Consumers spend billions of dollars every year on protein supplements that promise to help add muscle, lose weight, and feel healthier. Most are unwittingly adding something else to their diets in their journey to better health — spoonfuls of excess sodium.
LabDoor, an independent testing lab based in San Francisco, carried out research to determine the amount of sodium in the average protein supplement. They tested 81 protein powders, which consisted of some of the best-selling products in the U.S.
The tests showed that 70 of 81 of the most popular protein supplements on the market contained higher sodium content than their nutrition facts claim. 50 protein powders and drinks exceeded their claims by a shocking 91.7%. The worst offender on the list understated its sodium content by over 350%.
Why so much sodium?
Many protein powders promise rapid muscle growth. Excess sodium can cause significant bloating and can trick consumers into believing they’re gaining muscle mass when they step on the scale.
Outside of trickery, many protein powders have natural ingredients that are just high in sodium. Thorne Research’s Vega Lite protein powder is the perfect example. It’s loaded with excess sodium because it’s made from pea protein. Pea protein is one of the most popular types of protein used in vegan protein powders and can account for over half of a person’s recommended sodium intake per day.
Many people don’t realize that high concentrations of natural ingredients can be unhealthy.
Yes, you can die from drinking too much water.
That’s an extreme case, but when you’re getting half or more of your diet calories from protein,, you need to know the protein source and the hidden effects.
In this article, we will blow the lid off of high sodium protein powders. Look at why they dominate the market, why consumers don’t know about it and highlight the best low sodium protein powders on the market.
Table of Contents
Why Does Vegan Protein Powder Have So Much Sodium? #
It’s not so much that all vegan protein powders have high sodium, but rather why do so many have high sodium?
The answer ties directly to our friend, the pea.
In recent years, pea protein has been gaining popularity. As a plant-based alternative to whey protein, pea protein boasts a complete profile of 18 amino acids with 9 essentials and 3 branch-chained (BCAAs).
Peas are legumes known for high protein content with a near-complete profile of amino acids, which make them an economical choice for protein extraction. Unlike the long-existing soy counterpart which has been genetically modified for years, peas are one of the few foods that remain GMO-free.
So what’s the problem with pea protein?
For comparison, 30 grams of an average whey protein contains 65 milligrams of sodium, while the same serving size from pea protein contains 238 milligrams - or 266% more!
Should we blame the pea? No, it’s not the pea’s fault. 100 grams of pea flour contains 33.3 grams of protein and only 13 milligrams of naturally occurring sodium. So where is all of that excess sodium coming from?
Peas consist of ~70% globulins and 10-25% albumins with a minor proportion of prolamins and glutelins. These four proteins have different solubility in various solvents: globulins are soluble in dilute salt solution, albumins in water, prolamins in ethanol, and glutelins in dilute alkali solutions.
Because globulins take up the majority of the protein composition in peas, it makes the most sense economically to focus the extraction on globulins. Most (if not all) peas proteins in the industry are extracted by the use of diluted salt solution as the extracting agent.
Peas grown in farms are dried in their pods before harvest. The sun-dried peas then are milled to remove their shells. The result is a flour that contains soluble fibers, starches, and proteins. The flour is then put through wet filtration with a salt solution as an extracting agent. From the solution, pea protein is precipitated at its isoelectric point and then freeze dried. The result is pea protein isolate.
Because a salt solution is used as an extracting agent, sodium from the salt solution often stays with the extracted protein. This is the reason why most (if not all) pea protein in the market has surprisingly high content of sodium.
Why Low Sodium Protein Powders? #
A protein shake can taste great and check all the boxes for protein and other beneficial nutrients but still contain a high amount of blood-pressure-raising sodium. Always check the nutrition facts panel before you consume anything, and especially look at the sodium content if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension).
A perfect example of this is the Boost High Protein Shake which comes in at 230 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s 10 percent of the 2,300-milligram max recommendation set by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
It may not sound too bad, but keep in mind that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a lower intake of sodium — ideally no more than 1,500 milligrams a day — to blunt the natural increase in blood pressure that occurs in people as they age. The AHA recommendation stands even if you don’t currently have high blood pressure.
With this in mind, one Boost Shake supplies 15.3 percent of your healthy daily sodium limit — a substantial contribution to your daily intake.
Another popular high sodium protein shake is strawberry-flavored Ensure Enlive, which has 20 grams of protein as well as 260 milligrams of sodium, which is 17.3 percent of the AHA’s 1,500 milligrams daily recommendation.
If you’re relying heavily on protein shakes to lose weight or gain muscle you may find yourself consuming several throughout the day. Combined with other dietary sources of sodium you may find yourself well over the recommended sodium intake.
This is why low sodium protein powders are the best choice.
How to Determine the Amount of Sodium in Protein Powders #
The easiest way to check the amount of sodium in protein powders is by looking at the Nutrition Facts label on the packaging. Often, you’ll find that the amount is listed in milligrams (or milligrams). Look for words like “sodium,” “salt,” or “soda,” as they can be used interchangeably.
Keep in mind that the amount of sodium listed represents the sodium from salt and any other sodium-filled ingredients. This means the product may also contain sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, or monosodium glutamate.
