Is Whey Protein Gluten Free? | What You Need to Know

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January 26, 2021 Guardian-Elite Fitness Leave a comment

If you’re following a gluten-free diet, or have an allergy to gluten, you probably find it hard to tell sometimes if certain foods actually have gluten in them. A study conducted in 2013 found that over one-third of Americans are cutting down or avoiding gluten all together. However, what if you’re trying to gain or maintain muscle mass? Protein is a must and getting the right amount of protein is very important. Most of us turn to whey protein powders as a way to supplement protein intake. However, is whey protein gluten-free? After all, gluten is a protein.

  • Is Whey Gluten Free?
  • How to Tell If Whey Protein is Gluten-Free
  • Label Information to Look For
  • Ingredients to Avoid On a Gluten-Free Diet
  • Whey Protein Ingredients to Avoid On a Gluten-Free Diet
  • Is Whey Protein Good For You?
  • Whey Protein Benefits
  • Whey Protein Types
  • Protein Concentrate
  • Protein Isolate
  • Protein Hydrolysates
  • What Gluten-Free Whey Protein Should I Be Taking?

Is Whey Gluten Free?

The answer to “is whey gluten-free” is yes. In fact, whey is naturally gluten-free. This is because whey is essentially concentrated protein and naturally will not contain any gluten.

Whey protein is created when milk is separated into two components, casein and whey. This is generally the by-product of cheese making. Whey is the watery part of the milk that separates from the curds.

This whey is what’s used to make the protein powders that are popular today as a supplement.

It’s important to know, that while whey itself contains no gluten, you’re not out of the woods yet. This is because protein powders generally contain many other ingredients, like preservatives and sweeteners that might contain gluten.

Another factor to consider if following a gluten-free diet is the prospect of cross-contamination within the factory where the whey protein powder is made.

If there are other gluten-containing products made in the same factory, that same gluten could end up in an otherwise gluten-free product like whey protein powder.

How to Tell If Whey Protein is Gluten-Free

gluten free
Any whey protein powder manufacturer may place a label on their product claiming that it’s gluten-free, but starting in 2014 the FDA required that the product meet certain standards with regard to a gluten-free product.

In order for any product to claim that it is gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This is the lowest level that can actually be detected in food by formal testing.

It’s important to remember that while there are standards for claiming a product is gluten-free, there are no standards on what the actual label looks like. It might differ from product to product depending on the manufacturer.

Here is an example of ON Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder with a gluten-free label.

Label Information to Look For
If you’re specifically following a gluten-free diet, you’ll want to know what to look for when considering what whey protein you should be using. we’ll go over the ingredients to spot on whey protein labels and ingredients to avoid for a gluten-free diet.

Ingredients to Avoid On a Gluten-Free Diet
In general, if you’re following a gluten-free diet you know what to avoid already. Here is a quick refresher of ingredients you might encounter and should avoid.

  • Malt
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Bulgur
  • Modified wheat starch
  • Graham flour
  • Oats
  • Modified food starch
  • Natural and artificial flavors

Whey Protein Ingredients to Avoid On a Gluten-Free Diet
Below are several of the ingredients to avoid in any whey protein powder, but especially if you’re keeping to a gluten-free diet.

Maltodextrin and Dextrins
maltodextrin and dextrin are commonly used in protein powder to make them creamier (thicker) and sweeter tasting. If your protein powder is manufactured in the United States, chances are that the maltodextrin is actually gluten-free. This is because it made from potato, rice or corn. In Europe that might not be the case, as it is usually made from wheat.

It’s best to avoid maltodextrin in protein powder for this reason.

Whey Powder Fillers
Other protein powder sweeteners and fillers can contain gluten. Fillers might include sugars or flour.

Is Whey Protein Good For You?

man scooping whey protein powder
The benefits of whey protein are well documented. For those of us using a high protein diet and actively building or maintaining muscle, whey protein is an essential supplement to our diet. But is whey protein really good for you?

Whey Protein Benefits


  • Builds muscle: Our muscles need protein in order to build bigger muscle fibers and repair the microtears that occur after resistance and weight training. Whey protein in particular is great for this as it contains branched-chained amino acids, which is specific to muscle building.
  • Lower blood pressure: There have been numerous studies that have shown whey proteins positive effect on lower blood pressure. Whey protein is known to contain certain ACE-inhibitors that are known to reduce blood pressure.
  • Reduce inflammation: Higher doses of whey protein have been known to reduce levels of inflammation in the body.

There can also be risks and whey protein side effects that should be considered, even if you aren’t following a gluten-free diet.

  • Not regulated by the FDA: Whey protein powder is considered a supplement. As such, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. It’s important to carefully choose a reputable brand of whey protein powder.
  • Digestive issues: Whey protein is ultimately a dairy product. So there is the potential for whey protein to cause digestive issues for those with dairy allergies or lactose problems.

The bottom line is that whey protein is generally safe and good for you as long as you don’t have certain dairy allergies.

Whey Protein Types

whey protein powder scoop
There are three different types of whey protein, which are listed below. The main difference between these three whey proteins has to do with how they were processed.

Protein Concentrate
When the whey is initially separated from the cheese and yogurt production and dried into a concentrate powder that is very commonly used for whey protein powders.

This whey protein concentrate is about 80% protein and the other 20% is made up from carbohydrates and fats.

Protein Isolate
During the time when the liquid whey is separated from the cheese and yogurt production, slightly different processing methods are used to create a whey isolate powder that is 90% protein by weight.

This means there are lower levels of fat and carbohydrates.

Protein Hydrolysates
Hydrolyzed protein is no different than a whey protein concentrate except for that it is broken down before-hand, which makes it easier to digest. Another advantage to a hydrolyzed whey protein is that since it is already broken down, it means a faster delivery to the muscles.

What Gluten-Free Whey Protein Should I Be Taking?

There are many great choices for whey protein. Sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. It’s important though to choose a reputable brand known for quality ingredients. For those on a gluten free diet, here are our recommendations below.

Posted in: Nutrition and Diet Filed under: Nutrition