They say a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but most would like that 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 full of 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 (2020 Upd.)
#1 Performance Lab (Editor's Choice)
#2 Transparent Labs
#4 Ora Organic
#5 Alter Ultra
1 - Performance Lab Sport Protein (Editor's Choice)
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 all-natural ingredients to achieve peak protein performance to build muscle and lose weight.
The ingredients list is clean and clear, and they are on a mission to do away with anything even remotely artificial.
Processed foods and animal products are out, and raw whole and organic plant-based protein are in.
The taste is an incredibly rich chocolate one, and it mixes down incredibly smoothly, perfect for on the go nutrition.
The only thing that takes away from this almost perfect powder is that it’s not a complete protein source in a serving by itself, although if you just include some peas in your diet, you’ll easily make up the essential amino acids that the rice protein lacks.
2 - Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein
What Performance Labs do for plant protein Transparent Labs do for animal sourced.
This whey protein powder is as clean as it comes and devoid of artificial sweeteners. The ingredients list is a little shady about the precise, proprietary blend of flavorings used.
Still, they do assure you it’s all-natural and admit to stevia and cocoa being used, at least in the chocolate flavor.
If you’re looking for a milk protein powder low in sugar, with no artificial flavor, and that still tastes great and does what it’s supposed to serving after serving, then this is a great choice. I can’t digest whey very well myself, but I know a few colleagues who swear by this brand.
See this related article on the Protein powders for diabetics, where we featured Transparent Lab's Grass-Fed whey protein.
3 - Nuzest Clean Lean Protein
When you start searching for artificial sweetener-free protein powders, you’ll notice that the quality of all of them is impeccably high.
The 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.
Another plant-based protein powder, but this one is complete as it comes from peas, meaning it has all 9 of your essential 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 20grams of protein and 0grams of sugar per serving and goes great in my morning shake, sometimes I add an extra shot of espresso for good measure. It tastes great and takes it’s flavoring naturally from coffee.
4 - Ora Organic Vegan 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 protein powder.
Don’t worry, there’s nothing artificial, and as the name implies, it’s all whole organic foods with specific benefits.
Ora Organic wanted to make a superfood protein powder from 20 different ingredients coming together to boast a complete amino acid profile as well as delivering 22grams of protein and just 1gram of sugar.
If you’re looking for the healthy and clean 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.
5 - 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 whey and a little sunflower oil.
That’s it. It’s not winning any prizes for fancy marketing, packaging, or taste, but it does what it’s meant to and can help to build muscle.
If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, then Alter Ultra is chewing on raw paracetamol as a “real man” should.
They claim that the whey is sourced from grass-fed cattle and that it is free of artificial flavors and additives as well as being antibiotic and hormone-free.
Whey cannot come in a purer form than this. If you’re a whey fanatic, you have to give this a try.
What Is An Artificial Sweetener?
An artificial sweetener is a molecule that is chemically manufactured in a lab and does not occur in nature. The first artificial sweetener saccharin was discovered in 1879 during a food additive study by Constantin Fahlberg.
There are currently six artificial sweeteners recognized by the FDA.
They are typically much sweeter than sugar (sucrose) and don’t contain any calories, and 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 risk has 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.
This artificial sweetener contains the known carcinogen methylene chloride, but the FDA has still not required further long term studies into its effect on humans.
As well as the apparent cancer risk, methylene chloride can 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 publically accessible. They are making it another difficult one to form an informed opinion on.
Advantame is the newest artificial sweetener 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 and studies done on its ingestion in the larger quantities typically associated with sodas or other sweetened goods.
How Do They Sweeten Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners Or Sugar?
Typically, if a product 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 flavor and sweetness to a product without upping the calories or sugar levels.
By relying on nature’s sweeteners, 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, and instead, the sweetener is quite highly processed with the glycoside compounds in the leaf being dehydrated, purified, and extracted.
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 powder 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 risk, 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 also artificial sweetener-free, then Performance Labs Sport Protein powder has the science to back up its impressive list of claims.
It’s a great protein powder 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 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.
Our #1 Protein Powder Without Artificial Sweeteners
Have you got any bad or good experience with artificial sweeteners or favorite all-natural protein powder you recommend?
Are any of those we mentioned on the list your personal choice? Let us know in the comments below.