Is Whey Protein Vegan? –

Is Whey Protein Vegan?

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Whey protein comes from cow’s milk, delivering a lactose blast that causes gas and cramping. Not what you want to deal with at the gym.

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Is Whey Protein Vegan? Vegetarian?

Protein is essential for muscle growth and strength, as well as for complex bodily processes. But what if you are vegan or vegetarian and your protein powder isn’t vegetarian-friendly? How would you go about using your protein supplement then? 

What are the different types of vegetarianism?

There are nearly as many types of vegetarian as there are vegetables. Not really, but the variety of vegetarian practices can be bewildering. Animal products, as well as food containing them, are excluded from lacto-vegetarian diets. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter are some of the dairy products permitted, however.

Meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products are all prohibited on an ovo-vegetarian diet. 

Meat, fish, and poultry are all prohibited on lacto-ovo vegetarian diets, though dairy and eggs are allowed. 

In pescatarian diets, meat and poultry, as well as dairy and eggs, are prohibited. 

Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products. 

For purposes of this article, let's talk veganism, which is both a lifestyle and a form of ethics. 

It aligns with activism in the area of animal rights. Vegans abstain from consuming animal products entirely and are known for promoting compassion for animals, an ideology that goes back thousands of years. Vegans follow a diet free of animal products such as dairy, eggs, honey, and gelatin.

Is Whey Protein Vegan?

Nope. Whey protein is the protein-rich liquid found in milk whey. Milk whey is a by-product of cheese production. The word "milk" in this paragraph should make it clear that whey is not plant-based, but animal-based — and thus definitely not vegan. 

Whey contains amino acids and essential nutrients such as protein, minerals, and enzymes. Whey protein powder is a popular supplement among non-vegan and non-vegetarian athletes for its high amino acid content. 

But whey's protein—typically made from dairy products—can't be considered vegan or vegetarian. Whey has a potent protein profile. It is also a lactose delivery system that is known to give the user gassy abdominal cramps and, well...flatulence. 

Whey protein powder can contain lactose, which is a type of sugar linked to lactose intolerance. 

Vegan protein vs whey protein

In the consumer market, whey-based protein is the most common. Why? What distinguishes whey-based protein supplements, which currently dominate the marketplaces of nutrition shops, from plant-based proteins, which are becoming increasingly popular among “natural and sustainable protein seekers? 

In actuality, a plant-based protein supplement containing the same essential amino acids as whey will deliver the protein without the downsides of an animal-based product like whey. 

Let's look at the differences and similarities between these sources of extra protein. We do recommend opening a window somewhere if you're reading this after downing a whey protein shake. 

Animal-derived whey protein is filtered, separated, and dried into a powder after being derived from cow's milk during the cheese making process. Because of the cow's vegetarian diet, whey protein is a beneficial source of all the essential amino acids. Remember that. 

Whey protein, lactose, and additives

Whey protein is also loaded with some other stuff; a lactose blow to the gut, for one. Whey protein is a lactose delivery system, bloating the stomach and producing by-flatulence. As in “Please don’t walk by. I have terrible flatulence.” 

Whey protein is also typically treated with flavor additives like sucralose, or acesulfame potassium, a sweetening compound whose production uses methylene chloride, found by the FDA in the 70s to be a carcinogen when sufficiently concentrated.

Furthermore, to separate the animal protein in whey from its dairy biomass source requires heavy processing that degrades the protein in the whey and/or decreases the percentage of total protein present in the finished product. 

Lastly, the milk of dairy cows can include antibiotics with which the cows have been inoculated. These antibiotics can seep into the whey protein supplement. 

These drawbacks have been addressed somewhat by the whey protein market, as seen by the sliding scale of whey protein product pricing. 

The less affected by processing, the more expensive the whey product is. To put it another way, as the whey protein content in a product approaches "baseline," the consumer pays more. You've got a problem when "baseline" is the gold standard.

Vegan protein is not whey protein

How is vegan protein different from whey protein? The most basic distinction is this: vegan protein is made from plants, which have all the amino acids meat and dairy have. What types of vegan proteins are we talking about? Soy protein, hemp protein, and brown rice protein -- and the star of the vegan protein show, Pea Protein

As one would expect, a plant-based protein supplement is about as simple and minimally processed as something pulled from the soil. 

Plant matter is easier to digest than cow's milk and its protein is more quickly processed, having been natural to the human diet for 180,000 years (more or less). 

A much-cited 2013 study found that whole grain brown rice protein has the same outcomes in muscular mass development, exercise recovery, and strength gain as whey, as an illustration of plant material easily stepping into the protein position in your life. 