Also, take note of the portion size of the protein powder. The amount of sodium will vary with each serving size. For example, if you take two servings of the protein powder, this means you’re consuming double the amount of sodium listed on the label.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Low Sodium Protein Powder #
To give you some guidance before we get to our top low sodium protein powder list, we’ve put together this short list of other factors you’ll want to consider as well. If you buy a low sodium protein powder that falls short on all the other important factors then you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Because prices vary so much with protein powders, it’s always wise to do a little cost-benefit analysis before you buy one. Because in most cases, you’re best getting a big dose of protein no matter which powder you choose, so focus your attention on things like cost per serving and flavor, as these will be the biggest determining factors as to whether you end up satisfied with the protein powder.
Sugar Content #
While none of the protein powders we’ve recommended contain a great deal of sugar, you should still be mindful of the sugar content, especially if you are diabetic or are simply trying to lose weight. A few extra grams of sugar here and there can really add up.
Organic vs. Non-Organic #
There is plenty of debate about the value of organic food compared to conventional. This is not the place for that debate. We do, however, suggest that you do your own research to make sure products that are listed as organic meet the standards for the designation. Organic labeling can be misleading.
Protein Value #
The reason you’re buying a protein powder is for the protein, of course. The higher the protein amount per serving, the more you’re getting for your dollar. Even more, the type of protein is equally critical as not all proteins are created equal.
Taste and Flavor Options #
This may or may not be a factor for you. If you like the taste of your protein powder, consider it a a bonus. If you hate it, you’re not likely to use it or stick with it for long. If you can find a good tasting protein powder that you like, you’ll be all the better for it.
The Best Low Sodium Protein Powders for 2022 #
Best Low Sodium Plant Protein #
This plant-based protein comes with only 2 milligrams of sodium per serving. It’s a vegan protein that’s both Keto and Paleo-friendly.
Sprout Living Sunflower Protein has 15 grams of protein per serving all derived from sunflower seed protein powder. The product is also a good source of healthy fats, is naturally low carb and low sugar.
Sunflower Protein Powder is 3rd party tested for quality and purity.
- Clean Formula—Only One Ingredient
- 2 grams of Sodium Per Serving
- 15 grams of Sunflower Protein Per Serving
- Some Users Did Not Receive A Scoop With Their Powder
Best Fruit Flavored Low Sodium Protein Powder #
Isopure Infusions was one of the first clear fruit flavored protein powder options on the market. They first introduced clear protein RTDs.
They followed up with infusions of Whey Protein. Infusions contain 15 milligrams of sodium and provide 20 grams of whey isolate per serving. The low sodium protein contains only five ingredients making it a solid all-natural choice.
It’s low in calories, sugar, and carbs, making it great for losing excess weight.
Mix Isopure Infusions in cold water with or without ice. As you shake it, Infusions gradually dissolve into a clear low sodium protein shake.
- Only 15 milligrams of Sodium Per Serving
- 20 grams of Whey Isolate Per Serving
- Once Shaken It Turns Into A Clear Fruit-Flavored Protein Drink
- Some Users Feel There’s Not Enough Servings For The Cost
Best Natural Low Sodium Protein Powder #
NutraBio Grass Fed Whey Isolate is our pick for the best natural low sodium protein. Each serving comes with 65 milligrams of sodium and 25 grams of protein.
This is a 100% naturally certified powder. Vanilla flavor only contains four ingredients and is sweetened using monk fruit and stevia.
NutraBio Grass Fed Whey Isolate is low carb, low fat, and low calorie. Every NutraBio product breaks down ingredients by grams, including natural sweeteners and flavoring. NutraBio has earned a reputation for its quality and label transparency. You can even access a 3rd party website to verify lab results.
- 65 Milligrams of Sodium Per Serving
- Extreme Label Transparency
- 100% Natural Formula
- The Texture Is Too Watery For Some Users
This is the best low sodium whey protein on the list with only 48 milligrams of sodium per serving. Muscle Feast Hydrolyzed Whey Protein comes with 23 grams of protein per serving.
Hydrolyzed whey is the fastest absorbing form of whey on the market. The reason is the protein is broken down into very small particles.
This allows your body to digest it much faster when compared to other types of whey protein.
The unflavored version contains only one ingredient making it one of the most all natural options on our list.
- Very Low Sodium
- Features Fast Digesting Hydrolyzed Whey
- The Unflavored Contains Only One Ingredient
- Some Users Say The Chocolate Tastes Chalky
Best Low Sodium Protein Blend #
Muscle Feast Premium Protein is the best low sodium unflavored protein blend. It’s a mix of whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed whey, and micellar casein. This protein blend provides both slow and fast-digesting proteins.
The protein powder contains 37 milligrams of sodium and 21 grams of protein per serving.
The only other ingredient present in this product is sunflower lecithin. Natural flavoring and stevia is used for flavored versions. Flavored versions come with slightly less sodium than the unflavored ones. The protein source for the powder is grass-fed cows that are raised hormone-free.
