Is Whey Protein Powder Paleo? Primal?

Whey Protein Powder

Is whey protein primal or paleo? What is your answer? Mark Sisson says in his book The Primal Blueprint that it is fine to enjoy in moderation. If you are on a tight budget and are looking to add protein in your diet then I personally believe whey protein is a great option.

Some primal/paleo enthusiasts enjoy it daily while others do not enjoy it at all. Most are in between and believe it’s great as a supplement. I am one of those middle ground people.

Is it better to enjoy real animal foods such as salmon, grass fed beef, chicken, lamb and more? Yes – there is no question about it. But, many of us, especially in this economy, are not able to afford quality meats. I can afford all the grass fed beef in the world since I buy 1/2 cow at a time for under $3 per lb but Chicken breasts costs me about $8 per lb.

Good quality wild Alaskan Salmon is also expensive. Sure, you can buy it for around $8 per lb., but when others sell it for $20 to $30 or more do you really think the one that costs under $8 is the best quality? It does have me wondering.

So, when you are on a tight budget and even if you aren’t but want to add protein to your diet easily then whey protein is a great way to do that. The whey protein I buy is pure whey protein isolate and therefore does not have any added junk in it. I enjoy it this way so I can make a delicious, wholesome smoothie with banana and/or berries, cacao powder and some greens if I feel up to it.

The choice is ultimately up to you. If you are still undecided or are not sure then enjoy my personal talk on what I think about whey protein.

Do you believe whey protein is primal? Why or why not? If you enjoy it yourself, what brand do you buy and how often do you enjoy it?

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  1. Jenn says

    No, whey protein is not primal/paleo, if you’re considering primal/paleo foods to be pre-agricultural, pre-industrial food. It’s very, very processed. I would consider kamut (an ancient grain) to be more primal than whey protein. Protein powders are very much an industrial product.

    However, if it doesn’t cause you problems and you think it helps you body rather than harming it, go for it. Because, seriously, if you’re going to let ideology stand in the way of good health, you might as well be a vegan (tongue firmly in cheek).

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Jenn!

      Well, technically it is not primal or paleo. But that would mean no dairy at all is primal or paleo. Yet, most people who follow this lifestyle eat some form of dairy. Based on my involvment on the community it is safe for me to say this. Maybe I should have worded the question differently.

      But, you are right. It is highly processed but it is pure protein and its quality protein with all 9 essential amino acids. Steak is better than whey, but for someone on a tight budget and or for someone who wants to bulk up fast and doesn’t have time (grrr) then whey protein is fine. It depends on the person.

      I’ll never go vegan ;)

  2. Ben says

    I agree with Jenn. Whey protein is not paleo, although I think it’s primal; Primal is much more lax with dairy. But, if you have certain fitness goals in mind, and it doesn’t bother you (and you’re not a strict paleo ideologist), why not?? I have it all the time :)

    • says

      Not paleo, but primal. Yea I know where you are coming from but to me primal/paleo basically means the same thing. For food its about eating the same foods are hunter-gatherer ancestors ate prior to the agriculture revolution. Whey does not fit the bill.

      But, computers also don’t fit the bill amongst many other things. So, in this day and age, in the modern world, whey is ok as you say. It just depends on the person.

      You say you have it all the time… how often is that? Daily?

  3. says

    Think of it, what if we took severely dried beef jerky and ground it up. Boom! Instant protein source when added to water for an immediate food source! Why wouldn’t that be ‘primal’?

    Anyway, the one point that I DO bring to this table, is: What about GRASS-Fed/ finished protein powder? I only know of one that is sold and that is from Dr. Mercola.

    Todd, is the one you suggest from grass-finished beef? Just wondering.

    • says

      No, the one I personally use is not from grass-finished beef. Today, I don’t have the money to go grass-fed when Mark Sisson who I trust 100% says its not necessary. There is no worry of toxins since it is processed and because it is pure protein. I am not sure if my brand is all that great but it seems to be based on my knowledge. And, it has FANTASTIC reviews on Amazon. Literally unbelievable reviews – that says SOMETHING.

      And, its pure protein isolate with no added flavors. This is great since I LOVE to make protein smoothies.

