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I’ll be very honest with you upfront: Dietitians do not like the word “clean.” The reason we don’t care for it is that it’s so widely used, but so rarely defined. Thus, it can be confusing for people who are just trying to find the right supplements and choose the right foods for their diet. To make it simple, let me just tell you that there is no official definition of what food or supplements are classified as “clean.”

However, for our purposes, we’re defining the word “clean” in this piece as it applies to protein powders to mean protein powder supplements that contain minimal amounts of unnecessary junk and ingredients that are just not backed by enough evidence to justify their inclusion. Clean protein powders are ideal because they can be better digested, contain higher quality protein, and have minimal allergens, which can only help you achieve your goals. 

RELATED: Best Organic Protein Powder

Our team of dietitians, personal trainers, and other health and fitness professionals only give you our honest opinions on supplements after actually trying them for ourselves. We are on a mission to be the supplement authority figures and guide you on your search for which protein powders are the cleanest, but also the science behind their formulations and our sincere experiences with the products themselves. With each protein powder, we look at factors such as:

  • Price per serving
  • Formulation
  • Taste and solubility
  • Third-party testing and transparency

So, let’s take a look at what our team tested and selected to crown the best clean protein powders on the market today. 

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.

Best Clean Protein Powder

Best Clean Protein Powder Overall: Transparent Labs Whey

Good for: People who want to know exactly how much of each ingredient they are getting

Best Overall

Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • High-quality whey protein isolate
  • 28 grams of protein per serving
  • 15 flavors to choose from
  • $1.99 per serving

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High-quality protein
  • No artificial sweeteners, food dyes, or preservatives
  • Lots of flavors to choose from
  • Good customer reviews
  • Whey isolate may be easier to digest for some people

Cons

  • Price per serving on the high end

Bottom Line

Our testers love Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate because we know exactly what's in it, and almost every flavor we've tried is a 5 out of 5 on taste. Yes, it's a little more expensive than other protein powders but you get what you pay for.

With a high protein ratio compared to weight, one of the highest protein-to-weight ratios in the industry, a serving of Transparent Labs whey protein isolate is 82% protein. Sourced from 100% grass-fed cows, this protein is free of hormones, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, dyes, gluten, or preservatives. 

This is one of the purest clean whey isolate protein powders available, and it’s from a reputable brand. Transparent Labs also pays homage to its name by showing the weight of each ingredient right on the label, which is very uncommon for similar protein powders.

RELATED: Best Whey Protein

It is important to recognize that there hasn’t been any evidence that supports the claim that the amino acids in grass-fed whey are superior to those in regular whey, which is understandable since it hasn’t been proven that a cow’s diet affects the quality of its milk protein.

However, whey protein that is grass-fed is an attractive asset if you’re looking for a clean whey protein isolate and care about sustainable sourcing and animal welfare. This is because grass-fed means the dairy has not come from factory-farmed cows, does not contain hormones, and has a smaller carbon footprint. 

transparent labs whey isolate being scooped

Finally, it comes in a nice variety of flavors while keeping the list of ingredients short throughout all the options, though it should be noted that the product contains Himalayan rock salt as a flavoring agent, which increases the sodium content slightly.

Anthony O’Reilly, GGR performance editor and expert product tester, is a big fan of this protein powder. “I haven’t experienced any stomach or digestive issues after drinking it as I sometimes do with other whey protein powders—several customer reviewers said the same thing. It mixes incredibly well with milk or water, and I can say that I feel full for quite a while after downing a protein shake.” 

Check out our full Transparent Labs Protein review for a more in-depth look.

Price Per Serving$2.00
FlavorsMilk Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, French Vanilla, Strawberry, Mocha, Vanilla Peanut Butter, Cinnamon French Toast, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie
Main Protein SourceGrass-fed whey protein isolate
Protein Per Serving28 g

Best Clean Plant-Based Protein Powder: Ritual Essential Protein 18+

Good for: Anyone who follows a plant-based lifestyle and wants protein on hand at all times

Best Plant-Based

Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+

GGR Score: 4.13 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Organic pea protein powder
  • 20 g of protein per serving
  • Formulated to support adults 18-49
  • Third-party tested
  • 150 mg of choline per serving 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Complete amino acid profile
  • Non-GMO
  • USA-grown peas

Cons

  • Only comes in one flavor
  • Price per serving is on the high end

Bottom Line

Ritual’s Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+ is specifically designed for 18-to-49 year-olds with 20 grams of protein per serving and 150 milligrams of chlorine (to support brain and nervous system function). This protein powder from Ritual is third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified, which means this formula has been screened for over 250 banned substances.

