The Hunt For The Best Optimum Nutrition Flavor

I haven’t taste-tested every Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard flavor yet…but I will!

And in this article I’ll choose my favorite after doing a head-to-head comparison of the first ten flavors, since I already have unfinished tubs & bags of theirs laying around the house. 😜

 

More chocolate, less unusual ones here

I have a heavy chocolate bias when it comes to protein powders, so there’ll be more of those reviewed here in this first batch.

I’ll update this article again after I’ve tackled at least another handful of the ones I haven’t yet tasted.

 

 

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Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science and medical resources, clinical studies, & nutritional data used in this article.

 

 

What’s next

Before I break off some biased taste-testing opinion on you about this first batch of Gold Standard flavors, I’ll go over the various comparison categories I’m going to use.

I’m covering more than just “How do they taste” because there are (what I feel are) important areas where Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard whey varieties are different from one another:

  • nutrition
  • cost
  • sizes available

Up next, I’ll tell you what the flavors are for the ten I’ll be taste-testing & reviewing here today.

And I’ll show you the list of their massive thirty-flavor selection in Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey product line.

 

Optimum Nutrition flavors reviewed

* Birthday Cake

* Chocolate Peanut Butter

* Delicious Strawberry

* Double Rich Chocolate

* Extreme Milk Chocolate

* Mocha Cappuccino

* Rocky Road

* Salted Caramel

* Strawberries & Cream

* Vanilla Ice Cream

 

So many ON flavors, so little time (& money)

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey’s flavor selection is like an expanding universe; every time you look at it it’s gotten bigger.

Optimum Nutrition flavors expanding - heydayDo image

 

They currently have 30 (!) flavors offered for the Gold Standard powder, but I bet by the time I finish this article they’ve come up with another one.

(They also will pull one of the unusual ones they come up with off the market if it’s not well-received by us protein powder-guzzling bunch.)

 

Look at this list I snagged off of their website:

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard flavor list September 2020

I’ve been drinking their flagship chocolate flavor — that’s now called Double Rich Chocolate — off & on (mostly on) for somewhere between ten & twenty years.

 

From standard flavors to um, adventurous ones

I’m pretty sure back when I jumped onboard the Gold Standard train they only had a handful of flavors.

Like a chocolate, a vanilla, a strawberry, & a peanut butter something-or-other.

Now they have “stretched the boundaries” with their flavor offerings, I guess you could say.

(Or you could be like me and go “Damn, that’s a lot of weird-ass flavors”.)

Cake Donut. Dulce de Leche. Gingerbread. Key Lime Pie. Peppermint Mocha.

 

Does that Gold Standard come in a 1 lb. bag?

Taste-testing protein products ain’t a cheap activity, but at least you get a bunch of protein out of it.

That said, I hope I don’t have to buy 5 lb. tubs of any of those um…eclectic flavors.

 

Gold Standard is #1 in the world

…and Optimum Nutrition will tell you so, lest you forget.

Kidding aside, they take their lofty status seriously, and you can check out their philosophy in this 2-minute video of theirs here:

 

Programming Note: If you want to jump ahead to the flavor-by-flavor reviews, click here

This next section — it’s the last one before we go flavor testing — goes into topics that are important to me when it comes to evaluating fitness supplements like protein powders, something I’ve done many many many times.

So I thought I’d share my approach with you before you read my flavor reviews.

That link will skip this part and go to my ranking of these ten flavors.

 

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Gold Standard flavors review categories

I’ll be comparing the different Optimum Nutrition protein powder flavors in a number of relevant areas, and I give a brief description of each below.

And here are some of the comparison categories that extend beyond just the qualities of its taste:

  • Simpatico with just water?
  • Texture / grit factor
  • Mix-ability
  • Nutrition Facts* (see below)
  • Unusual ingredients
  • Cost* (see below)
  • Available sizes* (see below)

 

Taste

Duh.

I’ll provide any relevant descriptions I can come up with of course, and in the case of all those chocolates, I’ll probably throw in specific head-to-head comparisons between them.

The thing to keep in mind as I’m sharing my opinion on that Gold Standard flavor is that I have a very subjective set of taste buds.

Very subjective.

 

In reality we all do, and I’ll get into that in all its gory scientific detail in a sec.

 

My personal bias disclaimer

So I’ll share my taste biases with you right before we launch into the flavor tests.

So when you hear me going off about how weird or artificial a particular Optimum Nutrition flavor is, you’ll know where I’m coming from.

That way you can discount my harsh critiquing accordingly.

😄

 

How it tastes & feels with water

I taste-test all of the protein powders (dozens) I’ve reviewed here on heydayDo using 8 oz. of water in a shaker bottle or mason jar with a screw-top lid.

