Whey Protein Powder Lactose Intolerance

Can You Have Whey Protein If You Are Lactose Intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is a digestive condition characterized by an inability to digest lactose, which is the primary carbohydrate found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance occurs when the enzyme lactase is not produced in sufficient amounts.

Lactase is required for lactose digestion. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose, which your body may utilize for energy. On the other hand, lactose passes through your gut undigested if you don’t have enough lactase. When lactose isn’t absorbed properly, symptoms including bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain might occur.

Lactose intolerance might restrict your eating choices. Milk products such as ice cream, cheese, milk chocolates, or yogurt; milk solids or powders; creams, buttermilk, and curds are all lactose-containing foods that should be avoided depending on your level of sensitivity.

But what about others who aren’t so obvious? Did you know that lactose may be found in small amounts in foods like bread and baked goods, salad dressings, sauces, soups, morning cereals, and cheese-flavored snacks, causing stomach upset?

If you have lactose intolerance or believe you have, it’s crucial to know which items in your diet, especially protein shakes, may cause stomach trouble.

What Happens When You Are Lactose Intolerant?

Whey Protein Lactose Intolerant People

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the sugars present in dairy products (most often cow’s milk) cannot be effectively digested by your body. Lactose intolerance makes dairy digestion harder due to symptoms including bloating, fluctuation, stomach discomfort, and diarrhea. Insufficient reserves of the gut enzyme lactase present in the small intestine lining cause these symptoms.

Lactase deficiency makes it difficult for the milk sugars to be transformed into absorbable molecules; therefore, lactose stays undigested when it passes through the large intestine. The large intestine is home to a plethora of microorganisms that help in the digestion of our meals. Lactose-intolerant people experience wind, bloating, and discomfort due to the bacteria partially converting lactose into acids and gases. Lactose, rather than being taken into the circulation, attracts water molecules, resulting in watery feces in lactose-intolerant persons.

Lactose intolerance varies in intensity from person to person, as does the quantity of lactose in various dairy products. People with lactose sensitivity can eat hard and matured cheeses like Cheddar, mozzarella, and brie since they contain little to no lactose.

It is recommended that you should not completely eliminate dairy products from your diet but rather alternate the types of lactose-containing foods. For example, a mild cheese can be included in your lunch meal, and cow’s milk can still be used in your daily coffee.

Milk and other dairy products are good sources of calcium, which is crucial for bone health. If you’re lactose intolerant, try out different meals to see which ones give you a reaction and which ones you can eat without becoming sick. The Food Intolerance Institute of Australia estimates that 67-75 percent of Australians, or two out of every three, have a dairy intolerance.

Because there are such many lactose-intolerant people, many of our favorite grocery brands are aware of the lactose content in their goods. The milk industry has also stepped up its efforts by introducing lactose-free choices that contain just little amounts of lactose that have already been broken down before consumption. If you are lactose intolerant, you should avoid most store-packaged items.

Lactose is found in most processed meals, including pre-packaged cakes, biscuits, cheese sauces, and soups. Lactose isn’t often included in these items’ ingredient listings; instead, aggregated substances like “milk solids” are listed. Because lactose is always present in this ingredient grouping, it is safe to exclude any pre-packaged processed items that include ‘milk solids.’

Can Protein Shakes Cause Lactose Intolerance?

The simple answer is that protein shakes will not create lactose intolerance; nonetheless, they may not be accepted by someone who is lactose sensitive.

The sort of protein you choose to prepare your shakes will determine whether or not you can tolerate them. Whey protein is one of the most popular kinds of protein used in protein shakes. Whey is a by-product of the cheesemaking process. Special enzymes are added to warm milk during the cheesemaking process. These enzymes convert casein in milk to a solid form, allowing it to separate from a liquid. Whey protein is a liquid ingredient cleaned and dried into a powdered state before being used in protein powder.

Whey protein is a complete protein source that contains all of the essential amino acids in suitable levels, which act as muscle building blocks. It is notably popular among athletes and anyone trying to grow muscle. Whey protein is also easily absorbed, allowing the body to utilize the protein more quickly (especially compared to other types of protein).