We’ll be honest: One of the big reasons why we chose Ritual Essential Protein 18+ as our favorite clean plant-based protein powder is that it tastes much better than other plant-based powders we’ve tried—and we’ve downed more than two dozen of the best vegan protein powders.

“Even just with water, this has a nice taste,” says GGR Head of Content and competitive weightlifter Kate Meier, who tried the Vanilla flavor. “It’s not super plant-y or hemp-y like some plant-based proteins are. Mixed in a smoothie, the taste is definitely detectable, but not overly strong.”

Kate awarded it a 5 out of 5 on taste and solubility, saying in our Ritual protein powder review, “This has a shockingly great consistency. It’s not thick, but it’s not watery like some proteins are.”

The formulation earns Ritual yet another 5 out of 5 with each scoop providing 20 grams of protein, minimal carbs and fat, and a short and no-nonsense ingredient list.

ritual essential shake 18+ in blender next to bag

Ritual uses pea protein for its plant-based protein powder, which is a somewhat controversial choice. Yes, it contains all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle growth but it’s low in methionine and cysteine. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem so long as you’re eating other foods high in these amino acids, such as nuts, seeds, and grains.

Also, Ritual is a subscription-based company and you only get 15 servings per container.

Price Per Serving$2.67
FlavorsVanilla
Main Protein SourcePea protein
Protein Per Serving20 g

Best-Tasting Clean Protein Powder: Legion Whey+

Good for: People who want a clean, tasty protein powder

Best-Tasting

Legion Whey+

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland
  • Over 5 g of BCAAs per serving
  • Non-GMO and animal welfare approved
  • Third-party tested for banned substances

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Low in carbs and fat
  • Natural ingredients
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Made with ethically-sourced milk
  • Lots of flavor options

Cons

  • Comparably high cost per serving
  • May be clumpy when mixed
  • Some flavors have mixed reviews

Bottom Line

Legion Whey+ is a clean, sustainable protein powder that also is macro-friendly and a great option for anyone looking for a clean protein supplement. Many of our testers have brought this with their own money because they love the taste and easy mixability.

Certified personal trainer and GGR performance editor Anthony O’Reilly said Legion Whey+’s Cinnamon Cereal flavor tastes like the bottom of a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. “It’s almost exactly like what the milk tastes like when you’ve let the cereal sit for a while and the flavor seeps into the milk,” says Anthony, who awarded the taste a 5 out of 5. “I’ve also used it to make a protein French toast recipe that you can find in my Legion Whey protein review.”

With more than 17 flavors available, you’re bound to find one that will satisfy your taste buds.

legion whey protein pour

Legion takes every step possible to ensure they’re producing a clean protein powder that tastes good and is good for you. It has a Truly Grass-Fed certification, which means the cows that produce the dairy are free to graze on grass as nature intended; has a third-party testing certification by Labdoor, guaranteeing that it’s free from harmful toxins and banned substances; and is free of artificial growth hormones and GMOs (genetically-modified organisms).

Let’s touch on the grass-fed certification for a second. While the term has become a bit of a buzzword in the fitness community there are studies that show grass-fed cows produce milk that’s higher in antioxidants than dairy from grain-fed cows, according to registered dietitian Laila Ouldibbat

Legion also uses whey protein isolate, a type of protein that’s had most of the lactose removed from it—making it a good option for people with dairy sensitivities.

The nutritional content varies by flavor, but you’re getting at least 20 grams of protein no matter which one you pick and a moderate amount of carbs and fat.

