Whey protein is one the most effective and popular protein powders. It’s easy to absorb and relatively affordable. Buying a good whey protein powder in Japan, however, can be challenging. Most include harmful artificial sweeteners or similar bulking agents. We review the best 5 additive free whey protein shakes in Japan and advise which ones to avoid.
Whey Concentrate and Whey Isolate
Supplement whey powders can use whey concentrate (WPC), whey isolate (WPI), or both. Whey concentrate is just less processed so it has more fat and cholesterol. The body also absorbs it more slowly, and for these reasons it’s often a good choice for young athletes, resistance training, or as a post workout protein supplement.
Whey isolate has less fat and sometimes zero cholesterol. It’s more processed and therefore pricier. It’s also called pre-digested whey and is absorbed by the body very quickly. It’s a good choice for a pre workout protein, taken between competitive events, or for those trying to lose weight.
Many of the best whey protein powders combine these two slightly different types of whey for maximum training outcomes. Mixed whey protein powder in Japan is a little harder to come by. Both types of whey are generally okay for lactose intolerance. For more sensitive stomachs, a plant based protein powder, egg protein powder, or bone broth powder may be the better choice.
Health Risks of High Protein Intake
There are generally no harmful effects of increasing protein as such, but there are risks to certain high protein diets. One risk is more unhealthy fats and cholesterol, the other is a lack of fiber.
Taking too much protein though may result in protein being converted into stored fat. People with kidney disease or kidney ailments should first consult a medical advisor before taking extra protein.
There have been concerns in studies of how high protein intake may affect bone density and calcium. These studies are inconclusive and besides, whey protein concentrate is a good source of additional calcium.
When you take a protein supplement, always make sure to drink extra water because protein has a dehydrating effect. Protein also increases acidity in the body, so you should balance higher protein intake with alkalizing fruits and vegetables.
Additives in Whey Protein Powders
A hidden danger in protein supplements is all the other stuff (other than protein) that goes into them. These the artificial flavorants, sweeteners, and bulking agents or emulsifiers. When buying whey protein powder in Japan, it can be difficult navigating ingredient listings, but we help you with our labeling guide below.
Different Types of Sweeteners in Protein Powder
The most controversial additives are artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (E955), and the ‘tames’ such as aspartame (E951), acesulfame potassium or potassium-K (E950), neotame (E961), or advantame (E969). For the more health conscious, you may want to avoid these as they are associated with gut ailments.
Monk fruit or lo han guo, is one of the best non nutritive natural sweeteners. It doesn’t increase blood sugar levels, and allergic reactions are rare. The most commonly used natural sweetener is stevia. It has some drawbacks and you should avoid stevia that is not 95% steviol glycoside.
Other sweeteners are sugar alcohols. Two commonly used ones are xylitol and erythritol. Sugar alcohols can cause bloating, cramping, or diarrhea in some people. Xylitol, on the other hand, is not so bad. You find it a lot in toothpastes and chewing gum because it can reduce cavities and improve oral flora.
Emulsifiers and Bulking Agents in Whey Protein Powder
Emulsifiers and bulking agents give the protein powder more bulk, and prevent granules clumping together. They also produce better viscosity when mixed with water or milk. If the power contains soy lecithin, check to see if it’s GMO-free. Maltodextrin is also common. This processed carbohydrate can give you an quick energy boost, but also spikes insulin levels a lot. Maltodextrin has been linked to digestive disorders, and may also come from genetically modified foods such as corn.
Checklist for Choosing the Best Whey Protein Powder in Japan
- Check if the product is whey concentrate, whey isolate, or both, and if this suits your training and dietary goals.
- An independently certified 100% amino score will tell you the powder isn’t spiked with non-essential aminos.
- Check grams of protein per serving, the number of servings per pack, and match this to your budget. 20 to 25 grams is a good amount. 1 kg usually lasts about a month. A glass of milk can add 8g of additional protein.
- See what kinds of sweeteners are inside. Unflavored protein powders do not have sweetener added.
- Artificial flovarants have no nutritional value, but they never taste that great. Natural vanilla and chocolate are safe bets. Chocolate or cocoa flavors may add micro and macro nutritional values.
- Check for any ingredient certifications for quality, purity, or labeling statements. Alternatively, you can research additional information via the internet.
Understanding Whey Protein Powder Labeling in Japan
If you buy an international brand, it is easy enough to go to an English language website to view nutritional information. FDA regulations require US products to list all nutritional content, both micro and macro nutrients, but this is not so in Japan.
