Protein is the most essential building block of muscle tissue in your body, besides its numerous other roles and benefits. Ideally, your body gets the protein it needs from the various foods you consume in your everyday diet, and there is no better or healthier source of protein than fresh whole foods, period.
However, taking concentrated (or isolated), protein products can be helpful in boosting your daily intake of this important macronutrient without consuming a lot of calories. This should only be considered as a way to complement whole food protein in your diet, not to replace it. There are so many important natural compounds in whole food that are beneficial to your health and cannot be obtained by any processed protein product.
Of the many different types of protein available on the market, whey is by far the most popular and favored choice by athletes and other regular users. Whey is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the nine essential amino acids the body cannot make on its own. It also provides the highest percentage of protein per serving with a minimal amount of carbs and fats.
While you can easily find an endless number of whey protein formulas at any nutrition store nowadays, one common drawback shared by the majority of brands is that they come loaded with all sorts of junk additives. Nasty artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and unnecessary fillers are all potentially problematic ingredients for people trying to stick to a healthy and clean diet.
We’re not going to talk about “tasty” additive-loaded whey protein in this post. What we will look at instead are some of the cleanest and purest whey powders that come unflavored and without any artificial ingredients.
Now, of course, pure unflavored whey protein doesn’t taste good when mixed with plain water, but that’s not what we’re trying to do here. The point is to use it as a base for a protein smoothie or shake made from fresh ingredients of your choice.
It only takes a few items to make a healthy smoothie, such as almond milk (vanilla flavor is awesome), a couple of bananas, and a natural sweetener like honey (if you like it sweet). Strawberries and other berries would also be super tasty and nutritious additions, but it’s all up to your personal preference and taste.
And without further ado, the following are four of the best unflavored whey protein powders you can add to your smoothies or baked goods.
This brand offers an outstanding selection of nutritional supplements that are free from any artificial ingredients. They have some of the purest protein powders on the market that include whey concentrate, whey isolate, casein, and vegan pea protein. They also have several other natural supplements for sports and general wellness. Let’s just focus on their whey protein and highlight its main features and benefits.
The unflavored powder contains grass-fed whey protein concentrate in addition to sunflower lecithin to improve mixability, and that’s all. If you can do without the lecithin, they also have a one-ingredient version with only pure whey concentrate and nothing else, but this one can be harder to mix without using a blender.
And if you opt for the isolate formula, you get grass-fed whey isolate and sunflower lecithin with no other additives in the unflavored version. Some of the older formulas say “Irish” whey on the label, but they’ve changed their supplier, and they currently source the whey from North American farms.
In addition to the unflavored powder, you can choose from a few naturally flavored options. These contain mild flavors, so you’ll still need to add some flavorful ingredients to make a delicious smoothie. The available flavors include raw chocolate (organic cocoa), vanilla, peanut butter (peanuts sourced from USA farms), and chocolate peanut butter.
All of the flavored formulas contain natural sweeteners, either cane sugar or coconut sugar. These add a mild natural sweet taste and don’t have the nasty aftertaste of artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes like stevia.
The nutritional profile slightly varies for each flavor so we’ll just talk about the unflavored concentrate here. You get 25 grams of protein per serving (30 grams), 1.5 grams total fat (zero trans fat), and 3 grams total carbs (1 gram sugar).
Testing & Cleanliness
Promix Nutrition’s whey protein is free from GMOs, artificial ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, gluten, and soy. There aren’t any junk additives or fillers. They conduct independent, third-party lab tests of their products to ensure they meet safety requirements for heavy metal content. The test results for each lot number can be looked up on their website.
The product comes in a neat plastic bag, and it’s available in three sizes: 2 pounds, 2.5 pounds, and 5 pounds. They used to use cool cardboard containers, but they’ve switched most of their products to plastic bags now (this may have to do with material supply shortage issues).
Since this is quality grass-fed whey, the price is a little on the higher end but still quite attainable compared to similar brands on the market. A 5-lb bag will run you $79, and a 2-lb bag costs $39. If the total value of your order is over $50, you get free shipping to the USA.
2. NOW Foods
NOW is one of the most recognized and trusted manufacturers of nutritional supplements, not just in the USA, but they also have a strong presence in the global nutrition market. They use quality ingredients that are comprehensively tested for purity and safety, and their prices are generally very competitive.
