Does Whey Protein Have Lactose?

Written by Ben Carlisle

Last updated on: Sep 25, 2022

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People often ask if whey is suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. And if it contains dairy how can whey be suitable for some people with lactose intolerance. The short answer to "Does whey protein have lactose?" is yes it does, but often the lactose present will not affect people who are lactose intolerant.

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In this post, we'll take a closer look at whey protein and lactose to see what the real story is.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is a type of protein found in milk. It's considered a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs (1). Whey protein is often used as a supplement to help promote muscle growth and recovery after exercise.

When you consume whey protein, it is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream and delivered to your muscles. This makes it an ideal post-workout supplement, as it helps to kick-start the muscle-building process.

In addition to its muscle-building benefits, whey protein has also been shown to promote fat loss. One study showed that participants who consumed whey protein lost more fat and retained more lean mass than those who did not consume whey protein.

Whey protein is typically available as a powder that you can mix with water or milk. It can also be found in some protein bars and shakes. Whey protein is generally safe and well tolerated, but it can cause some side effects such as bloating, gas, and nausea. If you have any food allergies, be sure to check the label carefully before taking whey protein.

Lactose in Whey Protein

There is some debate on whether or not whey protein contains lactose (2). Whey protein is a by-product of cheese production and is made up of several proteins, including beta-lactoglobulin and alpha-lactalbumin. These proteins contain lactose (3). However, whey protein powders go through a process called microfiltration, which removes much of the lactose.

So, does whey protein contain lactose? It depends on how you define "lactose." If you are referring to the dairy sugar that can cause digestive issues for some people, then the answer is probably no. However, if you are referring to the milk proteins that contain lactose, then the answer is yes.

Lactose Intolerance Among People

Lactose intolerance is a condition characterized by the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, and other dairy products, including whey protein (4). The condition is fairly common, affecting an estimated 30 to 50 million Americans.

People with lactose intolerance can experience a range of symptoms, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea after consuming dairy products (5). In severe cases, it can even lead to malnutrition.

There are a number of different causes of lactose intolerance (6). In some cases, it is simply a matter of genetics (7). People of Asian, African, or Native American descent are more likely to be lactose intolerant than people of European descent. In other cases, the condition can be caused by an infection or an illness. For example, people with gastroenteritis are often temporarily lactose intolerant.

There are several ways to determine if you are lactose intolerant. One way is to take a lactose intolerance test, which is a simple and quick test that can be done at your doctor's office.

Another way to determine if you are lactose intolerant is to keep a food diary and track your symptoms after eating dairy products. If you find that you experience symptoms after consuming dairy, it is likely that you are lactose intolerant.

Should Lactose Intolerant People Use Whey Protein?

There are a lot of different protein powders on the market these days, and it can be tough to know which one is right for you. If you're lactose intolerant, you might be wondering if whey protein is a good option for you.

As stated earlier, whey protein is made from milk, so it does contain lactose. However, the manufacturing process removes most of the lactose, so whey protein is generally safe for people who are lactose intolerant.

But For people with high lactose intolerance, consuming lactose-based whey protein can cause a range of symptoms, including bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. While some people may be able to tolerate small amounts of lactose-based whey protein, others may experience more severe symptoms.

So, if you're concerned about consuming too much lactose, you can look for whey protein that is specifically labeled as "lactose-free" or find other protein alternatives that don’t contain lactose.

Also, it is important to speak with your doctor or dietitian first to determine if it is right for you. You may also want to consider taking a lactase supplement or using a lactose-free whey protein powder.

Where to Find Lactose-Free Whey Protein?

If you're looking for lactose-free whey protein, there are a few places you can look. One option is to find a protein powder that is specifically marketed as lactose-free. Another option is to look for a whey protein isolate. This is whey which has gone through a longer manufacturing process which results in lower carbohydrate, fat and lactose levels. This is often referred to as the best whey protein powder as it has a higher protein content typically around 90% when measured as a percentage of weight. Whey isolate typically has very low lactose of approximately 0.5 grams per serving. Finally, you can also look for a whey protein concentrate that has been enzymatically treated to remove the lactose.

If you face trouble finding lactose-free whey protein, don't worry - there are other options out there. You can use a casein protein powder, which is also high in protein but is naturally lactose-free. Or, you can use a plant-based protein powder, such as pea protein or hemp protein. These options will give you the protein you need without the lactose.

No matter which option you choose, make sure to read the ingredient list carefully to ensure that there is no lactose present. And, if you have any allergies or sensitivities, be sure to check with your doctor before using any new protein powder. To learn more about how dietary management for lactose intolerant individuals, go through this insightful study (8).

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So, does whey protein have lactose? The answer is a little complicated. Whey protein isolate has very little lactose. However, whey protein concentrate contains more lactose because it’s less processed and therefore retains more of the original milk components.

If you are sensitive to lactose, it’s best to stick with whey protein isolate to be on the safe side. But if you don’t have any problems digesting dairy products, either type of whey protein should be fine for you.

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