Plant Protein vs. Whey Protein

plant protein vs whey protein

Protein plays an important role in your body. You know that it’s incredibly crucial, and if you don’t consume enough of it in your diet, your health can suffer.

Related: Protein Powder: Which is Right for You?

Proteins are the building blocks of every living cell in the body, and it’s used for both functional and structural purposes. Proteins are also essential for weight loss and help to balance out blood sugars.

Is Plant Protein Better Than Whey Protein?

The Best Sources of Protein

When it comes to choosing the right protein powder for you to incorporate into your routine, there’s a lot of information out there that can be misleading. So what’s the difference, and which one is healthier for you? Unlike whey protein, plant protein is perfect for someone looking for a clean protein and a healthy cruelty-free lifestyle.

Why plant protein may be a better choice than whey protein:

  • No animal by-products
  • Nutrient dense
  • Increase muscle thickness
  • Allergy friendly
  • Avoid whey side effects

Related: Whey Protein Dangers: The Dark Side Of Whey Protein


What is The Difference Between Whey Protein and Plant Protein?

Whey is a by-product of the cheese manufacturing process. It’s derived from cow’s milk. The milk is made from two proteins, whey, and casein. One of the many problems that center around whey protein is digestion. Common complaints include nausea, gas, constipation and stomach cramps. This is most likely due to multiple people having issues digesting dairy in general.  

Often, whey’s side effects are linked to digestion. It’s the thing that might make someone consider other options. However, there are a lot of different alternatives to choose from instead of whey protein. Whey protein has been used for decades and is a standard choice for many people when shopping for a workout supplement. But now there are many more alternatives to choose from to reduce digestive issues and fuel your workout.

Unlike whey, plant protein is entirely derived from plants. Typically, foods like legumes, grains, and rice are sources of plant-based protein powder. It can come from a number of sources such as:

  • Pea
  • Hemp
  • Brown rice
  • Sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds
  • Quinoa  

Related: 10 Powerful Health Benefits Of Pea Protein Powder

Many people often choose whey as it’s a complete source of protein. A complete source of protein contains all nine essential amino acids that you need in your body through your diet. Amino acids are usually referred to as the building blocks of protein and are crucial for building muscle.

Plant sources can provide complete sources of protein. Plant sources such as quinoa, hemp, pea, and chia are all complete sources of protein, making them just as convenient as whey protein, without the added side effects that accompany whey protein.

It’s normal for plant protein powders to be a blend of plant sources. When you combine these powerful plant ingredients, it not only produces a complete source of protein but is packed with nutrients, gut-friendly fiber, and muscle-building properties. Plant-based protein powders not only deliver your protein requirement but pack a punch with further nutritional goodness.

Related: Building Muscle: Why Plant Protein is Better than Meat

What are the Benefits of Plant Protein?

different foods for plant protein on wooden table|what are the benefits of plant protein

1. No Animal By-Products

One of the most obvious benefits of plant protein is that it doesn't have animal products.. Whether you’re vegan or just looking to reduce your carbon footprint on the planet, plant-based proteins have become the solution for many of these global problems.

With a growing demand for vegan protein options and concerns surrounding ethics, the environment, rising allergies, and food safety, there are a lot of options when it comes to plant-based protein. The quest for soy-free and dairy-free alternatives is also fueling the growth of the industry, resulting in more access and options in the supermarket.

2. Nutrient Dense

Unlike whey protein, plant protein includes other nutrients that are found in plants like fiber, iron, and antioxidants. You get the same amount of protein that you get from whey protein with the added bonus of other necessary nutrients such as fiber and iron.

For example, a 28-gram serving of brown rice protein powder has about 22 grams of protein, depending on the brand. On top of this, it also contains a good amount of healthy fats to help lower bad cholesterol. It’s a good source of dietary fiber and is naturally hypoallergenic; ideal for almost any type of diet.

Plants are packed with fiber which is an essential part of a healthy diet. It keeps your digestive system running smoothly and helps you to feel fuller for longer. As plant-based protein powders naturally contain fiber, they help you feel fuller for longer as well as keep you regular. This is really important when it comes to both losing and maintaining weight.

Related: 7 Benefits Of A High Fiber Diet

3. Increase Muscle Thickness

man exercising in gym|increase muscle thickness|plantbased protein vs why protein

When comparing pea protein and whey protein, one study found that participants taking pea protein had significant increases in muscle thickness. This was especially beneficial to people just starting out or returning to muscular strengthening.

Plant-protein may actually help you build muscle better than whey protein. That means that plant-based proteins are just as or more effective than whey protein. Therefore, the benefits of plant based protein far outweigh the benefits of whey protein.

4. Allergy-Free Ingredients

Another point to consider is that if you have dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, a plant-based protein is a better option. Although whey protein has been found to be effective at building muscle, a growing number of people suffer from whey allergies or problems digesting whey proteins. The majority of symptoms associated with whey allergies are usually contributed to a lactose intolerance. Symptoms include things like:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Acne

But if you aren’t plant-based or vegan, should you stick with whey or are plant-based proteins inherently healthier for your body? There’s a number of reasons why even non-vegans choose plant-based protein powders over whey.

