4 Tasty, Healthy Alternatives to Whey Protein

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For bodybuilders, athletes and ordinary people alike, whey protein is an incredible supplement. It support muscular growth and developments, provides a great variety of important branched chain amino acids and makes a filling breakfast without packing too many calories into each serving. It’s great for losing weight, bulking up or leaning out.

But for all its fantastic upsides, whey protein also has some significant downsides. Many of the most popular brands of whey are packed with artificial sweeteners and flavors that many health-conscious people prefer to avoid. Worse yet, since whey protein is produced as a by-product of cheese, it can be a rough supplement on many people’s digestive systems. For many whey users, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort are routine side effects — in some cases, to such an extent that leading nutritionists and coaches have taken their athletes off whey due to the side effects.

There’s no doubt that whey protein is a great supplement, but its digestive side effects mean it unfortunately isn’t the ideal protein for everyone. If you feel uncomfortable, bloated, gassy or nauseous after you drink your morning or post-workout whey protein shake, try one of the four healthy protein alternatives listed below:

Casein Protein

Casein protein is another type of dairy-based protein. Derived from milk, casein protein is absorbed by the body at a slower rate than whey protein, making it a popular pre-sleep snack for bodybuilders and athletes. Since it’s derived from milk, casein has a pleasant taste and is considered one of the best tasting protein supplements.

Aside from taking longer to be absorbed by the body, making it a great pre-bed supplement, casein is an excellent protein for muscle development. A 2006 Texas study found that athletes that consumes whey and casein protein, as opposed to whey alone or a combination of different proteins, gained more fat-free muscle mass over the course of a 10 week resistance training program.

Pea Protein

Pea protein is a great vegan alternative to whey that’s packed with valuable macronutrients. Unlike most vegetable proteins, pea protein is rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) that are essential for muscle development, has more protein per serving than most other vegetable proteins and is far less likely to make you feel bloated and gassy than whey.

Add the fact that pea protein is 100% vegan, that it mixes surprisingly easily in milk, almond milk or water, and that it’s much less expensive than most other whey protein alternatives and you’ve got the ideal tasty, healthy alternative to a whey shake in the morning or post-workout.

Hemp Protein

Hempseed is a fantastic source of protein, with all 21 of the known amino acids. In fact, research shows that humans can survive on hempseed alone, assuming no other sources of protein are available, due to its great amino acid profile and excellent ratio of omega fatty acids.

Like pea protein, hemp protein is vegan and ideal for people that prefer not to consume animal-based proteins. It’s easy to digest and has a great 66% edestin to 33% albumin protein structure. The only major downside of hemp protein is that, compared to whey and casein, it’s quite expensive on a per-serving basis due to laws limited supply in the United States. As such, hemp protein is tasty and healthy, but expensive if you consume a protein supplement several times a day.

Goat’s Milk Protein

Although goat’s milk has never been particularly popular in the Western world, it’s widely consumed throughout Asia as an alternative to scarcely available dairy products. Goat’s milk is a great source of protein, with a strong protein profile and significant less lactose than cow’s milk.

One of the biggest advantages of goat’s milk is that it doesn’t contain alpha-S1 — a major allergen contained in cow’s milk that causes serious adverse immune reactions in many people. Goat’s milk is also relatively low in lactose, making it a great alternative to whey and casein for people that feel bloated and uncomfortable after consuming protein that’s high in lactose.

What’s in your protein shake?

It’s easy to assume that all proteins are the same, but there are major differences between common sources of protein that can change the way they’re absorbed and used by your body. If you feel uncomfortable after drinking whey, give one of the four proteins listed above a try in your next post-workout shake.

James McNeally