Glass is good for testing since it’s easy to see what I call the Clump Factor after every few shakes.

 

Taste can’t hide in plain water

Since water doesn’t thicken it like milk or naturally sweeten it like fruit in a blender, I get a clear idea on what the protein powder really tastes like.

I often drink down a scoop of protein powder this way, since it’s a fast & convenient way to get a 25 gram dose in me.

Given that, I grade protein powders by how well their flavor — and to some degree their “thickness” — present themselves when just using water.

 

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Texture / mix-ability

Texture and the aforementioned thickness might sound a bit too similar, so maybe I should’ve picked a better word here.

How about Grit Factor?

This is what you assess when it’s swirling around in your mouth, even if you don’t name it as such.

Any undissolved particles bouncing around in there?

 

Got sand?

Protein powders that don’t dissolve completely after shaking may have you considering the words sandy or gritty to describe its texture.

Over the past 10-15 years the larger whey protein powder companies have gone to great lengths to keep the word gritty off our minds when downing their product.

Comparing the texture of current best sellers to those of say, twenty years ago, things are much smoother if you catch my drift.

 

Optimum Nutrition isn’t gritty at all (so far)

That’s especially true of Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard whey (and their casein) products that I’ve tried: no grit.

But remember, I haven’t tried all 30 of their Gold Standard whey flavors yet, and up to now I’ve avoided venturing through their um…unique flavor line.

 

While ploughing through lots of brands’ whey powders, I noticed that grit can show up in a flavor I describe as one of the weird ones.

Like a ___ Cake or a Cookies ‘n Cream.

Sometimes an ingredient they’re using in one of those “special” flavors doesn’t dissolve completely, even after a vigorous go with the shaker bottle.

 

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A clumping protein powder that’s not made by Optimum Nutrition…

 

Meet the Klumps

The other mix-ability quality that’s worth comparing between protein powders is the amount of clumping there is after a reasonable amount of shakes — say 12-15 vigorous ones.

And Optimum Nutrition sets the (gold) standard here in this category, at least with their whey.

 

Just needed a handful of shakes (like 10 or so) and all of the Optimum Nutrition flavors I’ve tried thus far are totally mixed with the water without any clumps.

 

(But remember, as I’m writing this I haven’t even taste-tested the two oddballs in this review yet — Salted Caramel and Birthday Cakelet alone all those other um…adventurous flavors I haven’t bought yet.)

 

More emulsifiers in play these days

As with grittiness, protein powders these days are being made much better with regards to clumping compared to a couple of decades ago.

And like I said, Optimum Nutrition has got making a fully dissolving protein powder down cold.

The not-so-secret sauce that can bring dissimilar ingredients like water & powder to such a harmonious union is the emulsifier soy lecithin.

 

Emulsifiers are used in food products for this exact purpose, and besides soy lecithin you’ll see protein powder companies instead use:

  • sunflower lecithin
  • xanthan gum, or
  • locust bean gum (1)

That’s because soy isn’t universally loved by all, though some of the hate heaped on it isn’t justified. (2)

So to keep any bad vibes from dissuading potential customers, a manufacturer will choose one of those slightly more expensive options.

 

But Optimum Nutrition ain’t worried: their Gold Standard Whey is the #1 selling protein powder in the world. This time they tell it to you in 15 seconds…

 

Gold Standard’s Nutrition Facts

Most nutrition numbers are similar if not the same throughout these ten Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard flavors I’m reviewing here in Round 1.

HOWEVER — there are differences in a couple of instances, and I’ll point those out to you along the way.

 

Protein, EAAs, & BCAAs are the same

And all of the Gold Standard Whey flavors deliver the same amounts of:

*Protein – 24 grams

*Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) – 11 grams

*Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) – 5.5 grams

 

Nutrition differences I picked up on 

As mentioned, I do see occasional variations amongst the flavors I’ll be reviewing here:

  • a flavor that has more sugar
  • a flavor that has more sodium
  • a flavor that has higher cholesterol
  • a flavor that has more carbs
  • a flavor that has more calories
  • a flavor that costs more

 

Nutrition numbers for the majority of flavors

Here are the nutrition profile numbers that many Gold Standard flavors share.

When we come across a flavor with more of this or less of that, I’ll point it out.

 

Calories: 120

Protein: 24 grams

Carbs: 3 grams

Sugar: 1 gram

Fat: 1.5 grams

Cholesterol: 35 mg

 

Sodium’s all over the board, at least with the ten flavors I have here.

So I’ll point out the outliers on the high side when we look at them.

 

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Current normal cost of Gold Standard

Most of the Gold Standard Whey flavors are priced the same per ounce or per pound, and so here’s what I see is the current* ‘normal’ cost that applies to most of their flavors.