      I don’t know of any sources of grass-finished protein powder off hand at the moment except for Dr. Mercola as you know. But, I trust Mark Sisson and he says not to spend the extra bucks.

      • says

        Yeah. I was mulling it over. I DO trust Dr. Mercola, but then again, he does ‘peddle’ his wares…. I also trust Mark and agree that it shouldn’t be such a big deal.

        I just want to be sure that I am doing my body justice, in the long-run.

        Thanks Todd!

        • says

          Yea I did read Mercola but sometimes he really annoys me. He thinks his whey protein powder is the only one on the market that is “healthy.” Sure, his MIGHT be the best, but that does not mean he can recommend other brands when someone asks because his is ridiculously expensive.

  4. Gabe says

    Is whey paleo/primal? Not in the strictest sense, in that it takes a lot of processing to make it. I used to work in a cheese plant that also made WPC (whey protein concentrate) and WPI (whey protein isolate), and you wouldn’t believe the size and relative complexity of the machinery needed to separate WPC, WPI and lactose out of the cream. But since the purpose of going primal/paleo was probably for maximizing health, I say do whatever adjustments you need to do in order to be the most healthy in both mind and body. To adhere dogmatically to rules can make a pleasant, natural lifestyle into an unhealthy obsession. I think that Mark is smart to make allowances for occasional non-primal treats. He’s not saying they’re primal, just that an occasional indulgence isn’t going to kill you.

    I respectfully disagree, though, with the premise many primal gurus state that paleolithic man NEVER had dairy. True, they didn’t just go up and milk a wild water buffalo, nor did they dairy farm. But if they killed a lactating female mammal of any size, is it rational to believe that they wouldn’t drink the milk, considering how efficiently all other body parts were used? It would have been a great pick-me-up before carrying that heavy carcass back to the family.

    Like many people, I can’t digest dairy, which is a shame, since I like milk and cheese. When I’ve wanted/needed an additional protein source, I used egg white powder instead of whey.

    • says

      Thanks for your comments Gabe.

      It is definitely not healthy to follow strict rules and be stressed out about it. This is why the 80/20 rule is so important when one is trying to live a primal lifestyle. I am also starting to believe that man may have eaten dairy prior to the agriculture revolution. Not as much as we do today but the benefits of it is incredible if its from grass-fed cows. Most people are not able to digest it, but the ones who can should consume quality dairy products. I am not 100% sure if I am unable to digest dairy but I am pretty certain that I can not. I enjoy it very occasionally but wish I could add a little more in my diet. I am experimenting with butter.

  5. says

    I’m concerned about whey being taken out of its context. Whey usually come in dairy. Dairy is a real food. Whey protein is not.

    So, my question is this : if you are going to enjoy highly processed dairy, then why not just drink a glass of milk (cow or goat)?

    Plus, whey proteins brings nothing except protein to the table. No vitamins, may be a bit of calcium and that’s about it. If you don’t have much time, then again, a glass of milk is better (if you allow dairy). Or, better yet, how about eating a piece of homemade jerky or some nuts.

    Just ”food” for thought

    • Ben says

      I can’t have milk. I’m lactose intolerant, but whey doesn’t have lactose. So, I reap the benefits of a fast absorbing (a relatively large amount of) protein without the hassle of dealing with lactose, or the fats that accompany nuts. It’s perfect for post-wod.

      • says

        I do get it but if you can’t tolerate milk, why process it until you can?

        Perhaps, eating some meat and veggies would be better post-wod (in my experience, it has been better!)

        • Ben says

          Why process it until I can? Toad covered that; cheap, fast protein.

          Meat and veggies aren’t absorbed into your system as quickly as whey. It’s an excellent tool for fitness. Something like chicken and sweet potatoes would be great, but I’m not super hungry after I work out.

          It’s all about personal goals, IMO. I have a shake with whey post wod, and a couple hours later I have a full meal. It keeps me big and strong :)

          • says

            Using real foods post workout has been the best decision I have ever made. My gains have sky rocketed. So, I don’t really buy into the whole fast protein argument.

            Plus, if you are looking for cheap protein, there are plenty of other choices such as a can of tuna.

