Looking for a lactose-free protein powder that’s nutritious and tastes great? It’s not easy to find supplements that tick all the boxes but we’ve done the research so you don’t have to. Whether you’re looking at powders for dairy-free protein shakes, workout smoothies, or healthy baking, we’ve got you covered.
In this article – we summarise everything you need to know about dairy-free protein powder including the best products, scientific research, and recipes.
- What is lactose?
- Qualities of a good non-dairy protein powder
- Why choose lactose-free supplements?
- Are plant proteins less effective?
- 5 best lactose-free protein powders
- Dairy-free protein smoothie recipes
What Is Lactose?
Lactose is a type of sugar usually found in milk and dairy products. Since whey protein and casein are made from dairy, lactose is also found in these types of supplements.
Approximately 2/3 of people are intolerant to lactose which means they can’t digest it properly. This leads to uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and feeling sick. Some people also have allergies to milk or dairy which is where their immune system reacts unusually.
What Makes a Good Lactose-Free Protein Powder?
Let’s look at what separates an average lactose-free protein powder from an exceptional one…
- 100% lactose-free
- High protein content
- Amino acid profile
- Great taste
- Combines with water
- Smooth texture
Now let’s look at each of these elements in more detail…
Some dairy-free protein powders are produced alongside other products that can cause cross-contamination. For people with severe allergies, the potential for even the slightest bit of lactose finding its way in can be a serious issue.
High Protein Content
Exactly how much protein is in each serving? Don’t be fooled by misleading product labelling about percentages. You want to look at how many grams are in a single serving to understand exactly how much you’ll be consuming.
Amino Acid Profile
Does it supply complete proteins i.e. the nine essential amino acids that the body can’t make by itself? And does it include sufficient branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to aid workout recovery?
It should go without saying that a supplement needs to taste good. Unfortunately some dairy-free protein powders taste plain awful. Thankfully, several delicious options have entered the market in recent years, so vegans and dairy-free fans no longer need to settle for average.
Combines With Water
Many protein powders rely on milk to create delicious shakes. However, a lactose-free one really needs to work just as well with water (along with plant-based milks like almond and soy).
Lots of protein powders taste grainy and plant-based ones can be no exception. It’s important to choose a powder that produces smooth shakes that aren’t chalky.
This might not be a factor for everyone, but we think a good lactose-free protein powder should be reasonably priced too. Vegan powders tend to cost a little more than dairy ones but they still need to be good value. After all, you’re going to have to buy it regularly if you’re consuming it every day.
Why Choose Lactose-Free Supplements?
People choose lactose-free protein powder for many reasons. Here are some of the most common ones…
- Allergies – people who have a food allergy to milk or dairy will want to avoid whey and casein powders.
- Intolerances – those with lactose intolerances should choose lactose-free protein shakes.
- Veganism – some make a dietary or ethical choice not to consume animal products like dairy.
- Environmental – plant-based products tend to have a lower CO2 footprint.
- Health – dairy contains saturated fat which is associated with cardiovascular disease (less of a concern with protein powders which are lower in fat).
Whatever your reason for considering a plant-based protein supplement, it’s important to find one that’s right for you.
You might also like… 7 Healthy Add-Ins For Workout Smoothies & Shakes
Are Plant Proteins Less Effective?
Some people think plant-based protein is less beneficial than animal protein. However, scientific research shows that this isn’t necessarily the case.
What seems to matter is protein quality, not where it comes from. As long as your protein contains the 9 essential amino acids, then your body will be sufficiently supplied with the nutrient building blocks it needs.
If you’re concerned about exercise recovery or muscle gain, then you don’t need to be. Research suggests that it’s the amount of BCAAs that impact post-workout gains, not where they come from.
The issue is that whey and casein often have a higher amount of BCAAs. So, it’s important to do your research to find plant-based protein powders that contain just as much. If it contains enough leucine, isoleucine, and valine, then it doesn’t matter (nutritionally speaking) whether it comes from plants or animals.
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5 Best Lactose-Free Protein Powders
Here are the best protein powders for the lactose intolerant, vegans, and those who prefer dairy-free supplements…
- Free Soul
- Optimum Nutrition
Free Soul Vegan Protein
Free Soul is undoubtedly the best tasting lactose-free protein powder. It has an incredible flavour and texture, even when mixed with plain old water. There’s zero chalkiness or grainy texture, plus it comes vanilla, chocolate (heavenly!), and berry varieties.
