Whey Protein Vs Plant Protein Powders: Compare the Differences

Of all health supplements, protein powders are among the most widely used nutritional supplements on the market today, especially among athletes. Many nutritional supplement manufacturing companies provide a variety of options to fit different dietary requirements and lifestyle needs. In fact, to address the various dietary trends, manufacturers now offer both dairy-sourced whey protein powder (a milk product) as well as plant-based substitutes made from a variety of vegetable sources like pea protein and soy protein, among others.

Being that there are so many different types of protein powders now on the market, you might be wondering if any are good for your individual preferences and nutritional needs. Which type is best and which one is most appropriate for your requirements takes a thorough understanding of the composition and benefits of each type of protein powder. In this article, we will compare some forms of plant-based protein powders with their whey protein powder counterparts in order to assist you in choosing + the one that is most appropriate for you.

Comparing Whey Protein to Plant-Based Protein Powders: How Are They Made and What Do They Do?

While there are many ways whey protein powders and plant-based protein powders are similar, there are some very significant differences between the two, both in composition and how they are processed in manufacturing and in the body. There are also both parallels and distinctions between plant-based and animal-based diets and the nutritional deficits that may result from either choice.

The Way They Are Made

The majority of whey protein powders are made from whey, which is a milky liquid. A by-product of the cheese-making process, whey protein isolate powder results when the carbohydrates, fat content, water, and other elements are removed from the natural whey. The remainder of the whey protein is then “spray-dried” to form a powder. This powder is then flavored with chocolate, vanilla, or other flavors to be more palatable for the end consumer. Because whey protein powder is derived from cow’s milk, it has a high concentration of calcium, which is great for those who may need to increase their dietary calcium intake.

Lactose is a special type of sugar found in milk. For those who are lactose-intolerant, whey protein may be contraindicated due to the natural lactose content. Whey protein isolate may be suitable for some people who only need to worry about excessive levels of lactose, as it is less lactose-containing than whey protein concentrate. Because of changes in processing, whey protein is not the same as casein, which is another dairy-sourced protein product.

Plant-based protein supplement powders are sourced from a variety of different types of vegetation. The most prevalent plant sources of protein are soy, brown rice, hemp, and peas. Although it is most common that a plant-based protein powder will have only one type of protein, there are also combination products on the market since it is possible to make protein powder from a single species of plant or from a mix of plants.

Plant-based protein powders are unique in that they are manufactured completely from plants. In the event that you follow a vegan diet or if you are lactose intolerant, plant-based protein powders are a great choice since they do not contain dairy or lactose. This makes them a suitable choice if you are allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant.

What is the Protein Content of Whey vs. Plant-Based Protein Options?

Generally speaking, whey and plant-based protein powders have fairly equal amounts of protein per serving, with varying amounts between 20-30 gm/serving. However, the amino acid profiles are not exactly the same. Because it includes all nine essential amino acids, whey protein powder is called a complete protein. These nine necessary amino acids are considered to be the building blocks of protein. Whey protein also contains the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential for muscle growth.

The amount of protein in plant-based protein powder is determined by which plants are used to make it. Plant-based powders often have fewer branched-chain amino acids. BCAAs are more abundant in whey powders. Furthermore, only protein powder made from soy is considered to be a “complete protein”.

This is essentially why some protein powder formulations make it convenient to get a complete protein by combining various plant proteins in a single product.

Finally, the most reliable technique to determine whether a protein powder includes a good amount of a certain amino acid is to carefully examine the label to be sure of the protein profile, i.e. the types and quantities of the different amino acids mentioned above.

Assessing Digestibility And Potential For Food Sensitivity

As mentioned previously, lactose is a sugar found in whey protein powder, which is a frequent cause of food sensitivity. By using whey protein isolate, you may reduce the quantity of lactose in your diet. Despite this, stomach issues like gas, bloating, and discomfort may result if the serving you ingest is more than the recommended amount. So, if you have any sort of serious lactose sensitivity, you should probably avoid dairy products altogether.

Because plant-based protein powders are sometimes made up of a variety of different components, they may include soy and gluten, which are allergens to some people. That’s why it is important to carefully read the ingredients section on plant-based protein powder canister labels. Some hypoallergenic plant-based protein powders, particularly those containing pea protein, are available for those who suffer from soy and gluten issues.

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, protein supplements of any sort might induce bloating and cramps. If you have any sort of sensitivities to food, an excellent approach to figure out which protein to avoid is to have a food allergy test. Another way to help determine whether protein powder is good for you is to simply sample a variety and maintain a journal where you document any side effects.

Keeping a diet and health journal will assist you in identifying and keeping track of potential negative effects that may occur as a result of the use of certain goods, while also helping you be more mindful of your daily food, exercise, and sleep habits and what results you’re getting.

Cost Variations Between Whey Protein and Plant-Based Protein

The pricing of whey protein and plant-based protein powders is heavily influenced by the availability of the raw materials needed for the production process. The majority of the time, you can find either variety at a similar price. Still, products that are labeled as organic, ketogenic, or specifically for the paleo diet, or that have other health claims may be higher in price. Specialized characteristics are frequently associated with a greater price. The popularity of a brand name also influences the end price.

It’s also important to remember that the serving sizes of some plant-based proteins are smaller, compared to others. For example, the recommended serving size for hemp protein powder is larger than that of pea protein powders. You’ll end up going through more hemp protein powder in less time, which might result in paying more in the long run than if you had chosen a type of protein that requires a smaller serving size.

