They say a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but most would like their medicine to be sugar-free and without artificial flavors too.
If you’re looking for a protein powder that isn’t going to pump you with a bunch of strange chemicals, the list of what you do want and what you don’t can be long and hard to align.
In this article, we’re going to pick out the best protein powders without artificial sweeteners.
Later on, we’ll also look a little deeper into why artificial sweeteners should be avoided altogether. Read on if you want to find out more.
Our Top Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners
1 - Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder (Editor's Choice)
What Performance Labs do for plant protein Transparent Labs do for animal-sourced protein powders.
This grass-fed whey protein powder is as clean as it comes and devoid of artificial sweeteners. The ingredients list is a little shady about the precise amounts of flavorings used in the proprietary blend.
Still, they assure you it’s all-natural and admit to using only stevia and cocoa, at least in the chocolate flavor.
If you’re looking for a whey protein powder that is low in naturally occuring sugar, with no artificial flavors, still tastes great, and does what it’s supposed to serving after serving, then this is a great choice.
I can’t digest whey protein very well myself, but I know a few colleagues who swear by this brand. With 28 grams of protein per serving, it's not easy to miss this grass-fed whey protein powder brand.
See this related article on the protein powders for diabetics, where we featured Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder.
- Great grass-fed whey protein powder that has natural flavors
- Fantastic selection of different flavors to choose from
- The whey comes from grass-fed cattle which is more ethical as well as producing higher quality protein
- They don’t tell you precisely what goes into their flavoring blend other than it’s “natural”
2 - Nuzest Clean Lean Protein
When you start searching for artificial sweetener-free protein powders, you’ll notice that they all have an impeccably high quality.
These protein powder brands tend to share an ethos, which is only to use high-grade, raw, whole, unprocessed ingredients. The ingredients list on this Nuzest protein powder is no different and practically has you salivating just reading it.
It’s a pure serving of nutrition and proteins designed to help with evolving your muscle, diet, and health.
As one of the most popular plant-based protein powders, this one offers complete protein as it is sourced from peas. It means that it provides all the essential ones among the 20 amino acids.
They have an array of different flavors to try, each just as delicious and easily mixed as the next.
My personal favorite is the Real Coffee flavor which has 20 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar per serving. It goes great in my morning shake but I sometimes add an extra shot of espresso for good measure. It tastes great and takes its flavoring naturally from coffee.
- Complete plant-based protein that contains essential as well as branched-chain amino acids
- Great selection of natural flavors to choose from
- Easily digested and a great alternative to whey
- Every serving is well flavored, but it is still a pea protein and has that earthy taste
3 - Ora Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
Ora Organic is a little different from the rest of the protein powders on this list. While they’ve tried to streamline their ingredients lists to be as simple, clean, and straightforward as possible, Ora has gone the other way.
They’ve seemingly chucked everything they possibly can into this vegan protein powder.
Don’t worry, there’s nothing artificial, and as the name implies, it’s all sourced from whole organic foods with specific benefits.
Ora Organic wanted to make a superfood protein blend from 20 different ingredients coming together to boast a complete amino acid profile as well as delivering 22 grams of protein and just 1 gram of sugar.
If you’re looking for the healthy, clean, and vegan protein of your dreams, you’ve found it. The added benefits provided by the witches brew of all organic goodness are a massive plus, and we can’t think of a better way to start the day than with this.
- A complete plant-based protein blend made from over 20 different superfoods
- A wealth of other nutritional benefits packed into every serving
- Perfect for baking with as well as mixing into a smoothie
- Doesn’t mix as cleanly as others on the list, can be a bit sludgy
4 - Alter Ultra Clean Whey Protein Isolate
Alter Ultra is as clean as it comes. If you take a look at the ingredients list, you’ll see it’s just grass-fed whey protein isolate and a little sunflower lecithin.
That’s it. This whey protein powder is not winning any prizes for fancy marketing, packaging, or taste, but it does what it’s meant to which is to help build muscle mass, like the other protein powders on this list.
If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, then Alter Ultra is chewing on raw paracetamol as a “real man” should.
- The purest form of whey protein possible
- Cleanly sourced and free from the hormone injections and antibiotics rife in the dairy industry
- Unflavored and versatile with the ability to flavor it for yourself in shake or baking
- Unflavored and does require some small effort to find a recipe you enjoy it with
They claim that the grass-fed whey protein isolate is free of artificial flavors and additives as well as antibiotics and hormones.
Whey protein cannot come in a purer form than what this protein powder has. If you’re a whey protein fanatic, you have to give this a try.
5 - Performance Lab Sport Protein
Performance Lab is one of those brands that prides itself on well-researched and results-driven products.
This is especially apparent in their Sport Protein Powder, which uses high-quality, all-natural ingredients to achieve peak protein performance, build muscle, and lose weight.
The ingredients list is clean and clear, and they are on a mission to go away with anything even remotely artificial.
Processed foods and animal products are also out as Performance Lab used raw whole and organic plant-based proteins. The taste is an incredibly rich chocolate one, and it mixes down smoothly, perfect for on-the-go nutrition.
The only thing that takes away from this almost perfect protein powder is that it’s not a complete protein source in a serving (20g of protein per serving) by itself. Although if you just include some peas in your diet, you’ll easily make up the essential amino acids that the brown rice protein lacks.
