Is whey protein primal or paleo? I get this question a lot. There are two reasons why whey protein is not a paleo food.
1) Paleo foods are by definition unprocessed. Whey protein, as we know it, comes off a conveyor belt, into a plastic tub, onto a truck and thence to your local GNC. It is a quintessential factory food.
2) Cavemen didn’t eat dairy.
But these answers only satisfy paleo zealots. If you don’t daydream about moving to Jurassic Park so you can start chasing dinosaurs with a pointy stick then you probably have a more pragmatic view of the paleo lifestyle. For you the real question is, does whey protein have a nutritional profile that will help me live longer and be healthier?
Here are some pictures, from wheyoflife.org that show some important facts about whey.
What’s interesting about whey isn’t what’s in it but what’s not in it. Pure whey protein shouldn’t contain any lactose, or casein. These are the ingredients in milk that are most disagreeable to people with milk allergies.
Most people are familiar with lactose intolerance but casein is not widely understood. Casein is marketed to the GNC/look-good-nekkid crowd as a healthy protein with “slow-acting” amino acid release which therefore makes it ideal as a nightime “recovery drink”. However, casein has been linked to leaky bowel, IBS, and other horrible GI disorders. That’s why most people who go gluten free on a medical recommendation also go casein free. Many autistic kids go completely gluten and casein free as part of their treatment. Do you really want to stir this stuff into your shake?
So what about pure whey? Without all the lactose, casein and other junk is whey okay to eat? I think it’s fine and I eat it all the time because let’s be honest, I’m not about to ram down broccoli and brisket 30 minutes after I’m smoked from a WOD. Whey is actually a pretty good recovery meal because it’s easier to digest than say, a porterhouse steak. BUT – if you are eating pure whey and you still have gas, bloating, diarrhea, or if it makes you groggy or confused, you probably have an intolerance and you should avoid it. As always, nutrition isn’t about ideology or dogma. Judge a food by how it makes you feel and look.