1 lb.$17.99

2 lb.$30.99

3 lb.$49.99

5 lb.$59.99

10 lb.$115.99

*current — Prices for fitness supplements are bouncing around more these days post-COVID.

 

This info is taken from Optimum Nutrition’s website.

And the odds are good that the prices you’ll see on Amazon will be a teeny bit cheaper across the board of Gold Standard flavors.

(That’s just the way Amazon does things.)

 

The few flavors that are higher-priced

Only a few of their flavors have a higher price, and I’ll point them out as we come across them.

In this batch of 10 I’m doing here in Round 1, I think the Salted Caramel is the only one that’s in the higher-priced group.

 

At first glance though, you might think

“Hey wait, that price isn’t higher, it’s the same.”

 

And sure enough, it’s the same price as the ‘normal’ flavors that come in the 2 lb. tub…look:

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Saleted Caramel price - heydayDo image

But did you notice that the amount of protein powder you get is now a little bit less?

 

Same container with a little less powder in it

Look at this pic I took of Double Rich Chocolate and Salted Caramel.

Both are in the same 2 lb. Optimum Nutrition tub, but look at the weight of the Salted Caramel there on the right.

Gold Standard weight comparison Salted Caramel vs Double Rich Chocolate - heydayDo image

It’s 10% lighter, meaning Salted Caramel costs 10% more than most of the Gold Standard flavors.

So we actually are paying a little bit more per pound.

 

Gold Standard Whey ingredients

Similar to the nutrition info, I’ll first provide you with what I consider are the baseline set of ingredients that are found in all of the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey flavors.

Like their nutrition components, there is more similarity than differences in Gold Standard ingredients.

 

Here are the basic ingredients common to all of the Optimum Nutrition whey protein powders in this review:

*Protein Blend

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey peptides

 

*Natural & Artificial Flavor

These are patented recipes that the FDA allows food manufacturers to keep their ingredient lists secret.

Both are made in a lab.

But the word natural comes into play if the concoction actually started from anything that exists in nature, including animals. (3)

 

*Lecithin

As noted earlier in the Mix-ability section, lecithin is an emulsifier that really helps the blending between powder & water.

And Optimum Nutrition’s choice of lecithin is soy, even though they don’t list it as soy in the ingredients.

 

Q: So how do we know it’s soy lecithin?

A: Because in the allergen disclosure below the Ingredients list, you’ll see Contains: Milk and Soy.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard allergen disclosure - heydayDo image

 

*Lactase

Lactase is usually the last Gold Standard ingredient listed.

It’s an enzyme whose specific job is to break down lactose, which is the naturally-occurring sugar found in milk products. (4)

The point of lactase being added to Optimum Nutrition’s whey-based protein powders is to improve their digestibility.

A number of people have some difficulty with consuming milk products due to lactose intolerance, and lactase is designed to clear that hurdle for them.

 

Bottom line on the rest of the ingredients

Everything else on a Gold Standard ingredient list that I didn’t mention above can vary from flavor to flavor.

These include:

  • type of artificial sweetener(s) used
  • additional emulsifiers & thickeners
  • food coloring
  • additional flavors

So during each individual flavor review, I’ll point out any ingredients that are unique to that flavor.

 

*Available Sizes

Optimum Nutrition does not offer all of their flavors in all of the different sizes they use for their Gold Standard Whey powder.

Currently, the sizes offered are:

  • 6 servings
  • 1 lb.
  • 2 lb.
  • 3 lb. (only a couple flavors)
  • 5 lb.
  • 10 lb. (only a couple of flavors)

Some of the Gold Standard flavors are only available in one or two of those options, so I’ll list what sizes are offered for each of the flavors in my review.

The flavor reviews are up next, so I figured this is a good time to point out a couple of interesting facts about our sense of taste.

 

 

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The truth about taste-testing

Bottom line: There’s almost no way you & I taste the same things when we eat or drink the same thing.

So my opinion on how something tastes could easily be quite different than yours.

 

*Your taste buds & my taste buds are not the same, and the reason for this difference is genetics. (5)

*There are somewhere around 10,000 taste buds in our mouth when we’re young, and that number declines as we age for a variety of reasons. (6)

*All of the genetic coding within each of our taste receptors is subject to variation, and science has confirmed that people do not experience certain types of flavors equally. (7)

 

All this leads to a simple fact:

The odds the two of us experience the same thing when we drink the same protein powder are miniscule. (8)

 

From author & taste-testing expert Becky Selengut:

“The world of taste is subjective. What one person experiences when they taste a dish is not necessarily the same as someone else, which means that no one can contest what it is that you, yourself, are tasting.” (9)

 

From EatThisNotThat:

“Sensitivity to taste is as unique as a fingerprint.” (10)

 

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My taste biases

Here are a few things about my sense of taste I think I should pass along before we start reviewing the Gold Standard Whey flavors.