The NOW Sports line is dedicated to sports nutritional supplements, and it includes a few whey protein formulations. The following are some of the key facts you should know about NOW’s whey protein.
The list of ingredients varies depending on the specific formula and flavor you select, but all of them are free from artificial ingredients and fillers. The unflavored powder contains either whey concentrate (or isolate) in addition to sunflower lecithin, and that’s all.
There are two basic flavors besides the plain powder, which are vanilla and chocolate. Both contain natural flavors and natural sweeteners (stevia and/or xylitol). These also come with xanthan gum to create a thick creamy texture.
The concentrate (unflavored) has 24 grams of protein in each serving of 33 grams. This also includes 2 grams of total fat and 2 grams of total carbs (inc. 1 gram of sugar). The isolate only provides one extra gram of protein per serving, but it has 0.5 total fat and 0 sugar, which makes it more tolerable for people who are sensitive to lactose.
Testing & Cleanliness
All of NOW Foods’ products are made and lab-tested in a GMP-compliant facility in the USA. Their whey protein is free of soy, gluten, GMOs, steroids, artificial sweeteners, and any junk fillers.
With the exception of the bulk 10-pound bags, all of NOW’s whey powders come in plastic containers. The available sizes vary for each flavor and range from 1.2 lbs to 6 lbs. You should note that it is sold by weight, not volume, so don’t be surprised if the tub is partially filled (weigh it if you have doubts).
A 1.5-pound tub of NOW’s whey concentrate will run you $29.99, while a 5-pound tub retails for $85.99.
Jarrow Formulas is another reputable brand offering numerous high-quality dietary supplements that are manufactured in the USA, more specifically in their GMP-compliant facility located in Santa Fe Springs, California.
This product is a great choice for anyone looking for a clean protein supplement that adds a creamy texture to their smoothie. It comes without artificial sweeteners and without added sugar. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you get with Jarrow’s whey protein.
There are only two ingredients in the unflavored version: Ultrafiltered whey concentrate and sunflower lecithin. The flavored versions contain additional ingredients that include natural flavors and guar gum as a thickening agent.
Chocolate and French vanilla are the two available flavors in addition to the plain unflavored formula. Both contain the natural sweetener monk fruit extract (adds no calories).
Each serving contains 18 grams of protein, 2 grams total fat, 1-2 grams total carbs, 0 added sugar, and 90-100 calories.
Testing & Cleanliness
Jarrow adheres to GMP guidelines for verifying the quality and safety of the products they manufacture. They don’t use any artificial ingredients in their whey protein, and the milk used to make it is free from added hormones.
The powder comes in a transparent plastic container. The only size they currently offer is 2 pounds (32 oz or 908 g). The number of servings per container ranges from 35 to 38, depending on which flavor you select.
Jarrow is known for its reasonable pricing. When compared to other brands on the market today, their whey protein offers a good value for money. The price of a 2-pound tub (unflavored) is $35.95. The flavored options cost a couple of bucks extra.
4. Muscle Feast
This family-owned brand is popular among athletes looking for clean whey protein without extra junk. The whey that goes into their products comes from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows that are free of artificial growth hormones (rBGH/rBST).
Muscle Feast makes a few different formulas that include whey isolate, concentrate, and hydrolyzed whey. The latter is partially broken down and predigested, making it easier to digest and gentler on the stomach for people who often experience digestive issues with whey. The following are the main specifications of Muscle Feast’s whey protein.
The ingredients vary depending on the exact formula and flavor you choose, but let’s just take the regular 100% Whey formula here. It is made from a blend of whey concentrate, isolate, and hydrolyzed whey. The only additive is lecithin, and in case you choose a flavored formula, it will include a natural flavor alongside stevia.
The available flavors for the concentrate/isolate blend are vanilla and chocolate. If you prefer the pure isolate instead, you get a few more flavor options that include strawberry cheesecake, mocha, cappuccino, and pumpkin spice.
One serving of the 100% Whey formula weighs 25 grams, of which 20 grams are protein, 1.8 grams are total fat, and 1.3 grams make up the total amount of carbs. The isolate has almost the same amount of protein per serving. However, the fat and carb content is lower (0.2 grams of each per serving).