Summary of Comparison of Whey Protein and Plant-Based Protein

  • Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk and is considered to be of superior quality, although it does contain lactose, making it unsuitable for those with lactose intolerance.
  • Protein powders derived from plants are derived from a variety of plants, including brown rice, soybeans, and peas, and are suitable for vegans and lactose-intolerant people.
  • Strength exercise and a healthy diet are both necessary for muscular development.

The effectiveness of a supplement for muscle building depends upon the amount of strength training one does on a regular basis along with the consumption of an adequate level of protein containing the right amount of BCAAs and essential amino acids. Whey protein isolate is often regarded as the gold standard for muscle-building nutrition, due to its complete protein and amino acid profile. Whey, since it is a complete protein, has a significant quantity of the amino acid Leucine (a branched-chain amino acid), which is the most quickly absorbed of all BCAAs.

Plant-based protein powders, on the other hand, can be full proteins as well. They contain significant levels of leucine, assuming that they include two or more types of plant-based proteins or have been fortified with branched-chain amino acids. As a matter of fact, research has revealed that whey and plant-based protein powders are beneficial as both are equally efficient in stimulating muscular hypertrophy, often known as muscle growth. As long as they include comparable levels of protein and BCAAs, they will promote growth of muscle tissue.

Whatever sort of protein powder you purchase, be sure it’s a high-quality one that contains a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein and 5–12 grams of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) with at least 3 grams of which are leucine.

While protein powders might be a simple and easy method to add more protein into your diet, as there are other food options to choose. Whole-food sources of protein like fish, chicken, eggs, tofu and lentils are recommended as sources of natural protein. Alternatively, if you want more protein than you can get from your natural food sources, you can utilize powder to supplement your diet. One of the most crucial factors to consider is the amount of protein you consume each day. For optimal muscle development, the majority of individuals should strive to get 0.6–0.9 grams of protein for each pound of your body weight (1.4–2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight). This measures out to be about 20–40 grams of protein in every meal.

What is the Effectiveness of Whey Protein vs. Plant-Based Protein for Weight Loss?

Weight reduction is accomplished through a reduction in calorie intake, which occurs when you consume less calories than you burn through daily activities. Therefore, if you consume less calories per day than your body burns in a 24-hour period, you will naturally lose weight. Typically, this is the case. So, why is protein recommended to assist in weight loss? Both plant-based protein powder and whey protein powder can help one reduce weight due to the mechanism by which protein promotes a feeling of being “full”, i.e. suppression of appetite, while also helping to preserve lean muscle content during the weight loss process. If a person reduces their calorie intake without taking in the correct amount of protein they run the risk of losing muscle mass along with losing fat, which is usually not the goal. This preservation of lean muscle continues to promote weight reduction because muscle naturally burns more calories. This is accomplished by consuming fewer calories and engaging in more physical activity. Protein powders, both whey and plant-based, can aid in weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate as well.

Here are some thoughts that may be of assistance in your weight loss journey:

Take supplements that are primarily composed of protein. Many protein supplements that contain whey protein also contain ingredients that increase calorie intakes, such as added sweeteners and sugars. Be aware of this and be careful to choose a protein-rich, low sugar option.

Check for protein formulas that contain only 100–150 calories or less per serving. If the calorie content is any higher than 150, then it is probable that the product contains extra sugars, fillers, and fats.

Restrict the use of smoothies. If you’re going to use protein powder supplements, stay with one low-calorie brand and avoid adding goodies like peanut butter, juices, full-fat milk, or fruit, all of which will add unwanted extra calories from carbohydrates and fats.

Include it in other foods and recipes. Try incorporating your protein powder with your normal meals such as homemade low-sugar baked goods, pancakes, breakfast items like pancakes, and grains such as oats and oatmeal.

Do not use it as a replacement for a meal. Drinks and powders containing protein should not be considered meals since they do not contain sufficient nutrients or calories on their own. If you try to replace normal meals with protein shakes, the result will be increased hunger later in the day, which then will lead to late-night snacking that will pack on excess pounds. Thus, depending on protein supplements for meal replacements might result in uncontrolled hunger and overindulgence.

Include strength training in your workouts. At the very least, a couple of days of strength training should be a part of your workout routine to retain and build muscles as well as to boost metabolism for weight loss. Having increased muscle mass may allow you to burn more calories at a faster rate.

Protein Powder Recommendations

Protein powder selection is a highly personal decision. If you’ve already chosen and are loving a particular brand of whey protein powder with no side effects, there’s no need to switch now. There is no compelling incentive to switch to a plant-based alternative.

If, on the other hand, you are suffering stomach problems or desire to get away from using animal-sourced products, consider a non-whey protein powder. There are several plant-based protein powder supplements available on the market today that may also provide you with excellent outcomes. Ideally, pick a version that isn’t too complex or difficult to add to your daily routine.

At the end of the day, the greatest protein powder for you is one that you love and look forward to mixing up every day, that also satisfies your nutritional requirements and provides 20–30 grams of protein in every serving.


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The links contained in this product review may result in a small commission if you opt to purchase the product recommended at no additional cost to you. This goes towards supporting our research and editorial team. Please know we only recommend high-quality products.


Please understand that any advice or guidelines revealed here are not even remotely substitutes for sound medical or financial advice from a licensed healthcare provider or certified financial advisor. Make sure to consult with a professional physician or financial consultant before making any purchasing decision if you use medications or have concerns following the review details shared above. Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed as the statements regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA, or Health Canada approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and do not provide any kind of get-rich money scheme. Reviewer is not responsible for pricing inaccuracies. Check product sales page for final prices.

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