What’s In Your Whey Protein? A Look At Additives & Ingredients

Day in and day out in the bodybuilding and fitness industry, large amounts of protein powder are consumed. Whether you are an individual looking to bulk up or get lean, there are tons of top selling protein powders out there to choose from.

Usually the hot button topic is how much protein should you consume at one time bro? But, there is not much discussion about what is in the protein powder. Let’s step back from the great protein debate.

Do you really know what is in your protein powder? The following ingredients are contained in one or more of these top ten selling protein powders.

Top Ten Selling Protein Powders

Ingredients in the Top Ten Protein Powders

*(Other common names of the listed ingredient)

Ingredient – Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame K)

Acesulfame potassium is considered a potassium salt; it is a very sweet substance that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Acesulfame potassium contains methylene chloride a known carcinogen which is stable under heat and lends itself to baking. Acesulfame potassium is used in combination with other sweeteners in the food product industry to enhance the taste of a product without the sugar.


Acesulfame potassium can be found in a variety of reduced sugar products including sodas, baked goods, frozen foods, desserts, candies, chewing gum and alcoholic beverages.

Side Effects

Once ingested, acesulfame potassium moves through the body at a rapid rate. The body is unable to metabolize or store it for future use. Long term useage can lead to headaches, nausea, kidney and liver problems and may contribute to hypoglycemia.

Ingredient – Cellulose Gum (Carboxymethylcellulose {CMC}, Purified CMC or Sodium Carboxymethlcellulose)

Cellulose gum is a synthesized chemical that is used in the food industry as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Cellulose gum is indigestible by the human body, but it is widely used in the because of its cost effectiveness.


Cellulose gum can be found in food additives for ice cream, juices, processed cheeses, salad dressings and processed meats. It is used as a binding agent in detergents, pills, ice packs, water soluble paints, toothpaste and K-Y Jelly.

Side Effects

Over consumption has been reported to interfere with bowel movements by putting an extra strain on the large intestine; it has also been known to cause watery stool.

Ingredient – Cocoa (Processed with Alkali)

This process darkens the cocoa and changes its flavor by reducing the bitterness. Once the cocoa is treated the level of flavonoids in the cocoa are substantially reduced.


Cocoa processed with alkali can be found in processed foods, baked goods and chocolate drinks.

Side Effects

Cocoa treated with the alkali process substantially reduces the natural flavanols of the cocoa. Cocoa should be avoided by those who are sensitive to chocolate.

Ingredient – Corn Syrup Solids

Corn syrup solids usually originate from genetically modified corn crops that have been altered to resist herbicides and are enriched with vitamins. The corn is shelled and cleaned prior to being placed in deep tanks. The corn is then soaked in a solution. Once the process is complete what remains is a substance that consists of gluten and starch.


Corn syrup solids can be found in a variety of packaged and processed foods; they are used in throat lozenges and for coatings in tablets and vitamins. The pharmaceutical industry uses corn syrup as a flavoring agent to make both antacids and liquid medicines more palatable.

Side Effects

The over consumption of refined sugars including corn syrup solids has been linked to cavities, chronic inflammation, increased triglyceride levels, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic related fatty liver disease, and weight gain.

Ingredient – Dipotassium Phosphate

Dipotassium phosphate is a water soluble salt used to control the acidity and clumping in the processed food industry. It is formed by a chemical reaction and is a source of phosphorus and potassium.


The food industry uses dipotassium phosphate as a food additive and a buffering agent in beverages, dry powders, and imitation dairy including non-dairy creamer. Dipotassium phosphate can also be found in mineral supplements and fertilizer.

Side Effects

Some individuals have reported constipation or diarrhea, dizziness, and nausea or vomiting.

Ingredient – Disodium Phosphate

Disodium phosphate is a combination of sodium salts and phosphoric acids which is inexpensive to manufacture as opposed to natural acids and salts. The processed food industry uses disodium phosphate as an emulsifier and a whipping agent. Disodium phosphate has the capability to alter the texture of a food.


Disodium phosphate enhances the flavor in processed foods. Baked goods, canned goods, cheeses, meats and soups and other processed foods contain this food additive. It is used in beauty products for its anti-caking properties and can be found in cleaning products and pesticides.

Side Effects

When consumed on a regular basis, it can contribute to a reduced level of calcium in the body. It also may disturb pre-existing conditions in individuals whom suffer from asthma and gout.

Ingredients – Gum Blend (Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan)

Gum blends work together synergistically to do something that a single gum cannot do by itself. The combining of gum blends adds an additional cell structure to the product which helps give the processed food a texture. Combining gums also cuts down on the overall costs of production.


