Let's talk about whey protein!

January 18th 2019

Our fourth ingredients post already! Last month, we talked about the kinds of plant-based proteins we use in our vegan products. Now it’s time for all the ins and outs about whey protein, the vegetarian counterpart for the proteins we use in Steady Standard, Agile and Athletic.

What is it?

Whey protein is an animal-based source of, well, protein and is derived from milk. It is most easily derived by separating it from casein - another protein present in milk - and is usually done so as a “leftover” in the cheese-making process.

To turn milk into cheese, so-called “start cultures” are added. These cultures make the milk develop into “curds” (casein) and “whey”, of which only the first is considered useful for the rest of the process. Often the “leftover” whey gets collected too, though. To turn whey into (a powdered) whey protein, different filtering and drying technique are used.

Proteins overall are - like mentioned in last month's post - a very important part of nutrition and can come from both animal-based and plant-based sources. We’ll discuss the exact differences later on, but the greatest one is in the presence (or absence) of specific so-called “amino acids”, the building blocks of proteins. Among supporting the body in many other important processes, amino acids are responsible for building muscle and repairing tissue.

Compared to the other two macronutrients, proteins deliver less energy than fats (4 versus 9 kilocalories per gram) and roughly the same than carbohydrates but are known to be more filling. Which means that if we’d compare a 500-kilocalorie meal high in protein with, for example, one that is rich in carbohydrates, you’re most likely to feel more satisfied after the first one. In the end, this could mean that overall, you’ll eat less. In this way, proteins could support in weight maintenance or weight loss.

How do we use it?

As protein is a macronutrient, it’s no surprise that we consider it as one of the most important parts of our nutritionally complete meals. Whey protein is the second biggest ingredient in Steady Standard, Agile and Athletic.

For Steady Vegan and both of the flavours of Ready we use a mix of pea- and rice protein, as whey is animal-based and therefore not considered vegan.

Why do we use it?

Well, this is an interesting question to answer. Protein can come from both animal-based and plant-based sources, and if you’d take a closer look at the environmental and ethical impacts of both, you would say the latter is “better”.

Still, we think consuming whey - as a vegetarian protein in our, therefore, vegetarian meals - is a main win when we’d compare it to most “general” (read: non-vegetarian & non-environmentally friendly) meals people eat.

Formerly, we used whey as the kind of protein in all of our products because of two reasons: completeness and taste. In general, these two are the main factors of whey’s worldwide popularity.

Whey is a so-called “complete protein”. Of all 22 amino acids existing, 9 are crucial for basic health. These “essential amino acids”, the building blocks of protein we mentioned before, cannot be made by the body itself so we have to get them out of food. Most plant-based sources of protein only consist out of a few essential amino acids, so a combination of multiple proteins has to be made.

Then when we talk about the taste, whey protein has a creamy note and mixes well. Excactly the factors you need in order to make a delicious shake, and once again a reason why whey is so popular in the world of sports nutrition. Plant-based proteins, on the other hands, can have a somewhat “earthy” note, a flavour most people do not like.

Today, we’ve succeeded in finding a combination of plant-based proteins that is both complete and tasty, which we now use in our vegan products. Still, we find it important to keep on offering vegetarian products too, because we’d like to serve a variety of customers and because we think consuming a vegetarian meal is still way more animal- and environmentally friendly then consuming meat and fish. Last but not least, whey is a by-product with high nutritional value. Too good to throw away.

Where does it come from?

As mentioned before, the whey protein we use is made out of the by-products from the cheese-making industry. Of the specific whey we use, the milk comes from cows in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and the UK. Both the milk-to-cheese and the whey-to-whey-protein processes happen in the UK.


Although we’re only talking about small amounts, whey protein contains lactose. If you’re suffering from lactose intollerance but still want to enjoy nutritionally complete meals, our Steady Vegan shakes, Ready instant oat meal and Go bar Nuts & Seasalt are safe to use.