Sometimes, Japanese products list micronutrient content, but it’s done in grams or milligrams which is hard to understand. US products use established daily value (DV) percentages, so it’s much easier to make nutritional assessments.
Unless fortified, whey protein powder doesn’t contain much in the way of micronutrients other than calcium (around 10% DV) and minimal amounts of iron and potassium.
One key difference between whey protein powders is cholesterol. Some products remove most cholesterol, while in others amounts vary widely sometimes up to 27% DV for 25 grams of protein. Whey Isolate tends to have minimal or zero amounts of cholesterol.
Labeling Keys for Whey Protein Powder in Japan
A key term is 人工 (jinkou) meaning man-made or artificial. In combination you get 人工甘味料 / artificial sweetener, 人工香料 / artificial flavoring. Sometimes you see the word 合成 (gosei) meaning synthetic as in 合成甘味料 (synthetic sweetener).
All the better if the above are affixed by terms such as 不使用 / no used or 無添加 / not added [人工甘味料不使用].
Another keyword is and 保存料 / preservatives. The term 添加物 (tenkabutsu) indicates additives in general. GMO information is usually just in katakana as in GMOフリー / GMO-free, or sometimes they might use the kanji as in 遺伝子組み換えなし(idenshikumikae-nashi) or using the terms 不使用 or 無添加. The word 乳化剤 (nyukazai) indicates emulsifiers.
Best 5 Whey Protein Shakes in Japan for 2020
- Limitest Ultra Value WPC – Best Affordable Value
- Choice Golden Whey – Best Grass Fed Whey
- Explosion Whey Protein – Best Bulk Buy for Gym Training
- Fine Lab Whey Protein – Best Pure Whey Isolate
- Body Wing Whey Protein – Best with Vitamins and Minerals
Limitest Ultra Value Whey Powder – Best Affordable Choice
Limitest is an uncomplicated and affordable protein powder. It’s sweetened with stevia with no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or bulking agents. It’s four natural flavors are: cocoa, coffee, macha, and plain. A serving of three spoons is 35g of powder with 25.9g protein, 2.2g fat, 3.9g carbohydrates, and 0.2g sodium. The 100% amino score means it isn’t spiked with non essential amino acids.
The milk powder comes from the US and the whey powder is manufactured in Japan. They list the BCAA count which is 5.3g valine, 9.4g leucine, and 5.8g isoleacine per 100g. This works out to 7.2g BCAA per 35g serving, which is pretty good. The fat and carbohydrate count is basically in line with most standard whey concentrates. The plain version is considerably cheaper than the flavored ones. They have a range of protein products available.
Reasons to Reconsider
Although the best choice for an affordable straight up whey powder, with no emulsifiers added, it doesn’t mix as smoothly as regular powders. It can be a bit bubbly and clumpy if you don’t use a whisk or shaker. If this doesn’t bother you, then the taste is not bad and it’s a good choice for a smoothie.
Choice Golden Whey – Best Grass Fed Whey Powder
This is a high quality whey protein from New Zealand grass fed cows. Apart from being a more ethical choice, this is also meant to reduce drug compound contamination. Many people attest that grass fed whey has an a much richer taste than other whey powders.
There are no artificial additives or emulsifiers in this whey powder. The whey is produced in a GMP approved facility which assures the safety and quality of the product.
Natural flavoring includes organic green tea, and additional lactase enzymes to help digest milk protein. The sweetener is stevia. One serving is 30g from two spoons and mixed with 300 ml of liquid. Protein per serving is 20.52g, fat 1.11g, carbohydrates 6.18g, and sodium 0.12g. It’s easy to drink, and the macha flavor is only slightly sweet.
Reasons to Reconsider
Choice products are a fair bit pricier than even some other grass fed whey. Also, the only flavor is macha, and despite local GMP assurances, there’s no amino acid profile. People find this powder really easy to drink, but it takes a bit of time with mixing, and doesn’t mix so well with cold liquid. This can be expected though from a protein powder that doesn’t add emulsifiers, and shaking is better than stirring.
Alternative WPC Grass Fed Whey
Big Whey Straight is from Japan’s popular sport supplement brand Bulk or BulkSports affiliated to Body Plus International.
The grass-fed milk powder is sourced from Victoria, Australia. There are no synthetic sweeteners, flavors, or emulsifiers. It has anti-doping BSCG certification and TSP for accuracy of labeling and purity of product.
Each serving (33) is 20g of protein, but there is no amino profile or amino acid listing. It’s bubbly when mixed because of no emulsifiers, but leave it to read a while before drinking.
