Is Whey Gluten Free

Is Whey Gluten Free?

Discover if whey protein is gluten-free, explore alternatives, and learn how to choose safe supplements. Clear your doubts about whey and gluten today!

You may wonder, is whey gluten free? Yes, in its plainest form, but some varieties contain extra ingredients such as flavorings, preservatives and stabilizers that may not be. We’ll talk about the basics of whey, how to tell if your product is gluten-free and give you an overview of some other concerns you’ll want to keep in mind on your journey. Let’s get to it!! 

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Apart from wheat, barley and rye, gluten is often found in soups, sauces, and salad dressings, so it’s important to double check the labels if you are gluten intolerant.

You can identify gluten free products quite easily by looking at the ingredients, and you can also look for products that have been certified by organizations such as the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).

Those with an autoimmune condition called Coeliac disease  or “Celiac disease” will need to avoid products containing gluten, and it is also possible to have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Some symptoms of gluten intolerance include: 

  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Stomachache
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Joint Pain
  • Nausea
  • Brain fog
  • Depression and anxiety 

Foods that normally do not contain gluten include

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Plain meat, poultry, and fish
  • Potatoes
  • Pulses
  • Rice
  • Quinoa 

Ingredients to avoid that may contain gluten

Avoid wheat, rye, barley, and all ingredients derived from them, such as wheat flour.

In addition, you should be aware of several tricky ingredients that contain gluten — despite appearing not to.

The following are some of these ingredients:

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Graham flour
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Malt
  • Modified wheat starch
  • Spelt
  • Bulgur
  • Oats, unless they are certified gluten-free
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Certain types of food coloring
  • Modified food starch

These ingredients may be cause for concern in products that are not verified gluten-free.

However, if they are listed on the label of a certified gluten-free product, the product and all its ingredients do not contain gluten. 

Why is Whey interesting?

If you are into fitness and bodybuilding, you must have come across the big 5-pound Whey jugs in the supplement shops and the boutique pouches in the grocery store. You may even see tiny individual serving samples handed out at events or gyms. Whey protein is everywhere.

The bigger picture is that protein is one of the “big three” macronutrients that make up the majority of our nutrition, alongside carbohydrates and fat. It’s responsible for repairing our muscles after we put them through the wear and tear of a workout or just going about daily life.(1)

Protein is also key for cellular activity and helps boost important functions in the body such as metabolism and immunity. We can’t live without it! That’s why it is recommended to consume at least 0.8g of protein per pound body weight especially when you are active.

The problem is most of our foods are carb-heavy, and protein-packed foods are not so readily accessible for quick and easy snacks.

Everyone is looking for a convenient product that packs over 20g of protein in a single serving and only takes a couple of minutes to prepare. Introducing the star of the show, THE WHEY PROTEIN. Commonly found in powder form and shakes or treats made can help increase and maintain muscle mass while keeping fat mass low.(2) 

What the Heck is Whey Protein?

Whey is a naturally occurring compound found in cow’s milk, and over 80 percent of the protein from milk is pure whey. Whey separates from the rest of the milk during the making of dairy products like cheese, curds, and yogurt, then processed down to a powder. Flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry are added to whey concentrate make it more palatable.

In addition to the convenience factor and tasty flavors, whey protein concentrates are some of the highest quality nutrition available, containing many of the essential amino acids needed for healthy skin, hormones, and neurotransmitters. 

Benefits of Whey Protein

1. Excellent source of high-quality protein

Whey is a complete, high-quality protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. In addition, it is very digestible, absorbed from your gut quickly compared with other types of protein.(3)

These qualities make it one of the best dietary sources of protein available.

There are three main types of whey protein powder:

  • concentrate
  • isolate
  • hydrolysate

As a dietary supplement, whey protein is widely popular among bodybuilders, athletes, and others who want additional protein in their diet. 