Price Per Serving$2
Flavors17
Main Protein SourceWhey protein isolate
Protein Per Serving20-24 g (varies by flavor)

Best Organic Clean Protein Powder: Organifi Complete Protein

Good for: People wanting a plant-based, nutritionally dense protein powder with the goal of muscle growth

Best Organic

Organifi Complete Protein

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 20 g of plant-based protein per serving
  • Contains whole food vitamins and minerals
  • Certified organic ingredients
  • Soy-free, gluten-free, and whey-free
  • Available in chocolate and vanilla flavors

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Certified organic
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Whole food vitamins and minerals
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Soy-free, gluten-free, and whey-free

Cons

  • Only available in two flavors
  • Pricier protein

Bottom Line

Made with certified organic ingredients, Organifi Complete Protein is a plant-based protein blend with 20 grams of protein per serving. Available in chocolate and vanilla flavors, this protein is soy-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free, making it great for people avoiding certain allergens—although it does contain tree nuts (coconuts).

If you’re looking to gain lean muscle, you’re going to want a protein powder with no filler, to avoid any unwanted fat while putting on mass. To keep the ingredients to a minimum, there’s our choice for the best clean protein powder for weight gain, Organifi Complete Protein. 

This plant-based protein powder has 20 grams of protein per serving, derived from a blend of pea protein, flax seed protein, quinoa protein, and pumpkin seed protein to ensure you’re getting your essential amino acids. While we haven’t had a chance to test out this protein ourselves, it scores highly from customer reviews, earning a 4.9 out of 5 stars from nearly 700 reviews. Most customers enjoyed the taste of both flavors, chocolate and vanilla.

Person scooping Organifi protein powder into a blender bottle

In addition to a good taste, Organifi Complete Protein has additional whole food vitamins and minerals to ensure that this protein is dense with nutrients, certain to help you and your weight or fitness goals. Additionally, the ingredients are all certified organic.

For anyone with a sensitive stomach, this protein also has a digestive enzyme blend to help ease the digestion process. Plus, people avoiding allergens can rest assured that this protein is soy-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free—although it does contain tree nuts in the form of coconut. At $2.67 per serving, this is one of the pricier proteins on the market, but for those looking for a clean, nutrient-dense protein powder, this may be worth the money.

Price Per Serving$2.67
FlavorsChocolate, Vanilla
Main Protein SourceOrganic pea protein, flax seed, quinoa, and pumpkin seed protein blend
Protein Per Serving20 g

Best Clean Collagen Protein Powder: Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen Hydrolysate

Good for: People who want a protein supplement with multiple functions

Best Collagen

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen Hydrolysate

GGR Score: 4.7 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • No artificial sweetener, colors, or preservatives
  • Formulated with grass-fed bovine collagen peptides
  • Claimed to help eliminate visible signs of skin aging like sagging and wrinkles
  • Made with minimal ingredients

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Worldwide shipping
  • A good amount of positive reviews
  • Easily mixable in cold or hot beverages

Cons

  • Only 10 g of protein per serving
  • Low doses of collagen compared to other brands
  • Doesn’t include vitamin C, which can help with absorption
  • Only comes in 1 flavor

Bottom Line

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen Hydrolysate is a collagen rich in type I and type III collagen peptides made without artificial sweetener, colors, or preservatives.

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Collagen has two types of collagen—types I and III—both of which have been linked to healthier skin, reduced muscle aches and decreased joint pain. Each scoop provides 11 grams of collagen and 10 grams of protein, though it should be noted that collagen is not a complete protein source since it’s low in the essential amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by the body for energy regulation.

Certified sports nutrition coach and GGR senior staff writer Amanda Capritto says this collagen supplement tastes good when mixed with just about anything other than water—unless you like the taste of watered-down chocolate milk. The flavor is a 5 out of 5 when mixed with almond milk or greens powder.

An image of Transparent Labs Grass-fed collagen hydrolysate

The mixability earns another 5 out of 5, though Amanda says in our Transparent Labs Collagen Hydrolysate review that it’s “a little scary” at how well this mixes into just about any liquid. “The stuff is virtually unnoticeable when mixed with another powder, like protein powder,” she says.

Transparent Labs collagen follows the company’s mission of providing high-quality supplements with minimal ingredients and maximum transparency. Other than collagen, the only other ingredients are natural flavors, stevia, and cocoa powder. Heck, they even tell you the weight of all their ingredients right on the bottle.

