- Both whey protein and plant-based protein powders can be great protein supplement options for promoting muscle growth and weight loss.
- Plant protein powder is lactose-free, making it a great alternative for dairy-free and vegan diets.
- Deciding whether a plant or whey protein powder is best for you will depend on your dietary preferences and health goals.
There is no doubt that protein powders are one of the most popular supplements in the fitness world.
But the health benefits and versatility of protein powders are making them increasingly popular out of the gym, too.
To serve this growing audience, many brands offer both whey protein and plant-based protein powders for alternative diets.
However, with so many varieties to choose from, you might wonder which type of protein powder is best.
This article covers the benefits and drawbacks of plant protein vs whey protein powders to help you decide which is the right option for you.
Introduction: Plant Protein vs Whey Protein
To understand the whey vs plant protein debate, we should talk about what each protein powder is made of.
Whey protein is a natural protein that derives from cow’s milk. It is made during the process of making cheese when milky liquid separates from the curds. The milky liquid is then dried into a powder. (Source)
Because whey comes from cow’s milk, it contains lactose and may not be safe for people who are lactose intolerant. That being said, whey protein isolate tends to contain less lactose than whey protein concentrate because it is processed differently. Still, it may contain enough lactose to cause side effects in people who are sensitive. (Source)
Plant protein powders are typically made from one plant or a combination of plant-based proteins. Common plant-based protein ingredients include peas, soy, hemp, and brown rice.
Because plant-based proteins are derived from plants, they are free of dairy and lactose. This makes them great for alternative diets or people with certain intolerances.
Whey and plant protein powders generally offer the same amount of protein.
However, there is debate on whether one source is better than the other, which we will get into in the next section.
The Power Of Whey Protein: Exploring Its Benefits And Drawbacks
The main allure of whey protein powder is its high protein count and its status as a complete protein.
In general, consumers should expect a high-quality protein powder to contain 20 to 30 grams of protein in each serving.
While most whey and plant protein powders meet this quota, whey protein powders tend to have a slightly higher protein content than plant powders.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average whey protein powder contains 27 grams of protein, while the average pea protein powder contains only 22.5 grams of protein. (Source)(Source)
Moreover, whey protein powder contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
It also contains branched-amino acids (BCAAs) including leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Both the essential amino acids and BCAAs are crucial for gaining muscle mass and increasing strength. (Source)
The main drawback of whey protein is that it contains lactose. This means people who are lactose-intolerant or have dairy sensitivities may be unable to take whey protein safely.
Even whey protein isolate, which contains less lactose than whey protein concentrate, still includes enough lactose to cause side effects in people with sensitivities.
For this reason, plant protein powders can be a great alternative for certain groups to safely meet your protein needs.
Plant Protein Powders: Unveiling Their Benefits And Versatility
The biggest appeal of plant protein powder is that it is lactose and dairy-free, making it suitable for vegan diets and those with lactose sensitivities.
Plant protein powders are also comparable to their animal protein counterparts in various categories, including protein content and price. It can also be used in a variety of drinks and recipes to increase your protein intake.
However, there are still factors to consider when deciding between whey protein isolate and plant protein powder.
First, the quality of plant protein powders can vary widely. Plant proteins typically contain fewer BCAAs and amino acids than traditional whey protein, and its protein content can vary depending on the type of plant used.
Some brands will compensate for this by using multiple plant proteins in their product, which helps ensure that their powder includes all the amino acids and BCAAs that whey protein powders have.
Moreover, some plant proteins include food allergens like gluten or soy that can cause side effects in people who are sensitive. Pea proteins may also cause bloating for some people.
Plant powder protein may be more expensive than whey protein. For instance, a product advertised as an organic plant-based protein powder is likely to cost more than regular whey protein.
Still, the versatility of plant protein powder makes it a great alternative to traditional protein powders.
Debunking Myths: Separating Fact From Fiction In Plant vs Whey Protein Debate
This section debunks some common myths discussed in the plant vs whey protein debate.
Can You Build Muscle With Plant Protein?
Yes, you can definitely build muscle with plant protein.
Many people may consider whey protein to be superior for muscle growth, but plant proteins can contain just as much protein and include all the same essential amino acids and BCAAs. (Source)
Research shows that plant protein powders with comparable amounts of protein as whey protein are equally as effective at stimulating muscle growth as their animal protein counterparts. (Source)
Is Whey Protein Better Than Plant Protein For Weight Loss?
No, whey protein is not better than plant protein for weight loss.
In fact, one study found little difference between whey and plant protein powder in terms of promoting weight loss. (Source)
Both protein powders may help you feel fuller for longer, which can decrease your overall caloric intake and promote weight loss.
However, protein powder alone will not help you lose weight. A healthy diet including protein and a consistent exercise routine are necessary for sustainable weight loss.
Greens powder can also supplement your weight loss goals by helping you meet your recommended fruits and veggies intake in one serving.
Navigating The Protein World – Making The Right Choice For You
There is no right answer in the plant-based protein vs whey debate, as no one type of protein powder is better than the other.
The best protein powder for you will depend on your dietary preferences and health goals.
While whey is a fantastic source of protein, plant powders are a great option for alternative diets. Whether hoping to increase muscle mass or lose weight, both options can support your fitness goals.
Regardless of which type of protein you choose, you should look for powders that contain at least 20 to 30 grams of protein including essential amino acids. Moreover, a powder being “plant-based” does not automatically mean it is the healthier option. You should read the ingredient label to check for the inclusion of complete proteins and look out for allergens and filler ingredients.
Kelly McGeehan is a freelance health and wellness writer based in Oahu, Hawaii. She’s a proud former Owl, graduating with her Master’s degree in English from Temple University. She is also a competitive runner with 15 years of mileage under her spikes. Kelly combines her background in healthcare, wellness, and fitness with her writing background to create content for various health-related businesses.
She brings a passion for holistic health to the keyboard and writes to inspire others to live happier, healthier lives. In her free time, you’ll find her reading on the beach or training for her next half marathon.