Blending gums adds pliability to processed foods and provides the consumer with a better quality of taste.

Side Effects

Consumption of this chemical has been known to cause gastrointestinal upset including bloating, gas and diarrhea. Gum blends are derived from corn, soy or wheat and should be avoided by allergic individuals.

Ingredient – Inulin (Oligosaccharide or Prebiotic)

Inulin is a starchy substance found in a variety of fruits and vegetables; it can also be found in herbs and wheat. Inulin is considered a FODMAP meaning a short chain carbohydrate.


Inulin is used in processed foods and can be used to replace fat, flour and sugar. In this case it is used as a food additive to improve the quality of the protein powders taste.

Side Effects

FODMAP can pose a problem for some individuals by causing an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria. Overgrowth of intestinal bacteria can lead gastrointestinal problems such as gas and bloating.

Ingredient – Lactase

Lactase breaks down lactose into galactose and glucose which is easier on the body to assimilate. Once the product is concentrated and refined; it has a smooth texture and a sweet flavor that is then used in the food processed industry.

Lactase helps aide in the body’s ability to digest lactose. Lactase is used in milk products including ice cream, chocolate milk and whey.

Side Effects

Lactase generally does not cause side effects, but may trigger an allergic reaction. Sensitive individuals may experience hives, difficulty breathing or tightness in the chest.

Ingredient – Lecithin

Lecithin is a water soluble fatty substitute that is yellow and brownish in appearance. Its water solubility lends itself as an emulsifying agent. Lecithin is mainly used for commercial purposes and is extracted chemically from the soybean.


Lecithin is used in the food product industry as an egg substitute. It is used in baked goods including breads and cookie dough. Lecithin can be found in non- stick cooking sprays, animal foods, and pharmaceuticals. Its anti-gumming properties also lend itself to gasoline.

Side Effects

Lecithin can inhibit the absorption of cholesterol from other foods.

Ingredient – Natural and Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavors are synthetically produced by chemists and usually made up of chemicals called esters. Chemists are able to produce substances similar what are produced in nature.

A flavor technically means an ingredient has been added to the food to enhance the foods aroma and flavor. Consumers should assume some will be naturally derived and some will be produced through chemistry. Artificial flavors and extracts enhance the flavor of a food making it tastier and more palatable, but provide no nutritional value.


Both natural and artificial flavors can be found in a variety of processed foods including candy, cough syrup, French fries, frozen yogurt and protein powders to add aroma and enhance the flavor of the product. Both natural and artificial flavors are added to cosmetics, shampoos and other beauty and health related products because of their cost effectiveness.

Side Effects

Overconsumption of natural and artificial flavorings can lead to obesity, high blood sugar levels and elevated cholesterol.

Ingredient – Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in protein-rich foods. Phenylalanine is sold as a dietary supplement, and it is an ingredient that can be found in aspartame.


Phenylalanine can be found in soft drinks, diet foods, snack foods, Equal and NutraSweet and is used for mental arousal and alertness. Phenylalanine is also used in medications to treat depression.

Side Effects

Phenylalanine itself has no known side effects, but Aspartame taken in large quantities can increase the brain levels of phenylalanine and is recommended to be used with caution. It is best to be avoided when taking certain medications including monoamine oxidase inhibitors, neuroleptics or medications containing levodopa. It should also be avoided for individuals with anxiety disorder, sleep disorder, tardive dyskinesia or other mental health conditions.

Phenylalanine should not be consumed by individuals that have PKU, genetic disorders, phenylketonuria or other health conditions. In these individuals it may cause mental retardation, brain damage, seizures and other medical complications.

Ingredient – Polydextrose

Polydextrose is a white granule powder which can easily be dissolved in water. Polydextrose is low-calorie and flavorless; it is used as a non-dietary fiber bulking agent to replace sugar. Since polydextrose is flavorless it must be combined with other chemicals.


Polydextrose is used to replace fat, starch and sugar for this reason it can be found in diabetic recipes, low carb and sugar free meals. Polydextrose can be found in a wide range of processed foods including breakfast cereals, candies, cakes, dessert mixes, frozen desserts and puddings, and salad dressings.

Side Effects

Polydextrose cannot be completely absorbed by the body and therefore can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some cases. It has been known to cause bloating, gas and diarrhea in sensitive individuals. Excessive consumption of this chemical can cause a laxative effect.

Ingredient – Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride is usually obtained from a mined stone mixture, however; it can also be extracted from salt water. Potassium chloride is considered an electrolyte which is bitter in flavor.


Potassium chloride can be found in sports drinks and dietary supplements. Potassium chloride is also added to processed foods such as cheeses, dog food, milk, meat, oatmeal and pastas.

