Lactose intolerance is one of the most common health conditions worldwide, affecting approximately 65 percent of all people. If you fall into this category, you might be afraid to drink milk and eat yogurt, cream, cheese or butter. Most protein supplements contain whey or casein, so they're quite high in lactose. Luckily, a growing number of brands are now offering lactose-free protein shakes for dieters and gymgoers. Some are a perfect fit for vegans and vegetarians.
Understanding Lactose Intolerance
If you experience bloating and gas after eating yogurt or cheese, feel nauseated after drinking milk, or suffer tummy problems when you eat sour cream or other milk products, you're no doubt suffering from common symptoms of lactose intolerance.
If you suffer from this condition, your body has a limited ability to digest lactose, a sugar in milk and its derivatives. Symptoms vary from one individual to another. Most people report stomach pain, cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting a few hours after dairy consumption.
According to a 2015 research paper published in the journal Nutrients, this condition is largely due to lactase deficiency. Basically, your body doesn't produce enough lactase, a digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose. Most sufferers, though, can still consume small amounts of lactose — approximately 12 grams or up to 18 grams when dairy products are consumed with other foods — without experiencing adverse reactions.
Does Whey Protein Contain Lactose?
Whether you want to build muscle, get leaner or improve your overall health, you may be thinking about adding whey protein to your diet. After all, it's one of the most researched supplements on the market. A 2017 review published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition confirms that whey protein improves body composition and may protect against heart disease. It has beneficial effects on blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
The downside is that this product contains whey, a byproduct of cheese production. Cheese is made from milk, which contains lactose. If you're intolerant to lactose, you may experience bloating, diarrhea and other symptoms after drinking whey protein shakes. However, several varieties of whey protein exist — and some are extremely low in lactose.
Based on these figures, hydrolyzed whey protein is a good choice for those with lactose intolerance. It's easy to digest and contains small bioactive peptides that enhance its nutritional value. Another option is to use lactose-free whey protein or plant-based protein powders, such as pea, hemp, soy or brown rice protein.
Lactose-Free Protein Shakes
Lactose intolerance isn't the only reason to reconsider your options when shopping for protein shakes. Some people are allergic to milk and dairy and can't consume whey or casein powder. Others are sensitive or allergic to whey. Either way, dairy-free protein powder is their only option.
If you're intolerance to lactose, search for lactose-free whey protein brands. Zero/Low Carb Isopure, for example, boasts 25 grams of protein per serving and contains no lactose or gluten. MuscleMeds Carnivor Beef Protein Isolate is lactose- and dairy-free and contains 23 grams of protein per serving, and makes a good choice if you have a milk allergy.
Egg protein shakes are a good choice too. Just make sure you check the labels. If the product is manufactured in a facility that processes milk, it may contain traces of lactose.
Beef Protein Powder
Over the past few years, beef protein powder has become a popular choice for fitness enthusiasts. New flavors and varieties are popping up all over the place. MuscleTech Platinum 100 percent Beef Protein, Adaptogen Science 100 percent Beef and MuscleMeds Carnivor are just a few examples. But what does science say?
In 2015, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition published a study assessing the effects whey protein isolate versus beef protein isolate on muscle and strength in 30 young men engaged in weight training. The beef protein group experienced a 10.8 percent reduction in body fat levels. Subjects who consumed whey protein lost 8.3 percent body fat. Both groups saw a significant increase in muscle mass and strength.
Beef protein is also an excellent source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). This fatty acid exhibits anti-cancer effects, increases muscle protein synthesis and supports weight loss, according to PennState Extension. Other studies, though, haven't found any link between CLA and fat loss. More research is needed to confirm its safety and potential benefits.
Egg Protein Powder
Elite athletes and bodybuilders have been using eggs as a source of protein for decades. Back in the Golden Era of Bodybuilding, it was common practice to eat raw eggs. Most stores nowadays sell egg protein powder, which makes clean eating a lot easier. These supplements are safe, contain no lactose and have a moderate absorption rate, fueling your muscles over several hours.
Their nutritional value depends on the brand. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Egg, for example, has 120 calories, 24 grams of protein, 1 gram of sugar and less than 1 gram of fat per serving. Each scoop has just as much protein as six large egg whites.
Another popular dairy-free protein powder is Jay Robb's Egg White Protein. Its nutritional value is similar to that of Gold Standard Egg. If you check the label, you'll see that it contains no casein, gluten, GMOs or artificial flavors. This formula is produced in a facility that also handles milk and other allergens, so it may not be suitable for people who are allergic to dairy. However, it should be safe for those with lactose intolerance.
Soy Protein Powder
Soy protein is the go-to option for millions of vegans worldwide. It's low in calories, easy to mix and comes in a wide range of flavors. One serving of soy protein isolate has 94.6 calories, 22.6 grams of protein, 2.1 grams of carbs, 1.6 grams of fiber and less than 1 gram of fat. It also contains all of the essential amino acid**s** required for muscle growth and overall health.
A recent study sponsored by the Dairy Research Institute in 2018 compared the effects of whey and soy protein on body weight. The subjects were divided into three groups and asked to use whey protein supplements, soy protein supplements or carbohydrates. At the end of the study, all groups had similar results in terms of body composition; whey protein, though, proved to be the most effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis. As expected, those who consumed carbs had higher insulin and blood sugar levels.
