Is Whey Protein Vegan?

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Whey protein is often found in the supplement aisle of the grocery store and in many health food stores. This supplement is commonly used in the health and fitness communities as a way to consume additional amounts of protein in a concentrated manner. 

If you haven’t heard of ‘whey’ before, you might be wondering what it is and what it’s made from. Most importantly, you might be asking yourself if it’s vegan. That’s a lot of questions. 

In this article, we are going to explore what whey protein is and if it’s vegan. For those that want the short answer, no it’s not vegan. 

What Is Whey Protein?

You might be familiar with the word whey if you live in a farming community as it refers to dairy. Some may be scratching their heads thinking about where they know this term from. Unfortunately, it’s a nursery rhyme. 

Whey is a protein that is found in milk which can be isolated from the other main protein, casein. It is derived from the cheesemaking process and is found in a liquid form before being spray-dried into a powder.  

What Is Whey Protein Made Of?

Protein powders that you find in stores are a mixture of different proteins isolated from whey. The liquid whey contains nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make themselves alongside essential vitamins and minerals. 

There are eight different proteins that makeup whey protein, these are: 

  • Alpha-lactalbumin
  • Beta-lactoglobulin
  • Bovine serum albumin
  • Glycomacropeptide
  • Immunoglobulins 
  • Lactoferrin 
  • Lactoperoxidase
  • Lysozyme 

Alongside the essential proteins and so on, many manufacturers add extra ingredients to whey protein powder to make it more palatable for their customers. For example, sweeteners, sugars, and artificial flavorings may be added to improve the taste. The full list of ingredients will always be displayed on the product’s packaging, always read the label before use. 

How Is It Made?

To separate the whey protein from the milk, there are a number of different stages that the milk passes through. Generally, the whey is separated from the milk when it is used to make cheese. During this process, enzymes are added that separate the curd from the liquid whey. 

The liquid whey is filtered out and pasteurized, which is required by law to ensure it is safe for human consumption. Through the pasteurization process, the protein is isolated and concentrated into its final form. 

When the whey protein is concentrated and purified, there are two different methods that are commonly used: membrane filtration and ion exchange chromatography. The final product is spray-dried into a powder form before being distributed. 

Is Whey Protein Vegan?

No, whey protein isn’t vegan as it is derived from dairy. However, there is good news! Many protein companies sell vegan versions of their products in a range of delicious flavors. 

Vegan Protein Products

In recent years, many manufacturers have adapted their products to accommodate different dietary requirements such as vegans. As whey is a protein taken from milk, that’s out of the question. 

Instead, protein powders can be derived from plant sources such as brown rice, pea, soy, and hemp. These sources are made entirely from plants, or a combination of plants so there is no need to worry about dairy or lactose” 

Comparing the protein content of the two sources, you generally seem to get the same amount of protein per serving. However, the content of plant-based protein sources can depend on which plant they are made from. 

When buying vegan protein, you’ll want to look out for a product that has between 20-30 grams of protein per serving.

Some manufacturers will also combine plant proteins to ensure all the essential amino acids are included in the powder, these are called complete protein sources. 

Complete protein sources include: 

  • Pea
  • Hemp
  • Quinoa
  • Soy 

Where To Buy Vegan Protein

Vegan protein powders can be found just as easily as normal whey proteins in grocery and health food stores. To get a good deal and not have to carry a heavy package around with you from the store, online retailers such as Amazon also sell reputable protein brands. 

Brands that sell vegan protein powders: 

  • Huel 
  • Garden of Life
  • KOS
  • NOW Sports
  • My Protein

Who Needs To Use Whey Protein?

Primarily, whey protein is used for muscle building. Other beneficial uses include aiding in weight gain, boosting your nutrition, and can even help to heal wounds. 

As protein is essential for building muscles and making our bones strong, it’s unsurprising that the health and fitness industries have managed to make a concentrated way of getting an optimum amount of protein.

For those that frequently hit the gym, drinking a protein shake can help you repair your muscles after lifting heavy weights.

Drinking vegan protein shakes can help your recovery process between workouts, which means you may gain muscle faster and more efficiently. 

Protein shakes are also useful for those who need to gain weight such as those recovering from an illness. Adding a shake to your daily calorie intake can help to give you some extra energy as well as regain some muscle strength. 

The Bottom Line

Whey protein isn’t vegan, it’s made from a protein that is derived from milk. There are various sources of vegan protein on the market from big-name brands.

Some vegan proteins will be complete sources of protein which means they will have all essential amino acids included. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Vegan Or Whey Protein Better?

This question doesn’t necessarily have a right answer, as one isn’t technically better than the other. As long as you’re receiving the same amount of protein per serving, where this protein comes from doesn’t matter. 
Protein powder is a supplement, regardless of the source and can be altered to fit the needs of the customers where needed. Vegan protein is best for those who are following a vegan diet or those who are lactose intolerant.

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