Side Effects

Consuming high amounts of potassium chloride can interact with medications and may cause an irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness or stomach cramping. Individuals with heart or kidney conditions should avoid consumption of potassium chloride.

Ingredient – Potassium Citrate

Potassium citrate is produced chemically by reacting potassium salts with citric acid. These potassium salts are occur naturally in the body and are found naturally in fruits and vegetables as well.


Potassium citrate is used as a food additive to balance the acidity in processed foods and as a buffing agent for sodas. It can also be found in multivitamins and is used in the processing of cigarettes.

Side Effects

Potassium citrate has been known to cause dizziness, numbness, diarrhea, vomiting and arrhythmia in some individuals.

Ingredient – Silicon Dioxide (Silica (SiO2)

Silicon dioxide occurs naturally in plant based foods and can be found in the earth’s crust. Silicon dioxide is a chemical compound that is formed when silicon is exposed to oxygen. For this chemical to be safe it must be made by a process known as vapor phase hydrolysis.


Silicon dioxide that occurs naturally is important for normal bone health. Silicon dioxide is used in foods to prevent clumping and is used in powdered foods as a flow agent. Silicon dioxide can be found in supplements and in higher amounts in cereals.

Side Effects

While dietary silica has gained notoriety for maintaining bone health, there has been some cause for concern when consuming as a food additive in processed foods. Dietary supplements containing over two percent of silicon dioxide are deemed unsafe and may lead to serious health conditions.

Ingredient – Sodium Caseinate (Casein)

Sodium caseinate or as it is more commonly referred to as casein in the fitness community is an extracted milk protein. Casein is extracted by heating milk that has been mixed with an acid ingredient.


In the dental industry it is used as a tooth strengthening agent. The food product industry uses it in coffee creamers, frozen desserts and in protein powder.

Side Effects

Sodium caseinate and casein are derived from milk and considered a milk protein and therefore should be avoided by anyone who has milk allergies.

Ingredient – Sodium Chloride (Salt or Table Salt)

Sodium chloride is an ionic compound that contains equal portions of sodium and chlorine. This compound is used in both processed foods and medical treatments.


Sodium chloride can be used as a condiment and food preservative in packaged, processed and canned foods. It is also used in the medical community for intravenous infusions and in catheter flush injections.

Side Effects

Consuming excessive amounts of sodium chloride has been known to cause bloating, gastrointestinal upset and been linked to gastric cancer and heart disease.

Ingredient – Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is a commonly used by-product that has been extracted from the soybean by a mechanical or chemical process using hexane. After it has been removed by harsh chemicals, the waste then goes through a bleaching process to become soy lecithin. Soy lecithin has emulsification properties that lend itself to processed foods.

Emulsifying agents assist in keeping properties intact and help reduce the amount of fat and eggs needed for dough and bakery items. Soybeans themselves are considered a cheap crop which makes them an inexpensive emulsifier used by the processed food industry. Unless the product states it is certified non-GMO the soybeans are more than likely genetically modified.


Soy lecithin is commonly used commercially in candy bars, ice cream, coffee creamers and other processed foods that require a sticking agent. It is also used in makeup products, cough drops, prescription medications, textiles and lubricants.

Side Effects

Individuals with sensitivity to soy and GMO’s should consider avoiding this ingredient unless it is considered organic soy. Natural occurring toxins still contain properties that can be harmful including plant estrogens and anti- nutrients to sensitive individuals.

Ingesting too much has been known to cause gastrointestinal disturbances including diarrhea, nausea, upset stomach and bloating. Overconsumption has also been reported to effect the thyroid, causing hypothyroidism.

Ingredient – Sucralose

Sucralose is a synthetic additive made by chlorinating sugar. Sucralose is used as a mixing agent and a bulking agent; it is highly heat-stable and does not attract moisture. This makes it ideal for baked goods and provides for a longer shelf life. Products containing sucralose add fillers and other artificial sweeteners.

Sucralose is a no-calorie sweetener that is used in a wide variety of packaged and processed foods including breakfast bars, candy, soft drinks and in baking products. Sucralose can also be found in canned fruits because it takes the place of corn-syrup.

Side Effects

The bulk of sucralose that is ingested is not absorbed and is unable to be broken down by the body. Sucralose has been known to reduce healthy intestinal bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract which is needed to properly digest food. Sucralose may also impact the effectiveness of prescription medications.

Ingredient – Tricalcium Phosphate (TPC) (Bone Ash)

Tricalcium phosphate is a calcium salt of phosphoric acid, and is the chemical product of bone and salt. Tricalcium phosphate also occurs naturally, but contains traces of other substances. Tricalcium phosphate is also referred to as ‘bone ash’ because it can be derived from the bones of dead animals.


