The demand for protein powders is higher than ever and the supplement market is booming with a vast variety of protein powder choices, ranging from animal protein and vegan protein to milk protein and lactose-free protein.
Rather than go into detail about the benefits of using protein powders, the emphasis here is on the advantages of lactose-free protein powders. Who should use them and why? Is it only for lactose intolerant people or do others also benefit in some specific way? You used to drink milk as a child, but now you doubt if you are lactose intolerant. If so, how do you find out? To find all these answers and much more, read on…
Why Use Lactose-Free Protein Powder?
Lactose-free protein powder, as is obvious, is primarily meant for those who have trouble digesting lactose. Lactose is a sugar molecule made of smaller molecules called glucose and galactose. It is commonly found in dairy products.
An enzyme called lactase found in the linings of the small intestine of the body breaks down this sugar molecule into glucose and galactose. It is then absorbed by the cells in the linings of the intestine. This gives energy which is used as fuel in the body.
To be lactose intolerant is the lack of ability to convert lactose into absorbable glucose and galactose. The unbroken lactose enters the colon and ferments with the bacteria to form a gas or cause bloating. There are four types of lactose intolerance and the causes differ:
- Primary lactose intolerance: People with primary lactose intolerance stop making lactase from the age of 2 to 5 years. As the levels of lactase present in the body decreases, dairy products become more difficult to digest as the person gets older. It is present in the genes and the findings indicate that people of Hispanic, African, Asian, Mediterranean and South European regions have lactose intolerance. If the previous generations are from northern or western Europe the chances of this condition are lesser.
- Secondary lactose intolerance: The cause of the second type of lactose intolerance is from illness, injury and at times from surgery. The small intestine gets affected and makes a lesser amount of lactase. Diseases like Celiac and Crohn’s are closely associated with low lactase producing conditions.
- Developmental lactose intolerance: This happens to prematurely born babies. It lasts for a short period after birth and usually goes away.
- Congenital lactose intolerance: This condition occurs at birth and is rare. Only a little amount of lactase is produced or is not produced at all. This condition is inherited from the parents who pass on this genetic order to the child.
Being lactose intolerant does not inhibit the person from eating some quantity of dairy products. The amounts will vary from person to person. Though the condition is not treatable, it is not life-threatening.
How to Find Out if You are Lactose Intolerant
The signs of lactose intolerance can be found out between 30 minutes to about 2 hours after the ingestion of products made from milk. The symptoms include:
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Rumbling sounds from the stomach (Borborygmi)
- The feeling of nausea that could lead to vomiting
Staying away from dairy products will be of help. Lactose can be found in bread, baked items, pancake mixes, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, instant soups, candy, cookies, salad dressings, deli meats, drink mixes and margarine. A dairy sourced lactose-free product would still have dairy components. Dairy-free products do not have any dairy component in it and are made from plants, eg. nuts, and grains.
It is estimated that around 40% of humans stop producing the enzyme lactase in the small intestine and become lactose intolerant. This condition can arise children who are as old as two years.
Many protein supplements though low in lactose content are not completely lactose-free. Most of them are made with whey and casein protein that are milk-based products. People suffering from severe intolerance levels of lactose cannot consume these products. Thankfully, there are lactose-free supplements available in the market.
Summary It is advisable to look for early signs of lactose-intolerance. The availability of lactose-free supplements ensures that you receive wholesome nutrition, even if you have any such intolerance.
5 Advantages of Lactose-Free Protein Powders
1. They Are More Digestion- Friendly
The degree of lactose intolerance will determine if traces of lactose in whey or casein protein will irritate the digestive system. Some people do get away with little lactose present in the protein powder though they are lactose intolerant. But with lactose-free supplements, you don’t have to worry about such issues.
Digestion issues are absent in lactose-free protein powder. The first and apparent benefit is that lactose is not present in the supplement powder. Whey protein and other dairy-derived proteins do have at least 1% lactose in them, which may cause bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, cramps, and gas.
