Are you trying to eat as clean as you can, and you’re looking for a great protein powder to support your efforts at the gym? If you’re looking in the wrong places, you risk being blocked by a wall of artificial sweeteners.
Not all premium-quality protein powders contain these potentially-harmful sugar substitutes, however. Why would you avoid artificial sweeteners, and what protein powders should you consider if you’ve already decided that you don’t want to put these man-made chemicals into your body?
How Common Are Artificial Sweeteners in Protein Powders?
Artificial sweeteners are extremely prevalent in protein powders for two distinct reasons. The first reason is that these sugar substitutes are often sweeter than regular refined sugar, which makes a protein powder more palatable. (Anyone who’s ever come up against real trouble when trying to chug down an unsweetened, unflavored protein powder will know exactly what we’re talking about.)
Secondly, the fact that artificial sweeteners come with a much lower calorie count makes it possible for manufacturers to market their products to serious athletes, who are doing their very best to look after their health and might want to lose weight as well, much more effectively.
The most common artificial sweeteners in the top protein powders on the market today are:
- Sucralose, a zero-calorie artificial sweetener.
- Acesulfame potassium, and because that’s a bit of a mouthful, it’s more often called simply acesulfame K or Ace-K, and sometimes Sunnett or Sweet One. Like sucralose, this one’s got zero calories.
To offer a better idea of just how ubiquitous these artificial sweeteners are in protein powders, the following extremely popular protein powders all contain sugar substitutes:
- MuscleTech NitroTech Pure Whey Protein
- Gold Standard Whey 100% Whey
- Combat Protein Powder
- PRO JYM
- COR-Performance Whey
Very often, the most popular protein powders on the market actually have both sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Once touted as a healthy and lean way to enjoy sweetness, however, we now know that artificial sweeteners aren’t just sugar. Rather, artificial sweetening agents can actually pose some serious health risks, which should cause fitness enthusiasts who rely on protein powders on the daily to rethink their favorite product’s ingredient list.
The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners: What Do You Need to Know?
Since artificial sugar substitutes fist emerged, serious scientific research has gone into determining precisely what types of health consequences the regular consumption of these products can have. The findings? Not good.
For one, despite the fact that artificial sweeteners are calorie-free or close to it, and that they’re even sweeter than natural sugar, the body simply doesn’t react to these artificial substitutes in the same way. The body registers that it got something sweet, but instead of feeling satisfied, it now just craves more fuel from easy sources. That means that, on exposure to artificial sweeteners, you’re more likely to want to binge on junk. That’s bad news for athletes and people trying to lose weight alike.
In addition, artificial sweeteners have been found to contribute to glucose intolerance — the first stop on the long ride to Diabetes Central Station.
Quite apart from the long-term risks of using artificial sweeteners, though, some people also experience near-immediate side effects when they ingest sugar substitutes. These adverse effects include nasty headaches, gastrointestinal discomfort, and mood swings. None of those things are conducive to a successful workout, of course, and that’s reason enough to avoid them.
Natural Alternatives to Artificial Sweeteners
In more recent times, some powerful alternatives to artificial sweeteners have emerged — and unlike ingredients like sucralose and Ace-K, they come straight from Mother Nature.
The all-natural alternatives to sugar that are also low on calories are stevia and Lo Han fruit extract. Those aren’t the only ones to consider, though, as honey, maple syrup, molasses, coconut sugar, and even simply fresh fruit can be used to sweeten protein powders as well. They might have a high calorie content, but at least they’re all natural.
The best choice depends on your needs — as some people rely on protein powder to help them on their weight loss journeys, while others, who are trying to bulk up, might actively welcome the extra calories found in sweeteners like honey (which also offers distinct health benefits). In this case, opting for an unsweetened protein powder is an excellent choice, and you can add your own sweetener as desired.
So, what are the best artificial-sweetener-free protein powders on the market today? Take your pick!
- PREMIUM PROTEIN POWDER - Our grass fed whey protein is unflavored and we truly mean it. We don’t add any sugar, sweeteners, preservatives, colors, or flavorings. The lack of a distinct taste makes it ideal for people who don't like flavored protein...
Opportunities’ Grass-Fed whey powders have plenty going for them — and this unflavored version offers only the purest of the pure. It’s GMO-free, gluten-free, doesn’t have any artificial flavoring agents of any kind, including sweeteners, and the whey is cold-processed.
Does it taste foul? Surprisingly, no. This protein powder, which contains only whey protein isolate and (a very small amount of) lecithin tastes of basically nothing at all. Glad you asked; that does mean it definitely doesn’t taste of “want to throw up” either.
Is plain too plain for you? No worries. Just add your own fruits and some honey, or whatever you fancy!
- 100% GRASS FED WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE: Our whey protein powder is sourced from grass fed cattle with open access to pastures in the USA. The protein powder is rBGH hormone free, GMO free, and made with no artificial sweeteners or added sugars, colors,...
Pure Label Nutrition’s Whey Protein Concentrate is another excellent option for people who want the cleanest-possible protein powder. This product contains absolutely nothing but grass-fed whey protein. That means no gluten, no sweeteners, no flavoring, and no artificial chemicals of any kind.
Taste-wise, many people find this protein powder… a bit difficult to deal with. You can make it taste better by adding anything you feel like, though.
- ✔️ Great Source of Protein!: Protein is essential for building strong, lean muscles. Our Whey Protein Isolate, or Whey Protein Isolate unflavored powder, provides all the essential amino acids required for growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass,...
If you’re after a high protein content, but you also want BCAAs and don’t feel good about a completely unsweetened protein powder, BulkSupplements’ Whey Protein Isolate might just do the trick for you. Although less pure than the previous two protein powders, it does get you the amino acids you’re after. This product contains soy-based lecithin.
Skinny Yoked Summary
Artificial sweeteners aren’t great. They usually taste fake and depending on the chemical used, may not be helping you in terms of living a healthy active lifestyle and fueling your body with only natural ingredients. The above mentioned protein brands are great both in terms of over-all quality and positive user reviews, but most importantly, none of them contain any dangerous artificial sweeteners.
If you are a hardcore gym rat or working towards some serious mass-building bodybuilder goals, then we’d recommend you consider shopping in bulk. In the world of protein powders that regularly retail in 2-5lb sizes a “bulk” amount of protein powder is more like 10lb or more.
Not only do you save money when you buy in bulk but many of the sites that allow for direct online ordering also offer customization options. For example, bulk seller True Nutrition (read our review here, hint we LOVE them) allows you to customize the everything about your protein, from the type (concentrate, isolate, casein, pea, rice etc) but you can also customize your flavoring AND guess what, they have natural stevia as a sweetener option!
So there you have it, some great safe sweet protein options for gym enthusiasts of all types. If there is a particular protein brand you’ve been using recently for your shakes or smoothies that you’re really happy with and uses a natural sweetener let us know in the comments below!
Last update on 2023-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API