Related: Why Non-Vegans Choose Sunwarrior’s Plant-Based Protein Powders Over Whey

From living a more holistic lifestyle to reducing or eliminating your animal intake, plant-based protein powder can help you meet your fitness goals without the unnecessary side effects that come from consuming whey protein.


What Are The Side Effects of Whey Protein?

1. Digestive Issues

digestive-issues-from-whey-protein

When you consume protein, your body needs to digest it and absorb it to get the benefits. Seems self-explanatory, but if you take in too much of one macronutrient such as whey, you may overwhelm the capacity of your gastrointestinal tract to process it.

This effect could result in indigestion and digestive problems such as bloating and abdominal pain. Some people have problems digesting whey protein and can experience diarrhea and cramps as well. If you experience digestion issues, or feel constipated when you eat too much whey protein, you may need to consider using a plant-based protein instead.

There are several plant-based protein powders on the market to choose from. With soya, brown rice or pea protein powders to choose from, plant protein powders are easily digestible and a good source of both protein and healthy complex carbohydrates. Always make sure you get the best plant-based protein powder available that’s just right for you.

Protein Powder: Which is Right for You?

2. Lactose Intolerant

lactose-intolerance-from-whey-protein

Lactose intolerance leaves you with symptoms such as gas, bloating and diarrhea after you consume food or drinks that contain lactose. Lactose intolerance is extremely common with up to 75% of the world’s population being affected. Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, you may still have sensitivities to lactose.

Lactose is the main carbohydrate in whey protein. People who are lactose intolerant don’t have enough of the enzyme lactase. Your body needs this enzyme to process lactose.  

If you’re lactose intolerant or have an allergy to cow’s milk then whey protein may cause you digestive issues. Try a plant-based protein powder such as rice or hemp to avoid lactose and dairy. The benefits of rice protein powder include muscle growth, fat burning abilities, and digestibility.

Related: The Benefits of Rice Protein Powder

3. Highly Insulinogenic

whey-protein-is-highly-Insulinogenic

Whey is a highly insulinogenic food. This means that it triggers a large release of insulin after you consume it. This could be a problem over long term use as hyperinsulinemia can lead to insulin resistance. Whey also stimulates the release of gastrointestinal hormones, GIP and GLP-1. Both of these can raise insulin levels.

One study found that compared with a white bread meal, whey causes an increase of postprandial insulin and GIP and GLP-1 responses. Another study found that the addition of whey to meals stimulated insulin release.

If you have diabetes, whey protein may stop you from keeping your sugars under control. Even if you aren’t diabetic, having insulin spikes consistently isn’t good for your body.

Plant-based proteins have not been shown to spike your insulin levels, so they can be a good option to keep your insulin under control.

For some fun recipe ideas, try out these high protein trail mix cookies. Use Sunwarrior’s Warrior Blend vanilla plant-based protein with all organic fermented pea protein. It provides a full amino acid profile with 6g of BCAAs. It also includes goji berry and hemp seed protein.

Related: High Protein Trail Mix Cookies

4. Acne and Skin Outbreaks

acne-skin-breakouts-whey-protein

When trying to get lean and build muscle, it’s natural to include protein powder in your diet and this can often be in the form of whey protein.

However, research suggests that it could trigger acne which which is usually an indication of a microbiome imbalance that can be brought on by dairy allergies.

Related: Eczema & Inflammation: The Gut Skin Connection

One study that observed participants taking whey supplements concluded that consuming whey led to an acne outbreak. This is probably due to the fact that dairy is known to cause acne. Since whey is a dairy product, it makes sense that whey protein causes acne as well.

Milk products, like whey, increases insulin factor growth-1, or IGF-1. The hormone, IGF-1, is believed to support muscle growth, however, it’s also linked to an increase in sebum. This increase in sebum might contribute to acne outbreaks.

Another study supported these findings and found that participants experienced breakouts when they consumed whey. They then went on to find relief from breakouts when they stopped taking whey.

If you find that your skin is constantly broken out and you use whey protein regularly, you may want to switch to a plant-based protein. I actually originally used whey protein shakes and was confused what could be causing my acne.

After cutting out all dairy products including whey protein, my skin became clearer within a month. Eventually, my acne went away entirely.

Watch this video to learn about the health benefits of organic pea and hemp protein with Thomas DeLauer.

Sunwarrior’s Protein Powders

Sunwarrior tried to craft products that they would want to give to their families at home. So, in order to accomplish this goal, Sunwarrior only sources the finest plant-based ingredients. All of our products are Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, and consistently exceed EU, WHO, and FDA safety standards.

We wanted our products to be as safe and close to nature as possible. We are proud to produce products with the highest quality ingredients we could find. We believe that a variety in nutrition is best. That’s why our proteins come from a variety of protein sources rather than just one.

It doesn’t matter what diet you follow; plant protein offers a lot of advantages. Milk, egg, and soy are three of the most common types of food allergies. More and more people need an effective alternative that will push their training and build muscle. Using a product free from animal products is an added bonus.

When it comes to plant-based protein powders, there are so many options to choose from. Protein derived from plants gives you added benefits that you may not have been able to get from whey. With digestive problems and symptoms being such a common complaint of whey protein, a plant-based protein can help take your workout out to the next level, build muscle and make you feel fantastic.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 1, 2019, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.



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