Whey – The Protein for Vegetarians

Being a vegetarian since birth, a lot of people ask me how I fulfill the need of proteins in my diet. Do I use protein powders? Well, as most other vegetarians, getting enough protein into our system just by means of diet can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you are trying to gain or lose weight and are on a special fitness regime. I have used protein shakes while following diets, so I’m going to try to address a few basic points about protein isolates, especially whey protein, and what role they play in your daily life.

Protein Powders have long been associated with Bodybuilding, as they are primarily used by those who like to build muscles and beef up their bodies through heavy weight-lifting and exercise. However, protein powder is not just for bodybuilders or those hoping to bulk up and become macho! When used in the right amount, they act as useful protein supplements for the body.

A human body needs daily protein because that is what muscles and tissues are built from, and there is no place where the body can store extra protein. The need for adequate protein in the human body is second only to the need for water. Research has proved that ingesting protein powder every day can boost your immune system, speed up recovery of wounds after surgery or injury, and promote healthy skin, all this by increasing muscle strength and development.

Types of Protein Powders
Protein powders are made from four basic sources – Whey (from milk), Egg, Soy and Rice(vegetable protein). Just like any other supplements available in the powder form, Protein powders can contain one or more of the above protein forms processed into the powdered form, so its easy to mix and incorporate into your food. Adding them to water or milk and ingesting it as a Protein Shake is one of the most preferred choices!

What is Whey Protein
When you curdle milk to make cheese, it splits the milk into two components, curds and whey. The curd is the “solid” part that’s used to make cheese. The liquid whey used to be considered a waste product, but then manufacturers began to heat the whey to evaporate the water and concentrate the protein in it. Now, there are more advanced filtration techniques available to concentrate the protein down and leave it in forms, such as whey isolate, that are more readily used by the body.

Importance of Whey Protein
Out of all of these protein supplements, whey protein has the highest biological value as it gives you more usable gram of amino acids than the other forms. It is recommended to consume between 1 and 1.5 grams of quality protein per pound of body weight each day. Just make sure you divide your total protein consumption into 4-5 meals per day, which ensures create an anabolic effect, that build more muscle and burns more fat. Its not that the other proteins are not effective, but they all have higher allergic reactions than Whey, may it be Soy, Eggs, Spirulina, Chlorella or Hemp Seeds. So out of all vegetarian choices, Whey wins the race.

Are there any side effects of Whey Protein?
I haven’t had any personal problems using it, nor have the people around me who use it too. However, research has showed that Whey protein can be highly allergenic. The problem isn’t lactose or casein, since they are both either removed or at significantly reduced levels in whey. However, the main protein fractions in whey (beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, and bovine serum albumin) are all highly allergenic. In addition, whey tends to have much more cholesterol in it than would normally be recommended. Here’s an excellent writeup on Protein Concerns, if you interested in further reading.

Lots of people consider using Whey Protein Isolates to compensate for the protein deficiency in their diet that can’t be covered by protein bars or other protein supplements . Whey Isolate contains around 90 – 96% protein; this process has more of the lactose and fat content removed from the powder, so you get a higher quality protein. Talk to a nutritionist to compare the different types of Whey protein forms, like Isolates vs Concentrates, or a blend of both. Athletes and bodybuilders need a higher level of protein for faster muscle build-up and hence their needs would be different than an average person. Your trainer or nutritionist can guide you through the process and help you choose what’s right for you.

As a part of my diet and exercise plan, I’ve used Whey Isolates in the form of protein shakes as there’s no way I could get the recommended daily intake by means of cereals, pulses and vegetables. However, if you are just an average individual with no special fitness plan, you should try to get your protein from natural sources like fish and seafood, dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, beans, lentils, soy, eggs, lean red meat, etc. Lentils and beans are good, but they have imbalanced protein ratios, so for them to be effective, you have to consume them in proper combination.

I hope this simple article helps you understand the importance of Protein in your diet, understand the different forms of proteins available, especially Whey (vegetarian protein), discuss your options with a nutritionist and choose the one that’s right for you. Take care of your body, and it will in turn take extra care of you!

Have you ever tried Whey Protein? Are you a Vegan or Vegetarian? How do you satisfy your body’s need for protein? Please share your views and ideas via comments!


  1. Hi there, I enjoy reading through your post. I like to write
    a little comment to support you.

  2. If you’re vegan and can’t take protein from any animal sources, soy protein isolate is also a great supplement, the only concern being that some studies have shown that it can raise the levels of estrogen in the body.

    Also for those who are lactose intolerant a whey protein hydrolysate is the best bet (although more expensive). Great article though, whey protein has tremendous benefits.

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