This way you’ll know where I’m coming from when I talk about what I think of these flavors.

 

*My main go-to protein powder for the past year is unflavored

*I only use a flavored powder as an extra tablespoon or two of flavor now, because the artificial sweeteners ‘weird out’ my mouth when I do full scoops of them in water.

*I like chocolate a lot more than other flavors when it comes to protein powders.

*I don’t like super sweet things, be they natural or artificial.

 

*There are a number of best-selling protein powder brands whose flavors I’ve bought once that I will never buy again because I disliked the taste:

  • MyProtein Chocolate Brownie
  • Syntha-6 Coldstone Creamery Blueberry
  • MusclePharm Combat Cookies n Cream
  • Dymatize ISO 100 Fruity Pebbles
  • Legion Whey+ Dutch Chocolate
  • Gold Standard Birthday Cake (in this review)

I can throw Muscle Milk Genuine Chocolate in there too, though it’s a pre-made shake.

 

*My favorite day in and day out Optimum Nutrition flavor up to this point is overwhelmingly their Double Rich Chocolate.

Like I said earlier, we’ve been together for years.

(I was told that once I try Gold Standard’s Extreme Milk Chocolate I’ll have a new Optimum Nutrition favorite; we’ll see.)

 

*My taste buds are very aware of/sensitive to the two main artificial sweeteners Optimum Nutrition uses: sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

*They’re also very sensitive to the taste of stevia extract that’s popping up in more protein powders these days, though thankfully Optimum Nutrition hasn’t stooped to using it.

 

 

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Best Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard flavor review

Best Optimum Nutrition Flavor - heydayDo image

OK, so I’ve tried them all now (well, the 10 that are in this Round 1 review anyways).

I’ll be listing them by rank, from #10 (my least favorite of the bunch) up to my #1 flavorite.

By the way, if you want to read other buyers’ reviews or check current pricing, you can click on the pic or their name.

 

#10

Least Favorite

Birthday Cake

 

 

 

 

 

Like I say about the Salted Caramel a little later, this flavor is a stretch for my run-of-the-mill, anti-artificial-oriented taste buds.

Doesn’t really taste like any birthday cake I ever ate, but whatever.

Birthday Cake is too sweet for me in a sickly sweet way, if that makes any sense to you.

But in an artificial way instead of a sugary way, thanks to a healthy dose of Ace-K (acesulfame potassium) and sucralose both.

 

Mix-ability & texture

It mixes well enough in water like a good Gold Standard whey should.

Except for the colored sprinkles they put in, but they’re part of the Cake vibe Optimum Nutrition is shooting for I guess.

The texture’s fine, has a little thickness to it, and those sprinkles aren’t down in gritty territory, so all good here.

 

Bottom line:

No go for me.

And I don’t plan on finishing this tub either, I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

I don’t know who I would recommend this to either…

Maybe someone who has a (real) sweet tooth and is also a total newbie to what protein powders is all about.

But even then…

Also >>> It’s got added sugar thanks to a lot of actual cake ingredients, so that’s another disqualification for most dedicated workout warriors who pound protein powder.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*5 grams of carbs (2g above normal) is the highest in this group of 10 Gold Standard flavors

*Those extra carbs are due to sugar being added, a rarity for Optimum Nutrition (it’s in the colored sprinkles)

*150mg of sodium is on the high side, thanks to added salt

*Confectioner’s glaze, all sorts of dye colors, carnauba wax, vegetable oil, corn starch…yikes

*Extra thickener & blender gums (xanthan & cellulose)

 

Available Sizes:

1 size: 2 lb.

 

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#9

2nd Least Favorite

Delicious Strawberry

Well it’s pink and the powder in the tub kind of smells like a strawberry milkshake.

And the first part of the taste as it enters my mouth is reminiscent of a watered-down (meaning thinned) strawberry milkshake.

But my buds are picking up a weird, artificial afterglow after swallowing it.

Can’t describe it nor have I tasted this thing in any other Gold Standard flavor to date.

That off flavor lingers for a bit, leaving me to feel glad that I only had to buy a 1 lb. bag of it.

 

Mix-ability & texture

Mixes fine like Gold Standard does, and there’s no grttiness either.

It’s on the thin side compared to a real shake, but all of these flavors are.

After all, we’re after a good protein powder here…not a sugary, fatty indulgence.

 

Bottom line:

No go.

My taste buds say the Strawberries & Cream flavor does a much better rendition of strawberry ice cream than this one does.

I don’t find this one “delicious” either.

I’d recommend Strawberries & Cream as a daily protein powder to a strawberry shake lover, but this Delicious Strawberry?

