Whey Protein vs Plant Protein – Which is Best?

protein

Is whey protein better than plant protein? It is one of today’s most debatable topics in this giant protein supplement industry. 

Protein supplements are popular and consumed globally by both sedentary and active people. They have been clinically shown to support weight loss and immune health and aid muscle growth and recovery. 

With so many protein powders on the market, selecting the best protein powder might be confusing based on preferences that suit dietary needs.

In this article, we will evaluate the critical attributes of whey protein and plant protein, and based on that, we will decide the winner.

Eager to find out what’ll win? Read further.

What is whey protein?

Source: Freepik

Whey protein is derived during the coagulation process of cow’s milk. It is a by-product obtained in a liquid form and rich in all nine essential amino acids. Whey protein is a good-quality protein source and contains few carbs, fats, and minerals. 

What is plant protein?

Source: Freepik

Plant protein powder is derived from various plant protein sources like peas, brown rice, lentils, soybean, hemp, spirulina, nuts, and seeds. Besides protein, they have carbs, dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some plant protein foods do not contain all essential amino acids; therefore, plant protein powders usually combine various sources to complete the amino acid profile. 

Difference between whey protein and plant based protein 

Source: Freepik

To buy a protein powder, you must know these significant differences before deciding.

How are they made?

The liquid whey part obtained during cheese-making is called whey which is then spray-dried into powder. Besides protein, this whey protein powder contains milk sugar, fats, and minerals and is a concentrated form. 

Liquid whey undergoes several procedures like pasteurization, micro-filtration, ultra-filtration, or spray drying before a good quality whey powder is received. 

Further processing gives us whey protein isolate and hydrolysate, in which excess fats and carbs are removed to increase the protein bioavailability.

Plant-based protein powders extract protein from plant protein sources, but the processing is less than whey. 

Plant proteins do not contain lactose and are safe for lactose intolerants and vegans. 

Protein content

Plant and whey protein powders usually provide 20-30 grams of protein per serve. Proteins are made of amino acids, critically involved in many body processes like immune function, muscle building, transport, and storing nutrients.

Whey protein powders are called complete protein sources as they contain all essential amino acids, including BCAAs. However, only soy protein is a complete protein source under plant protein. 

Plant protein powders usually contain multiple protein sources to ensure they have BCAAs and other essential amino acids.

Hence it is essential to read the nutrition facts before opting for any protein supplement.

Source: Freepik

Digestion and Food Sensitivities

Whey protein powders contain lactose sugar and are not suitable for lactose intolerants.

Some people with mild lactose intolerance can digest whey protein isolate or hydrolysate, whereas people who are severely intolerant to lactose should avoid whey protein.

Instead, they can opt for plant-based protein powders. Plant proteins are apt for vegans and people who avoid dairy. However, some plant-based protein powders can also trigger sensitivity symptoms. 

For example, people allergic to soy or gluten should avoid protein powders containing wheat and soy. Pea protein can cause bloating or cramping among people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 

People with food sensitivities or allergies should pay attention to the warning and allergen info mentioned on the pack.

Price

The cost of whey and plant-based protein powders varies from brand to brand. Whey protein from A2 cow’s milk or organic plant proteins may be expensive.

One can choose a certified protein supplement from a trusted brand within the budget but remember to check the serving size. Because the supplement may appear reasonable, it might go out of your budget if the serving size is large. 

Nutritional Comparison

PARAMETERWHEY PROTEINPLANT-BASED PROTEIN
20-30 g protein/servingyessometimes
Lactose-freenoyes
Soy-freeyessometimes
Gluten-freeyessometimes
Vegan-friendlynoyes
Contain essential amino acids (EAAs)yesyes (in soy protein and some protein blends)
Promote muscle building & recoveryyesyes
Support weight lossyesyes

