It's a dilemma: you want to prioritize protein but can't decide between whey and plant-based proteins. You need more information to make an informed choice but where do you even start? To help you out, we're going to look at each type of protein so that you know exactly what makes them different from each other and what their unique benefits are.
Plant-based protein is an excellent source of protein.
Plant-based protein powder is an excellent source of protein. Many manufacturers mix various protein-rich ingredients – most often powders from nuts, seeds, peas, grains, and legumes – to create different amino acid profiles (amino acids are the building blocks of protein). The best part about this is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to plant-based protein powders. Instead, depending on your goals, you might try different protein powders – with different combinations of ingredients. It should also be noted that plant-based protein powders, on average, have nearly as much complete protein as whey powder does.
Plantfully Systems Performance protein powder, for example, contains proteins from fava beans, mung beans, yellow peas, and rice. We do this because not only are these plant-based protein sources low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, but together these ingredients make a complete protein (contains all essential amino acids) that is also really high in protein.
What’s more, plant-based protein sources are just about all good sources of iron and vitamin K1, as well as dietary fiber. You know how everyone is telling you to get more fiber in your diet? Well…plant-based protein is one great way to do that.
Why is pea protein in everything these days?
Pea protein has become a common ingredient in foods and beverages because it's economical, sustainable, and extremely high in plant-based protein. As you may have guessed from its name, pea protein is derived from peas. The process of extracting the valuable nutrients from this legume is very similar to how whey protein is made (more on that later). After the initial extraction process has been completed, both types of proteins are dried at a low temperature to preserve their integrity.
In addition to containing all nine essential amino acids needed for human life (which we'll talk about later), pea protein also contains high levels of leucine—an amino acid proven to help stimulate muscle growth and repair tissues damaged by exercise. It also contains arginine—another important amino acid that plays a role in regulating blood flow through your body.
Whey is abundant in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which are the building blocks of muscle.
Whey is abundant in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which are the building blocks of muscle. You might not have heard of BCAAs, but if you’ve ever lifted weights or done any sort of resistance training, then you probably know that they’re important for recovery and growth.
Essential amino acids can be produced by your body but not in large amounts, so they have to come from food sources. There are nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, tryptophan (which isn't really an essential amino acid but close), histidine, methionine and lysine.* Whey protein has high concentrations of all nine essential amino acids making it a good source of protein.
How is whey protein made and what makes it popular?
Whey is a byproduct of cheesemaking. Once the milk used for the cheese passes quality tests, enzymes are added to separate the curd from the liquid whey. Whey is then filtered to extract the proteins.
Whey protein is a very high-quality source of leucine, which makes it an important component in any diet. Leucine is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body cannot make it on its own and you need to get it through your diet.
It plays an important role in protein synthesis and can trigger an increase in muscle protein synthesis when you eat adequate quantities, especially when combined with other amino acids.
Leucine is also a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), which means that it has a branch in its chemical structure. BCAA supplementation has been shown to improve strength training results and reduce the amount of fat gained during resistance training programs by facilitating muscle growth and preventing muscle breakdown respectively.
Whey does have more calories at about 130-150 per scoop and 3 grams of fat.
When it comes to calorie content, whey has more at about 130-150 per scoop and 3 grams of fat. Plant-based protein has about 30 fewer calories, with just 2 grams of fat.
When comparing whey versus plant protein, whey protein tends to be slightly higher in total protein content at around 25 grams per scoop versus pea protein’s 20 grams per scoop. But, as aforementioned, different combinations of plant-based proteins can also increase the amount of protein per scoop. Plantfully Systems Performance protein powder, which includes a mix of proteins from fava beans, mung beans, yellow peas, and rice, has about 25 grams of clean, plant-based protein per scoop, which is equivalent to whey protein.
There are other reasons why a plant-based diet might be better for you than whey protein: It's lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, contains no lactose or casein (two common allergens), and doesn't contain any animal products (no worms).
Plant-based proteins offer similar digestibility scores as whey, with studies showing both are highly digestible (97-98%).
Whey protein and plant-based proteins have similar digestibility scores, with studies showing both are highly digestible (97-98%). This means that whether you’re using plant-based protein or whey protein, you’re getting maximum benefits.
Whey and plant-based proteins offer some overlap when it comes to their nutritional profiles but they each have unique benefits too.
Whey protein is a good source of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle. Plant-based proteins are also a good source of amino acids, but they contain more iron and vitamin K1, making them especially useful if you're anemic or not getting enough iron from your diet.
All plant-based proteins are also abundant in dietary fiber, which provides the same benefits as fiber in meat: it helps keep you full longer because it takes longer to digest than other nutrients like carbohydrates or protein.
Look for a source of protein that meets your needs and has the necessary nutrients.
Protein is a necessary nutrient that's essential for building and repairing muscle, repairing and healing the body, and keeping you feeling full. Though animal-based products like eggs, fish, and chicken contain a lot of protein, they’re also not always sustainably treated or farmed. And, because of this, they’re more often prone to contamination – which is why they’re kept in the refrigerator.
If you’re NOT a vegetarian or vegan taking whey protein powder can definitely help you get more of the protein you need. Just make sure you look for protein sources that are made using sustainable practices.
Likewise, plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, peas, grains, and legumes are also great protein-packed options. The protein powders manufactured from these ingredients are always vegan and vegetarian-friendly (not to mention people and animal-friendly too). Not to mention, plant-based protein comes with the added benefit in that it contains more iron, vitamin K1, and dietary fiber.
Though whey protein is a good option for those looking for an abundant source of protein with the added benefits of BCAAs, plant-based protein offers plant-based foods that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These benefits make plant-based proteins an excellent choice for anyone looking to improve their health while keeping an eye on their wallet.