Umm, no can do.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*pretty normal Gold Standard numbers

*40mg cholesterol is 5mg higher than norm

*2 grams of sugar is a gram above norm

*50mg of sodium is on low side of Gold Standard wheys

*Citric acid added for strawberry twang effect

*Red dye used for the pinkness of it

*Sucralose is the only artificial sweetener

 

Available Sizes:

1 lb., 2 lb., 5 lb.

 

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#8

3rd Least Favorite

Rocky Road

My mom liked Rocky Road when I was a kid, and back then it was chocolate ice cream with chopped walnuts & a few little marshmallows added.

This Optimum Nutrition Rocky Road does not remind me of chocolate ice cream with walnuts & marshmallows in it.

There’s definitely no walnut taste.

 

Knowing they were going for Rocky Road (so maybe I’m imagining this), there is a faint, artificial version of something that reminds me of almond.

Not the nut though, but rather that…is it a liqueur?

 

I do detect an off flavor of artificial origin in it, so I won’t be drinking the rest of this tub without blending it in my Vitamix with other better-tasting ingredients.

As far as the chocolates in this review go:

  • Double Rich Chocolate
  • Mocha Cappuccino
  • Extreme Milk Chocolate
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • & this Rocky Road

this one comes in dead last, due to that odd aftertaste.

 

Mix-ability & texture

All good in these areas.

I noticed all five of the chocolate flavors in this review mix the quickest and the most completely, in no time flat.

 

Bottom line:

Well, I struck out on two of the three um…adventurous flavors I went for in this review (the Salted Caramel was OK):

  • Birthday Cake (ick)
  • Rocky Road (nah)

Rocky Road is not recommendable, despite being from the Chocolate royal family.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*2 grams of sugar, 1g above norm

*135 mg of sodium (thanks to added salt) is on the high side of Gold Standard powders

*Both artificial sweeteners present, sucralose & acesulfame potassium

 

Available Sizes:

Three sizes: 2 lb., 5 lb., 10 lb.

 

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#7

4th Least Favorite Flavor

Chocolate Peanut Butter

I eat peanut butter every day, usually 32 grams’ worth, which is around two tablespoons I think.

I’ve been eating it regularly since I was knee high to a grasshopper.

I mention all this to underscore my enthusiasm for getting to try an Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey that had been made with peanut butter…

…I figured it would be a match made in heaven kind of thing, y’know?

Well…

 

I taste somethin’, and it ain’t peanut butter…

For one, this has a strange, artificial taste to it that I’m not cool with.

I mention something like that (“weird”, “strange”, “off”) a few times here in this flavor review, because not all of these flavors agree with my taste buds.

Just to be clear, these tastes I’m picking up are NOT from the artificial sweeteners sucralose or acesulfame potassium: I KNOW what those taste like.

These are all some other artificial or ‘natural’ flavors that Optimum Nutrition’s lab has come up with that stand out in a not-so-good way.

 

For seconds, it does not taste like any peanut butter I’ve ever had, even fakey processed peanut butter like what’s in Reese’s.

 

News flash: It has no peanut butter in it. 

Optimum Nutrition uses their Creamer Blend (of 6 artificial ingredients) to try & simulate peanut butter, but it doesn’t do a good job.

 

Mix-ability & texture

Mixes great, easily & quickly with no grit.

Chocolate Peanut Butter has a little more thickness to it than my Double Rich Chocolate, and that’s because of the artificial Creamer blend they added.

 

Bottom line:

Um, doesn’t pass the likable test for me.

I read online somewhere that some people love this flavor.

Huh, whaddya know.

See? That just proves my earlier point about all our taste buds being as “individual as a fingerprint”.

 

To get through this 2 lb. tub that cost me 30 bucks, I need to bury this stuff one tablespoon at a time in a Vitamix protein shake recipe of mine.

One made with real peanut butter & strawberries.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*4 grams of carbs is 1g above the norm

*170 mg of sodium is on the high side of Gold Standard wheys, thanks to added salt

*Cocoa of course

*No real peanut butter, instead this flavor has a very artificial blend of 6 ingredients they name Creamer designed to imitate peanut butter

 

Available Sizes:

On the O.N. website, there are three: 2 lb., 5 lb., and the unicorn-rare 3 lb. size — which I’ve never seen in a Gold Standard product.

Amazon carries it in two sizes, 2 lb. and 5 lb.

 

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#6

Salted Caramel

This is one of my three adventurous flavors in this review, Birthday Cake & Rocky Road being the others.

I think Salted Caramel does OK on the taste front provided you’re a fan of the flavor of caramel, which this recipe does a pretty good job of imitating.