Artificial sweeteners also tend to be less in plant-based proteins as these usually have a neutral taste. This makes the product more gut-friendly as artificial sweeteners may negatively impact your beneficial gut bacteria population.
Summary: Consumption of lactose may cause digestive disturbances, such as bloating and nausea even if traces of it remain in dairy-derived proteins. Choosing a lactose-free supplement over products with less lactose will eliminate any reaction.
2. They Provide a Complete Amino Acid Profile
Plant-based proteins provide the complete amino acid profile essential for the body. It can be consumed by people who are allergic to milk-derived proteins and those who are lactose intolerant. Plant-based proteins are natural and do not cause any side effects associated with dairy-free proteins and whey proteins.
Plant proteins provide 65% of worldwide protein demand with 32% in the North American region. It helps in the body’s needs for recovery and muscle synthesis. Soy, hemp, pea and brown rice are some of the plant-based proteins. Though the number of studies on plant-based proteins is not adequate it promises to be competitive to other sources of protein.
Summary Combinations of plant-based protein can provide the complete profile of amino acids and studies have indicated these to be as effective as protein supplements from animal sources.
3. They Are Wholesome Protein Supplements
A mixture of plant-based protein will provide the nutritional needs of the body. A combination of pea, soy or hemp proteins with pumpkin seed protein is a wholesome protein supplement. Lactose-free plant protein is of high or higher quality like milk-based protein.
Vernon R Young and Peter L Pellett, two researchers of the 90s published a study that rejects the notion of plant protein being of lower quality than the animal protein. According to the two researchers, plant-based proteins fully meet the requirements of the human body.
Summary Plant-based proteins have the scientific backing of well-conducted studies, in adequately supplying the amino acids needed for the body.
4. They Enhance Muscle Recovery After Workouts
A clinical study conducted in 2013 where 24 young male adults were divided into two groups. One group was given 48 grams of rice protein while the other was given the same amount of whey protein. The groups undertook resistance training for 8 weeks (3 days per week). The rice and whey protein powders were ingested immediately after the training regimen.
Recordings of upper and lower body strengths were recorded during weeks 0,4 and 8. No noticeable difference was found in the recovery and soreness of the body. It was concluded that whey and rice protein showed no difference in body composition and both increased lean body mass, muscle strength, and power.
Summary Plant-based proteins have the same potential as milk-based proteins in delivering recovery from muscle soreness after a workout.
5. They Are Rich Sources Of Fiber And Omega-3 Fatty Acids
While noting the ingredients on your product label, keep in mind the other benefits offered by them. Many of them contain vital nutrients other than protein. Seeds such as flax, sunflower or pumpkin and grains like quinoa and brown rice are rich sources of fiber. Seeds such as chia, flax, and hemp are also good sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia seeds are a complete source of protein and contain 2 grams of protein per tablespoon. Likewise, hemp seeds offer 5 grams of proteins per tablespoon. These protein supplements can be added to a smoothie or sprinkled on yogurt.
Summary Plant protein sources such as brown rice, quinoa and chia seeds also provide other nutrients such as fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
Is Whey Protein Lactose-Free?
Whey protein powders can be protein-free if they are processed correctly. The whey supplements from reputed brands tend to be safe for even if you are lactose intolerant. Be careful when purchasing from unknown or cheaper brands as some of these may contain traces of lactose that can trigger allergies in more sensitive individuals.
Whey proteins are obtained in two forms, concentrate and isolate. Whey undergoes a process of heavy filtration (more than that needed for concentrate) to obtain protein isolate. Half of the carbohydrates in whey protein concentrate comes from lactose. Protein isolate has lesser carbohydrates and the process ensures it does not contain lactose or if present the quantity is minimal.
Platinum Hydrolyzed Whey is a lactose-free protein in which the broken down protein is delivered faster. The supplement supports mass muscle building. It is made of protein isolates. The isolates are quickly absorbed after an intensive workout. Each container has 40 servings.