RELATED: Best Low-Carb Protein Powders

Price Per Serving$1.17
FlavorsChocolate
Main Protein SourceGrass-fed bovine with types I and III collagen
Protein Per Serving10 g

Best Clean Protein Powder for Athletes: Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

Good for: Athletes who need a third-party tested and versatile way to supplement their protein intake

Best for Athletes

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 20 g of protein per serving 
  • NSF-certified for sport: no banned substances and product matches what is on the label 
  • Gluten-free, GMO-free, and no artificial coloring, flavoring, or sweeteners 
  • Available in 4 flavors 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • NSF-certified for sport
  • Available in single-serving sachets
  • No artificial flavor, color, or sweeteners
  • Available in 4 flavors, including unflavored

Cons

  • 20 g of protein per serving
  • Limited reviews
  • Not widely available in stores

Bottom Line

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate is a clean and transparent protein option that is NSF-certified for sport.This supplement is for people that are willing and able to spend extra money to know exactly what is in their supplements.

At $2.87 per serving, this is another one of the more expensive supplements on our list, but it comes with a strong reputation. Klean is a high-quality health supplement brand that is highly respected in the world of serious athletes. 

It also only contains two ingredients: whey protein isolate and sunflower lecithin to help with mixability. This gives Klean isolate an impressive protein-to-weight ratio—a single scoop is 22 grams and 20 grams of that is whey protein. For the price, I would have liked to have seen a slightly higher protein content per serving, but at least you know you’re not paying for fillers. 

The unflavored option also gives it a lot of versatility in that it can be added to pretty much any food or beverage including smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, coffee, soup—the list goes on! Klean promises it’ll boost your protein intake without messing with the flavor of your food. 

GGR staff writer, Olympic athlete, and expert product tester Caine Wilkes said, “I mixed it just with water to see how unflavored it was, and it’s probably the most unflavored protein I’ve had. I could tell it wasn’t just water I was drinking, but it didn’t add anything but a slight protein taste. Perfect for mixing with shakes and smoothies.”

Klean Isolate Protein 4

Klean Isolate is tested and certified by the NSF Certified for Sport program which makes it a prime option for athletes. What also makes it convenient for athletes specifically is that athletes tend to have to eat a lot of high-protein food and snacks while taking several supplements throughout the day to build muscle. 

So, if they have one less thing to worry about by adding Klean Isolate to pretty much anything they already planned on eating, it can save some effort they need to put in to meet their daily protein requirements. Therefore, it can allow athletes to focus more on their training. 

Price Per Serving$2.87
FlavorsUnflavored, Vanilla, Chocolate
Main Protein SourceWhey protein isolate
Protein Per Serving20 g

Best Clean Protein Powder for Weight Loss: Huel Black Edition

Good for: Anyone wanting a clean meal replacement to aid with weight loss

Best for Weight Loss

Huel Complete Black

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Plant-based complete nutritional shake 
  • 400 calories, 40 g protein, 5-8 g fiber, 4-6g sugar
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • 9 flavor options
  • Gluten-free meal shake

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Doesn’t need to be refrigerated
  • Resealable bag
  • 40 g protein in each serving
  • Contains all essential vitamins and minerals
  • 9 flavors available

Cons

  • Must sign up for subscription
  • Bit of an aftertaste from plant-based protein

Bottom Line

Huel Complete Protein Powder Black Edition is a nutritionally complete meal replacement shake powder, containing 400 calories per serving along with 40 grams of protein in all of the nine flavors. Fat, carb, and fiber content varies by 1 to 3 grams across flavors, but you can expect to find a healthy serving of unsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates, and fiber in each shake. Plus, each shake contains all essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids with no artificial sweeteners or gluten.

Huel Black Edition is our pick for the best clean protein powder for weight loss as long as you accept this one caveat: It’s a true meal replacement, meaning that it can actually replace a meal and provide enough nutrients within its 400-calorie serving to satiate anyone on their weight journey. It’s ideally used as a meal replacement and not as a supplementary protein, which will aid your weight loss journey best.

