I continue my relentless sailing through the crowded sea that is the protein powder marketplace.
And in this article I review MusclePharm’s Combat Protein Powder with the Cookies ‘N’ Cream flavor, which the wife snagged for me during her last Costco run.
(They have it in a 6 lb. bag and it’s currently on sale; see pic. This Combat protein was on a pallet by the supplements section.)
Combat review summary
MusclePharm’s Combat Protein Powder has 5 types of protein in it:
* whey hydrolysate
* whey isolate
* whey concentrate
* egg white
* micellar casein
It delivers 25 grams of protein per serving, comes in 4 flavors, and is one of the inexpensive best-sellers on the supplement market these days.
Combat Protein Powder has very good buyers’ ratings, with over 6,200 reviewers across the online universe giving it 4.5⭐.
Its protein % per serving is on the low end at 71%, and this is mainly due to the ingredients used for flavoring.
Science resources included
As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.
Next I’ll go over Combat Protein Powder’s ingredients & nutrition profile in detail.
I’ll also discuss other important qualities like taste, mix-ability, & cost.
Optimum Nutrition vs. MusclePharm
And later on I’ll compare this MusclePharm protein blend to another one: O.N.’s Gold Standard Whey, also a Costco favorite & the biggest-selling whey blend in the world.
MusclePharm Combat Protein Review
* Combat Protein Powder is not be confused with another MusclePharm product whose package looks very similar, Combat 100% Whey.
* Very good buyer satisfaction rating of 89% & 4.5⭐ overall for the 4 flavors combined:
Chocolate Peanut Butter 92% 4.6⭐ 300+ reviews
Vanilla 90% 4.6⭐ 1,000+
Chocolate Milk 89% 4.5⭐ 2,100+
Cookies N Cream 88% 4.5⭐ 1,500+
(data source: MusclePharm page on Amazon)
* 25 g of protein per 35 g serving size
* Very good EAAs & BCAAs per serving
* Not a pure protein; 20+ non-protein ingredients
Combat protein nutrition facts
* 71% protein per serving by weight
* Carbs, fat, & sugar per serving higher than pure protein powders, but lower than the really processed junk
* Same goes for the sodium level
Combat protein amino acid profile
MusclePharm doesn’t put an amino acids profile panel on their Combat protein packaging or on their website.
No worries. I wrote to them asking for one, and they were quick to email it to me.
Here it is:
- Very good amino acid profile
- 11.8 grams of EAAs (essential amino acids)
- 5.4 grams of BCAAs (branched-chain aminos)
Combat protein powder ingredients
Note: This is for the Cookies N Cream version that I got.
Main takeaway: lots of stuff in it
Looking at the long ingredients list, I can separate it into 4 main groups pretty easily:
- The protein: wheys, casein, & egg whites
- The Cookies N Cream recipe
- All the fillers, artificial flavors, & artificial sweeteners
- Amino spiking
Combat’s 5-protein blend consists of:
* the 3 types of whey, concentrate, hydrolysate, & isolate (1)
* the slow-digesting milk product, micellar casein (2)
* egg whites (3)
Cookies N Cream recipe ingredients
The Cookies N Cream flavor has 11 different things in it, including sugar, palm oil, salt, & soy.
It’s important to know these ingredients are not in large quantities; it’s just the flavoring part of the Combat Protein Powder.
But also — for some of us, it’s equally important to know that they’re even in there at all.
Ingredients that some people might not want
Aside from what’s in the Cookies N Cream flavorings, there are a few ingredients to point out in case there’s something you’d like to avoid.
* Soy lecithin is a soy-based food additive in the emulsifier family, meaning it is used to help the powder blend more easily with liquids. (5)
* Sucralose – also known as Splenda, it’s an artificial sweetener that the FDA approved yet its safety is oft-questioned by other health authorities. (6)
* Acesulfame Potassium – another artificial sweetener questioned by some nutrition researchers. (7)
MusclePharm adds extra amounts of 4 amino acids to their Combat Protein Powder during manufacturing, beyond what naturally comes from the proteins in it.
They are the 3 branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, & valine, plus the non-essential amino acid l-glutamine.
Adding the BCAAs improves Combat Protein Powder’s amino acid profile, specifically its EAA & BCAA numbers.
Adding the glutamine raises the grams of protein per serving number.
L-glutamine gets mentioned at the gym as either a performance enhancer for weightlifters, or as a training recovery aid. (8)
Some supplement makers picked up on this chatter & sought to capitalize on it, and here we are. 😉
But extensive sports science research on the effectiveness of l-glutamine for providing these fitness benefits just doesn’t support the Bro Gym Whisperers’ claims, according to the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition). (9)
Combat protein taste, mix-ability, & cost
Besides the nutrition side of things, there are a few other qualities about protein powders that I think are worth considering:
Disclaimer: I have finicky taste buds. I think it’s because I’ve eaten real clean for so long, but I’m not sure. And they can pick off an artificial sweetener from a mile away too…
It’s a taste test, so I mixed the Cookies N Cream with plain water, and it was easy for me to drink.
I don’t like it much, but I’m picky as heck.
It has an artificial vibe that my taste buds notice, and I’m fairly certain that is due to the double combo of synthetic sweeteners, sucralose & acesulfame potassium.
