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Whey vs. Plant Protein: Which is Best for Your Fitness Goals?

by Mara Welty June 05, 2024 5 min read

 Whey vs. Plant Protein

Protein powders have become a staple for many fitness enthusiasts, offering a quick and efficient means of meeting daily protein intake requirements. Whether you're aiming to support muscle growth, aid in recovery or simply maintain optimal nutrition, protein supplementation can play a significant role in achieving your fitness goals.

However, with numerous types of protein powder available on the market, it can be challenging to determine which type is best suited for your needs.

Typically, the argument comes down to whey protein vs plant protein supplements — two viable options, each with their unique benefits. While dairy-derived whey protein has long been favored by athletes for its rapid absorption rate and muscle building support, plant-based proteins have gained popularity for those with dietary restrictions or food sensitivities.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein comes from cows’ milk, which contains two types of protein: the predominant casein protein and the less-dominant whey protein. Whey protein is a foggy liquid that manufacturers get when separating curds from the remaining milk protein during the cheese-making process.

This type of protein is extremely nutrient-rich, particularly when it comes from grass-fed cows. Specifically, grass-fed whey protein contains:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Which are crucial for heart health, immune function and brain function.
  • Antioxidants – Such as glutathione and various flavonoids, which help combat oxidative stress and protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
  • All nine essential amino acids – Including leucine, isoleucine and valine, which play key roles in muscle protein synthesis, repair and recovery.
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – A type of omega-6 fatty acid with potential health benefits, including fat loss and improved body composition.
  • Vitamins and minerals – Such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are essential for bone health, muscle function and overall health.

When shopping for a whey protein powder, there are three varieties to choose from:

  • Whey protein concentrate – This variety contains varying levels of protein, typically ranging from 70 to 80%, with the remaining percentage consisting of carbohydrates and fats. It's generally the most affordable option and retains more of the naturally occurring nutrients found in whey. It’s also easily absorbed into the body.
  • Whey protein isolate – This type undergoes further processing to remove more of the carbohydrates, fats and lactose, resulting in a product that is at least 90% protein by weight. Whey protein isolate is virtually lactose-free, making it suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance or those looking for a purer protein source.
  • Whey protein hydrolysate – This form of whey protein is pre-digested, meaning it undergoes enzymatic breakdown during processing, resulting in smaller protein fragments called peptides. This makes whey protein hydrolysate easier and quicker to digest and absorb compared to concentrate and isolate.

Overall, whey protein helps to promote muscle mass development when consumed before, during or after a workout.

What is Plant-Based Protein?

Plant-based proteins are protein sources derived from plants. In their whole food forms, these can include:

  • Soy products, such as edamame, tofu, tempeh and soy milk
  • Legumes, such as black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and green peas
  • Nuts and seeds, like walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter and almond butter
  • Grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet, oats, spelt and teff
  • Meat alternatives, like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods

That said, plant-based proteins are also available in powder forms to add to your favorite breakfast foods, smoothies or baked goods:

  • Pea protein powder – Derived from yellow split peas, pea protein powder is known for its high protein content and rich amino acid profile. It serves as a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids necessary for muscle protein synthesis. While some may find its flavor earthy or mild, many brands offer flavored varieties to suit different preferences. Pea protein powder is not only a great source of vegan protein but also packs a punch in terms of iron content. Also, research suggests that pea protein supplementation, coupled with exercise, can effectively increase muscle mass and strength.
  • Brown rice protein powder – While brown rice protein contains all nine essential amino acids, it's slightly lower in lysine, making it technically not a complete protein on its own. However, when combined with other protein sources or consumed as part of a varied diet, brown rice protein can contribute to daily protein needs effectively. It also has a nutty flavor. Research also suggests that brown rice protein may be comparable to whey protein in its effectiveness in promoting muscle gain and improving body composition.
  • Hemp protein powder – Hemp protein powder stands out as a complete protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids required by the body. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids and has a high fiber content to support heart health and digestion, respectively. That said, the texture can be gritty and the taste is quite earthy.
  • Soy protein powder – Soy protein is a versatile and complete plant-based protein derived from soybeans, containing all nine essential amino acids vital for muscle repair and growth. In addition to its protein content, soy protein is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, zinc and B vitamins. However, concerns have been raised regarding phytoestrogens found in soy, which are compounds that mimic the hormone estrogen in the body.
  • Plant-based protein blends – Some plant-based protein powders come in blends, combining multiple protein sources to enhance their nutritional value and amino acid profile. These blends often include pea, brown rice, hemp and other plant proteins to create a well-rounded supplement that accommodates various dietary restrictions and preferences.

INVIGOR8: For When Whey Protein is the Way to Go

Ultimately, your personal dietary preferences will determine your preference for whey protein vs plant protein. Both varieties contain rich nutritional profiles and complete proteins to support muscle growth and overall health.

If you’re feeling like whey is the way to go, choose INVIGOR8. We offer a nutrient-packed grass-fed whey protein powder that packs a serious punch.

The All-In-One Organic Superfoods Powder incorporates various vitamins and minerals to support your overall health and fitness goals. Plus, there are 20 grams of protein per serving to help support muscle building, stave off hunger and reduce body fat. Additionally, if your main fitness goal is to lose weight, check out our weight loss kit, which comes with our superfoods powder, appetite control support, and unflavored collagen peptides, all designed to work in harmony to deliver maximum results.

Explore our delicious protein powder ingredients today to get started.

 

Sources:

  1. Healthline. Whey Protein 101
  2. CHHS. Plant-Based Protein
  3. Very Well Fit. Vegan Protein Powder

 

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

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