            If you are happy with it, by all means, go for it! I happen to think that being optimally healthy is about eating real whole foods, not food-like substances or isolated parts of foods. I would pick milk over whey anytime but this is my choice.

          • says

            I prefer real foods as well. But, today I am hurt quite a bit financially. Soon, very soon it will be different. But, for now thats just how it is!

      • says

        Exactly. And yes meat and veggies is better but some people can’t afford that all the time and/or don’t have time. We live in a different world today… we try but its still different.

        • says

          To be fair, the time argument is a bit weak. Either you take the time to be healthy or you will pay later. If you don’t have the time, you will have to make the time if you don’t want to be sick and pay huge bills.

          But, yes, we must personalize our diet. That’s for sure!

          • says

            Right but sometimes one does not have time for a few months at a time. Overall it is best to spend time making nice meals and what not but sometimes time can be quite crunched during a few months time period.

  6. says

    Toad – I used to have several whey protein shakes a day prior to going primal. I was convinced it was the best way for me to get enough protein and better than meat. Even after going primal I continued to consume shakes but limited them to post workout only. About 6 months ago I did a strict 30 day paleo only cleanse and cut out ALL dairy (including whey), wine, chocolate, paleoized recipes, etc. Those 30 days proved that not only was the whey not “necessary” but that REAL food was actually better. Since then I’ve been eating grass fed jerky, eggs, sweet potatoes, and/or fruit post workout. I’ve recently purchased some egg white protein from I hear the smell and taste is not great but I’ve not received it yet. I believe this dried egg is much more primal, I’ll let you know how it goes…

    • says

      Hi Henry,

      You are right – it might not be necessary. It depends on ones diet. Meat is certainly better as you have learned but if one is lacking protein then a good whey protein powder might be a good decision. All individuals have unique situations. Its not for everyone but it is for many people. Do let me know how you like the dried egg.

  7. Joy says

    Good morning Todd,
    you have inspired me to pull our some products I have on hand
    thAt I need to use up. An Organic Multi care meal and Multi care greens
    by INNATE.
    I think Whey is good like u said to gain muscle. BTW u
    look like you have gained some muscle. Lookin good Todd :))

  8. Alex says

    You can get pure whey protein isolate in bulk (plain plastic bag, no label) from for a lot less than that stuff on Amazon.

    • says

      Really? How much? I love Amazon and love what I currently buy but if there is something better and cheaper than I would be all over it.

      • Alex says

        Go to and look at their protein selection. Personally, I buy the cold-filtered isolate, 16 pounds at a time, for $8.45 a pound. If you click on the Community/Resources tab, you’ll find a link to their forums, and there you can get discount codes for 5% off.

        • says

          They have a lot of different products and sizes. Thats for referencing them. I may check back later when I run out of the whey protein I have now. It will be a while though as my container is quite large!

  9. TrailGrrl says

    You have to find the paleo combo that works for you with your needs, schedule, and budget. I’ve quit all shakes and bars for a few years now because I found I was living on Diet Pepsi and protein shakes or bars most of the time. It was convenient, I must say, but I didn’t feel so great, and that might reflect all the additives that were in the bars and drinks. I’m hesitant to go back, even for convenience, but I will be starting graduate school full time as well as continuing to work full time. Hopefully I will be organized enough to eat real food. Not being chained to breakfast certainly helps. At least will Fall starting to be in the air, crockpot roasts and stews, carnitas, ribs, or one-pot chilis and soups will become staples. Easy to start before you leave the house, and it’s done when you get home. I also keep a list of carry-out places in my cell phone where I can get a good meaty lunch… hibachi grills, Mexican for carne asada, etc.


    • says

      Pot roasts are HUGE time savers and are down right awesome and have become a favorite in mind. Oh, a rump roast is cooking in the crockpot right now!!

  10. says

    Hi Todd!

    I used to have protein powder after my workouts, but I stopped since I realised that I don’t actually like it so why should I eat it! I like dairy products so I do drink milk or a handful of nuts and fruits after a workout. But I agree that it’s great to use when you’re in a hurry, and it’s a nice way to get in different fruits in the form of a smoothie!