One 30g scoop contains 20g of protein but the BCAA content isn’t clear. It’s primarily pea protein which they infuse with white hemp protein to maximise the amino acid profile. Plus it’s gluten-free, soy-free, and fortified with a range of other nutrients including iron, calcium, magnesium, and L-carnitine.
Pulsin Rice Protein Powder
A 30g scoop contains 24g of protein which is the highest content of all 5 on this list. This includes 5g of BCAAs.
Pulsin rice protein is unflavored which obviously affects the taste. It would be super-bland mixed with plain water. But it’s perfect for combining with other flavoursome ingredients in smoothies, overnight oats, and porridge. It’s really an individual choice whether you prioritise taste over protein content (or vice versa).
Pulsin also produces pea, soya, and fava bean proteins which are unflavoured and good for cooking with. However, the rice protein has the highest BCAA content which is why we’ve focused on that one here.
Misfits Vegan Protein Powder
Misfits protein powder is well-priced at £15 and tastes delicious. The UK-based company ships worldwide which means it’s more widely available than others on this list. It’s mainly made from pea protein with some sunflower protein and comes in vanilla, salted caramel, and chocolate flavour.
This contains the same protein ratio as Free Soul at 20g per 30g scoop. However, Misfits recommends a smaller serving size of 25g, which therefore contains 16g of protein. It’s up to you if you want to use a slightly larger serving in order to boost the amount of protein. They don’t state the volume of BCAAs on their packaging.
You might also like… Is MisFits chocolate protein powder worth the money?
Vega Protein Powder
Vega is a global leader in plant-based protein and available around the world. Their protein and greens product is made with pea protein, brown rice protein, and sacha inchi protein.
This retails for $29.99 and a 30g scoop contains 20g protein and 3.3g BCAAs. This is a similar amount to Free Soul and Misfits.
One 44g scoop of this contains 30g of protein and 5g BCAAs. On the face of it, this sounds like more than the others. But in reality, the scoop size they provide is 50% larger which is why there’s more.
So, the amount of protein is the same amount per gram as their greens product. However, because the scoop is bigger, the total amount of protein is also larger.
Taste-wise both Vega proteins are a solid choice that mix well with water and plant-based milks. However, some people complain that they taste of stevia so that can be a drawback for some.
It’s also worth noting that although they’re lactose-free, they are produced in a factory that uses milk. This may not be suitable for those with dairy allergies.
Optimum Nutrition 100% Plant Protein
This powder is made from a combination of pea and rice protein. One 36g scoop contains 24g of protein and 4g of BCAAs. This is proportional to the other protein powders we’ve discussed above (i.e. 20g per 30g). It’s also gluten-free gluten and dairy-free protein powder but is made in a factory that also handles milk.
The one downside is the taste. As with Vega, it does taste of stevia which can put some people off. But it’s a great price and still one of the best lactose-free options.
Dairy-Free Protein Smoothie Recipes
Here’s a selection of our favourite protein smoothies that are all dairy and lactose-free…
- Banana & Almond Milk Protein Smoothie
- Simple Pineapple Protein Shake
- Coffee & Banana Protein Smoothie
- Vanilla Almond Protein Shake
- Blueberry Protein Smoothie
These recipes only contain 3-4 ingredients which means they’re super-simple to prepare.
You might also like… How To Make a Delicious Smoothie Without Milk or Dairy.
Here are some of the most common questions we hear about protein. Feel free to get in touch if you have a different question that’s not covered here.
What protein powder is best for lactose intolerance?
If you’re lactose intolerant, then go for a plant-based protein powder like pea, rice, or soya. We rate Free Soul, Pulsin, and Misfits dairy-free supplements highly.
For people who prioritise workout recovery and muscle growth, rice protein is the best lactose-free option. This has the highest BCAA content. Avoid whey and casein as both contain lactose (even the isolate varieties).
Can you drink protein shakes if you are lactose intolerant?
Yes, there are plenty of protein shakes that are suitable if you’re lactose intolerant. You just need to avoid whey and casein products – look for vegan or plant-based protein shakes instead.
Is whey protein powder lactose-free?
No, whey protein contains lactose which means it’s not suitable for people who are intolerant.
Nutrition Info You Can Trust
Our in-house associate nutritionist holds a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, a bachelor’s degree in Sports Science and English, and a Diploma in Personal Training. She has over 15 years of experience in the health and fitness industry, working with leading health clubs, equipment companies, and one-to-one clients.