2. Promotes muscle growth

To fight the natural decline in the muscle mass due to age, it can be agreed that with a combination of strength training and adequate diet, the adverse changes in the body composition can be partly slowed, prevented, or reversed to a certain degree.(4)

Some studies have suggested that whey may be slightly better than casein and soy, However, unless your diet is already deficient in protein, supplements won’t make a big difference.(5)

Whey comes in handy as it is rich in branched-chain amino acid called leucine. Leucine is the most growth-promoting (anabolic) of the amino acids.

For this reason, whey protein is effective for the prevention of age-related muscle loss, as well as for improved strength. 

3. May lower blood pressure

Hypertension (High blood pressure) is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease.

Consumption of dairy products has shown to reduced blood pressure due to its effect on a family of bioactive peptides in dairy, so-called angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACE-inhibitors) known as lactokinins in Whey.

One study in overweight individuals showed that whey protein supplementation, 54 g/day for 12 weeks, lowered systolic blood pressure by 4%. Other milk proteins (casein) had similar effects.(6) 

4. May reduce inflammation

Inflammation is part of the body’s response to damage. Short-term inflammation can be beneficial, as long as it doesn’t become chronic.

Chronic inflammation can be harmful and may be a risk factor for several other illnesses. It may reflect underlying health conditions or lifestyle habits that hurt your health.

A study found out that intake (greater than or equal to 20 grams/day) of whey protein supplements significantly reduced C-reactive protein (CRP), a key marker of inflammation in the body.(7) 

5. May enhance body’s antioxidant defences

Antioxidants are substances that act against oxidation by reducing the oxidative stress to lower the risk of various chronic diseases.

Glutathione an amino acid that is produced by the body, is an important antioxidant. Glutathione production depends on the supply of several amino acids, such as cysteine, which is sometimes of limited supply.

For this reason, high cysteine foods, such as whey protein, may boost the body’s natural antioxidant defenses.

Several studies in both humans have found that whey proteins may reduce oxidative stress and increase levels of glutathione.(8) 

The Bottom Line

Whey protein is a powerful supplement that may or may not be gluten free depending on the brand and practices they use.

Just like any health supplement out there, you’ll find a lot of variation in the quality of whey protein between manufacturers. Make sure when you are checking the gluten-free certifications on the front of the product, to scan the ingredients list to see exactly what’s going on. 


  1. Huang WC, Chang YC, Chen YM, Hsu YJ, Huang CC, Kan NW, Chen SS. Whey Protein Improves Marathon-Induced Injury and Exercise Performance in Elite Track Runners. Int J Med Sci. 2017 Jun 22;14(7):648-654. doi: 10.7150/ijms.19584. PMID: 28824296; PMCID: PMC5562115. 
  2. Devries MC, Phillips SM. Supplemental protein in support of muscle mass and health: advantage whey. J Food Sci. 2015 Mar;80 Suppl 1:A8-A15. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12802. PMID: 25757896. 
  3. Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson MP, Maubois JL, Beaufrère B. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Dec 23;94(26):14930-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.94.26.14930. PMID: 9405716; PMCID: PMC25140. 
  4. Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009 Jan;12(1):86-90. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32831cef8b. PMID: 19057193; PMCID: PMC2760315. 
  5. Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009 Sep;107(3):987-92. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00076.2009. Epub 2009 Jul 9. PMID: 19589961. 
  6. Pal S, Ellis V. The chronic effects of whey proteins on blood pressure, vascular function, and inflammatory markers in overweight individuals. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Jul;18(7):1354-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.397. Epub 2009 Nov 5. PMID: 19893505. 
  7. Zhou LM, Xu JY, Rao CP, Han S, Wan Z, Qin LQ. Effect of whey supplementation on circulating C-reactive protein: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrients. 2015 Feb 9;7(2):1131-43. doi: 10.3390/nu7021131. PMID: 25671415; PMCID: PMC4344580. 
  8. de Aguilar-Nascimento JE, Prado Silveira BR, Dock-Nascimento DB. Early enteral nutrition with whey protein or casein in elderly patients with acute ischemic stroke: a double-blind randomized trial. Nutrition. 2011 Apr;27(4):440-4. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.02.013. Epub 2010 Dec 16. Erratum in: Nutrition. 2011 Sep;27(9):982. PMID: 21167685. 
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