What are the best protein drinks without milk?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

drink wholesome makes the best protein drinks without milk. They are also additive-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes them perfect for people with gut issues and sensitive stomachs, as well as for people just looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk. Order samples to see if our protein drinks are right for you. 

“If you have a sensitive gut, you need simple ingredients.”

-Brittany Carpenter, MS, RDN/LDN

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drink wholesome makes the best protein drinks without milk.

What is a protein drink? 

What does without milk mean? 

Why use protein drinks without milk?

What are the best protein drinks without milk?

Why drink wholesome?

What is a protein drink? 


A protein drink, also known as a protein shake, is a dietary supplement that contains a significant amount of protein. It is typically consumed by individuals looking to increase their protein intake, and can be made using different protein sources, some of which are milk-based. It is worth noting that while protein drinks can be a convenient way to supplement protein intake, it is important to eat a balanced diet, and not rely solely on these drinks for all nutritional needs.

What does without milk mean? 


Before I begin, I have to define some terminology. Protein drink without milk is another way to say dairy-free protein drink. Not to be confused with lactose-free, dairy-free means that the drink does not contain milk, or ingredients derived from milk. A dairy-free diet excludes all dairy products, including butter, cheese, yogurt, whey, and casein.

In case you were wondering, whey is a byproduct of cheese and yogurt production, so protein drinks made with whey are NOT dairy-free. People with lactose intolerance and dairy-allergies should avoid protein drinks made with whey and casein.

A protein drink without milk is thus a protein drink that does not contain any dairy-based ingredients or milk derivatives. Protein drinks without milk are typically made with egg whites or plant-based protein sources.

Why use protein drinks without milk?


Here are 3 reasons why you should choose a protein drink without milk:

1. Milk-based proteins like whey can casein are known to cause digestive issues. This is especially true for people with lactose sensitivity (intolerance) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

2. Milk-based proteins can cause acne. Dairy indirectly stimulates insulin production, which regulates sebum production. Sebum, an oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands, can clog your pores and cause pimples.

3. Milk-based proteins are not sustainable. Although whey protein does offer a way for farmers to reduce waste, it is part of the industrial dairy industry, which has a profound impact on the environment. Dairy cows and their manure produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, the poor handling of manure and fertilizers pollute local water resources, and unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can also lead to the loss of ecologically important areas such as prairies, wetlands, and forests.

Some people will tell you that egg white or plant protein does not measure up to milk-based proteins like whey, but this is simply not true. Whey protein is a highly bioavailable complete protein, but that does not make it better than any other dietary protein. Bioavailability is a measurement of how well the body can absorb and use a nutrient. It is measured on a scale of 0-100%, and both whey and egg white protein score 100%. Most plant proteins score lower, but this is nothing to be concerned about. It just means that you have to eat a few more plants in order to get the nutritional benefits of whey or egg whites.

Lots of people also praise whey for its complete amino acid profile, which is misleading. A complete protein is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids that the body needs, but cannot produce on its own. Not all dietary proteins are complete, but if you eat a balanced diet, this is nothing to worry about. In other words, eating a variety of proteins will give you all of the amino acids that you need. In case you were wondering, egg whites also have a complete amino acid profile. Most plant proteins do not, but again, if you are getting your protein from a variety of foods, this does not matter.

In summary, egg white protein is, from a nutritional standpoint, basically identical to whey protein. Most plant proteins are slightly inferior, but if you consider the many side effects caused by whey, plant proteins emerge as a clear winner. Going dairy-free is thus the way to go, but dairy is not the only ingredient to avoid when buying protein drinks. Allow me to explain. 

What are the best protein drinks without milk?


There are two types of dairy-free protein drinks: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein drinks, and protein drinks made with protein powder. In order to make protein drinks with protein powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people, prioritizing convenience, prefer to buy ready-to-drink protein drinks, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably feel sick to their stomach. 

Ready-to-drink protein drinks are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but can cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage. This is worrisome because more and more research shows that disruptions to the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food) can play a role in the development of a number of chronic diseases. 

I therefore recommend that you make your protein drinks with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein drinks! 

Why drink wholesome


drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why we make the best protein drinks without milk is that we do not use food additives. Most protein powders, on the other hand, are full of food additives.

Food additives may improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but they can also cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage. Basically, because they look nothing like real food, food additives are hard to digest. They therefore sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, causing bloating and stomach pain.

Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. Over time, food additives can add up (especially if you drink a protein drink every day), and disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine. Eventually, this can lead to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

When buying protein drinks, one ingredient to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. 

Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria), and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein drink trips to the bathroom!

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein drinks:

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying a protein drink, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

the alternative:

Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate,  Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids,  Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.

*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

Another reason why we make the best non milk-based protein drinks is that we do not use protein isolates. Most protein drinks, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.” I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming a protein supplement. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food.

If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to the gut microbiome. It is therefore in your best interest to avoid protein drinks made with protein concentrates and isolates. 

Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best non milk protein drinks with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Whole foods like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. This is in part because whole foods contain a variety of enzymes and other digestive aids that help to break down the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. Protein isolates and concentrates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them harder for the body to digest and absorb. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds are rich in fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. If you cannot eat eggs, try our almond protein powder. We prefer almonds to other minimally-processed plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties and can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.

★★★★★

easy to digest

“I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 20+ years and it’s always been hard to find a protein powder my stomach can handle. I’ve had no problem digesting drink wholesome AND it tastes great. I highly recommend this protein powder if you have IBS or Crohn’s.” – Jesse

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Some people will tell you that egg white or plant protein does not measure up to whey protein, which this is simply not true. Whey protein is a highly bioavailable complete protein, but that does not make it better than any other dietary protein. mBioavailability is a measurement of how well the body can absorb and use a nutrient. It is measured on a scale of 0-100%, and both whey and egg white protein score 100%. Most plant proteins score lower, but this is nothing to be concerned about. It just means that you have to eat a few more plants in order to get the nutritional benefits of whey or egg whites.

Lots of people also praise whey for its complete amino acid profile, which is misleading. A complete protein is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids that the body needs, but cannot produce on its own. Not all dietary proteins are complete, but if you eat a balanced diet, this is nothing to worry about. In other words, eating a variety of proteins will give you all of the amino acids that you need. In case you were wondering, egg whites also have a complete amino acid profile. Most plant proteins do not, but again, if you are getting your protein from a variety of foods, this does not matter.

In summary, egg white protein is, from a nutritional standpoint, basically identical to whey protein. Most plant proteins are slightly inferior, but if you consider the many side effects caused by whey, plant proteins emerge as a clear winner. As I see it, whey protein is a waste product of the dairy industry that some clever farmers decided to market as a dietary supplement. It is not good for you, or the planet, so find yourself an alternative.

drink wholesome makes the best non milk-based protein drinks.

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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