Tricalcium phosphate is used medically for replacement of tissue in bone defects and can be used as a porcelain dental powder. Tricalcium phosphate is frequently used in the food industry as a food additive for both its anti-caking and rising properties. It can be found in candy, cheese, jams, supplements, wines and in both dairy and juice.

Side Effects

There are no known side effects from consuming tricalcium phosphate in foods. Individuals who are Kosher, Vegan, Vegetarian, or consume a Halal diet may want to consider an alternative source.

Ingredient – Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a food additive that is derived from corn, soy or wheat. It is produced by fermenting corn sugar with xanthomonas campestris, a form of bacteria. Once it has been fermented it is ground into a fine powder.


Xanthan gum is commonly used in the food industry as a thickening agent. Xanthan gum provides a longer shelf life for both baked goods and pastries. It can be found in salad dressing, sauces, ice cream and is in most gluten free foods.

Side Effects

Xanthan gum may cause bloating and should be avoided by individuals who have a corn, soy or wheat allergy.

Most of the protein powders contain one of the following labels:

Allergy Warning

Contains: Milk and Soy Ingredients.

Final Notes on Whey Protein Powder

After reviewing the list of ingredients, it should be noted that some of the protein powders contain added salt. Most of the product labels have an allergy warning stating that the protein powder was processed in a facility that also processes egg, wheat and peanut ingredients. One protein powder label stated that soy had been genetically modified.

As the adage goes, think before you drink. The bottom line is no matter your goals, know what is in your protein powder.

Has this article been helpful to you? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment in the section below.

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  1. before thos article I was worried only about percentage of bcaa and protein.. from now on I’ll start to read the whole ingredients’ label. I’m shocked to found some stuff I’ve seen only in some frozen fast-food.

    • Hi Dingolfi,

      Unless you make your own, all protein powders have some additives and fillers. My best advice for you is to choose wisely. Read the labels, and select a protein powder that has the least amount of additives and fillers that suits your needs.

  2. Hello Lisa

    This was a very helpful article. You mentioned Halal so i am assuming you know somewhat about the dietary requirements for Halal food.
    Do you know of any Halal whey protein?

    • Hi Shahid,
      Thanks for contacting me. I’m glad you found the article helpful. Whey prepared with microbial enzymes is considered Halal and it must certified Kosher. So the starter bacteria, media on which the starter culture grows and rennet used in hard cheese has to be Halal certified. This gets tricky when it comes to the finished product because not all the manufactures may be Halal certified. So my advice to you is once you find one to be 100% sure call the manufacture to determine the source and if the finished product was processed in a Halal/Kosher facility.

      From what I have found it looks like Ultimate Nutrition, Nutrilite and Hammer Nutrition carry some protein powders that are Kosher and GMO free. You may want to consider going with a plant based protein. I would think you’d have more options and you could be more guaranteed of the source. Here is a link that I found that does have some Kosher proteins: http://www.vitaminshoppe.com/search/controller?N=200784854+12&cm_sp=categorySearch-_-Price-_-%2440+&type=category

      Best of luck!

  3. I must admit that your article is enlightful….im a 44 yrs adult diagnosed with anxiety….my problem is that whey protein triggers my anxiety…my question is why?and what brand of whey protein will be safe for me cuz I go to gym and I’m tryin to build lean muscles?

    • Hi Sam,

      It sounds like it could be a food allergy to the whey itself or an ingredient in the whey. I would try an egg, rice or plant based protein powder and see if that makes a difference. Usually they contain less ingredients too. On my site, you’ll find recipes with my favorite protein powders. My favorites are MRM egg protein and NutriBiotic Rice protein. There are others out there, but these two taste the best to me.

      The other thing I would recommend is getting tested for food allergies and sensitivities. There is a company called immune labs. Ask your doctor about it. It might be worth your while to check into it. Food allergies and sensitivities can cause all sorts of disturbances in the body including anxiety.

      Hope that helps!
      If you have any further questions don’t hesitate to contact me.

    • Great question, TH. I know a lot of the ingredients can cause upset stomachs, bloating and cramping, but I’m unaware of decreased sperm production, but anything is possible. If it poses a concern for you, you may want to consider rotating the brands you are using or lessening the amount you ingest on a daily basis.

  4. My son is having some thyroid function decreases lately. He is using Nitro tech protein powder. Would you recommend a different protein shake?

