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.
Over the span of eight months, I meticulously researched and tested 35 different protein powders. I even maintained a detailed log, noting the texture, taste, and effects of each, leading to this curated list of the best protein powders without artificial sweeteners
In this article, we will also delve into the reasons behind the importance of avoiding artificial sweeteners altogether.
5 Best Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners Reviewed (September 2023)
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.
While it's a bit vague about the precise amounts of flavorings used in the proprietary blend, during my testing, I found the taste to be natural and refreshing.
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.
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”
Get 10% off using coupon code: TOTALSHAPE
2 - Nuzest Clean Lean Protein
When you start searching for artificial sweetener-free protein powders, you’ll notice that they all have 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 organic pea 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 vegan 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 pea protein isolate and 0 grams of sugar per serving. So it's an excellent choice for those watching their carb intake.
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 contains pea protein isolate and has that earthy taste
3 - Ora Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
Ora Organic stands out among the protein powders I've tried. While they’ve tried to streamline their ingredient 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.
The taste is a notable highlight, striking a balance between enjoyable flavor and an absence of excessive sweetness, which sets it apart from other protein powders.
An absence of bloating, coupled with the avoidance of headaches often associated with similar products, adds to its appeal.
- 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 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.
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.
- 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
While testing this protein powder, I noticed increased energy throughout the day. Its seamless blendability also stood out.
In contrast to several other powders that tend to clump or impart a chalky taste, this particular product defies those tendencies altogether. I also experienced zero digestion issues.
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.
Given their low-calorie appeal, artificial sweeteners have found their way into various food and drink products, including protein powders.
However, it is best to avoid these sweeteners due to serious potential health concerns, according to a study published in the Plos Medicine journal .
This has led to the emergence of protein powders that utilize natural sweeteners, or even unsweetened options, which can be more appealing to these health-conscious consumers.
Ultimately, the best protein powder for you is one that aligns with your dietary preferences and health goals, and that may mean choosing one without artificial sweeteners. Always read the label to understand what's in your protein powder, ensuring it serves your needs and is aligned with your health principles.
What Are the Benefits of Avoiding Artificial Sweeteners in Protein Powder?
The benefits of avoiding artificial sweeteners In protein powder are improved gut health and reduced health risks associated with these additives. Sweeteners, such as sucralose, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K), saccharin, aspartame, neotame, and advantame, have been linked to various health concerns, including insulin spikes, carcinogenic properties, and nausea.
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 decline cognitive functions .
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 on to 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 mood disorders to neurodegeneration and interrupted learning and memory .
I’d rather avoid it 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.
What Are the Healthier Natural Sweeteners That Are Used in Protein Powders?
The healthier natural sweeteners that are used in protein powders are stevia, monk fruit extract, and raw honey.
Typically, if a whey protein powder is labeled as sugar-free and free from artificial flavors, it will likely be flavored protein powders with stevia or monk fruit extract, or it will just be flavorless protein powder.
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.
Read More: Best Sugar-Free Protein Powders
Is Stevia an Artificial Sweetener?
No, 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 for sugar in moderation and certainly safer than artificial sweeteners.
Stevia is a great sweetener for people suffering from diabetes. After all, the antioxidants contained within can help undo some of the damage done by this disease.
Related: Best Vegan Stevia-Free Protein
Why Should You Use Sugar-Free Protein Powder?
You should use sugar-free protein powders as it reduces unnecessary calories and lessens the risk of weight gain and unwanted spikes in your blood sugar levels. It's a vital benefit among people with a family history of diabetes or other related illnesses.
Is Stevia as Bad as Artificial Sweeteners?
No, stevia isn't as bad as artificial sweeteners. It 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 cancer risks. On the other hand, Stevia has been shown to improve the body’s insulin response, and the high amount of antioxidants can help 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, Transparent Labs stands out. Its claims are rooted in solid scientific research, making it a top recommendation.
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.
About The Author
You May Also Like