Go here to see other products in the Bulk Store
X-plosion Whey Protein – Best Bulk Buy for Gym Training
X-plosion is quite a popular whey protein, and it has its merits. It carries anti doping certification and is endorsed by the Bar Bell Club bodybuilding association of Japan. It checks out with a 100% amino acid score, and 20.8g protein per 30g serving.
Carbohydrate and whey counts are in line with other whey concentrates, and the BCAA count is 5,130 mg per serving. It also comes in five flavors including cafe au lait, fruits au lait, strawberry, milk chocolate, plus plain.
Reasons to Reconsider
This is an affordable high quality protein, but some people may have issue with the additives— except for the additive-free plain version . Sweeteners differ between the flavors, but all have sucralose.
The emulsifiers are either sunflower or soy lecithin. The GMO status of the product is unclear, and under new laws less than 5% GMO does not require admission. However, from 2023 foods will carry non-GMO or zero-GMO labeling.
Cafe au lait flavor has sunflower lichitin and sucralose; strawberry: soy bean emulsifier and sucralose; fruits au lait: soy, stevia, and sucralose; chocolate milk: cocoa powder, soy, sucralose, and stevia; plain: sunflower lichitin only.
Fine Lab – Best Pure Whey Isolate
Fine Labs is an excellent high quality whey protein. It’s sourced from grass fed cow herds which are carefully monitored for milk quality free from hormones and antibiotics.
The isolate is obtained through cross flow micro filtration, which is a two tier ceramic filtration method with no chemical processes or ion exchange. The benefit is an intact protein with significantly less sodium and fat.
The isolate is independently tested and verified for a full amino listing, and a 100% amino score. The emulsifier used is soy lecithin. One serving of two spoons is 20g and the protein content is 18.6g. Fat is 0.26g, carbohydrate 0.08g, energy 75.4 kcal, and negligible sodium of 168mg / 100g. The BCAA count is 24.96g per 100g or 4.99g per serving. You should mix the powder with 200cc of liquid.
Reasons to Reconsider
The only demerit to this whey protein isolate is that the flavored versions all contain sucralose. There are four flavors namely, milk cocoa, melon, strawberry and mixed fruit. The plain flavor is additive free.
BodyWing Whey Protein – Best with Extra Vitamins
Body Wing is a fortified protein powder with no artificial additives. The five flavored versions namely, caramel, chocolate milk, cafe au lait, yogurt, and banana have added vitamin C and B-complex. These vitamins together are important for energy production and synthesis of proteins.
Although made in the US, the whey protein concentrate (WPC) is sourced from Netherlands and New Zealand, the emulsifier is sun flower lecithin (not soy), and the sweetener is stevia. The natural flavor has no added vitamins.
One recommended serving is 2-3 spoons, but three spoons will give you 18.6g protein, 1.5g fat, 1.8g carbohydrates, 0.15g sodium, and 96 kcal. Flavored versions may lack typical color because of no artificial colorants. There’s also a full amino acid listing and a 100% amino score. The powder mixes easily and well, and people really appreciate the mild sweetness. The most popular choice is natural and then chocolate milk.
Reason to Reconsider
This protein powder is a slightly more expensive than other fortified options, but that’s generally the price you pay for additive free flavored whey powder.
Alternative Fortified Whey Protein
High Clear Whey Protein 100 (price link) is a high quality fortified WPC that is a little more affordable. It’s manufactured in Japan, independently tested and certified. It has 11 added Vitamins, 16 essential minerals, and 74 trace minerals from Okinawa coral powder.
Only the plain version is additive-free. The many flavored versions all have artificial flavorings and sweeteners.
Whey Protein Powder to Avoid in Japan and Why
The key reason to avoid a whey protein powder is potentially harmful additives. These may include artificial sweeteners, unknown GMO status of soy derivatives (lecithin), and agents such as maltodextrin. No quality guarantees such as an amino count, amino acid listing, or third party certification are also good reasons to think twice.
1. ON Gold Standard: Optimal Nutrition is probably the leading brand for whey protein powders. Many products carry Informed Choice seals. However, they don’t have a lot of flavors and use artificial sweeteners. Their approach is changing and they now have a naturally sweetened powder, but it’s not readily available in Japan.
3. SAVAS: One of the most recognizable brands in Japan. Their powders are highly specialized for sports and weight control. Some products include dextrin for sustained energy release, and B vitamin complex for energy production and protein synthesis. However, all products contain artificial sweeteners, and some contain maltodextrin.
4. Fixit: Quite an up and coming brand on the scene. Their products basically all use artificial sweeteners. They list amino profiles, their Daily Basic Whey is certified by Informed Choice, however, they don’t clarify the source of their whey very clearly.