A 2018 research investigated how much the body can utilize protein for muscle growth in a single meal and the consequences for daily protein allocation. According to researchers, whey is a “fast-acting” protein: The absorption rate of whey is believed to be around 10 grams per hour. A 20-gram dosage of whey is entirely absorbed in only 2 hours at this pace. To put it into context, 1–2 scoops (about 25–50 grams) of protein powder per day is a standard recommendation.

Your body would be able to use 20 grams of whey protein within two hours of exercising if you ingested it around the time of your workout. Because of this absorption rate, whey protein is most beneficial in promoting muscle development when consumed within 2 hours after a workout, either before, after, or during it, because muscle protein synthesis is generally at its peak after exercise. Whey protein is also abundant in the amino acid leucine, which enhances muscle protein synthesis and stimulates the release of anabolic hormones that can drive muscular development.

It’s simple to see why whey protein is so famous for muscle growth. However, because of the lactose in whey protein, many lactose-intolerant people are unable to consume it. If you’re lactose intolerant and have been drinking protein shakes made with whey protein, your protein shake may be contributing to your discomfort (bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, and abdominal cramps).

What Happens If You Have Whey Protein Powder When You’re Lactose Intolerant?

Whey Protein Powder Lactose Intolerance

Even though whey protein powder is generated from the lactose-containing liquid component of milk, the amount of lactose in each product differs. Most dairy protein powders have been processed to the point where most of the lactose has been eliminated.

Whey protein powder is divided into three categories: whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate. Whey isolate has a higher protein content and lowers lactose content than whey protein concentrate. People with lactose sensitivity may not experience the effects of the lactose as much if they take whey isolate, which is more processed and has less lactose, than whey concentrate, which has roughly 80% protein and more lactose. Whey hydrolysate and whey concentrate both have a comparable proportion of lactose.

Lactose-intolerant people may be able to tolerate whey protein isolate even though it includes lactose. Whey isolate can be a lactose-friendly choice since it contains substantially less lactose, allowing for whey protein ingestion without indigestion associated with lactose.

Which Protein Powder Is Ideal For People Who Are Lactose Intolerant?

While whey protein isolate can be an excellent alternative for individuals with lactose intolerance, the little amount of lactose contained in it might still be a concern for some people, depending on the degree of their lactose sensitivity. Fortunately, whey protein isn’t the only sort of high-quality protein powder available.

There are a variety of lactose-free protein products available, and you will still be able to obtain the same results as if you consume whey protein powder or milk protein. Pea protein and brown rice protein are two of the most popular dairy-free protein powders.

Pea Protein Powder

It is a dietary supplement manufactured from yellow split pea protein. The protein is separated from the pulverized yellow peas and powdered. Pea protein is not only a high-quality protein and a good source of iron, but it’s also vegan, hypoallergenic, and one of the easier-to-digest plant proteins. This makes it a fantastic choice for lactose-intolerant folks.

Pea protein is devoid of cow’s milk and dairy, and it doesn’t include any of the main food allergies (including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy). It does include all nine necessary amino acids and is high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) like arginine, which helps with blood flow and heart function. The great thing for those who are lactose intolerant is that pea protein does not cause gas or bloating as whey protein does, thanks to its digestibility and absence of allergens.

Brown Rice Protein

It is another alternative, which is a protein supplement manufactured from brown rice that has been powdered. Brown rice is treated with enzymes that cause the rice’s protein and carbohydrate components to separate. The protein is extracted and then powdered. Brown rice protein, like pea protein, is hypoallergenic and may be taken by persons who are lactose intolerant. While brown rice protein lacks all nine necessary amino acids and is deficient in lysine, combining it with another plant protein source, such as pea protein, compensates for these deficiencies, resulting in a complete protein supply.

Pea protein and brown rice protein are two protein supplements that can help people lose weight because pea protein has a high fiber content that helps to balance blood sugar levels and keep the body satiated. (However, read the labels on your protein powder carefully.)

Despite the high fiber content of peas and brown rice, the quantity of fiber in protein powder is typically very low — approximately 1 gram per serving.) Brown rice protein powder appeals to people because it has a thermic impact. This suggests that the digestion of brown rice protein generates heat in the body. Because proteins require a lot of energy to digest, you’ll continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout if you ate a lean protein like brown rice, which has a thermic impact.

Hemp protein, soy protein, almond protein, brazil nut protein, chia seed protein, cranberry protein, pumpkin seed protein, and even sacha inchi protein are some more plant-based protein sources, in addition to brown rice and pea protein.

