protein Review: My Experience

Gold Standard Whey Protein user experience

Overall, Gold Standard is a good, versatile, and price-friendly option. 

The cost analysis may be different depending on where you are located. Right now in my store, for instance, the cost of Optimum Nutrition Whey has gone up so drastically that it’s now more expensive than our highest-quality isolates. I haven’t seen this happen in other places, yet, and I am not sure about international markets. 

I definitely enjoyed the taste of some of the other protein powders better (like Ghost and Transparent labs) but I did appreciate the wide variety of flavors available. 

If I were to integrate this into my daily routine long-term, I would be most likely to choose unique flavors like white chocolate or mocha cappuccino for post-workout options, and keep the simpler flavors like vanilla and chocolate for smoothies and baking. 

I also made a really delicious protein hot chocolate with the double rich chocolate flavor! I used one scoop of protein with ½ cup of milk and ½ cup of water, then slowly warmed it up. (If you warm it up too quickly, the protein will curdle, and trust me – that’s not a pleasant experience).

Gold Standard Whey Protein hot chocolate

I recommend either slowly warming it up on the stovetop, or microwaving 10-15 seconds at a time. 

Coming back to the issue with nutrition labels. This disparity between flavors and labels really turned me off of the product. 

I carelessly saw that the vanilla ice cream flavor had lactase and didn’t even bother checking the ingredients in the chocolate until I was a few days into testing and wasn’t feeling great. I wrongfully assumed that all flavors had lactase in them. 

The fact that I was using double-rich chocolate (which doesn’t have lactase) after my workouts on an empty stomach could definitely explain why I was feeling nauseous and bloated. 

How Does Gold Standard Whey Stack Up Against Our Criteria For Whey Protein

Gold Standard Whey Protein

At FeastGood, we have 8 different criteria for ranking whey protein powders.  Here’s how Gold Standard Whey Whey Protein stacked up:

Nutrition Label Transparency 

Our rating: 2/5

There were inconsistencies in the ingredients and labels depending on which site we looked at and which flavor we chose.

Some flavors contained the lactase enzyme to help break down the lactose and make it more tolerable for people with dairy allergies, and other flavors didn’t. 

We also found that on different websites, there were different ingredient lists for the same product. 

Furthermore, their newer label designs don’t include the exact amounts of ingredients like artificial sweeteners, which their older labels did. We consider this a step backward as far as being upfront and honest with consumers. 

old ingredient label
Old Label
New Label

The first image (left) shows their old ingredient label which clearly indicates the amount of acesulfame potassium and sucralose (artificial sweeteners) in their product. The image on the right is their newer label which doesn’t disclose these amounts. 

Fat Content Transparency 

Our rating: 5/5

There’s nothing to hide or report here. The nutrition label clearly states how many grams of fat per serving is in their product. 

Effective Ingredients 

Our rating: 3/5

They use a blend of whey isolate and concentrate making it a good multi-purpose protein powder. Some flavors (the fruity ones) use food coloring additives which have potential health risks and don’t provide any functional benefit to the formula. 

There’s a possibility that artificial food colors like Red 40 and Yellow 5 have detrimental health effects. Most notably, it seems that they have an effect on increasing hyperactivity and irritability in children (and potentially college students) with neurodivergence like ADHD. 

Protein Percent of Calories

Our rating: 3/5

With 24g of protein in an average of 120 calorie scoop, Gold Standard Whey provides approximately 80% of its calories from protein. 

The protein percentage does go as low as 73% in certain flavors (like chocolate peanut butter which has a 130-calorie scoop) or as high as 87% in French Vanilla Creme which has a 110-calorie scoop. 

A product that falls below 75% is considered “reasonable” by Feastgood standards, and one that is greater than 85% is considered great. 

Gold Standard Whey falls right in the middle, on average, at 80% protein per scoop making it a “Good” source of protein. 

Taste/flavor

Our rating: 3/5

The overall taste was a bit bland in some cases, but with 21 possible flavor options, it’s likely you will find one that you like and can incorporate into your day. 

There was definitely nothing that stood out about their chocolate or vanilla flavors. Unique options like chocolate coconut, white chocolate, and a variety of fruit and coffee flavors make it a more appealing option. 

Mixability

Our rating: 3.5/5

The protein mixed up fairly well overall with minimal effort, but there was a chalky mouthfeel and residue that detracted slightly from the enjoyment. 

There were no substantial clumps in the product, and it mixed well in just a shaker cup without a spring ball or other mechanism. 

However, the protein never seemed to dissolve completely. It left a slight residue on the sides of my cup and a gritty or chalky feel in my mouth. 

Texture (Thick or Thin)

Our rating: Thin

Gold Standard Whey mixes up thin. This makes it easy to drink and good for adding to recipes and smoothies without changing the texture much. 