    • Ben says

      Carla- I don’t mean to shell out unsolicited info; but I want to point out that nuts right after a workout don’t necessarily promote quality recovery. The fat you consume prohibits protein absorption. The sugar in fruit will replenish glucose in your muscles, but may also contribute to fat retention, depending on the longevity and intensity of your workout.

      • says

        I eat fat post workout and never have I been stronger and leaner.

        I think the whole carbs strategy for post workout is over rated. Plus, it makes absolutely no sense in an evolutionary perspective. I suggest you read what Devany has to say about post workout carbs.

  11. says

    I think it depends on where your coming from. Since Im trying to lose weight if I am going to have calories I want that as real food going into my mouth. I would feel it is a waste to not eat real food. But, since your not trying to lose weight and are probably trying to get more calories than you can afford then it might be a good choice. For me I tend to buy cheap cuts of meat that are quite fatty, and organs. This cuts my budget down a bit.

  12. says

    I definitely add whey protein to a lot of my smoothies – either coconut milk or cream-based. Adds to the satiety factor and makes for a meal on the go.

    I use this same brand/type (nothing added), but although the reviewers said that there is little-to-no taste, I can still detect something.

    • says

      That’s great you use this same brand! I can detect a taste sometimes but blueberries or a banana and cacao powder/nibs usually does the trick!

  13. Jess says

    Relief that you agree, Todd. I LOVE my whet protein powder. It saves my life and my wallet. I add it to a smoothie almost daily (especially in the summer)

  14. Jeanmarie says

    We enjoy whey protein shakes once or twice a week, with either local raw goats milk, coconut milk, or diluted cream, plus a couple of raw eggs from our chickens. Sometimes we add fruit, some ice cubes, and usually add vanilla and some stevia or xylitol. Recently I tried adding macadamia nut butter or almond butter.

    I noticed you use raw cacao powder. Chocolate is one of those foods that has traditionally been fermented and roasted, and because it’s high in phytic acid, this makes sense, so I’d be wary of eating much of it raw.

    • says

      Yea I have been eating less and less chocolate, especially the raw cacao powder and nibs. I haven’t been making smoothies as much as I wish to eat less fruits and more veggies.

  15. says


    You have whey protein isolate though…whey protein concentrate is better:

    From Dr. Mercola:

    There’s no shortage of whey products on the market, but unfortunately most of them will NOT give you the health benefits associated with high-quality whey. First of all you want to use a whey protein concentrate, NOT isolate.

    All whey protein isolates are devoid of nutritional co-factors including alkalizing minerals, naturally occurring vitamins, and lipids, which are lost in the processing. This renders them deficient and overly acidifying. Unlike whole protein food concentrates which does not acidify your body due to its alkalinizing minerals, whey protein isolate are over acidifying. I would strongly avoid ALL whey protein isolates just as you would avoid trans fats as they contain putrid proteins that are actually worse than trans fat.

    If chronically consumed in large amounts (such as with bodybuilders or athletes) without alkalizing foods, it can acidify your body and over time may lead to metabolic acidosis with consequences that include waste of muscle and bone tissues, total metabolic shut down, and increased vulnerability to degenerative disease.

    So if you want to use whey protein, PLEASE do not use an inferior whey isolate. Look for a high-quality concentrate instead.

    • says

      Why should I listen to Dr. Mercola?

      And, I don’t enjoy it often. I have been lately but when I go back to Michigan it will be consumed very infrequently. And, I enjoy a lot of alkalizing foods. Looks like I’m straight!

  16. Lisa says

    What about serious competitive weightlifters i oly lift 3 days a week for 3 hours and do conditioning wods after that?

  17. a says

    i’ts definately not paleo. BUT…. canned products are also not. and also products, that will not grow in your area or are not affordable at some point of time (for example, fruits and most veggies at wintertime) are also not paleo. nor the living in central heated houses, using electricity, warm water, cars etc. so we anyway are making some “shortcuts” in our lifestyles in comparison with paleo. in case we aim for 100% paleo, we should really give up all modern things and return to real natural lifestyle. until we don’t, i can’t see much problems if using pure protein powder (without any arfificial additives). it depend on our choices. have a good luck!

  18. Kelly H. says

    Hey there! I know this is old, but the links to the protein you use are broken. Can you just type out the name? Thanks!