But it wasn’t over-the-top, and mixing it in with smoothie ingredients like fruit & spinach covered its artificial flavor just fine.
Combat Protein Powder mixed very easily & very quickly with only a few of the teeniest-sized (non-offensive) clumps.
After another couple of shakes, all was dissolved.
How I check a powder’s blend-friendliness
I use plain water — just a cup of it — when I’m product-testing all these protein powders.
Put the water in a shaker bottle, add the powder (without a whisk ball, I don’t like those things for some reason), and give ‘er a go.
I stop every few seconds and take a swig to see what the clump factor is.
Keep shakin’ til the deed is done.
Combat Protein Powder’s cost per gram of actual protein –not gram of powder — is 3¢.
In case you’re wondering — that’s on the inexpensive side of the protein powder scale.
And in my humble opinion 3¢ per protein gram is appropriate for a blended protein that has a lot of processed things in it like Combat Protein Powder does.
As you’ll see a little later in a head-to-head product comparison, Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey costs about the same, just a teeny bit cheaper.
Cost per recommended serving
So when I standardize that to a 25 grams of protein serving size, we see the cost/serving is 75¢ (25 x 3).
Why use 25 grams?
In their Position Stand on Nutrient Timing for athletes & weightlifters, the ISSN recommends dosing protein every few hours using 20-30 grams per serving. (10)
Note: Most people who’ve been lifting for awhile are aware of the benefits of this several small protein doses per day protocol, in the neighborhood of 20-30 grams a pop.
Cost comparison vs. similar powders
per 25g of protein
I chose those two because they’re similar to Combat Protein Powder: all 3 are heavily processed and also spiked with the amino acid l-glutamine.
- Combat Protein Powder 75¢
- Syntha-6 $1.18
- Body Fortress Super Advanced $1.56
You can see Combat Protein Powder is quite a bit cheaper than two of its closest competitors.
Optimum Nutrition vs. MusclePharm
“Battle of the Best-Selling Blends”
Here’s a head-to-head comparison of two of the biggest-selling protein powders, Musclepharm’s Combat Protein Powder and Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey.
MusclePharm Combat 89%, 4.5⭐ – 6,200+ reviews
O.N. Gold Standard Whey 90%, 4.6⭐ – 27,000+ reviews
Protein, EAAs, & BCAAs
Protein % per serving
MusclePharm Combat 71% (25g/35g scoop)
O.N. Gold Standard Whey 79% (24g/30.4g scoop)
Essential Amino Acids (per serving)
MusclePharm Combat 11.8 grams**
O.N. Gold Standard Whey 11 grams
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (per serving)
MusclePharm Combat 5.4 grams**
O.N. Gold Standard Whey 5.5 grams
** – higher due to extra aminos added during manufacturing.
* We see that Gold Standard is also processed though not as heavily, as it contains far fewer synthetic ingredients.
* Both contain fillers, with Combat using more per serving than Optimum Nutrition as evidenced by its lower protein % per serving (71% vs. 79%).
Combat Protein Powder 140
O.N. Gold Standard 120
Combat Protein Powder 5 g
O.N. Gold Standard 3 g
Combat Protein Powder 2 g
O.N. Gold Standard 1.5 g
Combat Protein Powder 2 g
O.N. Gold Standard 1 g
Combat Protein Powder 100 mg
O.N. Gold Standard 50 mg
My taste buds voted for Optimum Nutrition’s Double Rich Chocolate, since it had a more natural chocolate-y flavor than Combat.
And though I can taste O.N.’s artificial sweeteners too, they’re not as forward as they are in the Cookies N Cream.
Again using just 8 oz. of water, both powders mix easily in a shaker bottle without a whisk ball.
The Gold Standard chocolate probably wins this by a hair, since it had zero clumping going on after just a few shakes.
There were just a few teeny tiny ones in the Combat at the same point.
MusclePharm uses a bigger scoop
Combat protein’s serving size is over 15% larger than Optimum Nutrition’s (35g vs. 30g).
You can tell by looking at their scoops side by side.
So in only 8 oz. of water it’s not much of a surprise that the Combat had a couple of unmixed specks, who weren’t a bother at all anyway.
Combat vs O.N. cost/serving comparison
After doing my math I found that Combat & Gold Standard cost about the same per serving:
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey 70¢
MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder 75¢
* My definition of ‘serving’ here is 25 grams of actual protein, not 25g of powder.
* For the cost comparison I used the 4 lb. can of Combat and the 5 lb. can of Gold Standard, priced at $39.25 & $49.49 respectively, at the time.
(Bear in mind prices online are always changing…)
Summary Gold Standard vs Combat
* Both Combat & Gold Standard protein powders are inexpensive, popular, and among the top-selling protein powders today.
* Neither is a pure protein powder, since both have fillers & artificial flavors.
* Currently, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey costs a nickel less than Combat for every 25 gram serving of protein.
* Gold Standard has a higher protein % per serving, so it delivers the same amount of protein per serving with 15% less non-protein ingredients.
* Combat & Gold Standard whey provide similar (& very good) amounts of essential amino acids and BCAAs.
I hope that my product review article on MusclePharm’s Combat Protein Powder is useful to you, and that the comparison to Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard is helpful too.
I wish you well on your fitness journey; let’s go.