For drinking, I definitely preferred to mix this product with milk because it cut down on the grittiness and had a creamier texture. 

I appreciated the thinness for adding to smoothies, oatmeal, and baking without affecting the texture. 

Satiety

Our rating: 3/5

The addition of whey concentrate gives Gold Standard a bit more satiety, but it is still predominantly an isolate protein that is quick-digesting. 

Whey protein digests at an approximate rate of 10g per hour, and I found Gold Standard Whey to fall in line with that. Approximately 2 hours after having my post-workout shake, I was ready for a more substantial snack or meal. 

Who Is Gold Standard Whey For? 

Gold Standard Whey is for: 

  • Someone looking for an “any time of day” protein. The combination of whey isolate and whey concentrate makes Gold Standard suitable for post-workout, between meals, or as part of a meal. 
  • Someone on a budget. At $1.00 per serving for 24g of protein, Gold Standard is a great meeting of quality and quantity. Other proteins we have found at this price point only provide around 60-65% protein per scoop (like Six Star Whey Protein), whereas Gold Standard has 80%. 

Who Shouldn’t Take Gold Standard Whey Whey?

Gold Standard Whey Whey protein is not for: 

  • Individuals with a dairy sensitivity. While some flavors do have lactase added for improved digestibility, most do not. This one might be irritating and cause a bloating or upset stomach for individuals with a lactose allergy. 

Gold Standard Whey Customer Reviews

Optimum Nutrition’s popularity is really noticeable in looking at its Amazon reviews. It has been reviewed over 200,000 times and has a rating of 4.7/5. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of Gold Standard Whey Whey user rating out of 5 stars:

  • 5 stars: 21% 
  • 4 stars: 11%
  • 3 stars: 4%
  • 2 stars: 1%
  • 1 star: 2%

A breakdown of the rating by category provides more insight into how customers feel about Gold Standard Whey Whey:

  • Ingredient Quality: 4.4/5
  • Flavor: 4.2/5
  • Value: 4.3/5

These ratings are similar across multiple platforms. On GNC.com, it was rated at 4.5/5 with 1800 reviews, and 4.5/5 on Bodybuilding.com with nearly 10,000 reviews. 

To be honest, reading through the reviews was absolute mayhem. 

The product was given multiple 1-star reviews claiming that the product they bought was fake because the labels didn’t match. (Which is maybe a fair thing for a customer to assume since I also found discrepancies between labels from different websites). 

For what it’s worth, on their website Optimum Nutrition does describe how to identify authentic tubs of Gold Standard Whey. 

As is the norm with product reviews, I had to siphon through the 5-star reviews that claimed: “This is the best product on planet earth with no cons” and “This is the worst product I have ever tried” to find the truth that lies somewhere in the middle. 

For the most part, Gold Standard was praised for its reasonable price, though there were some recent reviews that were frustrated with recent price increases. This is a problem that isn’t unique to just Optimum Nutrition, the cost of whey has gone up universally. 

Many people praised its mixability and overall people seemed satisfied with the taste, though some reviewers found the taste to be watery or bland (also my experience). 

Is Gold Standard Whey Worth It? 

Overall, if you don’t have a dairy allergy, then Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is worth the investment. 

It is a good marriage of quality and quantity. Can you find higher-quality options? Sure. But they also come with a higher price tag (up to twice as much per serving). 


For around $1.00 per serving, you’re getting 24g of high-quality protein and a product that mixes easily without big clumps left over and has a reasonable taste. 

Gold Standard Whey Promotions & Discounts

The Optimum Nutrition Website has a Buy More, Save More promotion on at the time of writing this article. You can use the code SAVEMORE to save 10% on orders over $75, 15% on orders over $100, and 20% on orders over $150. There is no indication of when this promotion ends. 

Your best bet for catching Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard on sale is to stay up to date with flyers from your favorite local and online retailers and take advantage of in-store promotions. 

While trying to assess international shipping, I added some items to my cart and provided my e-mail. Within a half hour, they sent me an e-mail asking me to confirm my e-mail address and that they’d give me a coupon for 15% off. 

Where To Buy Gold Standard Whey? 

This product is available in practically any supplement store like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe.

Online, you can find it at amazon.com and on the Optimum Nutrition website

I maybe can’t stress enough how readily available this product is, which is a huge selling feature. There’s a good chance that no matter where you live, you will be able to find this product locally. 

For instance, I was also able to find it at Walmart, Target, and Costco

While it’s available everywhere, GNC, Amazon, and the Optimum Nutrition Website have the widest variety of flavors and sizes to choose from. 

Gold Standard Whey Alternatives? 

Transparent Labs Isolate

Transparent Labs Whey

Transparent Labs has a grass-fed whey isolate protein that tastes great, mixes well, and will be more tolerable for individuals with dairy sensitivities. 