What Is A Lactose-Intolerant Person’s Alternative?

Whey Protein Lactose Intolerance

Whey protein isn’t the only type of shake available. Protein powders made from peas, hemp, brown rice, cranberries, soy, eggs, and other foods are available in a variety of dairy-free varieties. Protein smoothies can also be avoided completely. According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Shakes and supplements are inferior to whole meals in terms of nutrition and are unneeded in a healthy, balanced diet that meets all of your daily protein requirements.

Is Whey Protein Safe For Lactose Intolerant People?

If you’re lactose intolerant (allergic to milk sugar) or have any degree of lactose sensitivity, lactose-free protein supplements may be a better option to avoid bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal issues. Many people lack the lactase enzyme required for optimal lactose digestion in their small intestines. Lactase deficiency causes unabsorbed milk sugar to remain in the colon, causing gastrointestinal pain.

Lactose intolerance affects around 65 percent of the adult population, according to the National Institute of Health. People of East Asian heritage are more likely to have lactose intolerance (between 70 percent and 100 percent of them may not digest it). Lactose intolerance is common among West Africans, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, and Italians.

The watery part of milk, whey, is used to make whey protein powder. Whey contains 75 percent lactose straight from the cow, but when it’s used in meals and supplements, it has to be filtered, which decreases the lactose concentration significantly. Whey isolate protein powders are the most thoroughly filtered, yielding whey protein with exceptionally low sugar and fat levels.

Whey isolate powders contain around 90% protein and are often lactose-free, according to The Whey Protein Institute, but it’s vital to verify product labels if you’re not sure. “Especially if you’re lactose sensitive,” adds James Lucas III, RD, CSSD, proprietor of JLucas Nutrition in Dallas, “there might be a minor worry for gastrointestinal discomfort with a whey isolate.”

Aside from the sugar in dairy, whey powders contain another ingredient that may cause problems for certain consumers. If you still have sensitivity after taking a lactose-free whey isolate powder, Lucas believes it’s because you’re not properly digesting the protein’s bioactive peptides.

Peptides, such as -lactoglobulin, are short chains of amino acids (compounds that makeup protein) that the digestive system does not entirely break down. As a result, some people may be allergic to them or sensitive to them. These peptides can be helpful, accounting for some of the health-promoting properties of whey protein, but they may also induce a reaction if your body recognizes them as foreign substances and initiates an inflammatory defensive response to protect you from dangerous infections.

Consider your body issuing an alert to ward off an unwanted invader. Other potentially life-threatening allergic responses, such as those experienced by persons allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, and eggs, can develop as a result of this. However, as a result of consuming whey protein isolate alone, they are extremely infrequent.

Lucas advises whey protein hydrolysate to people who have difficulties digesting whey isolate. Hydrolysates are lactose-free protein powders that have also been “pre-digested.” That is, their peptides have been broken down throughout the manufacturing process, making them easier to ingest. Unfortunately, digesting the peptides removes many of the health advantages of whey hydrolysates, including immune system support, good blood pressure, and hunger and blood sugar management.

What Is The Best Protein Powder For Lactose Intolerance?

Gainful can assist you if you’re lactose intolerant and want to locate a protein powder that meets your demands but isn’t sure where to start. Gainful provides customized protein powders that are made just for you. Gainful takes care of the rest when you complete the survey and pick your dietary limitations, preferences, and general wellness objectives.

If you’re not sure which lactose-free protein powder is best for you, Gainful can point you in the right way and assist you in creating the protein powder you want. Each member also receives unrestricted access to a personal Registered Dietitian who can answer any concerns you have regarding your protein powder, lactose intolerance, dairy food side effects, and more.

There are many protein powder alternatives available for lactose-intolerant persons, and Gainful can assist you in finding the perfect one for you.

Can Lactose-Free Protein Powder Help You Gain Muscle?

In the end, you can gain muscle with almost any type of protein supplement, but none is as effective as whey (more on this in the following section). Plant-based protein powders are beneficial, but they aren’t ideal. Plant-based proteins have a lesser anabolic impact than animal proteins, according to a review published in Nutrients in 2019. It is due to their lower digestibility, lower essential amino acid concentration (particularly leucine), and other essential amino acids. According to the review, they’re more likely to be oxidized than utilized for muscle protein synthesis (the process by which muscles grow).

