Nutrition

Whey Protein vs Plant Protein – Which is Best?

Whether you’re vegan or you have a dietary restriction find out which is best for you with our review of whey protein vs plant protein. 

With so many people aware of the benefits of putting on a little muscle, protein powders are pretty much the most popular supplement available on the market. 

And now, with so many people turning to a plant-based diet, we’re also seeing plenty of plant-based protein’s appear too. While whey – derived from cows milk – has long been a favorite for supplementation, you may be looking to go for a plant-based option.

But first, with so many options available, you need to know which type will offer you the best results and suit your dietary needs at the same time. 

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. 

We’ve compared whey protein vs plant protein to find out which one is going to be the best for you and your goals. 

Whey Protein vs Plant Protein 

Quick comparison: 

Find out what each option can offer you quickly and easily with our at-a-glance table.

Whey Protein  Plant protein
Lactose-free? No Yes
Vegan-friendly? No Yes
Complete protein? Yes Depends on whether it’s Soy, or if it’s been mixed to offer complete
Provides 20–30 grams of protein per scoop Yes It can, but not always
Can it build muscle? Yes Yes
Can it support weight loss Yes Yes
Price Varies Varies

What is whey protein?

Whey protein powder is taken from whey, a clear liquid by product of making cheese from milk. 

Once the whey is all collected, the powder is created by removing the carbs, fats and water, then spray drying it into powder form. From this, you’ve pretty much just got protein in powder for (1). 

Some producers take this even further and take away the as much of the lactose element as possible too, in order to create the more expensive, but more concentrated whey protein isolate.

Whey protein also offers a complete protein profile, which means it provides all 9  of the amino acids that make up protein. This is important in building muscle. 

Of course, because whey is derived from milk, it may not suit the dietary restrictions of some. While whey protein isolate may have lower lactose levels, it can’t be guaranteed that there won’t be any in there. 

What’s more, if you’re vegan, opting for something derived from animal produce is not an option either. 

[Related Article: Cira Bright Whey Protein Review]

What is plant protein? 

Plant-based protein are derived from a range of different plants, but you’ll most commonly see plant protein powders made from, soy, peas, hemp and brown rice. 

In an attempt to provide a complete protein profile of those 9 amino acids we mentioned, you may see some plant-based protein powders offering protein from a range of different plant sources.

What’s more, because these are made entirely from plants there’s no need to worry about lactose content, or that it may not be vegan friendly. 

[Related Article: Transparent Labs Vegan Protein Review]

Protein levels

You’ll find that in a battle of protein content with whey protein vs plant protein, each serving will give you between 20-30g. Most brands aim for that sweet spot and it’s now pretty much an unspoken standard across the industry. 

So, when it comes to the amount of protein in each serving, you’ll find you don’t need to worry too much about that in the competition between whey protein vs plant protein. 

Instead, it’s probably a good idea to be aware of whether you’re buying a complete protein or not

Complete protein – whey protein vs plant protein

Whey protein is a complete protein, as it offers all 9 of the amino acids that make up protein. On top of that it also provides a selection of naturally occurring branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) which also complement the muscle building process (2). 

Conversely, within the world of plant protein, only soy is a naturally occurring plant protein which provides a complete protein profile. And, we know there’s a lot of concerns around deforestation when it comes to soy, so for many it might not be their first choice. 

However, many brands who produce plant-based protein powders are also aware of this and make an effort to create a powder which uses a number of different plants responsibly to provide that all important complete protein profile. 

So what’s the best way to ensure a plant-based protein powder has a complete protein profile? Check the nutrition label before you buy – it’s the only way to make sure you know you’ve got the best possible muscle building protein. 

Dietary requirements

One of the most common food sensitivities/intolerances out there is lactose intolerance. And, since whey protein is a by product of the cheese-making process, whey protein can cause a flare up depending on your sensitivity. 

As such, it can be an uncomfortable choice for a lot of people, as it can lead to bloating, nausea and stomach upset. 

