Can You Buy Protein Powder With EBT?

Written by Ben Carlisle

Last updated on: Sep 18, 2022

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Protein supplements are a great way to supplement a healthy diet and regular exercise. For anyone who is a beneficiary of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), it is often asked "can you buy protein powder with your electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card?".

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If a protein powder supplement has a “Supplement Facts” label, you won’t be able to buy protein powder with EBT. The reason for this is because vitamins and supplements aren’t food items eligible for SNAP benefits. However, if the protein powder has a “Nutrition Facts” label, you can buy it with EBT.

Although protein powder is a highly effective supplement with a number of heath benefits, the SNAP program does not consider it necessary for the vulnerable families in need which the EBT was created for. For more information regarding SNAP benefits, food stamps, EBT and protein powders, this article contains all of the information you need.

Official EBT Rules: Can I Buy Protein Powder With EBT?

SNAP benefits previously known as food stamps are issued to food-insecure households. This is done by using electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

The food items which you can buy with your EBT card include:

• Fruits and Vegetables.

• Meat, Poultry, and Fish.

• Dairy Products.

• Bread and Cereals.

• Other Foods such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages.

• Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.

However, some items aren’t eligible for EBT purchase,this includes:

• Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, and tobacco.

• Vitamins, medicines, and supplements (if an item has a "Supplement Facts" label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase).

• Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store).

• Hot Foods at the point of sale

• Any non-food items such as; pet foods, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, cosmetics, paper products, and other household supplies.

Therefore, if you want to buy a protein powder, you must purchase products with a “Nutrition Facts” label, which means it qualifies as a food item. Protein powders with a “Supplement Facts” label are considered supplements and therefore don’t qualify as a food item eligible for EBT payments.

EBT Eligible Protein Powders

So, if you can only buy protein powder with EBT if it has a “Nutrition Facts” label, which products on the market can you purchase?

Examples of protein powders you can buy with an EBT card include:

• NAKED Pea Protein

• NAKED Whey Protein


• BPI Best Protein

• Cellucor Whey

• NOW Sports Pea Protein

Can You Buy Supplements With EBT?

The rules for buying any supplements are the same, and you can’t use EBT, food stamps, or any form of SNAP benefits to purchase any items considered vitamins or supplements. However, protein bars with “Nutrition Facts” labels are eligible for EBT payments. Also, some types of ready to drink protein shakes and weight-loss shakes are allowed. The rule is the same here if it has “Nutrition Facts” label it is allowed.

Now you’re familiar with the EBT rules for protein powders and other supplements, let’s look at the two main types of protein powder: whey and pea protein.

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Whey Protein

Whey is the best known of the protein powders. Research has found whey protein shakes to be excellent at assisting muscle growth, athletic performance and weight loss (1). Whey supplements contain all nine essential amino acids and have excellent amino acid profiles (2). However, for the best results whey protein powders should be used in addition to a healthy diet and a good exercise regime.

What Is Whey Protein Powder?

Whey is a by-product of the cheese making process. When cheese is made, a liquid part of the milk separates as the fatty parts of the milk conjugate. Part of this liquid contains whey. There are two main proteins in milk. The first is casein which makes up approximately 80% of milk’s protein content and the other is whey which makes up the around 20%.

In the past, whey was considered a waste product from the manufacturing process. But, now it is a valuable commodity which can be used for supplements such as protein powders. The reason for this is the high levels of protein it contains. The protein found in whey is transformed from a liquid into a powder through a process called spray-drying (3). It is then used for protein bars, powders and meal replacement drinks.

Whey is popular amongst fitness enthusiasts, athletes, bodybuilders and people losing weight. It is a convenient way to get a high quality protein intake with a complete amino acid profile. It also is high in the branched chain amino acids important for muscle protein synthesis (4).

However, not all protein powders which use whey are equal. They can differ in the type of whey used, their protein content and additional ingredients. Sugar content should be looked at closely before purchasing any supplement. Some manufacturers use sugar to improve the taste of protein powders.

Types Of Whey Protein Powder

Protein powders derived from whey include; whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate (5). Whey concentrate is low in fat and carbohydrates. Protein content will vary dependant on concentrations. This can fall between 30% and 80% (5). However, protein powders using whey concentrate normally have protein content of at least 60%.

Whey isolate is whey which goes through additional processing. This involves microfiltration to remove extra fat and carbohydrates from the whey This further isolates the protein from the whey and leads to increased protein levels. These levels can be in excess of 90% of the protein powders weight.

The third type, whey hydrolysate. is a whey protein that has already undergone the hydrolysis process, which is necessary for the body to absorb protein (6). This type of whey is considered to be a “pre-digested” protein. This makes it more digestible than other types of whey. This has the added benefit of reduced allergen potential, making it a popular protein supplement for babies and people suffering from medical ailments (7).

Benefits Of Whey

Whey offers many benefits for people who incorporate it into their diets (6, 7). The main appeal to the mass market is the supplements' ability to preserve and build muscle by assisting with muscle protein synthesis (3). There are, however, several other benefits you can enjoy when you use this supplement. Read on to find out...