Brittany Combs, GGR’s social media manager, tried out Huel Black Edition and enjoyed the flavor she tried—Cookies and Cream—rating it a 5 out of 5. “It tasted nice: sweet, but not too sweet. I enjoyed having it in my coffee the most, as it’d sweeten up my coffee, and added protein and nutrients to my morning routine.”

Woman scooping Huel Black out of bag into a shaker bottle

It mixes pretty well, as Brittany rates the solubility a 4.5 out of 5. “There are occasionally chunks, but a couple more shakes in my shaker cup mixes it all up.” She does notice that the finished mixture still has a little bit of graininess to it.

There are tons of nutrients and protein in Huel Black Edition, with 40 grams of protein per serving and a total of 27 vitamins and minerals. It earns a 5 out of 5 for its formulation. Pricewise, it’s on the expensive side, with each serving costing about $3.12. Still, with its clean formulation and great dose of macro and micronutrients, we think Huel Black Edition is a solid choice.

Price per serving$3.12
FlavorsVanilla, Chocolate, Banana, Strawberry Shortcake, Coffee Caramel, Cookies and Cream, Salted Caramel, Cinnamon Roll, Unflavored & Unsweetened
Main protein sourcePea protein, ground flaxseed, brown rice protein
Protein per serving39-41 g

Best Clean Vegan Protein Powder: Gainful Vegan Protein

Good for: People looking for a plant-based substitute to whey or casein

Best Vegan

Gainful Vegan Protein Powder

GGR Score: 3.7 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Customizable vegan protein powder (organic brown rice protein and organic pea protein)
  • Unflavored powder
  • Eight available flavor boosters
  • Unlimited access to a registered dietitian

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Shipped right to your door every month
  • Customizable plant-based protein
  • Eight flavor boosters available (can mix and match)
  • Access to a registered dietitian

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not third-party tested

Bottom Line

Gainful Vegan Protein Powder is a customized plant-based protein that comes with eight available flavor boosters, which you can mix and match.

Our pick for the best clean vegan protein powder makes a customizable protein powder based on your wants and needs. I’ve never heard of anyone selling customized protein powder before, which makes Gainful a very interesting brand. According to Gainful, by asking the same types of critical questions that dietitians use when designing individual nutrition plans, they blend nutrition science with individual nutrition considerations. 

RELATED: Orgain Protein Powder Review

They do this by gathering information from you before you purchase their protein and tailor your protein needs based on your weight, activity type, duration, and intensity level. This is done with the justification that they want their protein powder to fit your unique fitness and wellness goals. You’ll also be assured there are no extra and unnecessary ingredients that don’t necessarily fit what you’re trying to get from your supplement. 

We chose Gainful here for its plant-based organic brown rice and pea protein powder, but they also have protein sources from whey and casein. No matter what formulation you end up with when your assessment is complete, you can be assured that each protein blend contains all nine amino acids and at least 19-27 grams of protein.

You can also be assured, and this is my favorite part, that your formulation has registered dietitians involved who will even give you suggestions on your eating habits. Why is it so clean? Gainful promises that any given protein formula they make will contain seven ingredients or less with some protein blends containing as little as two. 

RELATED: Gainful Protein Powder Review

Dumping Gainful Vegan Protein Powder into a shaker cup

Be ready for this quality to cost a pretty penny. GGR senior editor and certified nutrition coach Erin Chancer tried Gainful Vegan Protein and her formulation with 24 grams per serving ended up costing $3.21 per serving. Yikes.

Erin thought the taste was just OK. “The unflavored protein is pretty standard for plant-based protein. I tried the Caffe Mocha flavor boost, and while it was a pleasant taste, I didn’t find it very ‘coffee-flavored.’” She rates the taste a 3.5 out of 5. It mixes well too, earning a 4 out of 5 for solubility, but Erin also mentions that the mix was sticky and thick and ended up getting the shake everywhere.

