PLANT VS. WHEY PROTEIN: WHICH IS RIGHT FOR ME?Dr. Wellness
You try to hit your daily protein goal, but it can be confusing to choose between countless options and sources to find the right ones for you. We’re here to help demystify plant-based proteins and whey protein, making it easier to find what works best in your diet.
WHICH IS THE BEST | PLANT OR WHEY
There is a general belief that animal-based proteins are superior to plant-based proteins; in reality, neither is better than the other – the best choice is the one that works with your dietary goals and needs. Both animal and plant-based proteins can be great options for all athletes of every demographic and sport.
PLANT PROTEIN | Plant proteins are ideal for vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians. It was once believed that plant-based proteins could not help to support muscle. Now, we know that you can get all the essential amino acids from a plant-based diet as long you have a sufficient, balanced, and varied diet. Plant protein can help support anyone who wants to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
WHEY PROTEIN | Whey protein fits into many dietary approaches, including lacto-vegetarians and flexitarians. Whey protein is an excellent, high-quality option to add more protein throughout your day – it’s also a reliable protein to consume before activity as it is classified as quick digesting (compared to casein) and absorbing, meaning the amino acids generally peak in the bloodstream about one hour after consumption. Furthermore, whey is naturally high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), especially leucine – making it a great protein choice to help support muscle recovery.
DIETARY SOURCES | FOOD FIRST
PLANT PROTEIN | There are several incredible options to choose from to add more plant to your diet. Consider plant proteins such as black beans, chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, pinto beans, brown rice, quinoa, oats, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, tofu, and tempeh.
WHEY PROTEIN | Whey is naturally found within dairy foods as it is derived from cow’s milk. Whey protein can be found in milk, yogurt, kefir, and soft cheeses, such as ricotta and cottage cheese.
NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS | FROM FOOD
PLANT PROTEIN | Plant proteins are found in legumes (pulses), whole grains, nuts, and seeds. They can enhance your diet by enhancing select nutrients including potassium, dietary fiber, folate, and protein. Legumes also can help increase iron and zinc, and grains can add several B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium.
WHEY PROTEIN | Whey protein may be found in dairy foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, and desserts (like ice cream!). Depending on the source, adding dairy to your diet can potentially increase your intake of nutrients including calcium, phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, potassium, zinc, choline, magnesium, selenium, and protein.
LEVEL OF PROTEIN | FROM FOOD
PLANT PROTEIN | Plant proteins contain varying amounts of protein depending on the source. Consume a variety of plant-based foods from beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy to reap all the benefits. A cup of soy milk contains about 8 grams of protein, one ounce of almonds contains about 6 grams of protein, and half a cup of cooked quinoa contains about 5 grams of protein.
WHEY PROTEIN | Whey is a milk protein. A glass of fluid milk is made up of about 5% carbohydrate, 4% fat, and 3% protein. Of that protein, about 20% is whey protein. Whey can be found in different amounts among dairy foods; for example, a cup of cow’s milk contains about 8 grams of protein, a cup of Greek yogurt contains about 17 grams of protein, and one cup of cottage cheese contains about 25 grams of protein.
QUALITY | PLANT VS WHEY
PLANT PROTEIN | Plant is classified as an incomplete protein, meaning that it is low or lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids. Most single-source plant proteins such as peas and rice are considered incomplete. Fortunately, you can combine incomplete proteins to create a complete protein, known as complementary proteins or protein pairing. It’s encouraged to consume a variety of dietary sources throughout the day to fully meet protein needs. One exception are soy proteins, which are considered complete.
WHEY PROTEIN | Whey is classified as a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body, therefore must be obtained from dietary sources. In addition to whey’s amino acid profile, it’s also more readily digested when compared to plant-based protein sources. This generally holds true for animal-based sources of protein when compared to plant-based dietary sources.
SUPPLEMENTS | PLANT VS WHEY
PLANT PROTEIN | Plant protein supplements are generally offered as single-source proteins, which can leave them as incomplete proteins. Aside from soy protein supplements, other single source protein products (pea, chia, hemp, rice) alone do not help to support muscle recovery. Supplements with a variety of plant-based proteins can be formulated to contain a complete amino acids profile. Check the label to understand if a plant protein supplement is a complete protein.
WHEY PROTEIN | Whey protein supplements are complete proteins, which contain all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. Whey protein is a high-quality protein that can help build and maintain muscle. Whey also has naturally occurring BCAAs to help support endurance and muscle recovery.
OPTIMUM NUTRITION | PLANT AND WHEY
PLANT PROTEIN | Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant is a great way to add more plant-based proteins into your diet without having to sacrifice taste. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant contains 24 grams of protein from three powerful sources (pea, rice, and fava bean). This multisource of plant-based proteins was combined to create a complete amino acids profile of all the essential amino acids. Moreover, this vegan product is enriched with nutrients of concern for vegetarians including iron and vitamin B12.
WHEY PROTEIN | Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein is the world’s #1 selling whey protein powder in the world, having fueled over 2 billion workout recoveries worldwide, and is the most awarded* and most reviewed whey protein powder on the world**.
PLANT AND WHEY PROTEIN |
Selecting proteins doesn’t necessarily have to be an either/or mentality. The more variety the better to help diversify your nutritional intake. Find ways to incorporate different sources, including those from both plant and animal-based proteins. Both plant protein and whey protein can add dietary balance. You can secure all the essential amino acids from a plant-based dietary approach if you have a sufficient, balanced, and varied diet. The best option is whichever works best for your dietary specifications and goals.
*Based on Bodybuilding.com “Protein of the Year” awards 2005-2018.
**Based on consumer reviews from Amazon, GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Bodybuilding.com, Flipkart, AminoZ, Tmall – April 2023.