Protein is a popular dietary supplement for strength and fitness training. Not all protein powders are the same, though. Two common sources of proteins come from whey and plants. But, when it comes to your workout diet, do you have to choose between whey protein vs plant protein? Read below to learn about the differences between whey protein and plant protein — and how they may help enhance your workouts.
The Importance Of Protein
Dietary protein is crucial for your overall health. Regardless of fitness goals, all adults require a certain amount of protein in their diet. Protein helps support everything from muscle mass to the immune system.1,2
The Role Of Protein In Exercise
When you supplement your daily protein intake with protein powder, it may help support your fitness goals. Studies show that dietary protein supplementation may help support muscle strength and muscle size after prolonged exercise for adults.3
Lifting weights or working out tears and breaks down muscle. This is what causes new muscles to grow and develop. Protein in your diet works to help repair, maintain, and grow the impacted muscle. As such, added protein from whey or plants may help encourage muscle recovery.4
Combining exercise with increased protein intake may offer other potential fitness benefits, such as:
- Greater strength and muscle development5
- Muscle preservation6
- Lean body mass support7
- Note: Protein supplementation supports muscle growth only when you perform strength training and exercise.8
Whey Protein Vs Plant Protein: Which One Is Better?
Protein can come from plants and animals. Two of the most popular proteins to assist with exercise are whey and plant proteins. These two different sources of proteins share a lot in common, but they also have some differences. It’s important to consider the differences between whey protein and plant protein before choosing a protein powder for your next day at the gym.
What’s The Difference?
The major difference between plant and whey protein comes down to the base ingredients. Whey is a byproduct of milk, which technically makes it an animal product. Plant protein, on the other hand, comes from various plant-based sources, such as pea protein and hemp protein.9
Each type of protein powder offers a dependable source of protein. However, there are some considerations listed below that may help you choose the right one.
Flavor is a common consideration when choosing a protein powder. Either supplement may taste unfamiliar and require an adjustment period. Fortunately, both protein powders are also very versatile. You can easily adjust the flavor by adding them into a smoothie or blended drink. This allows you to adjust the flavor and sneak in some additional healthy ingredients.
Different Nutritional Content
Plant protein powders tend to offer more than protein. They often have essential vitamins, nutrients, fatty acids, and antioxidants from different types of plants.10
If you want a super shot of straight protein, whey protein isolate is a great choice. You’ll get a lot of essential amino acids without a lot of fat or cholesterol. This singular ingredient makes whey protein an efficient source for muscle growth.11
Some people may struggle to digest whey protein because it is a milk byproduct. A plant-based protein powder might help support healthy digestion for those sensitive to dairy.12,13
Whey protein is digested faster — so it reaches the bloodstream more rapidly. This quick digestion may support a more rapid muscle recovery.14
Are They Both Complete Proteins?
Whey protein is a complete protein. This means it has all the essential amino acids required for muscle development and recovery built-in. Plants are not complete proteins, as they often lack one of the amino acids. However, a blend of plant proteins can typically “complete” the protein by providing all essential amino acids. As such, you can get complete protein from either supplement source.15
Plant-Based Protein Powder
While plant-based protein is often dismissed as having less protein, this is not always the case. Rice and pea protein are both excellent sources of protein. They have even been shown to help support muscle growth much the same as whey protein.16
Plant-Based Protein – Important Benefits And Considerations
Plant-based powders can be a great choice for anyone who is vegan, lactose intolerant, or isn’t keen on whey protein’s flavor. Unlike whey, though, individual plants are not a complete protein source. This means they don’t have all the essential amino acids required by your body to rebuild muscle on their own.
But, having a variety of plant protein sources in your diet may help ensure that you’re getting all of the essential amino acids you need. Typically, this is achieved through a well balanced plant protein powder and from eating plenty of fresh veggies and fruits.17
Can You Grow Muscle With Plant Protein?
Yes, you can. In order to do so, experts suggest you choose a plant-based protein powder with a mixture of plant proteins.This will increase the likelihood that you are consuming all the essential amino acids you need. If you choose a single ingredient powder, try to fill the gaps with a healthy variety of foods.18
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein supplements are a go-to for some people looking for muscle gains. The main benefits of whey protein are that it is a complete protein and it digests rapidly. The complete amino acid profile means it doesn’t need any other ingredients in order to activate.19
Whey Protein: Important Potential Benefits And Considerations
Whey protein is a complete protein. It has all nine of the essential amino acids, which makes it similar to the natural proteins in the body. This makes it a fast and reliable source for muscle building and recovery.20
Selecting The Right Protein Powder
As you can see, there are some differences between whey protein and plant protein. But, studies found that whey and plant proteins both enhanced muscle gains. Your choice comes largely down to flavor, your fitness goals, and digestive considerations.21
That’s why Tony Horton likes to integrate both whey and plant protein into his fitness diet. Each offers specific health benefits, and the variety makes for a more holistic fitness routine.
How To Use Protein Powder
Keep in mind that protein powder is designed to help you meet your daily protein needs. Use it as part of a balanced, healthy diet. You can add it to all sorts of things, like smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes, and homemade energy bars. It’s a great way to give meals light on protein that little extra boost to help support your fitness.22
It’s typically recommended that you consume your protein within about 60 minutes after your workout. This is when your muscles tend to be most receptive to the protein for repair and growth.23
Whey Protein Vs Plant Protein: No Wrong Choices
Supplemental protein powders may help you support your muscles after a workout. The most common two protein powders come from whey and plant sources. Research suggests they may both help aid in building muscle mass, so there is no real wrong choice.
At the end of the day, it largely comes down to personal preference. Tony Horton integrates both supplements into a well-balanced diet of healthy, wholesome foods.24
Regardless of what you choose, the most important factor is always fitness. Remain consistent at the gym, and the results will follow.