If you are someone who strives to consume clean products with minimal amounts of unnecessary additives and fillers, then you may have a hard time finding a product that fits the bill when shopping for a whey protein powder.
The majority of manufacturers add a load of additional ingredients to their formulas. Some people may find that justifiable since pure whey protein powder on its own tastes quite bland, chalky and unpalatable. So in order to create a more appealing product taste-wise, most brands come loaded with artificial sweeteners, flavors and other additives intended to enhance the taste, texture and mixability.
For the health-conscious consumer, all those dispensable additives should be a source of concern, especially artificial sweeteners and other artificial chemicals that can potentially cause harm to your health in the long run.
If you dig a little deeper though, you’ll find plenty of decent brands that offer pure and clean whey isolate powder with no or a minimal amount of additives, and in this post we’ll look at three of the most noteworthy examples of such clean and unflavored products.
But before you buy anything, here are a few important notes you should keep in mind:
Note 1: Pure whey protein powder, whether it’s isolate or concentrate, does not taste good when mixed with water only — it’s almost undrinkable that way. Even the ones that are packed with flavors and enhancers hardly taste acceptable when mixed with water alone. Most of the rave reviews that say “tastes great” blend it with milk (e.g. flavored almond milk), and often add fruits and other stuff to create that great-tasting shake or smoothie. And if that’s what you’re going to do anyway, you may as well skip the extra additives, buy unflavored powder, and blend it with milk and whatever else you like in your protein drink.
Note 2: The quality and taste of any brand of whey protein may vary from one batch to another. This is actually quite a common complaint you’d hear about different brands out there, including some of the best-selling ones. It probably has to do with the fact that manufacturers may source the raw milk they use to make whey from different farms at different times depending on supply availability. For this reason, it’s probably better to only order one container at a time, even if you’ve tried the product before.
Note 3: Most of the claims and studies about whey protein helping in muscle gain or weight loss are overstated and overhyped by the fitness industry, marketers and enthusiasts. Whey protein does have some considerable benefits and advantages, but anyone telling you it’s better than whole-food protein is simply lying to you! It’s just a convenient way to supplement your diet with extra protein, but it’s not a substitute for a balanced diet of nutritious whole foods.
Note 4: Some people may not tolerate whey protein and usually experience uncomfortable side effects when consuming it, such as bloating and stomach discomfort. It’s not always about lactose intolerance; it could be the purest isolate powder with zero lactose, but still your body just may not agree with whey protein altogether. In that case, it’s probably better to switch to plant-based protein or just stick with whole foods.
So without further ado, here are three of the best unflavored whey protein isolate brands you can buy online:
1. Promix Nutrition (soy-free)
Promix Nutrition makes a decent selection of proteins and other nutritional supplements that are among the cleanest you can find. They do not use any artificial ingredients or GMOs in their products, and no junk fillers, additives or soy.
Their whey protein is made from quality grass-fed cows’ milk, and they sell both isolate and concentrate powder. The unflavored isolate powder only contains one additional ingredient: sunflower lecithin, which works as an emulsifier that improves mixability. It also comes in a chocolate flavor which contains organic cocoa and organic coconut sugar (tastes more like cocoa than chocolate).
This brand is a little pricey, but you can choose the smaller 2-pound container to give it a try. They offer free standard shipping within the USA, and they currently don’t ship outside the USA.
2. HR Supplements (contains soy lecithin)
If you’re looking for cheap whey protein isolate without compromising quality, then HR Supplements is one of the best places to buy it from. This online store carries different lines of nutritional supplements with very reasonable prices. They sell some products in bulk quantities at discounted prices.
Their whey isolate powder is plain and simple with just one extra ingredient in the unflavored powder, which is soy lecithin. The flavored options do contain some additives though, including sucralose (artificial sweetener) and artificial flavors. The photos of the product label on their website are too small and illegible, so you may need to download the photos to your computer and open them in a photo viewer/editor to zoom in and be able to read the text.
If you only want the cleanest whey isolate then choose the unflavored option; it contains nothing of the additives used in the flavored formulas.
3. NOW Foods/Sports (soy-free)
NOW Foods is a very reputable and trusted manufacturer of dietary supplements, and one of the most affordable brands too. They fully test all of their raw ingredients for purity and safety in GMP compliant facilities. NOW offers different lines of products, and the NOW Sports line is dedicated to sports supplements.
Unflavored whey isolate by NOW comes without soy or any artificial ingredients or fillers; just pure whey isolate powder and sunflower lecithin. It mixes well in a blender or shaker bottle, but it may clump up if you mix it with a spoon (like most whey powders do).
Some useful tips:
- Don’t buy unflavored whey isolate (or concentrate) if you plan on mixing and drinking it with plain water! It’ll have some hint of an artificial, plastic-like taste regardless of the quality of the product. The pure isolate is best used as a protein base for a fruit smoothie blended with almond milk or any other milk of your choice.
- Whey protein will likely foam up when mixed in a blender. Blending all the other ingredients first then adding in the protein and blending at a lower speed can help reduce the foam. Adding an oil to the mix — such as MCT or coconut oil — can also help.
- Avoid buying nutritional supplements from Amazon! Not only because the platform has many fraudulent sellers and fake reviews, but also because storage and handling conditions may not be ideal for health food products. There are many complaints about receiving damaged or unsealed packages from Amazon, so you’re probably better off ordering directly from the company’s website or from a reputable third-party online health store.
And one last thing that applies to supplement powders in general is that they are usually sold by weight not volume, and the latter may vary from one batch to another. Manufacturers may use a larger container than necessary to fill certain quantities of the product, which could explain some of the negative reviews from customers thinking they’ve been scammed when they opened the bottle to find out it’s only halfway (or so) full. If you receive a partly-filled container and it looks suspicious to you, weigh its contents and compare that to the weight listed on the label before you jump to any conclusions.