Is Whey Protein Dairy?
If you’re interested in taking protein to supplement your diet, then you may also be interested in where these proteins come from, as well as how you can ensure that you are taking the right protein that is best for your body and overall health.
Depending on your dietary needs and choices, it may affect which protein you can take. Hence, it is important to know, is whey protein dairy? You should also be aware that not all protein supplements are created equally.
In this article, we look at different types of protein available depending on their source. We’ll also explain a bit more about each one to help you make the right choice when it comes to getting all the proteins your body needs.
Is Whey Protein Dairy?
If you’re wondering whether or not whey protein is dairy, then the short answer is yes. The two main types of protein available on the market can be split loosely into dairy-based proteins (of which, whey is just one type) and plant-based proteins.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids that your body is unable to create itself. Therefore, it must be consumed within your diet.
All of these amino acids can be found within meats and all of its by-products, but finding all of the essential amino acids in plants is a little bit more complicated. That doesn’t mean that a plant-based diet can’t yield all of your BCAAs, though; you just have to be a bit more educated on where to get them.
Different Types of Protein
The first group of proteins we will look at more closely is those derived from dairy, including whey protein and casein protein, both of which are derived from milk and egg protein.
Many people argue that protein derived from dairy is better for you, and that is mainly because it contains the complete protein mix that your body needs to function properly.
- Whey Protein
Whey protein is the most popular form of protein on the market right now. Whey is formed in the cheesemaking process. When milk coagulates, it splits into two parts, the solids (curds) and liquid (whey).
Whey is a water-soluble protein source that accounts for around 20% of the total proteins that can be found in milk.
Before it was known to be such a vital and efficient source of protein, whey was simply discarded by cheese makers. This made it a relatively inexpensive source of protein due to it being a by-product of another industry, until it’s recent surge in popularity pushed the price up.
Because it is water soluble, it’s also fast and easy to take—with water, milk, or smoothies. It’s fast absorbing too. This made it popular within the sports nutrition market, offering a speedy protein source to aid muscle gain and recovery.
- Casein Protein
Casein protein is derived from milk and accounts for the other 80% of milk proteins. Casein is effectively what is left over after the whey is removed. Like all proteins derived from dairy, casein contains all nine-branched chain amino acids that are essential building blocks used in your body to build muscle.
Casein is not water-soluble, so it doesn’t mix easily with shakes and smoothies (another reason why whey tends to be more popular). Instead, it has a gel-like consistency, which makes it great for baking puddings and desserts.
With this, you can enjoy puddings that have a similar calorie and protein content as a chicken breast. It can also be used to replace other gel-forming agents in the kitchen.
- Egg Protein
Egg protein is made from heating and dehydrating the whites of eggs into powder form. If you’re buying egg protein, then be sure to look for ones that also include the egg yolk, or have added leucine in them.
All of the nine essential amino acids can be found in egg protein, but leucine, in particular, is usually found in the egg yolk. It is often left out of protein powders due to its high fat content.
If you suffer from allergies to milk or egg, or if you are vegan, then dairy-based proteins just aren’t an option for you. While plants do contain different proteins, they don’t necessarily contain them all, and the complete protein mix can sometimes only be obtained from several different plant sources.
- Soy Protein
Soy protein is derived from soybean and is commonly used as a supplement because it’s a relatively cheap way to add protein to your diet.
Out of all of the plant-based protein sources, it is the closest to the protein you can get from dairy as it can contain a complete mix depending on the growing conditions of the plant (sometimes the levels of methionine are too low, rendering it an incomplete protein source).
There has been some controversy surrounding soy due to it containing phytoestrogens, which bind to our bodies estrogen receptors. However, phytoestrogens have a much weaker effect on the human body than estrogen, so you'd likely have to be consuming a lot of soy, or soy protein, for this to have any effect on you at all.
- Rice and Pea Proteins
These two plants are often frequently used together to create a great vegan protein mix. Standalone, they are both incomplete protein sources. Put them together, though, and you have a perfect ratio of all the essential amino acids your body needs.
A fairly limited amount of studies have been conducted to test the differences between dairy proteins and a mix of rice and pea proteins, with the results finding no significant differences. The proteins missing from rice can be found in peas, and vice-versa.
When taking these protein supplements in the form of powder, rice protein is smooth and can mix well into liquids. Pea protein, on the other hand, tends to have a similar consistency and versatility to casein and is, therefore, often used in baking.
Final Thoughts: Protein Power!
So, is whey protein dairy? Yes, it most definitely is, along with casein protein, it is derived from milk. While the vast majority of people still turn to whey protein for their supplement needs, it is also relatively easy to get your complete protein mix from plant-based sources.
It may take using a mixture of two different plant sources, or you can buy plant protein blends that calculate the correct balance needed from each plant. If you’re allergic or intolerant to dairy, though, then this may be your only option.