Another review of animal and plant-based proteins published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2015 shows that proteins in soy and wheat are converted to urea (the main compound in our urine) and aren’t as easily utilized by the body to promote muscle growth as animal proteins are.

Plant proteins, on the other hand, have been demonstrated to help in muscle growth. Soy is the most researched plant-based protein, and it’s also the most commonly available. Several studies have demonstrated that it can compete with whey on many levels. However, it has been proven to reduce iron and zinc absorption in the body. Soy has also been chastised for its ability to attach to estrogen receptors in the body. According to Harvard School of Public Health studies, this influences hormone levels, making it one of the more contentious plant-based proteins.

Hemp, on the other hand, could be a superior option. According to research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the protein absorption rate of hulled hempseeds is equivalent to casein, which is similar to whey. It also lacks trypsin inhibitors, which are included in many soy protein powders. These substances hamper protein digestion.

Another good choice is rice protein. In a 2013 rice vs. whey trial, participants gained the same muscle thickness, body composition, and strength regardless of which supplement they were taking.

Pea protein is also a good option. In our pea protein guide, we mentioned a 2015 research in which those who drank pea protein beverages gained the same amount of muscle as people who drank whey protein beverages, and both groups outperformed the placebo.

If you want a dairy-free protein powder but don’t want to go plant-based, egg-white protein is a good alternative to whey protein. Egg protein has been shown to have a leucine concentration that is just slightly lower than whey. Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that has been identified as the most significant amino for muscle building by experts.

You should also be aware of beef protein isolate. In a 2019 meta-analysis, it was proven to be just as effective as whey in generating body composition alterations.

Is Lactose-Free Protein a Complete Protein?

Many non-dairy proteins, such as hemp, rice, and pea, are incomplete, which is one reason they don’t receive the same credit as whey. That implies their protein either doesn’t include all nine essential amino acids (EAAs) or doesn’t have them in meaningful proportions. EAAs are amino acids that human bodies cannot make on their own and must be obtained from the diet. It’s worth noting that all protein powders derived from animals include all of the EAAs and are thus complete. Egg and meat powders are examples of this.

However, regardless of whether the protein is complete or not, you should achieve decent gains if you pick a plant-based protein. For starters, the issue is simple to resolve. You can fortify your plant protein powder by adding the EAAs methionine, lysine, and/or leucine (which are generally lacking in plant powders) or, if you don’t feel like playing mad scientist in the kitchen, you can simply mix two or more plant-based powders together and get a fairly well-rounded supplement in seconds, according to the same Journal of Nutrition review linked above.

Pea protein, for example, has all nine EAAs but is deficient in methionine and cysteine. Rice protein has a low lysine content. When you combine the two, you obtain a well-balanced amino acid profile. However, many protein powders already contain a blend of proteins to provide a comprehensive amino profile, so you don’t have to buy various powders if that’s not in your budget.

The leucine content of plant-based powders is the actual stumbling block for most individuals. Leucine is so potent that it can induce muscle development without the help of other amino acids. Whey protein has the most leucine of any protein source, whole food or supplement, gram for gram. Plant powders, on the other hand, have a lesser concentration. Pea protein, for example, provides 81 mg of leucine per gram, compared to 105 mg in whey.

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the best quantity of leucine for boosting muscle growth is somewhere between 0.7 grams and 3 grams per serving, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and studies suggest that receiving more than the high end of that range does not boost increases to any higher degree. While the difference may appear intimidating at first, it just indicates that whey protein spikes leucine in your bloodstream faster than pea protein.

It’s simply a question of efficiency. You can obtain the same amount of leucine from pea protein. It’s only a matter of taking a bit more of it. Almost all plant proteins are in the same boat. Depending on the serving size of the product you’re using, this may be a little more than one scoop, or perhaps two. Running through plant powders faster might make them more expensive over time than supplementing with whey, but you shouldn’t lose strength or muscle in the process.


Whey protein is a safe protein that a wide range of people may consume. Those with lactose intolerance may experience stomach issues, and those sensitive to cow’s milk may also be allergic to it.

If you’re having trouble with side effects, consider whey protein isolate or a non-dairy protein substitute. Despite these drawbacks, whey protein is one of the most effective supplements available. Several studies have supported its favorable benefits in strength and muscle growth, recuperation, and weight reduction.

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