With that in mind, you might want to explore your options with a plant protein instead. 

However, there can be allergens within plant-based protein too. Common allergens include soy and gluten, so no matter what you’re thinking for your protein supplement, always read the nutrition and dietary label carefully. Especially if you have an allergy. 

Price

The price or cost of a protein powder pretty much all depends on the brand. But, looking at the market, you’ll find that whether it’s whey protein or plant protein the cost comes out as pretty similar across the board. 

One thing to bear in mind though, is the number of servings in a bag/tub of your chosen protein. You may find that, in plant proteins mainly, you’ll need bigger servings to get the right amount of protein. 

Therefore, you might want to check the bag to make sure you’re getting the same number of servings as another, similarly priced option.

Whey Protein vs Plant Protein for Muscle growth

If you’re here, you know that protein is a key part in supporting muscle growth after you’ve worked out. As such, it’s important you have the right option on your side. 

The most important thing you need in a protein powder when supporting muscle growth is a full amino acid profile (featuring all nine amino acids) and BCAAs. 

In terms of the very best option out there regarding the points above whey protein isolate has the best offering. 

However, as we discussed, this may not suit your lifestyle or dietary requirements. 

And, although only soy offers a complete protein amino acid profile in the world of plant protein, there are plenty of mixes that do too. And, many brands also up the BCAA profile too, so you know you’re getting the right support to build muscle. 

Therefore, in terms of muscle building, as long as you’ve checked the nutrition label and all of the above is there, the muscle growth results on whey protein vs plant protein is the same (3).

And, while we’re on the topic of supporting muscle growth, it’s important to remember that a protein powder is there as a supplement – to support a healthy, varied diet that draws protein from a number of different sources. 

Don’t rely on a protein supplement entirely. Instead, ensure you’re getting plenty of protein from sources that support your dietary requirements too. 

[Related Article: 12 Vegan Protein Rich Foods]

Whey protein vs Plant protein for fat loss

Let’s not forget, weight loss is entirely dependent on creating a calorie deficit. This can be done through a well-planned, healthy calorie restricted diet, and exercising regularly to increase calorie expenditure. 

Taking a protein powder alone will not promote weight loss. But, if you’re doing the above right, it can definitely help to support fat loss! 

Protein helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer, as it takes a longer time for your stomach to break it down and digest. What’s more, it helps to support lean muscle mass too, which plays a part in increasing your overall metabolic rate in the long run. 

So, if you’re looking to purchase a whey or plant-based protein for fat loss, you should probably look for something that ticks the following boxes too: 

  • Watch the sugar content. A lot of protein powders, bars and snacks load up on sugar to make it taste better. Instead, keep the calories down with a low sugar option that will support your weight loss goals. 
  • Don’t shake instead of eat. A protein shake can be handy, but doesn’t have a complete nutritional profile to replace a meal. Instead it can leave you feeling hungry, and before you know it you’re snacking. 
  • Watch the calories. Just like the sugar point, try to find something that you can add to your diet without the calories going off the charts. Alot of brands have lean versions of their protein that is designed to support weight loss. 
  • Protein with breakfast. One of the easiest and best ways to start your day in a high protein way is to add it to your breakfast. Protein oats is a classic. It keeps you full, stops you snacking through the morning and adds 20-30g of protein to your day instantly! 
  • Find something that tastes good. Protein is one of those things where, if you don’t like it, it becomes hard to keep taking it every day. Luckily, whether you’re going for whey protein or plant protein, there are loads of brands out there with a range of delicious options. So keep searching for yours and don’t compromise on taste.

Whey protein vs plant protein – which should you choose?

Like everything you eat, it’s completely up to you which the best option is. If you’ve got a lactose intolerance, whey protein just isn’t really an option. 

So, our recommendation is pretty simple, find the protein that works for you and your body. Whatever your choice, just keep in mind the level of protein, the protein profile and the BCAA profile and you should get fantastic results.

gymgirlfit

gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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