Plant Protein and Whey Protein Benefits

Source: Freepik

  1. Promote muscle growth: Bodybuilders and people with an active lifestyle have high protein requirements to support new muscle growth. Along with dietary sources, one can include whey and plant protein powders in the daily diet to fulfil these increased needs healthily, as they have high nutritional value and are rich in amino acids like BCAAs.
  2.  Support muscle recovery: Opting for a plant protein or whey protein shake after your workout session effectively delivers all the amino acids required to repair the damaged muscles and recover quickly.
  3. Boost immune health: Studies support that whey protein and plant protein powders help strengthen our immune health. Being rich in cysteine amino acid, our body utilizes whey protein to synthesize the most potent antioxidant in the body – glutathione. The high dietary fibre of plant protein keeps our gut healthy and wards off infections protecting us from diseases.
  4. Maintain healthy cholesterol levels: Studies support that whey and plant protein may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk by promoting good cholesterol levels. Moreover, plant protein powders from nuts and seeds contain good heart-healthy fats. 
  5. Rich in micronutrients: Whey protein is naturally rich in vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B12, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, and magnesium. In contrast, the micronutrient profile of plant protein powders may vary depending on the source used. For example, pea protein is rich in iron, soy protein has good iron and calcium content, and hemp is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc. 
  6. Diabetic-friendly: Diabetic people can also take protein powders to control their blood sugar levels while meeting daily protein needs. Protein powders free from added sugar may help improve insulin sensitivity. Similarly, plant protein powders may protect against developing type 2 diabetes due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
  7. Easy to digest: Whey and plant-protein powders are easy on the stomach and quickly absorbed by the body. Plant-based protein powders are comparatively lighter on the gut. If an individual finds whey concentrate challenging to digest, whey isolate or hydrolysate is the best alternative among dairy proteins.
  8. Rich in dietary fibre: Plant-based proteins are enriched with dietary fibre that supports the smooth running of our digestive system. They naturally help us feel full and strengthen gut health.

Which is more effective? Plant-Based Protein or Whey Protein

Source: Freepik

  • For Muscle growth effectiveness

For new muscle growth, one must meet daily protein needs. The protein included should be of good quality containing essential amino acids and BCAAs.

Though all amino acids are vital for the body, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are integral to muscle growth, especially leucine. Whey protein is high in BCAAs and is clinically proven effective for muscle growth when combined with regular exercise. 

However, plant proteins can also include BCAAs and are equally effective in promoting muscle growth. Irrespective of the type of protein, it should provide at least 20-30 grams of protein per serve and 5-10 grams of BCAAs. 

  • For weight loss effectiveness

Protein powders can support fat loss goals to a significant extent. The high protein and low carb content provide fullness with fewer calories. They help preserve lean muscle mass, reduce appetite, and boost metabolism.

Plant-based protein powders are also high in dietary fibre, making them useful for weight loss. 

One of the primary mechanisms by which high-protein diets support weight loss is raising the levels of satiety hormones – leptin and cholecystokinin (CCK) while decreasing the hunger hormone -ghrelin. Such alteration in the hormone levels results in protein-induced weight loss. 

Therefore, plant-based and whey proteins are equally effective in losing weight.

The Final Verdict

One can opt for whey or plant-based protein depending on the nutritional needs, as either type can provide enough protein to support health goals.

For best results, one must ensure that protein powder should not contain the following:

  • Added sugar.
  • The calorie content should be preferably between 100-150 kcal.
  • The protein content should be 20-30 grams per serving with 5-10 grams BCAAs.

The protein supplement should not contain added sugar, artificial colours, preservatives, and fillers. For plant-based proteins, the ingredients used must be non-GMO.

Top 5 Whey Protein Brands available

  1. Nutrabay Pure Whey Protein Concentrate
  2. Nutrabay Pro Nitro Build Whey Protein 
  3. Optimum Nutrition (ON) Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein
  4. Dymatize Elite 100 Whey Protein
  5. MuscleTech NitroTech Whey Protein

Top 5 Plant-Based Protein Brands Available

  1. Nutrabay Wellness All-Natural Plant Protein
  2. Nutrabay Pure 100% Soy Protein Isolate
  3. Kapiva Vegan Protein
  4. Bolt Biozyme Plant Protein with Phycocyanin
  5. Fast&Up Plant Protein

Nutrabay Pure Whey Protein Concentrate

Raw whey concentrate protein without artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, sugar, and sweeteners.

Protein source: 100% whey protein concentrate.

