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Whole Dairy Protein Versus Protein Powder

Person eating bowl of dairy protein

By now we should all know that dietary protein is the main instigator for muscle repair and growth after training. And many people turn to whey protein powder as an easy way to get an effective dose of this macro after hitting the weights. But can whole food dairy protein build up muscle just as effectively as concentrated protein powders?

To find out, researchers in the Netherlands randomly assigned healthy males ages 18–35 to consume 30 grams of protein from either cheese or milk protein concentrate powder following a bout of lower-body resistance training. After measuring muscle protein synthesis rates during recovery and a few hours afterward, it was discovered that there was no response difference to the cheese and milk-derived protein powder.

This result, which was published in The Journal of Nutrition, is music to the ears of people who do not wish to use protein powders to support their training and prefer dairy protein. But just keep in mind obtaining that much protein from certain cheeses could add a significant amount of calories and saturated fat to one’s diet. For instance, a cup of cheddar cheese has 32 g of protein but 532 calories and 28 g of saturated fat. In contrast, a cup of low-fat cottage cheese delivers 28 g of protein but just 163 calories and 2 g of saturated fat.

See also: The REAL Scoop on Protein Powders

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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