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Does Whey Protein Have Lactose? (2 Best Alternatives)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 22, 2023
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Whey is known as the king of all protein supplements.

For individuals that are lactose intolerant, however, it’s also something to be wary of. Issues like bloating, indigestion, and diarrhea are all factors that very few are willing to incur just to get a bit of extra protein.

We’ve spent hours researching what exactly whey contains to help you get to the bottom of this question once and for all.

Quick Summary

  • Whey protein contains low amounts of lactose, making it safe for individuals with mild lactose intolerant symptoms to consume.
  • The benefits of taking whey protein range from increasing muscle development, and reducing inflammation, among others.
  • Consider taking between 25-50 grams of whey protein per day to attain your desired goals while working out.

Does Whey Contain Lactose?

golden spoon surrounded by white powder

Whey contains very little lactose. However, the exact amount of lactose varies depending on the product it is found in.

Milk protein contains whey, casein, and lactose, separated from one another during the manufacturing process.

Whey is the liquid part of cow’s milk and is often made into whey protein powders for protein shakes.

Whey protein is popular as it contains essential amino acids - the vital building blocks for muscle growth and repair.

That makes it an extremely effective protein supplement for bodybuilders and athletes that need a boost in nutrients.

The amount of lactose present in whey protein is significantly lower compared to the lactose found in milk. Some types of whey protein can even be heavily refined during manufacturing to become completely lactose-free.

Whey protein is available in three types: whey concentrate, whey protein isolate, and hydrolyzed whey.

Can You Have Whey if You Are Lactose Intolerant?

woman licking her finger holding a scooped filled with powder

As everyone’s body is different, some individuals can consume whey protein depending on the severity of their lactose intolerance.

People with a low lactase enzyme are considered lactose intolerant.

These individuals often experience difficulty when trying to digest products containing lactose, such as dairy products.

Lactose intolerance symptoms often include bloating, diarrhea, and gas shortly after consuming lactose.

The degree of the effect depends on the severity of the intolerance and the type of whey.

Different types of whey protein have different lactose concentrations.

Some whey proteins, such as whey isolate and hydrolyzed whey, have a lower lactose composition than whey protein concentrate.

As a result, people with lactose intolerance should consider taking these types for easier digestion.

According to the Whey Protein Institute, one tablespoon of whey protein contains about 0.1 gram of lactose [1].

Therefore, if you experience mild to moderate symptoms after ingesting dairy, the Whey Protein Institute claims you should be able to comfortably take whey protein without any serious repercussions.

Additionally, taking whey protein shakes may even help individuals with their allergies.

Researchers noted that:

“The ingestion of…  fermented and matured dairy products can assure an adequate milk intake while preventing the onset of intolerance symptoms  [2].”

- Massimo Montalto, Gastroenterologist

How Much Lactose is in Whey Protein Powder?

red spoon in a stack of white powder

The amount of lactose varies depending on the type of whey protein and the manufacturer.

Each type of whey protein contains different concentrations of both protein and lactose.

  • Whey Concentrate is the rawest form of whey and contains around 30 - 70% protein, with large amounts of lactose. (See the best whey concentrate powders)
  • Whey Isolate powders are more refined and ultra-filtered. This increases the protein content and reduces lactose concentration, making it contain up to 90% protein content and less than 0.1 gram per every 20-gram scoop.
  • Hydrolyzed Whey is a special kind of whey isolate. It contains a similar concentration of protein and lactose, with the difference being that it goes through a pre-digested process. This process breaks down the whey isolate, making it exceptionally easy to digest and absorb. (See the best hydrolyzed whey powders)

For people who are lactose intolerant, hydrolyzed whey and whey isolate are the safest options they are able to digest.

What Protein Powder is Best for Lactose Intolerance?

brown broken egg shells, and a silver bucket spilling yellow peas

Whey isolate and hydrolyzed whey powder are the best types of protein powders for lactose intolerant individuals. We recommend you check this list for the best lactose-free protein powders.

For people with dairy allergies and severe lactose intolerance, however, the minuscule amounts of lactose can still be problematic.

Other powders that do not contain lactose include:

Plant-based Proteins

Lactose-free proteins developed from plant sources, making them suitable for both vegans and lactose-intolerant people.

Although they do not contain as many amino acids as whey powders, they are hypoallergenic and have fewer side effects.

These protein powders can be made from yellow peas, brown rice, nuts, or almonds.

If you are using plant-based protein, it is advisable to eat protein-rich foods to meet your daily protein demand.

Egg-White Protein Powder

A lactose-free protein powder extracted from dried eggs. It contains lower protein content compared to whey but is easily digestible and contains minimal allergens.

Check this post to see which are the best egg-white protein powders.


What Are the Benefits of Taking Whey Protein Powder?

The benefits of taking whey include increased muscular development, reduction in inflammation, and greater weight loss.

It makes whey protein a popular choice amongst athletes for upping their protein intake through protein shakes.

Are There Side Effects To Taking Too Much Whey Protein?

When used in excess amounts, whey protein may cause:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Facial swelling
  • Fatigue.

Over time, excessive consumption of protein shakes may lead to liver and kidney problems, which can be fatal.

How Much Whey Protein Should You Take in a Day?

The recommended dosage is 25 - 50 grams per day, depending on personal protein demand.

It is also advisable to follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding dosage and instructions for use indicated on the label.

Related post: How Many Scoops of Protein Powder Should You Take per Day?

Get Your Lactose Fears Out of the Whey and Include It in Your Diet Today

Whey protein contains minimal amounts of lactose, making it a safe choice for individuals with mild lactose intolerant symptoms.

Those who prefer even less lactose, hydrolyzed whey, and whey protein isolate are nearly lactose-free, making them two great choices easily digestible.

Whey protein has a ton of health benefits for muscle building and recovery after workouts. If you’re worried about taking lactose, you’ll be pleased to know it’s safe to consume whey protein.

Please share with us how whey affects your body.


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