MuscleMeds Carnivor Beef Protein is a USDA certified supplement. It is free from dairy components and does not contain lactose, gluten, cholesterol or sugar. It contains the essential amino acid profile (BCAAs). MuscleMeds Carnivor Beef Protein has been ‘Informed-Choice’ certified and tested for over 200 banned substances of the WADA list.
Other Lactose-Free Protein Supplements
Organically sourced protein powder are available that are lactose-free. Hemp, brown rice, soy are 100% dairy and lactose-free. Performance Lab Sports Protein is fully organic. It uses Oryzatein which is a certified organic whole brown rice protein. This supplement is fully vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
Vega Protein and Greens is a multi-sourced and plant-based protein powder. It contains a combination of pea protein, brown rice protein, and sacha inchi protein. Greens like alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, and organic powders are included. It contains essential amino acids that occur naturally from the blended formulation of this supplement.
Orgain Organic is plant-based and comes as a creamy chocolate fudge protein powder. The protein is derived from pea, brown rice and chia seeds with 7 grams of dietary fiber and 3 grams of net carbs. All ingredients in this protein supplement are organic.
Dosage and Side Effects of Lactose-Free Protein Powders
Dosage recommendations for protein powders are dependent on the protein content of the product you buy, your age, sex and activity levels. It’s best to follow the dosages given on the product label. Lactose-free powder supplements can be mixed with water or other drinks for a tasty and re-energizing drink before or after your workouts.
Side effects are uncommon for lactose-free protein supplements. A whey protein supplement may cause allergic reactions in lactose-intolerant people if its not processed correctly to remove its lactose content. So if you are trying out a whey protein powder, buy from a reputed manufacturer with positive user reviews. Pea protein supplements may be high in sodium, so if you are on a sodium-restricted diet please do consult your doctor before starting on any such supplements.
The FDA defines dietary ingredients as products taken by mouth. There are no negative reviews of lactose-free protein supplements by the FDA. Protein supplements cannot be used for treatment or as a cure to diseases. It is not a pain reliever. The instructions recommended on the package or a doctor’s advice should be followed.
Supplements used before and after surgery can cause undesirable effects. As mentioned earlier, a doctor’s consultation is of prime importance before commencing on a course of lactose-free protein powder, especially if you are on any type of medication, as drug interactions may occur.
Summary Side effects, if any, are mild in lactose-free supplements. However, it is advisable for those who are taking any medication to consult a doctor before using such supplements.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can Whey Protein Be Consumed If Lactose-intolerant?
The process of hydrolysis ensures ultra-pure protein and protein isolates have less than one percent lactose and can be consumed by people who are lactose sensitive. Hydrolyzed proteins are quickly absorbed and are made readily available for recovery of muscles post-training. A rich pool of amino acids for immediate use is formed.
Low-quality protein does not contain the complete profile of amino acids which is needed for protein synthesis. Protein digestibility is another factor that affects the absorption of this nutrient. Inadequate protein levels in the body may lead to tiredness, a decrease of muscle mass and hair loss.
2. What Type of Protein is Lactose-Free?
Protein isolates contain less than a percentage of lactose. A person who is lactose intolerant may be able to consume a supplement that contains protein isolates. Though processing is long carbs, fats, and lactose are reduced.
The common proteins that are lactose-free include beef, fish, pea, rice, egg, or hemp. Protein that has whey concentrates has lactose content as it is derived from milk. Most dairy products contain lactose however butter, aged cheese, probiotic yogurt contain fewer amounts of lactose.
3. Are There Vegan Lactose-Free Protein Powders?
There are many vegan lactose-free protein powders available. They do not have any dairy content. Examples include those made from hemp, brown rice, and soy.
4. Will Avoiding Lactose Help Me Lose Weight?
Removing lactose from protein is only because of lactose intolerance. It is not associated with weight loss.