Transparent labs is also third-party tested and discloses the results of their tests, so you know exactly what is in each batch of product. 

If you are looking for one of the highest quality products around, and don’t mind paying for quality, this is the one you want to go for.

Rule 1 Whey

Rule 1 Whey Protein uses a similar blend to Gold Standard, providing both fast and medium-release proteins. 

It is a bit more expensive than Gold Standard ($1.33-$1.65 per serving) but also comes in a wide variety of flavours like fruity cereal, cinnamon cereal, birthday cake, and salted caramel. 

This protein is one of my favourites for taste and texture. It mixes up on the creamy side and has a nice rich taste without being too sweet. 

Rule 1 Whey uses a higher percentage of whey concentrate than Gold Standard does, which gives it a creamier texture and will provide longer feelings of satiety than Gold Standard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Is O.N. Gold Standard Whey Made? 

Optimum Nutrition products are predominantly manufactured in the United States, with facilities now also in the UK.

What Is Optimum Nutrition’s Shipping Policy? 

Optimum Nutrition offers Next Day Shipping options within the continental USA. otherwise, standard shipping within the USA is 3-8 business days with free shipping over $75. You cannot order internationally from the Optimum Nutrition website.

What Is Optimum Nutrition’s Return Policy? 

Optimum Nutrition will accept returns of merchandise purchased only through the O.N. website. Returns must be made within 30 days, with at least 75% of the product unused. 

Is Gold Standard Whey Third Party Tested? 

Gold Standard Whey is certified by Informed Choice and undergoes third party testing for quality and purity. These testing results are not disclosed to the public but you can verify the testing date of individual lot numbers through the informed choice website

Is Gold Standard Whey Good For Weight Loss? 

Gold Standard Whey is low in calories, fat, and sugar. Because it also contains some whey concentrate which is a bit slower digesting, it might promote satiety and fullness, helping with weight loss. 

Is Gold Standard Whey Keto Friendly? 

Gold Standard Whey has around 3g of carbs and 1g of sugar per serving. Though a pure isolate protein typically has 0-1g of carbs and would be easier to fit into a keto diet, Gold Standard Whey is low enough in carbs and sugar that it should be keto friendly. 

Is Gold Standard Whey Gluten Free? 

Some products do not contain gluten, but others do. Since they are all manufactured in a plant that contains gluten, there is always a chance of cross-contamination. Gold Standard Whey is not recommended for someone who is celiac or has a gluten allergy. 

What Are The Best Ways To Mix Gold Standard Whey? 

Gold Standard Whey mixes best into milk and water. A protein shaker cup with a spring ball mixer should be sufficient to break up the protein. If you have access to a blender, using one will improve the texture and cut down on grittiness.

What Flavors Are Available For Gold Standard Whey? 

Gold Standard Whey is available in 21 different flavour varieties including chocolate and chocolate varieties, vanilla, cookies and cream, mocha cappuccino, strawberry and/or banana, and rocky road. They also have three naturally flavored options that don’t use artificial sweeteners.

Does Gold Standard Whey Make You Gain Weight? 

Gold Standard Whey is a relatively low calorie formula that is high in protein and has some whey concentrate which can promote feelings of satiety and fullness. For these reasons, it’s not likely that Gold Standard Whey will cause weight gain. 

Can you use Gold Standard Whey as A Meal Replacement? 

Gold Standard Whey should not be used as a meal replacement. It is too low in calorie and does not contain high enough amounts of carbs or fats for it to be considered a well-balanced meal. It can be used as part of a meal, with some quality carbs and fats on the side like peanut butter and fruit or vegetables. 

When Is The Best Time To Take Gold Standard Whey? 

Gold Standard Whey can be used any time of day when getting to a whole food protein source isn’t convenient. Try it mixed in oats for breakfast, post-workout, as a snack between meals, or as part of a meal.

How To Contact Optimum Nutrition 

For customer service within the United States, Optimum Nutrition can be reached at their headquarters in Illinois at 1-800-705-5226. Their customer support hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 5:00pm CST. 

They can also be reached at oncustsuppus@optimumnutrition.com. 

You can fill out a support ticket online by following this link. 

Follow them online on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.

Gold Standard Whey Protein

Gold Standard Whey Protein

ON Gold Standard Whey uses a blend of whey isolate, whey concentrate, and whey peptides. It’s available in a wide variety of flavors making it likely you’ll find one you like.


About The Author

Jennifer Vibert
Jennifer Vibert

Jennifer Vibert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Nutrition Coach, and supplement store manager. She has a Bachelor of Kinesiology with a major in Fitness and Lifestyle and a minor in Psychology from the University of Regina. She is a Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition, with a passion for helping clients learn the fundamentals of nutrition and supplementation in order to build healthy, sustainable habits.