    • Hi Alberto,

      I would consider having him switch to a plant or rice based protein powder as they will have a lot less fillers. Jarrow makes a pretty clean Rice Protein Powder. Anything that has less ingredients and fillers won’t taste as good though. He could mix it with juice or chocolate milk. I use an almond chocolate milk.

      You could also have him do an egg based protein powder, but again error on the side of caution; they all have some fillers. I personally use MRM egg white protein it’s a cleaner brand.

      Thanks for contacting me!

    • Hi Darshan,

      From looking at the label quickly, I did not see that it contains egg. The label does state that it is processed in a facility that has eggs, soy, nuts etc. If egg poses a problem for you, just read the labels carefully; it should be easy to identify from the label.

    • Hi Faisal,

      I checked the label too and I did not see it. Usually if you don’t see it on the label than it’s not. If you’re concerned, I would contact the company directly.

      Thanks for contacting me!

  5. Awesome article i have been reading a lot about nitro tech and some of what you wrote helps , i us1e to have high uric acid readings about 8 years ago and i took meds now every time i check its in average range , i know taking creatine as a supplement raise my rates but do you think nitro-tech does it has a 3g of creatine not much but 30g of protien too , even though i drink about 2 liters or water lately on daily basis .

    • Hi B,

      Thanks! If you’ve had some problems in the past with uric acid buildup, I would personally avoid creatine altogether. Sounds like your body was having trouble clearing it, and it’s not worth the risk of having to deal with meds. There are plenty of great protein powders on the market without creatine. You can also find one with 20-25 grams of protein, a little less than what you’re consuming now, may be helpful in your case. Just read the labels carefully.

  6. Hi Admin,

    I was confused for many years about the ingredients in the whey proteins am consuming.
    But its now clear to me…and for this, i am thanking you from BOTTOM OF MY HEART.

    One last doubt, from your brief its clear that Dymatize ISO 100 not having any non-veg stuff and not even egg. I am a pure veg athlete and even avoided eggs till now.

    So, can you confirm once again as you have best knowledge i must say, that Dymatize ISO 100 is without egg/non-veg stuff.

    Thanks buddy
    Delhi, India

    • Hi Umesh,

      Thanks for contacting me and glad you found the article helpful. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth so I would call the company just to verify. There are also some good plant based protein powders out there that you might want to look into. I’m not sure if it will meet your specific requirements, but I like Sequels Natural and Jarrow Rice Protein Powder; they are very good quality.

      Drop us a line and let us know what you find out.


  7. Please analyse and tell which of the hydrolyze whey protein has least of all these additives ? Which is d best brand available ? Thx

    • Hi Animesh,

      Currently I’m loving Magnum’s Quattro. As I feel it has top quality ingredient’s and it’s pharmaceutical grade. Quattro also sits very well with me compared to other protein powder’s I have tried.

      Hope that helps you some!

    • Hi Shruti,

      It’s really a personal choice and depends on how far you go with being a ‘vegetarian’, as some vegetarians eat no dairy or animal by products which would include whey, so in that case you should opt for a rice or plant based protein powder. If it’s a concern to you, I would contact the company directly, and they will be able to give you a better idea, as some ingredients may be cross contaminated as well.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Should we be worried about consuming all of these additives or is it not a big deal? Or any additives in particular we should look out for?

    • Hi Mark,

      I would purchase a protein powder with minimal ingredients. In my opinion, less is always more. You can also rotate your protein powders, so you’re not consuming the same ones on a daily basis.

  9. I’m so grateful to find this article with all the details I needed. I’m trying to find the right protein powder for me, which is becoming increasingly difficult the more I read.

    I’m lactose intolerant AND fructose intolerant, so I’m definitely restricted to the whey isolate, which is fine because there are a number of options even after that filter. My problem lies in the fructose malabsorption… I need a whey protein isolate powder that doesn’t have hidden fructose or sugar. Optimum Nutrition’s Golden Standard Hydro Whey has high fructose corn syrup listed among the ingredients. I’m curious about pea protein, especially Vega One, but I don’t know how the production of this supplement breaks down the fructose in the fruits and veggies that are used to make it. How safe is pea protein if I’m unable to actually consume peas?

    The final question is: Do you have any suggestions that are both lactose free and fructose free? Or at least one with a smaller amount of fructose ingredients? Artificial sweeteners don’t seem to be a problem.

    • Hi Rachel,
      Sorry for the late response. If you are unable to consume peas, I would avoid any plant based proteins that contain peas. You might want to consider rice or egg based options which have minimal ingredients as well. Check into Jarrow’s Rice Protein and look into egg protein powders as well. If I recall correctly, Dymatize makes a solid egg protein that might meet your needs. But be sure to check the labels for your specific needs.



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