 

A noticeable negative: it doesn’t mix well in a shaker bottle with water, like every other Gold Standard flavor I’ve ever bought.

 

Little clumps remain even after giving it a vigorous ride.

 

Bottom line:

It’s a little too bold & “out there” of a flavor choice for me to consider it as a daily go-to whey powder.

 

(Remember my bias that I prefer an unflavored whey isolate as my main powder. I use flavored ones just by the tablespoon or two for taste-enhancing purposes.)

 

Plus, while I kind of like the novelty of the salt + caramel groove they got going on, I’m certain that would wear off quickly.

Kind of already has, now that I’m hanging out with the caramel afterglow in my mouth here for the last several minutes.

I’ll need to use up this 1.8 lb. tub in blender shakes instead of just water, and I won’t be doing a whole scoop at a time either.

 

Notes:

Cost: 

*10% above normal via 10% less product in their 2 lb. tub (it has 1.8 lb. of protein powder)

 

Nutrition:

*1 gram of fat is a ½ gram less than normal

*45mg of cholesterol is 10mg above Gold Standard norm

*190mg of sodium makes this the flavor with the most sodium; after all, it’s Salted Caramel, so they’ve chucked extra salt in it

*Salt blend of 3 types of sodium added

*A little cocoa

*Both artificial sweeteners present, Ace-K & sucralose

 

Available Sizes:

1 size: 1.8 lb., using their 2 lb. tub

 

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#4 (tie)

Best Gold Standard Vanilla Flavor

Vanilla Ice Cream

Tastes like vanilla ice cream, pretty much.

Not a high-quality vanilla ice cream mind you, more like the generic grocery store kind.

I can tell there’s no sugar in it like regular ice cream, and I pick up on the double combo of sucralose AND acesulfame potassium of course, but it’s not bad.

 

Mix-ability & texture

Mixes great in water. It’s thin, definitely not thick & creamy like ice cream. You could get there by reducing the amount of water you use, if you wanted to thicken it.

No grit at all.

 

Bottom line:

Could be a daily go-to powder if you like vanilla, since there are no weird, overpowering flavors.

Its vanilla flavor is artificially-created, since there’s no real vanilla in this.

But it’s on the subtle side of things which is nice.

That means it would be easy to make blender shakes using all sorts of ingredients, since a mellow vanilla flavor meshes well with just about anything.

 

Notes:

Cost: 

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition: 

*1 gram of fat is a ½ gram less than normal

*4 grams of carbs is a gram higher

*105mg of Sodium is a little above normal, due to added salt

*Two additional thickener/blenders added: xanthan gum & cellulose gum (11)

 

Available Sizes:

5 sizes: 6 servings, 1 lb., 2 lb., 5 lb., 10 lb.

A NSF-certified version is available in the 10 lb. size as well.

 

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#4 (tie)

Extreme Milk Chocolate

This is one of the better-tasting flavors in this group of ten here in this review.

But I don’t think it quite grabs the #1 position from my Double Rich Chocolate, like someone told me it would.

It’s plenty chocolate-y which is cool by me.

 

Thicker than Double Rich

And that artificial Creamer blend they use does make it thicker than Double Rich Chocolate, using the same amount of water in each.

 

But…

There’s a very subtle artificial flavor that creeps up after a couple of seconds, and my taste buds are saying it makes the whole thing just a teeny bit “off” from perfection.

 

Mix-ability & texture

All fine & dandy with these categories, this Extreme Milk Chocolate mixes quick with no grit, clumps, nada.

 

Bottom line:

That subtle off note I picked up on (3 separate times) kills this one’s chance at the top spot.

 

However… I think it still ranks higher than the um…unusual flavors, Birthday Cake, Salted Caramel, & Rocky Road, and that strawberry flavor I didn’t like at all, Delicious Strawberry.

I also put it well above the disappointing Chocolate Peanut Butter (“disappointing” is a bit melodramatic, blame it on my own peanut butter addiction).

I do rank the Mocha Cappuccino easily ahead of this one in my universe of protein powder flavors.

 

Strawberries & Cream might take the #3 spot

And since it’s a chocolate flavor I originally thought I’d automatically put it above the Strawberries & Cream.

But I just taste-tested the two of them side-by-side again a minute ago, and Strawberries & Cream definitely holds its own.

And in my opinion this Extreme Milk Chocolate came pretty close, but fell to #4 by a nose…or by a few taste buds I suppose.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*2 grams of sugar, 1g above norm

*40mg of cholesterol, 5mg higher than norm

*100 mg of sodium due to added salt puts this on the high side of Gold Standard powders

*Has the same Creamer blend of six artificial ingredients that Chocolate Peanut Butter does

 

Available Sizes:

Four sizes: 6 servings, 2 lb., 5 lb., 10 lb.

