Review: 5 Types of Protein Supplements for Dairy-Free Athletes

If  you have a lactose intolerance, dairy intolerance or are simply trying to reduce your dairy intake then whey protein isn’t going to be on your shopping list. The good news is that there are some great alternatives so you don’t need to sacrifice that additional high quality protein intake. 

As with all protein powders however, they each come with their pros and cons. 

Here’s a list of 5 of the best alternatives out there with our take on the good and bad.

1. Egg White Protein

Egg White Protein is made by simply filtering and spray drying egg whites. It’s an obvious protein choice egg whites are considered the highest quality protein in the real food world. 

Pros

  1. Egg white protein contains all essential amino acids, includes a high amount of leucine (the protein synthesis kickstarter), and is low in fat and cholesterol (which is mainly found in the yolk)
  2. Egg whites are the highest quality protein found in real food. They are efficiently absorbed and easily used by the body and are the World Health Organization’s gold standard for food protein
  3. Egg whites digest like real food, so there is less chance of digestive issues with more processed alternatives. 
  4. Egg white proteins tend to be the least processed protein powders on the market
  5. Early research that eating egg white protein post training increases muscle protein (as it does with other protein powders tested).

Cons

  1. Eggs are the second most common food allergen (dairy being the first)
  2. Some egg white protein supplements can have an “eggy” taste and froth up more than others when shaken. New technology has overcome this however [Click here to learn more] 
  3. Egg whites are real food, and therefore are absorbed at a real food pace. This is slower than whey protein isolates and hydrolysates which are processed to be faster absorbing. 
  4. Research suggests that egg protein may not make you feel as full as with other shakes

2. Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is made by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder, producing a protein supplement with an earthy, nutty flavor.

Pros:

  1. Hemp protein contains all 9 essential amino acids and is also rich in minerals and antioxidants making it one of the most complete plant based protein sources
  2. Hemp protein is easily digestible for a plant protein, research has proven that 91-98% of the protein is digestible. This is lower than egg whites, but compares well to other plant based protein sources
  3. Hemp contains unsaturated fats, linoleic acid and magnesium which are beneficial to heart health 
  4. Doesn’t rely on animal sources

Cons: 

  1. Because of it’s high concentration of fiber some people experience gas, bloating or diarrhea after consumption.
  2. Animal studies suggest that hemp may be unsafe for pregnant or nursing women, as well as those with anemia and poor immunity. Although clinical human studies are still needed, it is not recommended that anyone within these three groups consume hemp supplements. 
  3. Hemp seeds may interact and interfere with medications, including anticoagulants 
  4. Although referred to as a seed, Hemp is technically a nut, increasing the likelihood of allergic reactions to its consumption. 
  5. Extracting protein from plants is a chemically intensite process
  6. Additives are required if you want to mask the taste

 

3. Pea Protein

Pea protein is one of the most popular vegan protein supplements. Pea protein is made by grinding dried peas, and then chemically removing the starch and fibre. 

Pros 

  1. Does not contain any of the top 8 allergens that are commonly found in other types of protein supplements (milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat). 
  2. Similar to hemp, pea protein retains more soluble fiber which can have cardiovascular benefits and help reduce blood pressure.
  3. Doesn’t rely on animal sources.

Cons

  1. Does not contain the full profile of amino acids, and is thus not a complete protein. (although you can combine other plant protein sources to get the profile right)
  2. Peas are a higher carb vegetable, so pea supplementation is not compatible with Keto and other low carb diets. 
  3. Some pea proteins can be high in sodium.
  4. It’s largely chemically processed meaning it’s quite far from real food and needs a lot to mask the taste.

 

4. Beef Protein Isolate

Beef protein is made from various parts of a cow, including bones, connective tissue and sometimes even blood.

Pros 

  1. It’s all protein, and does not contain the fat and carbohydrates prominent in other protein supplements.
  2. Beef protein is full of collagen and keratin, supporting the health of your hair and nails.
  3. As an animal protein, it is one of the most digestible options of protein supplementation

Cons

  1. High doses may cause dehydration, indigestion, nausea 
  2. It can have a distinct and salty flavor, meaning it may not mix well with fruit flavors (unless you like the should of beef and mixed berry smoothies of course).
  3. It takes a lot of processing to extract protein from beef
  4. Doesn’t suit vegetarians or vegans obviously
  5. Can be expensive and taste is to be desired
  6. No research on performance as far as we know

 

5. Rice protein

Rice protein is made by treating brown rice with special enzymes that isolate and extract the proteins. 

Pros

  1. Rice protein is good for people with allergies and food sensitivities of any kind, and does not cause gastrointestinal distress that some other plant based proteins can.
  2. Low on glycemic index meaning it won’t spike blood sugar levels

Cons

  1. Rice protein is known to have a chalky texture that may not appeal to everyone. However, this texture can vary from brand to brand.  
  2. Rice protein does not have all of the essential amino acids and must be supplemented with another protein to complete the profile (because of this it is often paired with pea protein) 
  3. There isn’t yet enough research evidence showing it to be effective in supporting performance just yet

To conclude: There are some really good options out there for lactose-intolerant individuals. One of the reasons we developed our egg white protein isolate is because this category is ever growing - especially amongst the athletic community. If you’re looking for a great lactose and dairy free protein powder be sure to learn more about it  here.

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