Is Whey Protein Powder Easier to Digest Than Meat?

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Whey protein powder offers a convenient source of dietary protein. Dairies separate whey from milk curds during cheese-making. Compared with meat, whey protein powder offers a fast-digesting protein source that combines well with ingredients in a blender, making it a useful option for bodybuilders, athletes, seniors -- and people with health challenges such HIV and cancer who may have difficulty meeting nutritional needs due to poor appetite.

Protein And Digestion

Although meat is a quality protein source, compared with whey protein powder, it takes longer to digest -- and there are health concerns associated with eating meat frequently. Rather than the quick intake of a liquid whey protein shake, digesting meat protein begins with the process of chewing. Thorough chewing helps to break down meat fibers and mix the meat with saliva to begin the digestive process. Eating meat requires energy to digest, and can even raise the metabolism slightly due to the amount of energy required to break down the meat. Whey is the most bioavailable protein -- it's a more efficient protein source than lesser proteins such as beans.

Whey Protein Powder

The two main types of whey protein powder are whey concentrate and whey isolate. Whey isolate is higher in protein and lower in fat and lactose than whey concentrate. As a liquid, it moves through the digestive system quickly. Whey is a faster digesting protein than cassein, the other main milk protein, and contributes to satiety, giving it a potential role in appetite control, according to international researchers who published their findings in the May 2008 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."


Although meat provides quality protein, there's a link between a high intake of red meat or consuming processed meats and higher incidences of colon cancer, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. This and possible links between meat consumption and heart disease and diabetes make it advisable to limit meat consumption. It might be safest to limit meat to 18 ounces per week or less and avoid processed meats, HSPS suggests. Meat digests more slowly than whey protein because the body has to break down the meat to use its nutrients. Higher fat foods tend to digest slower than leaner foods; choosing leaner cuts of meat and trimming visible fat can help, but some of the fat in meat is in the muscle and can't be removed.

Whey Protein Considerations

Whey is a dairy product and might cause unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, stomachache, gas and diarrhea in people who are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy. Some lactose intolerant people may be able to tolerate whey isolate because the processing removes most of the lactose, but if you have lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, consult your doctor before consuming whey or other dairy products. "Whey powder," also called sweet whey or dairy whey, is not the same as whey protein powder; it's much higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein.