Here you are on an interesting debate! The whey protein vs plant protein debate!
I’ll give my honest opinion based on science-backed research to help you choose which one will fit your goals and needs.
Without any further ado, let’s find out if you should start taking whey protein or plant-based protein.
Whey Protein vs Plant Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient and plays a key role in the growth, development, and maintenance of the human body.
So it’s no surprise that there are many products claiming to be a source of protein.
Whey protein vs plant protein — which one is better?
Whey proteins can come from dairy or vegetarian sources while plant-based proteins are comprised of soybeans, peas, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
There are various benefits associated with each type of protein.
For instance, whey has been shown to help us lose weight when combined with exercise while vegetarians might appreciate that plants contain more fiber than diets high in animal products.
Do you know that whey proteins are obtained from milk and can be as a powder, a concentrate or isolate?
Similarly, plant proteins are also available in different forms — powder, flour and concentrate.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition; we all respond differently to various foods.
So, what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
Also, it depends on our goals — whether we want to build muscle/lose fat or enhance our health.
Things To Know About Whey Protein vs Plant Protein
✅ Protein Helps You Lose Weight
Studies have shown that consuming protein around your workout increases lean body mass gains and accelerates fat loss.
That’s because whey proteins are rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) as well as leucine, which helps maintain muscle mass while you lose weight.
A study conducted by the University of Western Ontario on 32 overweight and obese adults found that those who consumed 30 grams of whey protein prior to exercise coupled with an exercise regimen lost more body fat, especially around their waist, compared to the group given a placebo over a 12-week period.
Another study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism revealed that post-exercise consumption of 25 grams of whey protein increased glucose tolerance following aerobic exercise in overweight females.
If you’re a vegetarian, you might have heard that meat is the only source of complete protein.
That’s not entirely true. You get complete protein when you consume all of the essential amino acids required by the body in equal proportions.
Nuts and legumes are excellent sources of protein for vegetarians.
You can also get complete proteins from grains such as brown rice and quinoa as well as vegetables like broccoli and kale—provided that you eat a sufficient quantity of these foods.
Even though plant proteins are generally lower in BCAAs, there’s no need to be alarmed. They contain all the essential amino acids and can help you achieve your fitness and health goals while maintaining muscle mass.
✅ Plant Proteins Have More Fiber
A diet high in fiber has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease. However, it also takes longer to digest, which means you’re exposed to fewer calories.
Including fiber-rich vegetables and fruits in your diet is also a good idea.
✅ Whey Protein Is Often Loaded With Fat
Supplements that contain whey protein are often promoted as “natural fat burners.”
However, the truth is that the fat in these products comes from dairy fat, which can be high in cholesterol and saturated fat.
Therefore, while whey protein can increase your endurance during exercise, it’s better to get your required protein from other sources if you’re trying to lose weight.
✅ Whey Protein Has A Shorter Shelf Life Than Plant Protein
It’s natural for everyone to have their own opinions — good and bad — about different foods. And some people may wonder if whey protein lasts longer than plant protein.
The truth is that it depends on the type of protein. Whey proteins have a longer shelf life than plant proteins and can retain their protein value for up to 5 years, making them a great choice for athletes who travel frequently.
So which would you choose? If you’re a vegetarian, why not combine your favorite foods from each category and see what you come up with!
Which One Is Better For Weight Loss?
Whey and plant proteins are both complete proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids in the same ratio we need to survive.
How Both Work
Each protein has its own benefits.
Whey is fast-digesting, for those who like to get their protein right after a workout but want to maintain muscle mass.
Plant proteins have more nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals, which may help you lose weight because they take time to digest and stay in the stomach longer.
Which One Is Better For Muscle Size?
Whey increases muscle bulk due to its high levels of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) while plant protein increases lean muscle tissue because of its higher levels of leucine.
However, it takes 30-50 grams of plant protein to gain two pounds of muscle, while it takes 60-100 grams of whey protein.
So, plan your protein intake accordingly.
How Both Work Together to Build Muscle.
Whey and BCAAs are small peptides that facilitate the synthesis of various cellular proteins which are essential for building muscle.
Plant proteins have carbohydrates in them like fiber, which give carbohydrates an anabolic effect on muscles.
Both proteins improve physical performance and may be especially helpful for bodybuilders who take a break from training and want to rev up their metabolism.
To build muscle faster and better, follow a high-protein diet with low carbs and moderate exercise.
How Long Will Each Last?
Whey protein will last about two years in the refrigerator. Plant protein can last several months in the refrigerator, and a year in the freezer. It may also lose some of its nutritional benefits.
Which One Is More Affordable?
Plant proteins are about $1 per pound but whey protein is between $2-4 per pound for most brands. You can also buy whey protein in bulk.
For example, myprotein.com sells a 62-pound tub for ~$430. This is obviously more expensive than buying in small quantities, but then you’ll get a better deal per pound.
To calculate how much protein you need, here are some formulas:
Protein Requirements and Breakfast
The body will not store protein very efficiently as long as it’s not being used to build muscle tissue or repairing muscles that are damaged from training.
