Are you after a potent protein powder that will support you in your athletic efforts — but without saddling you with gastrointestinal discomfort? More and more great lactose free protein powders are making their way onto the shelves. Here’s a look at some of the best.
What Is Lactose Anyways?
Lactose is, simply said, a sugar naturally present, to varying extents, in the milk mammals produce. The more complicated version is that lactose is the product of a combination of two different sugars; glucose and galactose.
Almost all of the milk-based products humans routinely consume come from cows, and it just so happens that cow milk has a much higher lactose content than, for instance, goat milk, at roughly 4.7 percent. Lactose is also present, in lower concentrations, in dairy products made with milk — like yogurt, butter, and ice cream.
Because lactose has earned itself such a bad reputation, thanks to the fact that many people (as well as other mammals, for that matter, notoriously including cats) simply don’t digest it very well past infancy, we do have to note that the stuff offers some important health benefits as well. Baby mammals depend on it for a large portion of their overall nutrition.
Because one of the sugars that creates lactose, namely galactose, is exclusively found in the milk of mammals, people who want to avoid lactose can very safely choose other “milks”. Each of the plant-based milk products that have become so popular in recent times, including soy, almond, rice, and oat milk, is completely free of lactose.
Why Is Lactose So Often Found in Protein Powders?
Most of the protein powders aimed at athletes heavily rely on whey — one of the two primary proteins present in milk, and one of the strongest possible protein sources around. However, the lactose content isn’t usually very high. Most whey protein powders have a lactose content of 0.1 gram or less for each tablespoon.
This means that many people who don’t do very well when they drink cow milk can still consume those protein powders without any detrimental health effects. “Most” isn’t the same as “all, of course, and that’s where lactose-free protein powders come in.
Don’t like additives, fake flavors, or artificial sweeteners? These guides are for you:
- Best Naturally Sugar-Free Protein Powders
- Best Dairy-Free 100% Vegan Protein Powders
- Best Caffeine-Free BCAAs
Why Some People Can’t Have Lactose
For the human body to be able to digest lactose, it needs an enzyme called lactase. Without this enzyme, lactose isn’t absorbed properly, and symptoms that can range from mildly annoying to profoundly debilitating set in. This is commonly known as lactose intolerance. Somewhere around one in 10 Americans report that they’re extra sensitive to lactose, and globally, that percentage is even higher.
Some of the warning signs that you could be dealing with lactose intolerance include:
- Abdominal bloating, medically defined not only as visual bloating, but also simply as an uncomfortably full feeling in the belly.
- Diarrhea and gas.
- Abdominal discomfort that may range from slight irritation to severe pain.
- Nausea and, in extreme cases, vomiting.
Many people are initially unaware of what causes these symptoms, and that’s where keeping a food diary can come in handy. If these gastrointestinal symptoms set in within two to three hours after consuming a dairy product, it’s possible that you could be lactose intolerant. Because numerous other conditions, including, to name just one, irritable bowel syndrome, can lead to similar symptoms, it’s still important to make an appointment with your doctor.
People who are mildly lactose intolerant can still have some products that contain lactose, such as goat milk or kefir. With a severe lactose intolerance, it is, on the other hand, important to steer clear of all products that contain lactose.
Folks who aren’t lactose intolerance might still prefer to go lactose free to look after their bone health and reduce their risk of prostate cancer.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast, that can pose a challenge. Thankfully, though, protein powders that are entirely lactose free and that can still support your athletic performance are increasingly hitting the market.
Here, we’ve singled out some of the best.
Best Reviewed Lactose-Free Protein Powders
1. MuscleMeds Carnivor Beef Protein Isolate Powder
As the name of this product suggests, Carnivor is definitely not suitable for vegetarians, but it’s 100 percent lactose free as well as gluten free! This protein powder, the world’s first to be sourced entirely from beef, is much more dense than whey protein, and contains 20 times more creatine. If a beef protein isolate sounds icky to you, don’t worry. Carnvior is available in a range of delicious flavors that include chocolate and cookies & cream.
Seriously, while a chocolate flavored beef protein powder may SOUND disgusting it’s actually pretty dang good and one of the non-whey protein powder we’ve personally bought multiple times.
2. Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey Protein Powder
HydroWhey is one of the top choices for athletes who suffer from lactose intolerance, as this protein powder contains, alongside 30 grams of pure protein per scoop, plenty of amino acids like leucine and valine. It’s also easy to drink with water instead of milk. This product does have artificial sweeteners and flavoring agents, making it unsuitable for people who are sensitive.
3. Naked Nutrition Pea Protein Powder
Finally! A pure protein powder that isn’t just lactose free but also entirely suitable for vegans, people who don’t want to turn to soy protein, and folks who steer clear of GMOs. Go with the unflavored version, and you’ll only find one single thing in this protein powder. Yellow pea protein. It’s called naked for a reason!
4. Gold Standard 100% Organic Plant Based Protein Powder
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard protein powder is based on a simple premise. Plant proteins don’t usually offer a complete protein by themselves, but mixing different plant proteins can fix that. Packed full of brown rice, organic pea, and other entirely plant based ingredients, each serving offers 24 grams of protein. Less than some competitors, yes, but it’s all clean.
5. Opportuniteas Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
Opportuniteas’ Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is a lactose-free and gluten-free whey protein powder that doesn’t feature any lactose — and GMO products and artificial flavorings are also decidedly lacking from this potent product. What you do get when you choose Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate is 27 grams of pure protein per scoop. Not too shabby!
Skinny Yoked Summary
Over consumption of dairy products can be a problem even if you are not lactose intolerant and can be an absolute nightmare if you are.
Speaking from personal experience, and having never been lactose-intolerant (Wisconsin born and raised) I would still get frequent diarrhea when I consumed large quantities of protein powders over long periods of time (years) that were nearly entirely whey concentrate or casein.
After switching to blends my digestion is much better and I’m therefore absorbing and making more use of the protein and essential amino acids that they break down into instead of literally shitting all my money down the toilet.
So, if you can’t do lactose the above options are great, as are 100% plant-derived protein powders as well. If you can digest lactose fine but want to improve your overall digestive efficiency then I HIGHLY recommend checking out custom protein blends where you can do something like 50% dairy derived protein with 50% plant derived proteins for a more wholistic protein intake.