5. Is Brown Rice A Good Source Of Lactose-free Protein?
Brown rice protein is free from lactose naturally. However, it is not a complete protein. It does not contain the full range of essential amino acids.
6. Does Yogurt Have Lactose?
Yes, it does. But when compared to a glass of milk that has 12 grams of lactose, Greek yogurt has only 4 grams of lactose in a 6-ounce container. Yogurt is formed from the acidic fermentation of milk.
7. Which Is Better For Building Muscles, Whey Or Soy?
Whey stimulates repairs and promotes muscle growth in the body. Studies have shown it to be better than soy or casein for this benefit. A study that was conducted in the University of Connecticut noted high levels of leucine in whey protein which was followed by an increase in protein synthesis in muscles.
However, glutamine amino acid which is essential for muscle recovery is higher in soy than in whey. It has other amino acids like arginine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan. Soy is a good alternative for lactose intolerance. Though protein isolates of whey contain very fewer amounts of lactose it may still cause digestive issues for those who are lactose intolerant.
5 Quick Recipes to Add Lactose-Free Protein Powder to Your Diet
Protein powder is not only used to make shakes with water, milk or other liquids but can be used to prepare many other food items like cookies, pizza crust, and tasty wholesome dips.
1. Protein Pizza Crust
In a skillet add one cup of oats a quarter cup of protein powder (preferably pea), one egg and a half cup of liquid egg whites. The batter should be cooked to a pancake. Once ready favorite toppings should be added and placed under the broiler till the cheese becomes gooey.
2. Hot Soups
A scoop of unflavored protein powder should be added to broth, milk or any other liquid. Blending with a whisk will remove clumps. The blend should be added to the pot. The soup can be made thinner with more liquid.
3. Single-Serving Cheesecake
Beat one pack of cream cheese in a bowl till it becomes smooth. To 8 ounces of Greek yogurt, one egg, two-and-a-half scoops of whey protein powder should be added. One-and-a-half tablespoons of lemon juice, one tablespoon of lemon zest and sweetener (as per taste) completes the list of ingredients needed. A topping of the cheesecake mixture in a muffin tin, 8 in a line can be baked for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees. It should be cooled before serving.
4. Nut Butter Cups
A dough consistency made up of a quarter cup of peanut or almond butter with two to four tablespoons of protein powder and sufficient water or milk. Dark chocolate chips should be melted with one teaspoon of coconut oil in the microwave until smooth stirring well every 30 seconds.
The chocolate can be poured into molds or a mini muffin tin lined with papers. The protein mix can be added on top and covered with more chocolates. A 15-minute freeze will set the protein chocolate eats
5. Dairy-Free Icecream
One cup of almond or cashew milk should be blended with one or two scoops of flavored plant-based protein powder, one tablespoon of cocoa powder and one or two tablespoons of peanut or almond butter.
The blend should be transferred to a plastic holder and kept for freezing for about 30 to 50 minutes. It should be mixed using a fork and left to freeze again for 30 to 50 minutes. Before serving it should be mixed one more time.
The Final Note
The three main groups of people who benefit from using lactose-free protein powder are people allergic to milk and dairy products, those who are lactose intolerant, as well as, vegans and vegetarians. Lactose-free protein supplements provide high-quality proteins from sources that are thoroughly processed to remove lactose.
Vegan protein blends that are not milk-based are also available and provide all the vital amino acids necessary for health goals. Though plant-based proteins can help vegans and vegetarians meet their protein requirements, they should consume supplements with a protein mixture from different plant sources such as pea, brown rice, sacha inchi, hemp, etc, as no one single plant-based source provides the full spectrum of amino acids needed in the human diet. Plant-based proteins are also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Armed with all this knowledge, compare the above given lactose-free protein supplements and buy the one that suits your needs the best. Some of them may not suit you and you may experience bloating or nausea. If so, just try another one rather than giving up. There are so many different blends. If one, such as a soy supplement, is not suiting you, then try pea protein or hemp. The choices are unlimited.