To paraphrase the study's conclusion; "...Rice protein isolate consumption decreases fat-mass and increases lean body mass, skeletal muscle hypertrophy, power and strength comparable to whey protein isolate." 

A plant-based protein supplement gives you the complete protein profile of a whey (animal)-based protein supplement, but without the additives, lactose, and gut full of gas. 

Is whey protein at all plant based?

Whey protein is a powdery protein supplement made from milk. It is in no way plant-based. In addition, whey is derived from the same food production practices that produce meat. The meat industry is a resource-intense industry that is crowding out the arable land on the Earth's surface for the raising of cattle and other meat animals. 

This means that land that could be given over to protein-rich grain production is given to cows (mostly), who are fed the grain we should be giving to the nearly 1 billion starving people on this planet. Feeding 20,000 plant calories to a cow yields only 2,000 calories in return. 

The raising and eating of meat is a powerfully wasteful practice. Because meat is (frankly) delicious and the people who love to eat meat are largely unaware of the damage caused by its production, calling meat-eating "unethical" is overstating the case. 

Suffice it to say that flexitarianism — the earnest effort to be a modern diner — may just save the world. 

In short -- whey protein is NOT plant-based. It is cow based. 

Whey protein and gas

Whey protein is a protein supplement that is made by removing the milk solids from whey, which is the liquid part of milk after curdling. Whey protein powder is indeed a good source of amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. 

But because it is milk-based, it delivers a quantity of lactose to your digestive system, resulting in gas and bloating and discomfort -- three reasons whey protein and lifting heavy weights at the gym don't easily mix. 

Vegetarian protein sources

Plants eaten in combination with each other provide the "complete proteins" that most people have been taught to believe are only available in meat. As powdered supplements, plants provide the same protein as meat, with none of the ecological and personal health disadvantages of meat.

Here is a sample of various plants and their respective protein content. Unless otherwise stated, these describe protein content per cup of measurement.

Lentils — 1 cup contains 17.86 grams of protein. 

Chickpeas — Cooked chickpeas contain around 7.25 g per ½ cup. 

Pinto Beans — 15.41 grams of protein per cup. 

Green Peas — 8.58 grams per cup. 

Brussels sprouts — 5.64 grams per cup. 

Chia Seeds — 24 grams of protein per cup! 

Potatoes —4.55 grams per baked potato with skin intact. 

Avocado —4.02 grams per … avocado. 

Broccoli! —4.28 grams per stalk. 

Asparagus — 4.32 grams per cup.

Another vegetarian protein source is lentils and legumes. These protein-rich foods are easy to digest and provide essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals for balanced nutrition. They can be used in soups, stews, salads, and other dishes as a vegan-friendly source of plant-based protein. 

Using plant-based protein sources as a whey protein alternative is heart-smart, and part of a healthy diet that supports overall well-being -- of the individual and of the planet.

Whey protein is yesterday's protein

In terms of protein, we can only conclude that animals are poor protein traders, taking in a lot and doling it out in small quantities smeared with dubious cow-gunk. 

"Food is medicine." Who said this? Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine". Born on the Greek island of KOS, he made this observation about 2,400 years ago. 

Our energy and activity level throughout the day are heavily influenced by what we eat. Our eating habits affect our long-term physical health, and the way we actually feel. 

When the cow eats plant protein and you eat the cow, the once-pure plant protein gets a greasy coating of cholesterol, fat, and a bunch of other weird ingredients. 

You want protein? Do what the mountain gorilla, rhino, bison, horse, brontosaurus, and many other mighty herbivores have done. Eat (or drink) your veggies. KOS plant protein makes a good start. Hey, we're surrounded by protein. Welcome to the Kingdom. The Plant Kingdom.


What is whey protein made of?

Whey protein is a dairy product made from the liquid that separates from milk during cheese production. As it comes from animal sources, it is not vegan or vegetarian-friendly. It is made from derivatives of cow's milk. 

Is whey meat based?

Yes, whey protein is meat-based, because it is produced by cows. It is not itself made of meat, but if you are someone who objects to eating meat for various reasons to do with both health and animal welfare, whey production comes from the same factory-farming of animals as meat.

Can vegetarians drink protein shakes?

Yes, vegetarians can definitely consume protein shakes. Many protein shake options are animal-product-free and are therefore suitable for vegetarian consumption. Some popular vegan protein shake options include plant-based powders such as pea, hemp, and brown rice proteins.

However, whey protein is derived from dairy, which means it's not suitable for vegans or strict vegetarians. It's always important that you read the product label carefully to determine if the protein powder of your choice contains animal products or not before purchasing it.

For more information or to shop for KOS products, click here.