The debate of plant protein vs. whey protein proves the fact about nutrition: protein matters. Protein is essential to nurture the bones, blood, and cartilage, but protein is also a must for tissue growth and repair. When it comes to functions, protein performs three necessary jobs – grow, maintain and repair the muscles during exercise, where people intentionally break down muscle. Consuming protein helps to improve the breakage of muscles and build it back up.
Before diving into plant protein vs. whey protein, we should know that foods rich in protein are lean meats, eggs, some dairy products, and whole grains. This must make you wonder what protein powder does, then? Can the protein supplements provide all the building blocks you need for efficient workout recovery?
And then comes up the most important question what is better from whey vs. plant protein? First, let’s have a look at what both supplements have to offer and the pros and cons.
Table of Contents
- Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein, What’s the Difference?
- Whey vs. Plant Protein: The Real Debate
- How to Choose the Right Protein Powder
- Let’s End the Debate of Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein!
Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein, What’s the Difference?
Before discussing the difference between whey protein and plant protein, let us briefly discuss what they exactly are-
Plant-Based Protein Powder
This type of protein is nothing but the protein that we derive from plants, just in powder form. Essentially like other protein powders, not all plant-based versions of protein are the same. But most have the same ingredients, such as seeds, rice, hemp, and peas.
Whey Protein Powder
The whey present in protein powders actually has milk as their only source. If you have ever heard of cheese, yogurts, and curds, you know that milk separates the liquid portion to form curds. The watery portion that is left is the key ingredient used to prepare whey protein powder.
Whey vs. Plant Protein: The Real Debate
Now that the difference between plant-based and whey protein powders is clear let us scrutinize the pros and cons of both. While it mostly depends on personal preference, here are a few factors to consider while debating plant protein vs. whey.
This is the starkest difference between plant-based and whey protein powders, especially for people who have digestive issues. As whey protein is procured from milk directly, it can cause complications for people who have a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance. However, a shocking number of people all over the world are lactose-intolerant. And the crazy part is that most are not even aware of it.
So, lactose can be the culprit behind gas, bloating, or discomfort after consuming whey protein powder. But if lactose is gut-friendly to you, then whey protein powder is the way to go! Its digestion is quick, and it can efficiently repair and maintain the muscles. Hence, whey protein can put an end to the plant protein vs. whey protein argument for you and offer speedy muscle building and recovery if you can handle dairy.
If you are looking for something nearly effortless to digest, then plant-based protein powder may be the answer. It is free from all sorts of allergens along with being gluten-free as well—this is why they are considered safer and easy on the gut. Most people can digest the ingredients present in plant-based powders, including hemp, rice, pea, quinoa, and seeds. You may recognize these as some of the best vegan protein foods, also suitable for vegetarians. When there is confusion between plant protein vs. whey protein powder, look past the grams of protein available in the supplement and then go straight to the ingredient list.
One of the main reasons people rely on protein powders is to gain different vital nutrients in one place. Protein is the building block for any good workout program. If you are looking for a protein powder that is absent from artificial sweeteners and additives, do not look beyond a plant-based product. This is a blatant fact that plant-based protein powders are most natural.
Most of the ingredients used to prepare a plant-based protein powder contain essential vitamins, nutrients, omega3 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants. In addition, these ingredients consist of a naturally pleasant taste, thus do not really require flavor additives.
In addition to this, plant-based products need less processing as they already cover everything. One thing to be noted here is that plant-based ingredients sometimes contain a high carbs content. If your goal is to lose weight, additional carbs may disturb your weight loss process.
The Nutrient Content Verdict for Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein Powder-
Though there are ample benefits of plant-based protein, it is not fair to disregard whey protein entirely in terms of nutritional value. We can say that whey protein is nutrient-dense compared with plant protein, but it contains high protein levels and fewer calories.
If you are looking for just plain protein and do not want to indulge in the whey vs. plant protein powder argument, then whey is also a straightforward choice. Just remember that whey protein powders contain more sugar and have high saturated fat levels than their plant-based competitors. This fact is vital to consider for those who keep a count of macronutrients in their supplements.
Muscle Building and Recovery
Most people start buying protein powder to support their workout routine. This may include both the goals of weight loss and muscle gain. It is interesting to understand the plant protein vs. whey protein powder competition when it comes to muscle support and recovery. Whey protein prides itself in providing all nine amino acids essential for muscle growth. Protein supplements that contain these nine vital amino acids are regarded as “complete proteins”. Plant-based protein powders do not offer this same benefit.