Testing & Cleanliness
Muscle Feast sources the milk from pasture-raised cows that feed on grass (forage) and are not treated with growth hormones. The product is free of artificial sweeteners, fillers, soy, and gluten. Quality and safety testing is done in-house in their licensed Ohio-based facility.
Most of Muscle Feast’s products come in black plastic containers. The two sizes available are 2 lbs and 5 lbs, with the latter being the more cost-effective choice.
This may not be the brand for those on a tight budget because the price can sting a little bit. The manufacturer has hiked up the price lately, but to be fair, so did almost every other company. Still, $79.99 for a 5-pound tub with 90 servings is within reach for most buyers.
Whey Protein Questions & Answers
If this is your first time buying whey protein, you probably have several unanswered questions on your mind, and while you may not find all the answers here, we’ll do our best to answer a few of the questions that are commonly asked by consumers.
How To Find the Best Whey Protein
There are some objective criteria as well as varying personal preferences and requirements that one has to consider when picking a whey protein powder. The following are a few key recommendations to keep in mind.
- Choosing an unflavored product and using your own flavors means you’re lesslikely to end up with a huge tub of powder that has an unbearable taste for you.
- Artificial sweeteners usually leave an unpleasant aftertaste,and some of them are believed to have negative health effects. It’s better to avoid these altogether.
- Natural sugar alternatives, such as stevia, may also not be palatable for some people,while others may find them too sweet for their liking. A less regrettable decision is to buy an unsweetened product and control the sweetness yourself using your favorite sweetener.
- Fillers and additives may give you the illusion that you are getting more for less, but a significant portion of that is just useless junk ingredients. Look for products that use no or minimal additives.
- The presence of a thickener, such as a xanthan gum, helps create a thick and creamy texture that some people enjoy. However, it could make your smoothie too thick and impossible to drink through a straw. Avoid products that contain any gums to have more control of the thickness of your shake or smoothie.
- Buy your whey from reputable companies that specify the source of the milk they use and test their ingredients for heavy metals and other contaminants.
How To Make Your Protein Smoothie Less Foamy
Whether mixed in a shaker bottle or an electric blender, whey protein tends to froth up. The faster and longer you blend it, the more foam it produces. Some people like frothy drinks while others may find them annoying.
Generally, the cleaner and fewer fillers the protein has, the more foam it creates when blended. Having emulsifiers in the ingredients, such as lecithin and xanthan gum, helps improve mixability and reduce foaming, although it won’t completely prevent it.
One of the effective tricks to make your smoothie less foamy is to blend all other ingredients together first, then add the protein and blend it at a lower speed for a few seconds. Adding MCT/coconut oil can also reduce frothiness, as does letting the smoothie rest in the fridge for an hour or so.
How To Find Lactose-Free Whey Protein
Since whey is derived from cow’s milk, it contains lactose, which is a natural sugar found in milk. People who are intolerant to lactose may experience some uncomfortable adverse effects when consuming whey products, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc.
But not all whey protein contains the same amount of lactose. Whey isolate is filtered to a higher degree than the concentrate in order to remove most of the fat and sugar. You can find plenty of whey isolate powders on the market that contain very low amounts of sugar.
While isolates that list “0 sugar” on the label may still contain trace amounts of lactose, that shouldn’t normally be a big issue for most people who have a problem digesting this sugar.
Does Whey Protein Help You Lose Weight?
Several studies have found that increased protein intake can induce weight loss and better weight management. More protein in your diet helps you control your appetite while promoting the feeling of fullness (satiety). This can be achieved by consuming various types of high-protein foods, such as poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, etc.
Whey is a high-quality and complete source of protein, so it could be a helpful tool in keeping your food cravings under control. There’s nothing exceptional about whey protein that makes it more effective in helping you lose weight than other protein-rich foods.
Taking whey protein or any other type of protein supplement on its own is not likely to cause any significant weight loss. You will need to make serious adjustments to your diet and lifestyle in order to lose weight, and while at it, adding whey protein to your regimen can be useful.
If you are looking for a quick-fix weight loss miracle, this is definitely not it. I hate to break it to you, but there really isn’t anything out there that can make you lose a remarkable amount of weight other than getting off your butt and getting more physically active.
Promotional content provided by Breezy Brain.