- 21 gram Blend of Fast & Slow Digesting Proteins
- Only 37 milligrams Sodium For Unflavored, 35 milligrams of Sodium For Flavored Versions
- Contains No Artificial Ingredients
- Some Users Don’t Like The Taste & Texture
Best Low Sodium Whey Concentrate #
ProMix Nutrition Grass-Fed Whey Protein contains 50 milligrams of sodium per serving. This powder is unflavored and contains just two ingredients—100% whey protein concentrate, and sunflower lecithin. This is the best low sodium whey protein concentrate on our list. The high-quality whey protein provides 25 grams of protein per serving.
ProMix undergoes comprehensive testing standards. Grass-Fed Whey Protein is all-natural, soy-free, corn-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
This protein can be used as a shake or smoothie. Some people even use it to make homemade protein bars, or mix it with yogurt or oatmeal.
- High-Quality Whey Protein
- 50 milligrams of Sodium Per Serving
- Can Be Used In Shakes, Smoothies, Or Use It To Bake Protein Bars
- Some Users Don’t Like The Smell Or Taste
Best Low Sodium Casein Protein Powder #
Naked Nutrition Naked Casein has different amounts of sodium based on the flavor. Many unflavored versions of a protein have more sodium than their flavored counterparts. In other cases, it’s the other way around.
Naked Nutrition Naked Casein unflavored has 20 milligrams sodium per serving.
The flavored options contain 25 milligrams or 30 milligrams, depending on flavor. Naked Casein comes with 26 grams or 27 grams, depending on flavor, of slow-digesting casein per serving.
Naked Casein is also low carb and low sugar.
- 26-27 grams of Slow Digesting Casein Per Serving, Depending On Flavor
- 20 milligrams-30 milligrams Sodium Depending On Flavor
- No Artificial Ingredients
- May Have A Thick, Grainy Texture
Best For Bodybuilders #
Mutant Pro is our pick for the best low sodium protein for bodybuilders. Mutant Pro is a triple whey protein with only 60 milligrams of sodium. There’s 24 grams of protein from whey concentrate, hydrolyzed whey, and whey protein isolate.
Mutant Pro is low carb, low sugar and low fat.
Also, important for bodybuilders is 5.5 grams of branched chain amino acids and 11.7 total grams of essential amino acids.
Finally, Mutant Pro contains digestive enzymes for complete protein digestion.
- 24 grams of Triple Whey Protein Blend Per Serving
- Only 60 milligrams of Sodium
- Includes Digestive Enzymes
- Contains Sucralose
The Best Overall Low Sodium Protein Powder for 2022 #
Nutrition per serving (1 scoop)
- Sodium: 0 milligrams
- Protein: 50 grams
- Calories: 4
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Fortagen tops our list for the best low sodium protein powders in 2022. Not only does Fortagen contain zero sodium as it is the ultimate muscle-building protein, crushing the competition at 50 grams of protein per serving. It’s also the ultimate fasting protein powder because it’s low in calories.
Fortagen is fermented, a far more efficiently extracted protein than isolates, concentrates, or hydrolysates. Fermentation makes proteins more bioavailable, more gut-friendly, and lower in calories.
And unlike our other top picks, Fortagen has been specifically engineered to offer the perfect essential amino acid profile. This means EAAs are presented in the precise ratio your body uses to build muscle.
A Perfect Amino Acid Profile #
Fortagen outperforms the competition because it’s designed to provide the complete amino acid profile your body needs, in the perfect ratio. Most low sodium protein shake options lack one or more of the essential amino acids, or come loaded with nonessential amino acids your body already has a surplus of.
It’s only when EAAs are delivered in the optimal ratio that the body can make the best use of them. In fact, when EAAs aren’t optimized, your body may even borrow from muscle to help utilize EAAs you’re consuming in excess.
Superior Bioavailability #
When it comes to the impact of different proteins, bioavailability is one of the most important metrics to consider. Fortagen is digested in under 30 minutes, while other low sodium protein shake options can take up to 6 hours.
Easy on Your Digestive System #
Intestinal irritation to plant-based protein powders is one of the most common complaints. Seeds and legumes, if not fermented, can lead to bloating, gas, and discomfort. Fortagen is pre-digested through the fermentation process, resulting in smaller, more gut-friendly particle sizes.
Protein Shake with Minimal Calories #
Lots of low sodium protein shake powders come packed with calories and added artificial sweeteners.
If you’re on a calorie-restricted diet or if you’re intermittent fasting, typical calorie-packed low sodium protein powders will hinder your progress. Fortagen has the lowest calories per serving at just four calories.
Insulin Response #
Fortagen is a sugar-free powder that will not trigger an insulin response. Your energy remains balanced, and if you’re fasting, you’ll have a powerful tool to keep you from breaking your fast. For those trying to lose weight without sacrificing muscle, having a zero-carb/zero-sugar low sodium protein powder with high protein per serving makes the journey a lot more feasible.
Faster Recovery Time #
Fortagen is designed for increased protein synthesis post-workout. The reality is Fortagen has cracked the code on the perfect essential amino acid profile code. EAAs offset muscular and systemic fatigue that hinder muscle gains, but only when delivered in the right combination.