Price per servingVaries by formulation, around $3
FlavorsUnflavored with optional flavor boosts: Caffe Mocha, Rich Cocoa, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Madagascar Vanilla, Strawberry Cream, Cookies & Cream
Main protein sourceOrganic brown rice and organic pea protein
Protein per serving24 g

Best Clean Casein Protein Powder: Naked Nutrition Casein

Good for: Individuals looking to optimize muscle recovery and hunger control

Best Casein

Naked Nutrition Micellar Casein Protein Powder

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 100% micellar casein 
  • 26 g of protein 
  • 5.4 g of BCAAs
  • Gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 1–3 ingredients (depending on flavor)
  • Subscribe and save 20%
  • Independent heavy metals and allergen testing
  • No additives or artificial ingredients
  • 3 flavors, including unflavored

Cons

  • Not recommended to use with shaker bottle
  • 1 serving = 2 scoops
  • Limited reviews

Bottom Line

Naked Casein has 26 grams of protein per serving. It won’t mix well in a shaker bottle, but customers love the short ingredient list.

There’s no way we could make a list of clean protein powders without including Naked Casein which has only one ingredient: Micellar casein. That’s it! No flavors, no emulsifiers, no sweeteners, nada. What you do get at a surprisingly low price, however, is 26 grams of high-quality protein.

Casein protein is also a sneaky device that can assist in muscle recovery. Since it is a slow-digesting protein, studies have shown that when casein is taken before bed, it provides a steady dose of amino acids to the muscles through the night to prevent muscle soreness and catabolism1. This slow digestion can also help with hunger control, which can make casein useful on a weight loss journey. 

Now, the key difference between whey and casein (aside from the speed of digestion) is their composition. Whey is made when milk has been heated, the curds are skimmed off and the liquids that are left are dried and powdered. With casein, the protein is derived from those curds. 

Naked Casein 2

That said, the lactose content is higher in casein, so many people with milk sensitivities may not tolerate it in the tummy as well as they would whey. However, this varies from person to person, but basically, if you tend to eat dairy-free products, tread lightly with casein protein. At the very least, with Naked, you don’t have to worry about superfluous ingredients messing with your digestion. 

Amanda Capritto, GGR staff writer and expert product tester, likes to mix it with chocolate syrup. She also says, “It makes for a FANTASTIC chocolate mug cake!”

Price Per Serving$1.66
FlavorsUnflavored
Main Protein SourceCasein
Protein Per Serving26 g

Best Clean Whey Protein Powder: Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey

Good for: Those who want a simple protein powder that is sustainably sourced and easily digested

Best Clean Whey

Momentous Grass-Fed Whey

GGR Score: 4.03 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Grass-fed whey protein isolate 
  • Cold-pressed with a micro-processing filtration 
  • ProHydrolase enzyme blend 
  • Protein is sourced from Irish cows

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Clean
  • Third-party verified
  • Mixes well
  • High-quality
  • Bioavailable

Cons

  • Unflavored may clump when mixing
  • Expensive

Bottom Line

If you are willing to pay a premium price for a high-quality grass-fed whey protein, the Momentous brand is a solid choice.

Momentous’ grass-fed whey is cold-pressed, which is a way of processing that prevents the protein from denaturing and preserves more amino acids and nutrients from the milk product. According to Momentous, this allows the protein to be digested more efficiently.

Speaking of digestion, Momentous also includes a compound called Prohydrolase in its protein powder. Prohydrolase is a blend of digestive enzymes called proteases, which break down protein molecules during digestion. 

This means that Prohydrolase, when taken along with whey protein, can increase the levels of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) in the blood faster and allow the muscle to uptake these amino acids quicker. It can also support smoother digestion of your protein supplement. 

Momentous Whey Protein

These findings seem to be supported by a study conducted in 2020, which gave ProHydrolase to a group of males who engaged regularly in strength training. It was concluded that ProHydrolase did, indeed, increase the blood levels of amino acids more quickly compared to the placebo that didn’t include digestive enzymes2

Studies conducted on the efficacy of ProHydrolase recommend the clinically effective dose of 10 milligrams of ProHydrolase for every 1 gram of protein, so you can’t say this protein powder isn’t evidence-based! Finally, Momentous’ protein powder is third-party tested by two different labs: NSF for Sport and Informed Choice. 

Caine Wilkes, an Olympic weightlifter who competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, says in his Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey Protein review that the Vanilla flavor is a 4 out of 5 and reminds him of melted vanilla ice cream.

