Personal favorite is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard. tons of flavors, low carb and low sugar, good amount of BCAA and Glutamine and most of all, the price is reasonable for what you get. Get the price from Vitaminshoppe.com then head to the store and hve them match the price of the web site to save on shipping.
One note... the sweeter flavors (ex: cookies and cream) are awesome but are almost too much/too sweet. They are good for a bit but I'd go with the smaller sizes on those. 5lbs of cookies and cream is getting old.
I've been using whey from supplementdirect.com (but just their house branded whey) and proteinfactory.com for many years. The latter is currently the better deal, but I usually check both when it's time to order again. I'd encourage you to check PF's prices vs. the name-brand stuff.
I used Hammer nutrition whey protien after I got hit because its what my local bike shop carried. I liked it, all I had was the vanilla however, not too sweet and I mixed lots of fruit into it. At the time it was mostly just about putting wieght back on because I'd lost over 40lbs in the ICU (something about eating through a tube for 3 weeks) so if your looking for something to improve racing fitness I'm not sure I can speak to that, but I sure put wieght and muscle mass back on in a hurry.
Depends on how much value you put on taste-- the two best all around protein isolate sources, in my experience (having tried 5-6 different brands and at least two flavors of each), are Optimum Nutrition's Pro-Complex and Syntha-6. The former has a little more trouble dissolving, and the flavor is not as good in my opinion, but the content is almost exactly the same as Syntha-6. The latter dissolves so easily, and has easily the best flavor of any protein isolate ive tried. I personally like Moccachino, Banana, and Cookies & Cream. The Vanilla and Chocolate are pretty good too, but I always end up flavoring them myself with a little cinnamon and nutmeg or some fruit.
Here is a simple recipe for deliciousness w/ syntha-6 and a few other ingredients to cover all the nutrition bases.
1.5 scoops Strawberry Milkshake Syntha-6 (45g Protein)
6 ice cubes
1 Banana (Potassium, Choline) (You can also use 1/4 tsp. Molasses for Potassium if you dont like bananas)
1 spoonful peanut-butter or nutella (easily digestible quick-lipids)
Milk to texture (Animal proteins)
This totally depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for lean-muscle fiber recruitment (i.e. not bulking but strength training) then short-chain or free-floating amino acids are your goal. For this, microfiltered or cross-flow microfiltered whey is probably your best route.
If you are interested in bulking or putting on muscle-weight, then stick with animal proteins (try to find brands that use 100% beef proteins) and only dissolve it in milk. Animal proteins have longer chain-lengths, and though less bioavailable (slightly) have a greater effect on new-tissue formation (i.e. bulking)
Either way: avoid Ion-Exchange filtered whey. The Ion-Exchange "filtering" system is essentially pushing the whey to acidic conditions (with HCl) and then to basic conditions (with NaOH) creating solubility gradients and yadayadayada (if you are interested, id be happy to go into it but its kind of inconsequential). What this means in a functional sense is that in the process of filtering a number of proteins are denatured and become non-bioavailable or absent (including glycomacropeptides, immunoglobins, a-lactalbumin).
Also, your goals with the protein dictate when you should be consuming it, and what you should be consuming with it. If you are looking to increase overall biking fitness/endurance, eat a 1/2 carb 1/2 protein meal before biking (or with isolate, have a bowl of pasta/grains/granola with your protein as the meal) and immediately before (10-15min.) consume a lot of sugar (maltodextrin is best) to cause an insulin spike, which allows for the maximum absorption of quick-digesting proteins/amino-acids. After your ride, within 1 hour of finishing (sooner the better) consume a full amount of protein (1/2 of your body's lbs in grams of protein, if you can) with no carbohydrates whatsoever. If you want more on the logic behind this, let me know.
I have been using this stuff and haven't had any complaints. Taste is doable and usually just mix with about 4oz of 1% milk. When I work out heavily, I am working out/running/taking protein, so I can't really attribute anything to the protein specifically. The one thing I can say for sure is that it gives me a relatively full feeling which makes me eat less.
