Alternatives to Whey Protein for Vegans and the Lactose-Intolerant

By Michelle
30 November 2015

Whether you are consciously opting to not consume dairy products or if you are lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy the benefits and convenience of protein powder in your diet.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is one of the most common intolerances in the world and is the inability to digest and metabolise the sugar found in milk and milk products.  How severe the intolerance is can vary and whether or not you can use dairy products at all depends on your sensitivity.  Side effects from lactose intolerance could include nausea, bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort.

Some people with lactose intolerance will be able to tolerate whey protein isolate (WPI) without any adverse symptoms.  This is because WPI has been further processed and filtered to eliminate more lactose than whey protein concentrate.  However, those with a mild intolerance should take care to avoid products that mix isolate and concentrate together.

Plant based alternatives

Often those with an intolerance or who have trouble digesting whey protein find plant based proteins are easier on the tummy.  Plant based proteins are the ideal alternative for vegans, strict vegetarians and those with a lactose intolerance, who are looking to increase their protein intake for health or training.

It is important to know that while whey protein contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs, plant based proteins do not.  If you are consuming large amounts of plant based proteins, we recommend using them together or in rotation to ensure you consume the full range of amino acids.  If you are only having the occasional protein shake and typically rely on other sources of protein then using only one plant based protein would be fine.

There are a number of plant based proteins to choose from, with the most common being brown rice protein, pea protein, soy protein and hemp protein.  True Protein has sourced high quality pea protein and organic brown rice protein from leading global manufacturers but does not currently offer soy or hemp protein.

Pea protein isolate contains similar levels of protein per same-sized serving as whey and casein and has no cholesterol, gluten, fat or lactose.  Although rich in key muscle building amino acids such as Leucine, it is deficient in Cystine.

Brown rice protein has an 80% protein content per serve and although it has a strong amino acid profile, it is deficient in the amino acid Lysine so should not be relied upon as the sole source of protein.

Using plant based protein powder

Anyone switching from whey protein to plant-based protein should note the texture will be different and the taste can take some getting used to.

For this reason, you may wish to try pea or brown rice protein in a smoothie blend, and include some flavour hits such as cinnamon, vanilla powder, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables to create a flavoursome mix.  

You could also try mixing it with juice instead of water when convenience matters.  You’ll likely need to do some experimentation to find just the right mix to suit your tastes.

Because plant based proteins tend to retain a lot of moisture, they’re also ideal for baking.  A quick google search will yield a host of recipes that use pea or brown rice protein.

In Summary

It’s good to know that whatever your particular needs, there is a protein supplement that can assist you in achieving your health and fitness goals.  While plant based protein powder is a convenient way to supplement a whole food diet, care should be taken to ensure the body receives all of the essential amino acids it needs.


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