Our bodies have a limited capacity to store protein. This makes it important to get enough protein every day, and to not rely on just one source each day.
MyProtein developed a free calculator that will tell you how much protein you need to build muscle and lose weight.
It takes into consideration your height, weight, age, activity level and body fat percentage. It’s a very good starting point for planning your meals (this is especially useful as most people don’t know how much protein they really need).
As it’s based on your lean body mass, it’s a good idea to track your body fat percentage over time (while dieting) so you can keep making adjustments when needed.
Nutritional Benefits of Whey Protein
✅ More Bio-Available Than Plant Proteins
Plant proteins have the advantage in that they contain all the amino acids your body requires.
However, plant proteins are not as bio-available to the body as animal or whey proteins, so you may need to consume more than you would animal-derived sources.
The bioavailability rating for whey protein ranges from 90-100%, compared to casein’s 67%.
✅ Faster Absorption
Factors such as location and gastrointestinal issues can affect how fast a protein is absorbed by the body, but whey protein does not seem to be affected by either of these factors.
✅ Higher On-Body Protein Retention Rate
Whey is a good source of leucine, which may make it more effective at retaining lean muscle mass.
Studies have shown that whey protein is more effective at increasing muscle mass, protein synthesis and strength than plant proteins alone.
✅ More Insulin Sensitive than Plant Proteins
Insulin is a very important hormone that regulates metabolism.
High levels of insulin, like those found in the post-workout state, can stimulate growth of muscle tissue.
However, the degree to which whey protein increases insulin sensitivity is not known.
✅ Higher Glycemic Index (GI)
The GI score of whey protein is higher than most other proteins in the market (88 compared to 83). Whey protein is also very quickly digested, which can lead to a higher GI after consumption.
✅ Higher Content of Essential Amino Acids
Whey protein contains more than twice as much leucine as any other protein source.
Leucine and other essential amino acids are crucial for muscle growth and repair, while also having an important impact on mood controls and appetite regulation (for more information see the top 10 things you must know about essential amino acids).
L-Glutamine is also present in whey protein at a level of about 0.4% of the total amount of amino acids found in the protein (compared to plant proteins, which usually only contain trace amounts).
✅ Higher Biological Value (BV)
Biological value is a measure of the amount of protein absorbed by the body upon consumption. The higher the BV, the more efficient the body’s protein processing system is.
✅ More Bioavailable Than Other Sources of Protein
Insulin sensitivity and amino acids are generally more efficient after bolusing with whey protein compared to other sources of protein at less than half the level (2g compared to 5g).
✅ Lower Glycemic Load
The glycemic load (GL) measures how quickly carbohydrates allow glucose into your bloodstream after they have been consumed.
Nutritional Benefits of Plant Protein
✅ More Cost-Effective Than Whey Protein
Plant proteins are typically the cheapest source of protein available, although whey protein has the added benefit of being a complete protein and making a significant impact on muscle growth over time.
✅ Lower In Calories Than Whey Protein
Plant proteins are typically the least calorie-dense of all sources of protein (whey comes in at ~100 calories per serving).
The other major advantage is they contain absolutely no cholesterol.
✅ Easily Digested and Absorbed by the BodyIntolerance 8. Lower GI than Whey Protein
The GI score of plant proteins ranges from 70-100, while whey protein’s GI ranges from 80-100. 9. Higher Mineral Content
✅ Higher Calcium and Phosphorus Content
Plant proteins contain about 50-60% more calcium than whey protein, as well as 10% more phosphorus.
How To Take Your Protein Powder?
There are numerous ways to take your protein powder. In fact, you can mix your protein with sweeteners, fruits, vegetables or even coffee if you want.
The most important thing is to ensure that you’re getting enough of your daily protein intake when using this product.
It’s also very important that you use a high-quality whey protein powder (which is often derived from milk).
Safety and Side Effects of Protein Powder
In general, protein powder is completely safe to use.
Protein powders generally contain very low amounts of calories, serving as more of a supplement than anything else.
There are also some potential side effects worth noting, however, such as:
Bloating and Gastric Distress
If you have any existing conditions that affect your digestion, you may notice some indigestion or bloating when using protein powder.
This effect is usually mild but it can be uncomfortable for many people who already suffer from abdominal discomfort or pain due to other health conditions.
Diarrhea and Constipation
In severe cases, diarrhea or constipation can occur with whey proteins. Since whey protein is a milk product, be sure to use caution if you have a milk allergy or sensitivity.
Individuals with lactose intolerance may also notice mild problems with this product.
But in general, it is completely safe to use if you take enough of it and have no preexisting diseases or conditions that affect your digestion.
Weight Gain or Weight Loss
Another common side effect of whey protein is weight gain or weight loss.
This is because it’s a source of amino acids and calories, and its consumption can potentially influence your metabolic rate.
In general, I wouldn’t expect any changes from using this product unless you’re taking in massive amounts of protein every day (in which case you’re probably not reading this guide).
If your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it may be possible to experience some issues when taking whey protein.
If you have a history of hypothyroidism or other thyroid conditions, you can do further research on the subject before deciding on whey as your source of high-quality protein.
