Whey Based Protein vs. Non-Fat Dry Milk

In recognition of National Men's Health Week (June 11-17) our Registered Dietitian, Anna Jones, takes a closer look at the differences between Whey Based Protein vs. Non-Fat Dry Milk. How much do you really need?

In response to National Men's Health Week, this June, I reflect on the unique nutrition needs of men and wonder what relevant nutrition insights interest men. My boyfriend is sitting next to me researching and purchasing protein powder on an internet site. This sparks questions about whether whey (or milk) based protein powder is significantly different from non-fat dry milk.

The resource I turn to for nutrition analysis of both products is the 'Food-A-Pedia' tool on the www.myplate.gov website. This is a great free website that allows you to look up the nutritional analysis of over 8000 foods, record your nutrition intake to measure macro- and micro-nutritients consumed each day, to plan daily or weekly menus, and many other free and frequently updated nutrition tools.

Whey Protein Powder

Non-Fat Dry Milk


1 Tablespoon

1 Tablespoon


40 kcal

15 kcal




















Question & Answer:
(1) How much protein do we need?

A healthy man or woman with normal activity needs on average 0.8 grams of protein each day for every kilogram of body weight. The current position statement of the American Dietitic Association [now Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics], Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sport Medicine is that an ultra-endurance athlete may need as much as 1.2-1.4 grams of protein each day for every kilogram body weight and a strength trained athlete may need as much as 1.2-1.7 grams of protein each day for every kilogram of body weight.

(2) Does the type of type of milk protein eaten affect the level of endurance or strength gains that result in athletes?
The current position statement of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that "current evidence indicates that protein and amino acid supplements are no more or no less effective than food when energy is adequate for gaining lean body mass". Further research is needed to determine if there is a significant benefit to consuming certain forms of milk protein over others and with that in mind current recommendations remain conservative.

(3) What is the difference in cost between whey protein powder and non-fat dry milk?
Whey protein powders are often more expensive that non-fat dry milk. For example Meijer sells 2 pounds of whey protein powder for on average $16-50 each. Alternately, Meijer sells 2 pounds of nonfat dry milk for approximately $8-8.50. However, if three tablespoons of non-fat dry milk are needed to equal a similar nutrition breakdown to one tablespoon of whey protein powder the prices may end up very similar for many of the products.

(4) Are supplements regulated the same as prescription drugs?
No, Supplements are not regulated as comprehensively and strictly as prescription drugs. For this reasons it is important to research and purchase supplements from a company with a strong reputation and history of providing high quality and safe nutrition supplement products. Quoting from the FDA website (www.fda.gov) "under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement or dietary ingredient manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement or ingredient is safe before it is marketed".

In conclusion, there is no strong negative side effects noted for consuming whey protein powder supplements from reputable manufactures. Whey protein powders and non-fat dry milk may both be used as supplements to help an athlete meet daily protein needs. A healthy individual typically meets daily protein needs adequately with food sources. Daily proteins needs for athletes have been shown to also be effectively reached through food sources alone. Further research is needed to determine if specific breakdowns of types of milk protein increases endurance or strength gains differently.