Head to your local supplement store and you might just feel overwhelmed by all the choices (so many choices) of proteins. This one tastes like cookies and cream and it’ll give you superpowers; that one over there tastes like chocolate and will help you lose weight immediately; and the one way, way over there ... well ... we have no idea what the hell it does, but, yay, it tastes like coffee.
But—despite what those clever (and some not-so-clever) marketers may say—not all proteins are created equal. So today we’re on a mission to demystify two popular protein powder types: plant-based vs. whey.
What are they? Why are they important? And which type should you choose? Read on!
What is whey protein?
Whey protein is considered an animal protein since it comes from milk (remember little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey? Same thing!).
Since whey is dairy-based and contains lactose, some people may find it harder to digest.
The cool thing about whey protein is it’s a complete protein, which just means it’s chock full of all the amino acids you need, and it can help you burn fat and gain both strength and muscle.
One serving of whey protein (a scoop of powder) is pretty high in protein (20 to 30-plus grams); but since whey comes from a cow, this particular type of protein does lack additional vitamins and nutrients you may get from other types of protein like plant-based proteins.
What is plant-based protein?
Plant-based protein comes from—you guessed it—plants! And with plant-based proteins you’re getting those plant-based vitamins and minerals, too. This protein type also contains beaucoup fiber and digestive enzymes, so they’re usually easier on your gut than, say, whey.
A single serving (or scoop) of plant protein powder typically contains 12 to 20 protein grams, which is lower than whey’s protein content. Most plant-based proteins only have one source of protein (i.e., peas or soy), so you’ll want to combine other sources of plant-based protein just to make sure you get all the nutrients you need.
Examples of these proteins include:
Legumes, like peanuts, chickpeas and lentils
Grains like quinoa
Seeds (chia and hemp are two good ones)
Veggies, like kale and broccoli
What type of protein powder is the best for me?
So there are a few considerations: If you’re looking to build muscle and help your muscles recover after a particularly grueling workout, whey protein is an excellent choice since it contains those nine amino acids. However, as discussed before, if you’re sensitive to lactose, whey protein may cause cramping, bloating, and gas. In that case, a plant-based protein is a safer bet. Plant-based powders also are often lower in calories and fat, a consideration if you’re trying to lose weight.
Some of the protein powder brands and flavors we love include:
Primal Kitchen Whey Protein Primal Fuel - Flavors include Chocolate Coconut and Vanilla Coconut.
Wild Whey Grass-Fed Whey Protein - Skip all the added flavors for something a little more natural that tastes great with water and even better in a smoothie, shake, or coffee.
Aloha Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder - Flavors include Banana, Mixed Berry, Chocolate, and Vanilla.
Kos Nature-Powered Plant Protein - Flavors include Chocolate and Vanilla.
Both whey and plant-based proteins are good for your overall health and fitness goals, though. So if gut issues aren’t an issue, ultimately you can make the decision based on factors important to you—price, taste, results, availability.