In general, it’s definitely not the safest option for this purpose, but again, whey proteins are just as safe as any other type of protein powder.
It all depends on your health and how you’re using it.
✅ Protein Powder Health Benefits
There are many health benefits to using protein powder on a regular basis – from weight loss to building muscle mass, here’s what you can expect:
One of the best benefits of protein powder is that it can help you lose weight. Protein provides you with long-lasting, satiating energy and aids in muscle recovery.
Protein powders contain a very high number of calories (averaging around 120 calories/serving), so it’s important to track how much you’re consuming.
Protein powder consumption can boost your metabolic rate if you’re not tracking your food intake, which can lead to some serious weight loss if used correctly.
Many people use protein powders to supplement their diet with additional protein and BCAAs as well as gain mass or increase muscle recovery rates after workouts.
Protein powders provide you with essential amino acids and protein for muscle growth if you’re not eating enough food containing these components.
They also provide your body with a quick source of energy that can be used to create new muscle mass.
Improved Muscle Recovery
Protein powders are great for helping you recover from intense physical activity, whether it’s weightlifting or running an obstacle course.
This is because they contain high amounts of BCAA amino acids, which promote muscle synthesis and prevent protein degradation.
Protein is the primary building block of your muscles and by increasing your intake, you give them the raw materials they need to repair themselves after tough workouts or competition events.
There are several BCAA-containing protein powders that contain amino acids that have been shown to help you recover more quickly and aid in muscle growth.
If you’re taking this powder, make sure it’s with every meal and not just once in the morning before a workout.
Increases Muscle Mass
By consuming protein powders or eating food that contains protein, you can help to increase your rate of muscle growth.
Protein is a key component of muscle mass and avoiding it can lead to muscle loss. The best way to get your recommended amount of protein is to consume it at every meal.
But if you eat high-quality food sources instead of protein powder, you’ll get enough protein and have the right nutrients for your body.
It’s important that you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables like broccoli, blueberries, bananas, spinach and more.
Natural Weight Loss Supplement
Protein powder is also a great supplement for weight loss when used along with other products geared towards this purpose.
When combined with a healthy diet and exercise program, protein powder can speed up your weight loss progress.
If you’re trying to lose weight using this method, make sure to track your caloric intake and metabolism to ensure you’re losing the right amount of weight at the right time.
Increases Calorie Intake
Finally, protein powders are great ways to increase your calorie intake if you’re having trouble reaching your daily goals.
They are convenient and easy-to-use, so they can be a great addition to any meal plan that doesn’t have enough calories in it.
However, protein powders are not essential to fit your daily caloric goals. They can be used in conjunction with other healthy and delicious recipes.
There are many benefits to taking high-quality protein powder on a regular basis.
Protein is an important component of a healthy diet, and many people don’t get enough of it, which can lead to muscle loss or weight gain.
High-quality protein powders are made for this purpose and can be used simply as a supplement to your everyday diet.
They have no negative side effects, so you won’t have to worry about taking too much or wondering if they’ll make you sick.
Does whey protein powder taste better than plant-based protein?
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter which type of protein you consume – as long as it’s high quality.
I’ve used both whey and soy protein powders and have found them to be just as delicious and healthy.
So, go ahead and experiment with whey and soy powders. You’ll find that they’re both delicious, nutritious and useful for your health.
It’s important to note that the amino acid profile of whey protein can vary slightly depending on the quality of the protein used (different types of whey have different peptides or proteins in them).
For this reason, it’s usually best to use a whey concentrate or isolate supplement for optimal results.
The most important thing here is to get enough high-quality protein in each meal, ensuring you’re getting at least 20-35g of high-quality protein per day.
This can be achieved with an adequate amount of vegetables and low-fat dairy products (around half your daily caloric intake).
A whey protein shake can supplement your diet with additional sources of protein and a variety of BCAAs, but it is not your sole source for all of the essential amino acids you need to stay healthy.
Also note that everyone’s needs are different – it’s generally suggested to take in around 1g of protein for each pound you weigh (or about 0.5g/kg if you’re into the metric system).
Dairy Allergies and Lactose Intolerance
More and more people are being diagnosed with allergies, intolerances or sensitivities to one or more dairy products every day.
The symptoms range from runny noses, headaches and intestinal upset to serious health conditions like asthma.
For more information on lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, click here.
If you have a sensitivity to dairy, I’d recommend avoiding whey protein completely as it is often made with ingredients derived from milk.
In the end, whey protein may be an option to consider when dairy is otherwise unavoidable – but it’s certainly not the best thing for everyone.
Final Thoughts on Whey Protein Vs Plant Protein
So, our debate on whey protein vs plant protein is now over.
Even the most vehement skeptic would admit that whey protein powder is delicious, a nutritious addition to any diet, and an ideal source of high-quality protein (especially if you’re looking for fast muscle recovery after working out).
It’s a delicious, quick-fix snack that helps you lose weight, gain muscle mass and recover from intense physical activity.
In short, it’s a fantastic product that can improve your health in countless ways.