Is Whey Protein Vegetarian: Types And How Is It Made?

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Is Whey Protein Vegetarian?

Whey protein is one of the most popular protein supplements used by athletes and non-athletes alike for building or retaining muscle mass, increasing power and strength, and even weight loss. 

Additionally, some people consume whey protein for its convenience and effectiveness. However, for vegetarians, the question arises: “Is whey protein vegetarian?” In this article, we will explore this question in detail.

I. Is whey protein vegetarian?

Yes, whey protein is vegetarian because it is derived from cow milk. While milk is an animal product, it is generally accepted within vegetarian diets because it doesn’t require the killing of animals.

However, there are some caveats to this answer, which we will discuss in the following sections.

II. Types of vegetarianism

Not all vegetarians exclude or include the same foods in their diets, but there are three general categories [1]BetterHealth: Vegetarian and vegan eatingof vegetarianism:

  • Lacto-vegetarianism: includes dairy products in their diet, but not meat, pork, or poultry.
  • Ovo-vegetarianism: includes eggs in their diet, but not meat, pork.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarianism: includes eggs and dairy products but not meat or pork.
  • Veganism: excludes all animal products from their diet, including dairy, eggs, and honey.
Types of vegetarianism

Since whey protein is made from milk, it is suitable for lacto-vegetarians and ovo-vegetarians. However, it is not suitable for vegans, as they exclude all animal products from their diet.

III. Processing of whey protein

Whey [2]Department of Environmental Conservation: Whey Management for Agriculture protein is derived from milk, which is separated into curds by adding coagulator and whey during the cheese-making process. The whey (watery fraction) is then processed to remove the fat (casein) and lactose, leaving behind a concentrated protein powder. 

How is Whey Protein Made?

Whey protein powder is hailed as a comprehensive source of protein, encompassing all nine essential amino acids, the fundamental components of protein. Moreover, it boasts branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) like leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which play a pivotal role in muscle development. 

IV. Types of Whey Protein Powder Processing

Many individuals, especially athletes, choose to consume whey protein as a convenient way to meet their protein needs.

There are three main types of whey protein: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate.

  • Whey protein concentrate: It contains some fat and lactose, along with protein.
  • Whey protein isolate: It contains a higher percentage of protein but less fat and lactose than concentrate.
  • Whey protein hydrolysate: It is processed even further to a more concentrated form (isolate) and then broken down into smaller amino acid chains (hydrolysate), which can have other benefits of quicker absorption and digestion.
Types of Whey Protein Powder Processing

All three types of whey protein are derived from milk and are therefore suitable for lacto-vegetarians and ovo-vegetarians.

V. Non-Vegetarian Whey Protein

While the vast majority of whey proteins are vegetarian-friendly, there may be some that are not. 

For example, some whey protein powders may contain animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin, which is made from animal bones and skin. 

Therefore, it is important to read the label carefully before purchasing any whey protein powder to ensure that it is vegetarian-friendly.

VI. Plant-Based Protein Powders

For vegans or those who prefer plant-based protein sources, there are many plant-based protein powders available on the market.

These vegan protein powders are made from various plants, such as brown rice, soy, or pea, and are vegan-friendly and lactose-free, which makes them a good option for those who are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy.

Plant-based protein powders provide similar amounts of protein as whey protein powders, with the average product providing 20-30 grams per serving. They are also effective at building muscle and can be used as a substitute for whey protein powders.

Plant based proteins vs whey proteins 0 Differences based on 4 factors

VII. Vegetarian protein sources

Vegetarians can obtain protein from a variety of sources. Here are some vegetarian protein sources:

Vegetarian protein sources - Foods List with calorie count

1. Legumes

  • Lentils: High in protein and cook relatively quickly.
  • Chickpeas: Used in dishes like hummus and falafel, they’re also great in salads.
  • Black beans: Versatile and used in various dishes like burritos, soups, and salads.
  • Soybeans: The base for tofu, tempeh, and edamame, which are all excellent protein sources.

2. Tofu and Tempeh

  • Tofu: A soybean-based product that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.
  • Tempeh: Made from fermented soybeans, it has a nutty flavor and a firmer texture than tofu.

3. Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds: A good source of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
  • Peanuts: Rich in protein and versatile for snacks or as peanut butter.
  • Chia seeds: These tiny seeds are packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Hemp seeds: High in protein and a source of essential fatty acids.
  • Sunflower seeds: A protein-rich snack and a salad topping.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Nutrient-packed with protein, minerals, and a satisfying crunch.

4. Grains

  • Quinoa: A complete protein source, meaning it contains all essential amino acids.
  • Farro: A whole grain with a good protein content.
  • Brown rice: Higher in protein and nutrients compared to white rice.

5. Dairy and Dairy Alternatives

  • Greek yogurt: Contains more protein than regular yogurt.
  • Milk alternatives: Almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk often have added protein
  • Cheese: Some vegetarian-friendly cheeses like cottage cheese and paneer are protein-rich
  • Seitan: Also known as wheat gluten, seitan is a high-protein meat substitute commonly used in vegan and vegetarian dishes

6. Eggs

  • Eggs: For vegetarians who include eggs in their diet, they are an excellent source of protein

7. Vegetables

  • Broccoli: Surprisingly high in protein for a vegetable
  • Spinach: Rich in protein and iron
  • Peas: Contain a decent amount of protein and are great in various dishes
  • Mushroom: Low in calories and offers a unique umami flavor to dishes


In conclusion, whey protein is considered vegetarian as it is derived from milk, which is an animal product. However, it is not suitable for vegans, as they exclude all animal products from their diet. 

It is important to read the label carefully before purchasing any whey protein powder to ensure that it is vegetarian-friendly. 

For those who prefer plant-based protein sources, there are many plant-based protein powders available on the market that are vegan-friendly and lactose-free.


1. Are Whey Protein Powders Always Vegetarian? 

The majority of whey proteins are suitable for vegetarians, but occasional exceptions may indicate lower quality due to additives. One such exception is beef/whey mixed protein, which is non-vegetarian but a good option for non-vegetarians or those with lactose intolerance seeking animal-based protein without additives.

2. Is Gold Standard 100% Whey Vegetarian?

Gold Standard 100% Whey is suitable for vegetarians as it’s derived from dairy, but strict vegans may prefer plant-based protein options. You can be certain of its compliance with FSSAI standards with the presence of the green dot on the label. Always check labels to align with your dietary preferences.

3. How Much Protein Do I Need?

The recommended daily protein intake varies, but a general guideline is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Athletes and those with higher activity levels may require more.


1 BetterHealth: Vegetarian and vegan eating
2 Department of Environmental Conservation: Whey Management for Agriculture

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