Another important fact about whey protein is related to BCAAs – the branched-chain amino acids. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the most crucial BCAAs and are famous for promoting muscle growth. They are also vital for muscle protein synthesis.
Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein, Which is Better For Muscle Gain?
With all the advantages, the downside of whey protein powders is the unpleasant taste of their ingredients. Manufacturers usually add unknown ingredients just to improve flavor and increase the shelf life of their product. Also, the presence of all nine amino acids in whey protein, along with the fact that it is a dairy product, may cause acidic problems in the body.
On the other hand, plant-based protein powder also stacks up in terms of muscle recovery. Pea (the main ingredient in almost all plant-based proteins) has the credit for increasing muscle thickness. It is as efficient as whey protein. Along with other ingredients like hemp and quinoa, plant-based protein powders offer beneficial amino acid profiles too.
Irrespective of the fact that you’re a “go green” supporter or not, you should know what impact your protein choices have on the environment, along with what exactly you are ingesting into the earth. Plant-based protein powders are mostly organic and help protect the environment through organic farming. A few studies show that this method of farming helps counter global warming.
Also, mineral addition into depleted soil promotes both sustainable water and food supplies. Finally, plant-based protein allows you to nourish your body as well as the earth at the same time.
But, whey protein, on the other hand, is a way for profit greedy people to capitalize unwanted waste. When commercial factories produce yogurt and cheese, they eliminate the whey. Then, instead of wasting it, they prepare protein powder and other products with the by-product. Also, a large amount of milk is required to prepare whey protein. Hence, plant-based sources are the better option when it comes to clean production and healthy protein powder.
How to Choose the Right Protein Powder
Understanding the main differences in the debate between plant protein vs. whey protein powder helps you make a more informed decision. It is critical to also know the other factors to consider before purchasing the best protein powder for you. The factors are as follows:
Check the Label of Protein Supplements
This is indeed a must. When you buy protein powder (irrespective of the fact if it is whey or plant-based), always carefully check the ingredient list. In addition to this, also ensure to choose the one that has low sugar and carbs content. This is particularly important if you’re on your way to lose weight.
Consider Your Goals
All protein powders vary in terms of nutrition, quantity, formulation, etc. The fitness goals of every person naturally depend on their health and body type.
Some protein powders promote weight loss and help to build lean muscle. Others are designed for gaining muscle bulk and weight gain. These are favorites among bodybuilders.
If you’re aspiring to lose weight, go for powders with low sugar and carb content. Bulking protein powders consist of BCAAs and other amino acids similar to those present in whey protein powders.
Do you face problems like uncertain high blood sugar levels? Are you among the many lactose-intolerant people? These are relevant questions before you go ahead and let plant protein vs. whey protein compete for you. The underlying health conditions play the biggest role in deciding which protein supplement you should choose. For instance, people with diabetes should always go for low or no sugar and low-carb protein powder.
Similarly, if you’ve got a sensitive gut, steer away from the dairy intake! While we have already understood that whey is prepared from dairy, you need to make sure you limit your dairy intake if you have lactose intolerance or pre-existing digestive issues.
Also, people who have kidney issues should try to opt for powders with lower protein content. As it is known that kidneys help break down protein during digestion, too much of this process may cause complications for the organ. Powders that contain less than 15 grams per serving are recommended to people with sensitive kidneys.
Also See: Best Protein Powder Supplements in India
Let’s End the Debate of Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein!
Now the real question is: is plant-based protein powder better for you? Well, It certainly depends on your health or fitness goals, current health, and personal preference.
Plant-based protein offers all the essential vitamins and nutrients and is also more gut-friendly. They are also the best choice for vegetarian or vegan people who wish to avoid dairy. Apart from this, it is kind to the environment. However, fitness enthusiasts swear by whey protein and cannot switch it. So whichever protein powder you choose, make sure you do proper personal research and do not miss out on a balanced diet.
And last but not least, always take a nod from your doctor or healthcare advisor whenever you add any health supplement, including protein powders, into the diet. Knowing about your health condition, the health professional will help you understand what to incorporate and what to avoid when it comes to additional health supplements.