First of all, if you prefer the graphic novel edition of this story, follow this SHORTCUT: scroll to the bottom of the post and click the graphic. Have fun!

Now that’s out of the whey (sorry), I’m going to give you a very brief summary about where commercially-produced protein powder comes from. Short answer: a cow. More specifically, a cow’s milk.

Note: I present the following links to give you a start on your own research. As I have told my students, with any online search, you get what you get. Anyone can create a website [case in point, this blog!!], and you are entirely responsible for evaluating the credibility and accuracy of the information you find online. I have done my best to present a variety of sources, but this list is neither exhaustive nor fully representative. This is a starting point for you to jump in.

As with almost anything, you will find extreme views both for and against any kind of food supplement – well, any kind of food, actually! I will say there are people who swear by protein powder and people who swear at you for using it [I took some editorial license on that last bit]. I am not pushing anyone to use protein powder, and, like I mentioned earlier, your best bet is always a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Bla bla bla bla bla. . . Let’s get on with the story!

I’m not going to rewrite the whole story of protein powder here. Any online search will yield many strong views for or against protein powder and/or protein supplements. I am addressing the specific question of what whey protein powder (the most common protein powder source) is. I have identified a few articles related to that topic and pulled out a few of the key points from each. I encourage you to do your own research and keep learning about topics which relate to your own wellness.

The Articles:

  • addresses the question of whether you need protein powders
  • looks at what they are (their origin) and who might benefit from using them
  • appears fairly balanced to me – decide for yourself


  • explains the connection of Miss Muffet to this story
  • distinguishes whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. Hint: one form is more pure
  • discusses how the protein powder works
  • identifies both benefits and risks


  • any of my students will probably recoil when they see that I referenced Wikipedia (because anyone can say anything on Wikipedia and you might read it before the community fixes the weirdness. . .). However, as I also told them, it should not be your ONLY source of info and it should not be your MOST IMPORTANT source of info
  • the article presents a lot of interesting info and my approach is to use it as a springboard to further research: for example, do some more searching into “whey” and “caseins”, and not just following the Wikipedia links!
  • having said that – pretty interesting. We learn that whey protein starts off as a byproduct of the cheese-making process!

So, I’m going to do two things, one now and one in the near future. The now thing is I’m just going to summarize some of he hoopla about protein powder:

  • Protein powder is processed from a byproduct of the milk-to-cheese process
  • After filtering, concentrating, drying and packaging, it is sold as a more concentrated and – what do you know? –  lower-carbohydrate protein supplement
  • All things being equal, if you eat a well-balanced diet of nutritious foods, you probably don’t need protein powder, but there are exceptions (detailed nicely in the WebMD article above)
  • Protein powder supplements will provide extra protein with a low proportion of carbohydrate, so, from a protein point of view, they are an efficient source of protein
  • The point is that you may or may not really need it – read the articles and do your own research to see if it looks like a good option for you
  • As with any kind of nutrition, I am not qualified to recommend anything beyond what our food guide (or, actually, my new favorite – the Brazilian food guide) recommends, so talk to a registered dietitian if you have questions

Here’s the near-future thing I am going to do. I know it is a risk (like egg-on-the-face), but I am going to ask a registered dietitian to look over these last few posts and give me their feedback, pardon the pun. If I need to re-align things, I will.

Thanks for following along. I hope I have provoked your thinking. Stay tuned, because we will definitely be coming back to this as time goes on. I also want to have the aforementioned dietitian write a piece or two for the blog.

Here’s where you would have arrived (sooner!) if you had taken the shortcut I offered at the very beginning. The picture which tells the whole story!!

See what is protein powder made of