These findings show that soy is just as effective as whey protein when it comes to weight loss. Despite its high content of isoflavones — which are known to raise estrogen levels, soy protein has little or no impact on sex hormones in men when combined with resistance training. This means that it won't affect your testosterone levels or increase estrogen as it was once thought. Furthermore, soy has been linked to lower rates of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
Pea Protein Isolate
Have you ever tried pea protein isolate? This dairy-free protein powder is rich in iron, zinc, B-complex vitamins and phytochemicals, as Today's Dietitian notes. Most brands provide about 120 calories, 24 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbs and 2 grams of fat per serving. However, some of the beneficial compounds in peas are removed during processing.
According to the University of Michigan Health System, pea protein is less likely to cause allergic reactions compared to whey and soy. Additionally, it doesn't contain GMOs as soy does. Approximately 94 percent of all soy crops in the U.S. are genetically modified, so any products containing this ingredient are likely high in GMOs.
Pea protein powder is a safer alternative to dairy- and soy-based formulas. In a 2015 clinical trial published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, it has been shown to increase muscle thickness and strength in as little as 12 weeks. It appears to be particularly beneficial for people who are starting an exercise program or resuming their workouts after a break.
Hemp Protein Powder
Hemp protein powder is a relatively new product compared to whey and traditional lactose-free protein shakes. Yet, hemp has been around for thousands of years and boasts a high nutritional value. In fact, it's one of the few plant-based complete proteins available, meaning that it provides all nine essential amino acids.
This supplement is made from hemp seeds and contains no lactose, dairy or other allergens. It contains around 35 percent to 50 percent protein, 20 percent to 25 percent carbs and 10 percent fats. According to a 2018 report by the Food and Drug Administration, hemp protein promotes hypertrophy when used as part of a balanced diet and workout regimen. It also supports muscle protein synthesis, post-workout recovery and overall health.
Read more: Hemp Versus Pea Protein
The FDA allows manufacturers to make these claims and confirms their validity. Hemp protein not only aids in muscle growth and repair, but also keeps your heart healthy due to its high levels of omega-3s. Furthermore, it may help reduce postprandial blood sugar levels and improve glycemic control, according to a 2017 study featured in the FASEB Journal. Although hemp is slightly lower in protein compared to whey, pea and soy, it boasts high amounts of healthy fats, phytosterols and antioxidants.
Brown Rice Protein Powder
Another popular choice is rice protein powder. According to a 2013 study published in the Nutrition Journal, this product works just as well as whey protein isolate. When combined with resistance training, it may reduce fat mass, stimulate muscle growth and increase physical strength. Plus, it's higher in the amino acids cysteine, methionine and histidine than whey protein.
The nutritional value of rice protein powder depends on the brand. In general, one serving provides about 108 calories, 3.4 grams of carbs, 0.4 grams of fiber, 1.3 grams of fat and more than 22 grams of protein. Some products, such as Naked Rice, boast up to 25 grams of protein per serving and contain no soy, dairy, gluten, artificial sweeteners or GMOs.
This lactose-free protein powder is an excellent choice for athletes and dieters alike. It not only improves body composition but also lowers blood glucose levels, which may help prevent diabetes and metabolic problems in the long run. Its hepatoprotective effects are confirmed by science.
Keep an Open Mind
It's good to remember that whey protein isn't your only option. Plant-based protein supplements are just as effective as whey. They're rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals and fit into any diet. You may also try vegan protein blends, which are perfect for those looking for a quality dairy-free protein powder.
- National Institutes of Health: U.S. National Library of Science: Lactose Intolerance Frequency
- Nutrients: Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management
- Taylor & Francis Online: Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Body Composition and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- American Dairy Products Institute: Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Whey and Its Analysis
- The Isopure Company: Isopure® Zero/Low Carb
- Vitamin Shoppe: Carnivor Beef Protein Isolate - Chocolate
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- PennState Extension: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) in Animal Production and Human Health
- Nutrition & Metabolism: Pros and Cons of CLA Consumption
- Optimum Nutrition: Gold Standard: 100% Egg
- Jay Robb: Egg White Protein
- SELFNutritionData: Soy Protein Isolate
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- Nature.com: Soy Protein Supplementation Is Not Androgenic or Estrogenic in College-Aged Men When Combined With Resistance Exercise Training
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Soy and Health
- Today's Dietician: Pea Protein
- American Institute for Cancer Research: Pea Protein Is Everywhere, Is It Healthy?
- University of Michigan Health: Pea Protein for Sports & Fitness
- Non-GMO Project: Soy
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Pea Proteins Oral Supplementation Promotes Muscle Thickness Gains During Resistance Training
- Frontiers in Plant Science: Variability in Seed Traits in a Collection of Cannabis sativa L. Genotypes
- University of Michigan Health: Hemp Protein
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- Examine.com: Hemp Protein
- The FASEB Journal: Acute Effects of Hemp Protein on Post-Prandial Glycemia and Insulin Responses in Adults
- Today's Dietician: Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
- Nutrition Journal: The Effects of 8 Weeks of Whey or Rice Protein Supplementation on Body Composition and Exercise Performance
- SELFNutritionData: Rice Protein Powder
- Naked Nutrition: Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder
- Royal Society of Chemistry: Rice Protein Hydrolysates Stimulate GLP-1 Secretion, Reduce GLP-1 Degradation, and Lower the Glycemic Response in Rats
- Wiley Online Library: Hepatoprotective Effects of Soluble Rice Protein in Primary Hepatocytes and in Mice
- Bodybuilding.com: How Whey Protein Can Help You Lose Fat
- Wiley Online Library: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: Hepatoprotective effects of soluble rice protein in primary hepatocytes and in mice