I had the opportunity to go to a hammer nutrition camp and have been using thier stuff ever since. the whey is the base to every product they provide from the start of your eason to the recovery of the end of the day. a great system
ON 100% whey is really great, though for taste I add in a small bit of Ovaltine for some flavor.
While we're on the subject I also take a Nitric product called Jack3d which is a prework out supplement thats awesome for working out or riding.
I used to use the EAS stuff that you could buy at costco. Never really mixed well, flavor sucked, consistency felt like liquid chalk. Don't get that stuff.
I then tried some whey isolate from costco. Mixed well, tasted ok, and I seemed to recover after lifting much faster when I was on it.
Next I tried the Cytosport Muscle Milk. Love it. I figured the guys who made cytomax and cytocarb have to be doing something right... right? Mixes well, tastes awesome, recovery time equal to the other whey isolate.
Went to my parent's house and caught him opening a fresh container of the EAS. Made a shake to drink after our run. Recovery was no where near the Muscle Milk.
To start(and not to discredit any previous opinions):
I'm a personal trainer at the Gold's Gym in Santa Cruz and I spend a lot of time around the nutrition of mountain biking. I have f***ed around with alot of supplements myself acting something of a Guinea pig and this is what i have found to work well for what we do.
The above mentioned Optimum Nutrition protein is a good protein, if i were to go with ON I personally would go with their Pro Complex (chocolate), as it contains more amino acids and glutamine/glutamine precursors (crucial in the muscle recovery process, among other things), and very helpful digestive enzymes. http://www.optimumnutrition.com/products/pro-complex-p-205.html .
This stuff is a recovery miracle. It's got a sh*t ton of amino acids such as glutamine/glutamine precursors, branched chain amino acids (the ones that aren't absorbed by your liver and go straight to your muscles/skeleton), and it helps immensely with electrolyte replenishment. 2-3 scoops in each protein shake and u recover... almost instantly (or as fast as humanly possible, as long as your diet is appropriate)
Hope this helps man, there's alot of crappy supplements out there, if it's goin into your body it should be nothing but the best.
I just wanted to add that I avoid anything with whey concentrate. The concentrates have a fair amount of lactose, which will likely make you fart. Whey isolates shouldn't have lactose.
Also, I would recommend a micellar casein product at bedtime. Check out Syntrax Micellar. This is another type of protein derived from dairy, and it coagulates, or gels, in the stomach. It will provide a sustained release of amino acids for hours, whereas a whey protein is quickly digested.
I would also second static's recommendation of ON's pro-complex over their gold standard whey. And buy ON's products with a tan label, as it's their "natural" version.
I used to take all the creatine and protein drinks because like most young cats I wanted to GET HUGE! Aside from the stomach aches the other problem I ran into was as I got stronger I was injured more often. My own opinion is my muscle strength had surpassed that of my joints and ligaments. As I've grown wiser and tired of injuries I've started doing Crossfit-type workouts that focus on functional strength rather than beach muscle (which translates well to mountain biking). Along with that I get my nutrients just by paying attention to my diet. After all whey protein comes from milk, so why not just drink a glass of milk after you work out? I feel better now at 30 than I did at 25 and am by far the strongest I have ever been on a pound for pound basis. Also, remember your body can only digest and absorb so much protein, amino acids, and all the other crap in your drink at one time, so a lot of what your paying top dollar for you crap out.
Low carb and fat. The rest are not as important. I'd suggest for taste vanilla. From all I've tried across different brands it's the easiest to stomach. Olimp labs pure whey has been good to me. Not sure about the availability on the us market.
I've used several different products while I've been weight training, and I look for 100% whey isolate with the least ingredients and carbs. We just went to Costco and got Cytosport because it's pretty cheap. It tastes pretty good, and I like making up recipes with it. I'll list ya a couple below. I always mix with Almond Milk, btw. The unsweetened because it has 35 calories per serving and tastes delicious