What is the best sugar-free protein powder?
It seems that everyone is on a high protein, low sugar diet these days. Every month, thousands of people search for “protein powder no sugar” and “protein powder no sugar added” on the Internet. No sugar protein powder is so popular because people believe that it will help them lose weight. I bring this up because although there is some truth to this belief, there is also a lot of confusion around protein, sugar, and weight loss.
First of all, protein powder can help with weight loss not because it is sugar-free, but because it contains a lot of protein per calorie. Increasing the percentage of your calories that come from protein will help you lose weight because protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning it keeps you feeling full for longer. This, in turn, helps prevent cravings and overeating. Contrary to popular belief, a few grams of sugar in your protein powder will not hamper your weight loss efforts.
What is the deal with sugar?
With so many fad diets and sources of nutrition advice, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to sugar. First of all, sugar is not necessarily bad for you. The naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables, for example, are part of a healthy diet. Added sugars, on the other hand, are a different story. In 2016, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) revised the Nutrition Facts label to include both “Total Sugars” and “Added Sugars.” Added Sugars are sugars introduced to food during processing. Total Sugars are added sugars as well as naturally occurring sugars like those in fruits.
The Daily Value – the amount that the FDA recommends we eat – for Added Sugars is 50 grams per day based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet. In other words, the FDA recommends that no more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake come from Added Sugars. This is because eating too many Added Sugars can raise your risk for chronic disease such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. There is no Daily Value for Total Sugars, and according to the FDA, “sugar-free” means that one serving of food contains less than 0.5 grams of Total Sugars.
Just because a protein powder is sugar-free, or even added sugar-free, does not make it good for you. Sugar content is one indication of how healthy a food is, but there are many other indicators that are just as, if not more, important. The ingredients in your protein powder, for example, are much more important than the amount of sugar. In fact, many would argue that a protein powder with a few grams of natural sugar is better for you than a sugar-free protein powder sweetened with artificial sweeteners.
Avoid artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are chemicals added to foods and beverages to make them sweet, and appear on the ingredient list of most sugar-free protein powders. The two most popular artificial sweeteners are sucralose and acesulfame potassium. They are so popular because of their intense sweetness; a pinch of artificial sweetener can be used to achieve the same amount of sweetness as several tablespoons of sugar. This allows protein powder companies to reduce both the caloric and sugar content of their products.
Although artificial sweeteners offer sweetness with virtually zero calories or sugar, they are not good for you. Several studies suggest that artificial sweeteners increase cravings toward sugary and sweet foods, which can lead to binging and feelings of withdrawal. Other studies have associated artificial sweeteners with a higher risk of glucose intolerance, which is a precursor for pre-diabetes and diabetes. Research also suggests that artificial sweeteners are bad for your gut. In the short term, artificial sweeteners are poorly digested and feed your gut bacteria, which produce gas that causes bloating, cramps, and nausea. In the long term, artificial sweeteners alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious GI problems and widespread inflammation. Finally, some artificial sweeteners can cause diarrhea because they draw water into your gut. Now you have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!
Another reason to avoid artificial sweeteners is the bad aftertaste. Artificial sweeteners are often way too sweet, and have a bitter aftertaste because they activate bitter taste receptors. This bitterness, which many say reminds them of licking aluminum foil, can linger in your mouth for hours.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
What about stevia?
Some sugar-free protein powders are sweetened with stevia, an inexpensive zero calorie sweetener derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia is over 100 times sweeter than table sugar, and is considered by many to be a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. Few people know, however, that stevia is extracted from the stevia rebaudiana plant using chemicals like ethanol and methyl alcohol. This, one could argue, makes it barely more natural than the artificial sweeteners that it seeks to replace. In fact, a recent class action lawsuit filed in California reached a $6.1 million settlement because it was ruled that the company in question falsely labeled and advertised its stevia sweeteners as natural. Stevia also has a bitter aftertaste because it too activates bitter taste receptors.
If not artificial sweeteners or stevia, then what do you use?
In addition to our zero sugar protein powder, we make several flavored protein powders. They are added sugar-free, but do contain 2-3 grams of naturally occurring sugar. In order to make them sweet, we use a natural sweetener called monk fruit. Monk fruit – also known as luo han guo – is a melon-like fruit native to Southeast Asia. Monk fruit sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice, which is then dried into a concentrated powder. As far as sugar-free sweeteners go, monk fruit is the most natural and best tasting; it actually tastes like sugar.
Given that monk fruit sweetener has only been commercially available for about a decade, its impact on, and association with, chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes has not been well documented. That said, it has been safely used in Asian cuisine for centuries and has no known side effects, even when consumed in large quantities. Moreover, small randomized trials have shown that monk fruit sweetener does not negatively impact blood sugar or insulin levels. For this reason, as well as those outlined above, we believe that monk fruit is the best available sweetener for our protein powders. Most protein powder companies do not use monk fruit because it is expensive.
Why protein powder?
There are two types of protein supplements: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make a sugar-free protein shake with protein powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people prefer ready-to-drink protein shakes because they are more convenient, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably vomit.
Ready-to-drink protein shakes are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, and thickeners. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like shelf stability, but are hard to digest and can cause uncomfortable side effects (more about this soon). This is why I recommend that you make your own sugar-free protein shakes with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes!
Why drink wholesome?
Our protein powders are additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. They are perfect for people with gut issues and sensitive stomachs, as well as for people just looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk.
Again, our unflavored protein powder is the best sugar-free protein powder. It contains 0 grams of sugar per serving and can be used to make sugar-free protein shakes and other sugar-free high protein recipes. Order samples to see for yourself.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.