- Delicious flavor and free from anything artificial whatsoever
- They claim their patented rice protein absorbs 30% quicker than whey
- Plant-based, milk-free, and ethically sourced
- Not a complete protein by itself
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are chemically manufactured molecules in the lab that aims to mimic naturally-occurring sugar's functionality. Saccharin, the first artificial sweetener ever discovered, was created from a food additive study by Constantin Fahlberg in 1879.
There are currently six artificial sweeteners recognized by the FDA.
These are acesulfame K, sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, neotame, and advantame.
They are typically much sweeter than sugar (sucrose) and don’t contain any calories so they’re often touted as weight loss aids.
Ingredients To Look Out For
Sucralose, most notably marketed as Splenda, is one of the oldest and most widely used artificial sweeteners. In the 20 years since it was approved for market by the FDA, numerous health risks have been brought to light.
The most controversial of which was a study done in 2005, it was found that those who were taking sucralose instead of sugar were more likely to gain weight than lose it .
The phenomenon was linked to an insulin spike due to the sweet taste of the sugar substitute, which caused hypoglycemia and increased food intake to make up for it.
Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame K)
Acesulfame potassium, more commonly known as acesulfame K, contains the known carcinogen methylene chloride, but the FDA has still not required further long term studies into its effect on humans.
Apart from the apparent cancer risk, methylene chloride can also cause depression, mental confusion, nausea, liver and kidney effects, and visual disturbances.
As with many artificial sweeteners on the list, the studies and appropriate research into their effect in large doses and long term use have not been adequately tested, and I, for one, would avoid it altogether.
Saccharin was removed from the list of known carcinogens by the NTP (National Toxicology Program) in 1997. However, its new status was hardly met with a universal agreement in the scientific community.
It would be highly imprudent for the NTP to delist saccharin. Doing so would give the public a false sense of security, remove any incentive for further testing, and result in greater exposure to this probable carcinogen in tens of millions of people.
- CSPI, Center For The Science In The Public Interest
They went onto claim that the studies done so far were inconclusive, and data to the contrary was readily available.
Aspartame has been linked to a long list of health complaints from dizziness and mood swings to Alzheimer's and congenital disabilities.
There are also two studies linking the compound to an increased risk of blood cancers in rats, but the data is inconclusive, and there have been many studies since both proving and disproving the link.
The jury is mostly out, but I’d rather err on the side of caution myself.
Neotame is very similar to aspartame in structure and possible adverse effects. There are reportedly over 100 studies proving the compound is safe for human consumption, but they have yet to be made publicly accessible. They are making it another difficult one to form an informed opinion on.
Advantame is one of the newest artificial sweeteners in this list, only having been approved in 2014 . As with others on the list, its detractors claim that there is just not enough information on its long term effects. Studies done on its ingestion in the larger quantities are typically associated with sodas or other sweetened goods.
How Do They Sweeten Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners Or Sugar?
Typically, if a protein powder is labeled as sugar-free and free from artificial flavors, it will likely be sweetened with stevia or monk fruit extract, or it will just be unflavored altogether.
There are also natural sweetness enhancers such as sugar alcohols, which can add natural flavors and sweetness to a product without upping the calories or sugar levels.
By relying on natural flavors, we can be more sure we’re getting a product with a known effect as the studies and research on these foods are more conclusive and less widely controversial than the science behind artificial sweeteners.
Is Stevia An Artificial Sweetener?
Stevia is not an artificial sweetener. It is a sugar substitute that is naturally sourced from the stevia leaf.
However, it isn’t as simple as grinding up the leaf. Instead, the sweetener is quite highly processed with the glycoside compounds in the leaf being dehydrated, purified, and extracted.
The result is a sweetener that can be labeled as natural, is much sweeter than sugar, and is also much lower in calories.
Like monk fruit extract, it is recognized by the FDA with a GRAS status meaning "generally regarded as safe." It’s an excellent substitute to sugar in moderation and certainly safer than artificial sweeteners are.
Why should you use sugar-free protein powder?
Those looking for sugar-free protein powders are generally looking to cut out unnecessary calories as they will be consuming these powders in shakes or other forms daily. The risk of daily consumption of a high-sugar protein powder is weight gain and unwanted spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Is stevia as bad as artificial sweeteners?
Stevia is a naturally occurring sweetener that contains no calories and is much better for you than artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners may contain zero calories, but they have also been linked to causing diabetes and some to cancer risks. Stevia, on the other hand, has been shown to improve the body’s insulin response and the high amount of antioxidants can help to fight the damage done by obesity and diabetes.
What's Our #1 Favorite Product
If you’re looking for a protein powder that’s both low in sugar and free from artificial sweeteners, then Performance Labs Sport Protein Powder has the science to back up its impressive list of claims.
It is one of the best protein powders that I’ve recommended to colleagues and clients alike to achieve both excellent muscle gain and weight loss goals.
It comes naturally flavored with chocolate, and the brown rice protein is easily absorbed and released to your body when you need it.
It mixes well into a shake, and I’ve even tested it out in the kitchen, baking some seriously tasty chocolate protein cookies.