 

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#3

Best Gold Standard Strawberry Flavor

Strawberries & Cream

Its taste is more like strawberry ice cream vs. the taste of a real strawberry.

I think it’s WAAAY better-tasting than the Delicious Strawberry, which according to my taste buds has a weird, artificial “afterglow”.

Swapping out ice cream’s sugar for sucralose is noticeable to my hyper-sensitive taste buds, but it’s not “blowaway” bad like some protein powders.

It mixes very well with water, though note that it’s not delivering thickness like an ice cream milkshake or anything.

No grit.

 

Bottom line:

Man, this Strawberries & Cream flavor did everything it set out to do, strawberry ice cream-wise; well done, Optimum Nutrition.

 

Very good, you’re just not my type

I’m just not a huge “fake strawberry flavor” dude, so it could never be my #1.

And since I’m not a strawberry ice cream person either, I couldn’t hit this in water on a daily basis.

But I’ll easily (& somewhat enthusiastically) finish this tub in blender shakes with other ingredients.

 

Definite hopeful for strawberry fans

But if you dig strawberry ice cream, this could work for you for sure.

And again, I think its taste quality is light years ahead of Optimum Nutrition’s Delicious Strawberry.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*1 gram of fat is a ½ gram less than normal

*100mg of sodium due to added salt in the recipe

*A gum blend is used for thickening

*Citric acid is present, probably to imitate a real strawberry’s twang

*Beet juice is here too, for color

 

Available Sizes:

3 sizes: 1 lb., 2 lb., 5 lb.

 

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#1 (tie)

Mocha Cappuccino

Wow, first time trying this one out…and I definitely like it.

So happy about that too, considering the last two I tried a few minutes ago (Delicious Strawberry & Birthday Cake) were both crappy-tasting to me.

Mocha Cappuccino has a legit coffee+cocoa vibe to it, and the taste stays “even” from first bits across the lips through swallowing.

 

“Even” – Not all protein powders can boast of that you know. 

When I slow the tasting process way down like a professional wine taster does I suppose, I can tell when a protein powder starts tasting a little different on the way down.

 

Mixes very quickly & thoroughly, and has a little thickness to it too…more so than the Double Rich Chocolate I’m so familiar with.

Nice.

 

Bottom line:

I can easily recommend this to anyone who likes the taste of coffee & chocolate together, because this flavor captures that very well.

As I’m writing this, I have three more flavors to try before I organize them all into a ranking of worst to first.

But for now, I’m putting Mocha Cappuccino up there at the top spot alongside my Double Rich Chocolate, that’s how good I think it tastes.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*pretty normal Gold Standard nutrition numbers

*35mg of sodium is on the low side of Gold Standard wheys

*Real coffee powder added to this recipe

 

Available Sizes:

Two sizes, 2 lb. & 5 lb.

 

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#1 (tie)

Double Rich Chocolate

Double Rich has a mellow chocolate flavor going that is very easy for me to drink.

It’s like a watered-down (meaning thinner) version of old-school chocolate milk.

The artificial sweeteners & flavors are not front & center like they are in so many protein powders these days, including a few Gold Standards in this review.

They sit in back of the cocoa and for me, that’s a real good thing that kind of explains why I’ve been drinking it for 15 years or so.

It’s also nice that in this Double Rich Chocolate, Optimum Nutrition is only using one artificial sweetener (Ace-K) instead of the usual tag team that includes sucralose.

 

Mix-ability & texture

Very easy to shake in no time at all, it dissolves as fast or faster than any of the Gold Standard flavors featured in this review.

It’s called Double Rich, but it’s not thick & creamy — it’s more on the thin side.

(You could make it thick of course by using less water.)

I think what they mean by Rich is its well-done chocolate flavor, without having to pour in the sugar.

 

Bottom line:

Obviously given my history with this flavor, it’s easy to recommend this as a day in, day out protein powder if you’re a chocolate fan.

My taste buds and my mouth were getting fried on all the Ace-K, sucralose, & stevia I was consuming in my various protein products.

And that’s why I back-burnered this fave of mine from daily go-to powder to a “here & there” tablespoon or two flavor booster.

If those sweeteners don’t give you the blues like they do me, then by all means try out a small batch of Double Rich Chocolate.

 

No surprise it’s O.N.’s #1

It’s Optimum Nutrition’s best-selling Gold Standard flavor by a mile for good reason.

And if you really take a shine to it, may I humbly suggest you go for the 10 lb. bag of it, if you are a Costco shopper.

It’s dirt cheap at Costco if you snag it in the store, and note that Amazon has raised their 10 lb. bag’s price recently so there’s no big savings on it at Amazon anymore…heck, the 5 lb. size is even a little cheaper (if you can believe it).

