Whey or Plant Based Protein? Which One is Better?

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Whey or Plant Based Protein? Which One is Better?

Reading time - 8 mins

What Is Protein

Protein is one of the three macronutrients alongside carbohydrates and fats. Protein is made up of smaller molecules called amino acids, which are the building blocks of life as they play many vital roles in the body.

The main role of protein is to build and repair muscles, tendons, skin, and organs. They also form enzymes, neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine, and hormones and assist with many other vital functions.

Amazingly, we can make some of these amino acids in the body. However, some of these amino acids need to be consumed through food, referred to as essential amino acids. The 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Three of these amino acids are referred to as branched amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs help to build lean muscle, reduce exercise-induced muscle fatigue, reduce muscle soreness and prevent muscle wasting. So what is the best way to ensure you consume all essential and branched-chain amino acids?

Complete and Incomplete Sources of Protein

Protein offers all the essential amino acids (EAA) and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). However, there are two protein sources: complete and incomplete.

Complete protein sources contain all the 9 EAAs and BCAAs, including all animal-based protein sources such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products. Some non-meat complete sources of protein include soy products, quinoa and amaranth.

Incomplete protein sources provide some essential amino acids but not all of the 9 essential amino acids. Therefore, combining 2 or more incomplete protein sources will provide all EAAs. Incomplete protein sources include nuts, nut spreads, legumes, beans, lentils, wheat, rice, oats, and buckwheat.

How Much Protein Do You Need a Day?

Hitting your protein goals can be confusing. The recommended daily protein intake is around 0.8 grams per kilo of body weight to avoid deficiency. Depending on your activity level and fitness goals, you can also increase your intake to over 2 grams per kilogram of body weight a day.

Do not stress if you think you are not consuming enough protein in your diet, as this can be pretty challenging. Adding a high-quality protein powder into your diet can be a fun and delicious way to ensure you hit your protein intake goals.

So how do you decide which protein powder to use? Let’s look at the two most common protein powders; plant-based and whey protein powders.

What Are Plant-Based Protein Powders?

Can you believe we can get protein powder from plants? How is that possible?

Protein is extracted from various vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. The protein is extracted by breaking the plant down and removing the starches and fibres to make a powder. Two or more different plant-based protein powders mixed are needed to provide a complete protein (all essential amino acids are available), or some plant-based proteins will add essential amino acids to create a richer amino acid profile.

Anyone can enjoy plant-protein powders! Plant-protein powders are the go-to for anyone following a plant-based diet or vegan, whether you are lactose intolerant or are allergic to dairy products. Plant protein powders can also be easy on the digestive system, especially if you have any issues. This is possible due to the addition of digestive enzymes into some formulas.


What Are Whey Protein Powders?

Whey protein is made from the liquid left over after milk is processed into yoghurt or cheese. This liquid is high in fast-digesting protein and is then processed into a powder.

What are the main differences between whey protein powders?

The main difference between a whey protein concentrate (WPC) and a whey protein isolate (WPI) is the processing and filtration level, which alters the levels of protein, carbohydrates and fats present. They both are a complete source of protein and rich in essential amino acids and BCAAs, making them both helpful for lean muscle growth.

WPC is filtered, contains around 80% of protein and small levels of fats and carbohydrates, and digests slower than a WPI.

WPI is filtered for a longer time and contains around 90% of protein and lower levels of fats, carbohydrates, and virtually no lactose compared with a WPC


When Is the Best Time to Have Protein?

You can have protein any time you feel the need for a supplement. Ideally, protein powder is best taken before or after your workout. This helps to replenish your body with all the nutrients needed for recovery. Protein powders are also a great way to be enjoyed as part of your fave breakfast smoothie or a delicious snack in between meals.

The Main Takeaway

Deciding on a protein powder will be based on whether you follow a plant-based diet or not and your preference for taste and texture. Choose brands and supplemetns that are high-quality, packed full of protein, and that contains all essential amino acids and BCAAs to help achieve your health goals.

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