Price Per Serving$2.70
FlavorsUnflavored, vanilla, chocolate
Main Protein SourceGrass-fed whey protein isolate
Protein Per Serving20 g

Other Clean Protein Powders We Researched

How We Picked and Tested the Best Clean Protein Powder

Our goal when selecting protein powders for this list is that we wanted to offer something for everyone. Theoretically speaking, everyone would like their protein powder to be clean, but finding the products within that category that fit your specific needs and goals is arguably more important. Our team selected the brands on our list based on the following criteria:

Additives and Artificial Ingredients

This one is obvious. There’s plenty of junk that doesn’t serve much functional purpose in improving body composition, performance, or wellness in most commercial protein powders. However, the ones that can proudly call themselves clean keep the additives and synthetic ingredients to a minimum, so the product can be stripped down to what we are truly trying to consume: protein!

Protein Source

earth fed muscle protein

One other thing that non-clean (dirty protein?) powders have in common is they will sometimes throw in incomplete protein sources with a weak amino acid content as a filler just because those ingredients happen to be cheaper. So, they use subpar sources to pad the weight of the powder. See above with fillers. We wanted to select protein powders that give an adequate dose of the essential amino acids and BCAAs we need to perform optimally and support a healthy level of muscle mass. 

Trusted Brands

We wanted to commit to recommending brands that are not only well known in the world of sports nutrition, but are also trusted in their integrity to make the best protein powders. The companies on this list we have either used personally in our practice as dietitians (I’ll raise my hand there), trainers, athletes, or in other capacities. We’ve seen them work first hand! So, we would be remiss if we didn’t pass off this information by name dropping the best in the industry of protein powders. 

What Is Clean Protein Powder?

While there’s no set rule on what makes a protein powder clean or not, we generally mean that a clean protein powder is free of extraneous filler ingredients and has good sources of protein. So clean protein powders will typically be free of additives and artificial ingredients. Additionally, the protein will have a complete amino acid profile, providing all nine essential amino acids necessary for anyone’s diet.

You can determine if your protein powder is clean by looking at the nutrition label:

  • Check for artificial sweeteners (sucralose, acesulfame, etc.) and additives
  • Look at the sugar content
  • Research ingredients you don’t know
  • Check the source of the protein

Benefits of Clean Protein Powder

Hunger Control

As mentioned earlier, protein like casein protein is slow-digesting. This means it hangs out in the stomach for a decent amount of time and can keep you feeling fuller for longer. So, thinking outside of using protein powder as a post-workout recovery tool, it can also be used as a weight loss tool to prevent overeating—and this applies to whey and plant-based products, too! 

With this goal in mind, choosing a clean protein powder for these purposes can mean that, due to a low number of ingredients and extraneous fillers, the calories in clean protein powders tend to be low which can also help with maintaining a calorie deficit. 

RELATED: Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss

Supports Faster Recovery

Person drinking Ascent Whey Protein

A clean protein powder may absorb faster than one with extra ingredients that gives the body more to sift through during digestion. Either way, science has shown that protein powder, specifically whey, absorbs faster than whole food sources of protein which results in better performance. 

A study conducted in 2019 found a moderately positive effect on power and strength in athletes who took a protein supplement after training, rather than the athletes who only consumed beef or carbohydrates3.

Safer for Athletes

If you are an athlete who is drug tested either on a schedule or regularly, it’s always a good idea to choose a clean protein powder that is third-party tested. In order to ensure that their protein powders are safe, brands that produce clean protein powders are usually tested by an outside lab to ensure that they do not contain any banned substances, even by accident (which does happen!). 

Dosing and Interactions 

When taken as directed, whey protein is likely safe for most adults. How much protein you should take will vary person to person, especially considering fitness levels, goals, and how much protein a person gets from whole foods.

Several side effects can be experienced with high protein doses, including bowel movement changes, acne, nausea, thirst, bloating, sleep issues, and headaches. Generally, unless you have sensitivities to whey or milk, protein powder with these sources is generally very safe. 

However, collagen-based protein powder has more potential for interactions. The use of collagen peptides is not recommended for anyone with a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Among collagen’s components is hydroxyproline, which is converted into oxalate by the kidneys and significantly increases the chances of forming stones for those who are prone to them. 

If you have a diet rich in high-protein foods already, aim for between 20 to 50 grams of protein powder each day to supplement your current protein intake.