They have pallets of these bags at the Costcos in my area, maybe yours does too.

 

Notes:

Cost:

*normal Gold Standard price

 

Nutrition:

*All normal, this IS Optimum Nutrition’s (gold) standard

*50mg of sodium is on low end of Gold Standard flavors

*Just acesulfame potassium in this, no sucralose

 

Available Sizes:

All 5 sizes: 6 servings, 1 lb., 2 lb., 5 lb., & 10 lb.

A NSF-certified* version is available in the 10 lb. size as well.

 

*NSF certified – an independent 3rd party testing agency for product purity & all public health & safety standards.

 

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Gold Standard Whey FAQ

Here are a few of the commonly asked questions regarding Optimum Nutrition’s flagship protein powder, their Gold Standard 100% Whey.

 

Is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Good?

Gold Standard is the #1 selling protein powder in the world, and as they note on its packaging, Optimum Nutrition has been “fueling over 2 billion workout recoveries worldwide since 1998.”

On Amazon alone, Gold Standard has well over 50,000 reviewers giving it very high marks over 4.5 stars, with over 90% of all buyers giving it very good to excellent ratings.

It’s provides high quality protein at a competitive price, and is available in a lot of different flavors & sizes.

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What does gold standard whey protein do?

In their flagship whey Gold Standard product, Optimum Nutrition provide:

*24 grams of whey protein

Whey protein is considered by the sports science & medical communities to be one of the highest quality protein sources available. (12)

Whey has been proven to aid in muscle growth when used in conjunction with resistance training & athletic workouts.

 

*5.5 grams of branched-chain amino acids

Branched-chain amino acids have been proven to aid in reducing muscle soreness & aid recovery for those who work out strenuously, like weightlifters & athletes. (13)

 

*11 grams of naturally occurring essential amino acids

Supplementing with essential amino acids has been medically demonstrated to:

  • improve mood
  • improve sleep quality
  • boost exercise performance
  • prevent muscle loss
  • aid in weight loss (14)

 

 

Which flavor of on gold standard is best?

Best Gold Standard Flavor: For me it’s a tie between Mocha Cappuccino & Double Rich Chocolate

Best Chocolate Runner-up: Extreme Milk Chocolate

Best strawberry: Strawberries & Cream

Best vanilla: Vanilla Ice Cream

Best fancy flavor: Salted Caramel (so far)

 

Why is Optimum Nutrition whey so expensive?

Here in the U.S., ON’s Gold Standard Whey is actually one of the more inexpensive protein powder brands.

In fact, if you’re good with one of the few flavors they offer in their 10 lb. bags (Double Rich Chocolate, Vanilla Ice Cream, Extreme Milk Chocolate), then the price at Amazon or an in-store purchase at a Costco is downright dirt cheap.

You’d be getting a high quality protein product at or below the price you’d pay for some of the low-budget garbage brands.

If you’re outside the U.S., your country’s tariff/duty laws might slap a hefty additional cost to an imported product like Optimum Nutrition.

 

How can you tell if gold standard whey is real?

Optimum Nutrition has a page on their website dedicated to showing you all the things they do with the packaging that verifies its authenticity.

You can check out that page here.

Here in the U.S. we don’t have any issues of fake Gold Standard making its way to a store’s shelves, or being sold by online retailers.

Some foreign countries though do have fraudulent products showing up, and so Optimum Nutrition has taken several extra steps to help their customers outside the U.S. verify their products’ quality.

 

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Wrapping Up

Related protein powder articles here on heydayDo

Dymatize Elite Whey Review

Legion Whey Plus Review

Muscle Feast Grass-Fed Whey Isolate & Casein Review

MusclePharm Combat Review

MyProtein Impact Whey vs. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard

Syntha-6 Stone Cold Creamery Protein Powder Review

 

I hope that my review article on taste-testing Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey’s flavors is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.

Let’s go.

– greg

October 2020

 

<< Fitness Supplements

 


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About Me

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Surfer. Organic food & wine grower. Guitarist & music producer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far).

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About heydayDo

heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
(So if you’re looking for medical advice, hit up your doctor or health professional for that. I’m just shootin’ the breeze here…) 
 
heydayDo began as a daily journal I kept as I recovered from the latest of many heart operations I’ve had to deal with since birth. 
 
I have a deep interest in learning about nutrition & fitness, and applying it to improve my quality of life.
 
I believe this knowledge can help me be the healthiest & strongest version of me as I can, even in the face of inborn heart disease.
heydayDo author Greg Simon at 60 (Jan 2020) original

The 60-year-old version of me, January 2020

So when I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s hype.
 
Here on heydayDo I share what I’ve learned from my fitness, health, & nutrition research with whoever drops by.