Protein: 23.4 g / 30 g scoop

BCAAs: 5.3 g

Nutrabay Pro Nitro Build Whey Protein 

Micro-filtered high-quality flavoured whey protein with 3 grams of creatine per serving in lip-smacking chocolate flavour.

Protein source: whey protein isolate and concentrate.

Protein: 30 g / 45 g scoop

BCAAs: 6.6 g

Optimum Nutrition (ON) Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein

Blend protein for a quick and instant source of nourishment for the muscles to help them recover faster. 

Protein source: Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate & whey peptides.

Protein: 24 g / 30 g scoop

BCAAs: 5.5 g

Dymatize Elite 100 Whey Protein

Fast-acting protein sources with essential and non-essential amino acids formulate a great recovery formula.

Protein source: Whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, & hydrolyzed whey protein concentrate.

Protein: 25 g / 36 g scoop

BCAAs: 5.5 g

MuscleTech NitroTech Whey Protein

Low-carb and low-fat formula with added creatine builds lean muscle mass faster and boosts athletic performance.

Protein source: Isolate protein and peptide blend (whey peptides, whey protein isolate, whey protein isolate 97%) and whey protein concentrate.

Protein: 30 g / 46 g scoop

BCAAs: 6.6 g

Nutrabay Wellness All-Natural Plant Protein

Allergen-free, stevia-based plant-protein powder with vitamins, minerals, superfoods, and added digestive enzymes.  

Protein source: Pea protein isolate, flaxseed extract, brown rice protein, spirulina powder, and moringa extract.

Protein: 24 g / 34 g scoop

BCAAs: 5 g

Nutrabay Pure 100% Soy Protein Isolate

Unflavoured soy protein with zero artificial additives.

Protein source: 100% soy protein isolate.

Protein: 26.2 g / 30 g scoop

BCAAs: 4.7 g

Kapiva Vegan Protein

Plant-based protein with chicory roots, vitamins, and minerals for enhanced digestion and absorption.

Protein source: Pea protein isolate and rice protein isolate.

Protein: 26.9 g / 35 g scoop

BCAAs: 5 g

Bolt Biozyme Plant Protein with Phycocyanin

Plant protein enriched with 25 mg of Phycocyanin – a phytonutrient with immune boosting and antioxidant properties.

Protein source: Pea protein isolate and rice protein isolate.

Protein: 26 g / 35 g scoop

BCAAs: 4.4 g

Fast&Up Plant Protein

Plant-based protein powder with added digestive enzymes and beetroot extract.

Protein source: Pea protein isolate, brown rice protein isolate, and vegan coconut milk powder.

Protein: 30 g / 45 scoop

BCAAs: 6 g

Which is better, plant protein or whey protein?

Both plant and whey proteins are good to include in an active lifestyle. One can choose either of them based on preference and dietary choices.

Why is plant-based protein better than whey protein?

Whey protein is no less than plant-based protein; however, plant protein is a better option for those who avoid dairy or are vegans.

Is plant protein safer than whey? 

Whey protein is equally safe; however, plant protein is advisable if you experience indigestion issues on taking whey or dairy-based products.

Does plant protein build muscle like whey?

Coupled with a well-calculated diet and exercise routine, one can expect similar results on taking plant or whey protein.

Are vegan protein shakes better than whey protein?

Vegan protein shakes derive protein from plant protein sources like peas, brown rice, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Whey protein and vegan protein shakes are equally beneficial and effective.

Which one is best, whey protein or pea protein isolate?

Both types of protein can provide high protein content with an excellent amino acid profile. If you plan to choose between whey and pea protein, consider your preference, budget, and dietary choices.

Is soy or whey protein better?

Both types of protein are healthy and suitable for delivering good-quality protein to the body. However, lactose intolerants can take soy protein, and people allergic to soy can take soy-free whey protein.

Are plant-based protein supplements the same as whey?

Whey and plant-based protein supplements differ in their protein source and ingredients used. They may vary in protein and BCAA content, but both are useful to meet daily protein needs healthily.

Which protein is better, Amway Nutrilite or whey protein?

If you prefer a plant-based protein, go for Amway Nutrilite, which comes with the additional benefit of green tea extract. Whey protein is equally beneficial if lactose content is not a concern.

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