Third-Party Testing

In order to be classified as “clean,” protein powders do not need to be tested by a third party, but these certifications can provide you with an extra level of assurance. 

Protein powder brands proudly bearing the seal of third-party testing are also letting you know an unbiased source has cleared the protein powder of containing heavy metals, banned substances, and other harmful ingredients that may have been accidentally added during processing or even put there intentionally.

An image for best time to drink a Klean Isolate Protein 4 Shake

Seriously, I’ve seen athletes lose out on draft placements because they were taking a protein powder that lacked third-party testing and ended up containing a banned substance which caused them to fail a drug test. This harmless mistake can be catastrophic for a college or professional athlete’s career. 

So, while third-party testing isn’t a requirement for most people just trying to find a healthy protein product, I always tell my athletes to exclusively choose third-party tested protein powder to protect themselves. Luckily, there are plenty on our list to choose from.

Buying Guide: What to Look for in Clean Protein Powder

Number of Ingredients

Supplements on this list have been carefully selected to contain the fewest ingredients possible. Additives and fillers make protein powders dirty and that’s the opposite of what you’re here for if you’re reading this! If you’re looking for a clean protein powder, this should be the number one thing you look at on the nutrition label.

Cost

The dirty truth of the sports supplement industry is most—that’s right, I said most—budget protein powders contain low-quality protein, not enough protein, or tons of cheap fillers to help the company save a buck. Therefore, clean protein powders tend to be a little more costly because the company values purity and is willing to incur the costs of production to give their consumers the cleanest product they can. 

Nevertheless, there are a few on this list whose costs are comparable to those available at the store with a longer ingredient list. Our advice is to just make sure that if you’re paying a premium price, you’re getting a premium product. Start by looking at the amount of protein per gram and compare it to the grams in a serving of a scoop.

Carbohydrate and Fat Content

I think I’ve hammered you over the head enough that you’re well aware that artificial ingredients, fillers, and additives do not equal “clean.” A high carb and fat content don’t not equal clean, but they are something to note when you’re shopping around. It is ideal to have the protein in your protein powder as isolated as possible because, after all, you’re paying for a protein supplement, not a carb or fat supplement. Unless you’re trying to put on some muscle mass and need the extra calories, this is something to consider. 

Best Clean Protein Powder: FAQs

What’s the cleanest protein powder out there?

Every clean protein powder comes with its own benefits, so what you consider to be the best depends on what you value in a supplement, like taste or protein content, and what your goals are. The most natural on our list, though, is probably Naked Nutrition Casein, as it is the only one that contains only one ingredient.

What is the cleanest form of protein?

When speaking about formulation, the fewer ingredients a protein powder has, the cleaner it tends to be. If you’re looking for a purer protein powder, look for whey hydrolysate, which is 99% protein, more than whey protein isolate or whey protein concentrate.

The same goes for plant-based proteins. Aim for an isolate protein blend, which will have more protein. Also, with a blend, all essential amino acids should be accounted for.

How do I know if my protein powder is clean?

Look at the ingredients list on the nutrition facts label and ask yourself if all of the ingredients serve a purpose, whether it be extra performance-based ingredients like creatine, natural sweeteners, or compounds to help with mixability like sunflower lecithin. If there’s an excess of ingredients you don’t recognize or the label does not explain why it’s there, it’s probably not clean.

Is clean whey protein good for you?

Clean whey protein can be great for people who have trouble digesting lower quality protein powder. Most protein powders that are properly sourced and thoughtfully formulated can be good for you, provided you are supplementing with it correctly.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

References

  1. Kim J. Pre-sleep casein protein ingestion: new paradigm in post-exercise recovery nutrition. Phys Act Nutr. 2020;24(2):6-10. doi:10.20463/pan.2020.0009 
  2. Townsend JR, Morimune JE, Jones MD, et al. The Effect of ProHydrolase® on the Amino Acid and Intramuscular Anabolic Signaling Response to Resistance Exercise in Trained Males. Sports (Basel). 2020;8(2):13. Published 2020 Jan 22. doi:10.3390/sports8020013
  3. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr. 2018;5:83. Published 2018 Sep 11. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00083

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