Increased Protein Intake

The fundamental benefit of whey is it’s a simple way to supplement your diet with additional protein. This is useful for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. The reason for this is they can easily get the required protein and amino acids post-workout. The effectiveness of whey has been confirmed by research which shows it to promote both muscle growth hypertrophy and strength when combined with resistance training. This is the case in both trained and untrained individuals (8).

Improves Satiety & Helps With Weight Loss

Protein is known to be the macronutrient which enhances satiety the most. Research has confirmed this to be the case with whey (9). This means you will feel fuller and curb your propensity to binge eat.  This makes it easier to follow a calorie controlled diet essential for weight loss (1011). The reason protein has this effect is because it decreases the level of  the hunger producing hormone ghrelin (12). Subjects in a study who took 20g of protein per food serving experienced decreases in hunger between 50% and 65% (13). This research demonstrates the effective of whey as a supplement when pursuing both weight and fat loss goals (14).

Strength & Muscle Gains

Consuming high levels of protein will create a positive nitrogen balance in your body (15). This sends signals to the body to take take on an anabolic state. An anabolic state allows your body to build muscle. Research has also found the ability to have early post-workout consumption with whey is beneficial for muscle protein synthesis, net muscle protein accretion, and ultimately hypertrophy (16).

However, protein intake alone does not guarantee muscle gains. Supplementation must be combined with a healthy diet and resistance training program, with increases in frequency, duration, and volume over time (8).

Pea Protein

Pea protein is regarded by many as the leading plant based protein powder. It is the go to protein powder for athletes wanting a plant based powder which can provide similar benefits to whey.

What Is Pea Protein Powder?

Pea protein powder is made from yellow split peas. These peas go through a dry phase before the outer shells are removed, and the pea is milled down to flour. The flour contains proteins, starches, and soluble fibers. Protein is separated through wet filtration and centrifugation processes.

Obtaining the pea protein isolate is done through isoelectric precipitation, and the protein powder typically contains 75% protein by the end of the process. Pea protein powder is used by people pursuing a range of goals. This includes athletic performance, increasing muscle mass, strength development, and weight loss. It also popular amongst vegans who want to increase their protein intake and those with allergies.

Types Of Pea Protein Powder

There are three types of pea protein powder, specifically pea protein isolate, pea protein hydrolysate, and pea protein blends. Pea protein isolate is derived from yellow split peas. Fibre and starch are removed, resulting in fewer lectins, no sugar, and no saturates. The final protein content is typically 75%.

Pea protein hydrolysate is "pre-digested" by hydrolysis. This process breaks the pea protein down into its component amino acids and peptides. This makes it easier to digest and can be a good alternative for people with digestive issues.

There are also some excellent pea protein powders on the market with added ingredients. These ingredients are added to provide a complete amino acid profile and  additional health benefits. These types of protein powders are known as pea protein blends. The most common blends are pea with brown rice and pea with hemp protein.

Benefits Of Pea Protein

Pea protein comes with a number of benefits. This ranges from supporting athletic goals through to providing health benefits. Below we will look at each of these benefits in more detail.

High-Quality Plant-Based Protein

Pea protein powders typically contain about 75% protein per serving. Studies comparing the effectiveness of pea protein isolate to whey found both produce similar results in promoting strength, performance, body composition, and muscular adaptations (1).

Supports Muscle Growth

The research supporting the ability of pea to replicate the results of whey have made it the go to plant based protein powder for fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders and athletes (117). However, like any supplement these results can only be achieved when pea protein powder is used to support a healthy diet and  a consistent resistance training program (8).

Contains All 9 Essential Amino Acids

Pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids. This is desirable for plant-based diets, because most foods high in essential amino acids are animal proteins. Despite containing all the essential amino acids pea protein has low levels of methionine. This can be supplemented with food elsewhere in the diet or by choosing a pea protein blend (18).

Contains High Levels Of Branched Chain Amino Acids

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which support muscle metabolism and assist with muscle tissue growth (4). Pea protein contains high levels of BCAAs and is also rich in arginine, which promotes heart health and has even been found to have cardiovascular benefits (20).

Rich In Iron

Pea protein is rich in iron, with a typical serving of containing between 5 and 7.5mg of iron. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for men and post-menopausal women is 8mg. And 18mg for pre-menopausal women . This means that, for some people a pea protein shake can make up for 93.75% of their iron requirements. And 41.67% for pre-menopausal women (21). Research has also shown pea protein to be a promising encapsulating matrix for the controlled release of iron (22).

Suitable For Most Diets

Pea protein is hypoallergenic. This means it doesn’t contain any of the 8 most common food allergens; peanuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and cow’s milk (23). It is also suitable for both vegan and vegetarian diets.

You Can Buy Protein Powder With EBT

But remember the rule of EBT eligible protein powders; if it says "Nutriton Facts" on the labelling it is EBT eligible. If it says "Supplement Facts" it is not EBT eligible. As you can see from the information there are a number of high quality protein powders available for purchase with EBT cards, meaning there is no reason you cannot reach your own personal health, fitness and athletic goals.

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