Plant vs. Whey Protein: Which is the Best? 

 8 min read

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Many of us are constantly looking for foods that are high in protein, whether that be tofu tempeh, canned beans, meat, or even wild rice. Despite all these options, however, if you are serious about your physique then protein powders are the way to go

Protein powders are a must have for anyone looking to get into shape and build muscles. This is something everyone agrees on. Which type of protein powder is the best, however, is something that everyone seems to disagree about.

Some people believe that whey protein is the superior supplement, whereas, others argue that plant based protein is preferable. In this article we will compare the two protein sources and try to come to a conclusion about which one is better for you.

What are the different kinds of plant protein?

Before we can compare the two, we must first gather a little background information about plant based protein sources.

These supplements are created by processing various seeds, nuts, and other natural plant based foods. You can find plant protein powders made of a plethora of different ingredients. Some of the popular sources of plant proteins include hemp seeds, chia seeds, and soy.

Chia seeds and hemp seeds are particularly popular as these are dense sources of protein with a higher number of grams of protein per cup.

Moreover, if the natural nutty flavor of these supplements is not to your liking then you can even find flavored versions such as peanut butter, vanilla, and chocolate.

Plant based protein is exceptionally helpful for those people who are on a vegan diet. As, through these supplements, their protein needs can be met without the need of any meat or animal products. After all, these supplements can contain up to 20 grams of protein in a single serving.

Can you build muscle with plant protein?

Although plant based proteins can be used to meet your body's nutritional needs, you may wonder, can they help you build muscle too?

To answer this question we first need to understand how the process of muscle growth works.

One thing to note, however, is that not all proteins are created equal. There are nine amino acids that the body uses as base components in muscle growth. Your protein source needs to be balanced between all nine of these.

When it comes to plant supplements, you will usually find a blend of different high quality protein sources in any brand of plant based protein powder. This helps ensure that your body receives all the amino acids it needs in a balanced amount.

Thus, if you are exercising rigorously and getting complete proteins from a protein powder, you will be able to build muscles even on plant based sources without any issue.

However, with this in mind, how does plant based protein powder compare with whey protein?

Plant based protein vs whey?

The first thing to note is that whey is an animal protein and is derived from the leftover liquid after milk has been turned into cheese. Moreover, in addition to containing animal proteins, whey tends to also contain saturated fats, and artificial flavor additives

Just like plant based sources of protein, whey also has a high protein content, making it suitable for athletes and bodybuilders. In fact some brands can even have a protein content of up to 24 grams per serving. Moreover, because whey comes from an animal based source of protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids thus forming a complete protein.

Whey can be mixed with other foods to create fortified foods or simply consumed as a protein shake before or after workouts. However, if you are on a vegan or plant based diet then whey might not be suitable as it is an animal based protein source. Moreover, because of the artificial flavors and saturated fat, whey is not a good choice for people on an organic diet or for those suffering from heart issues.

Plant based protein vs whey?

Now that we know about both types of protein, a question arises. Which is the right one for you?

Essential amino acids

As we have seen, whey protein has all nine essential proteins that are needed for healthy muscle growth to take place. Moreover, it contains a particularly high amount of leucine which is the most important amino acid for muscle growth.

In comparison, proteins from plants are rarely by themselves a complete protein. Instead multiple different sources of plant based protein need to be blended to create complete and balanced protein. Some of these powders, however, like soy and quinoa do have complete protein.

Thus, both protein sources can provide all the essential amino acids. However, it is worth considering that whey will have a more negative impact on your health due to the additional saturated fat and artificial flavors.


Another important factor to consider before choosing your sources of protein is the relative ease or difficulty with which each of the two types of proteins can be digested and absorbed by your body.

Generally speaking, it is common for stomach irritation and other gastric problems to effect you if you consume whey protein. These problems are particularly exacerbated by the prescience of artificial additives in whey. Moreover, if you are partially or completely lactose intolerant then whey has the potential of causing serious stomach and bowel upsets. Thus it is not a very easy form of protein to digest.

In comparison, protein supplements made from plants are significantly easier on the body to digest. This is especially true for people who are lactose intolerant as these sources will pose no issue to their health. Thus they can meet their protein intake requirement from sources of plant based protein.

Moreover, some of these supplements also contain additional enzymes within the powder. When consumed, these enzymes will help your body break down the proteins. Thus greatly improving digestion.

Hence plant protein supplements are easy for digestion whereas whey protein can cause bowel irritation and other gastric problems.

Calorie Content

Generally a lower calorie content is preferred as foods that are high in calories can cause fat gain which, in turn, can cause health problems like heart disease and increased blood pressure.

In this regard, plant supplements have very few calories as they are mostly made up of protein fiber. Thus they are unlikely to increase your weight or your risk of heart disease.

On the other hand, however, whey protein contains significantly more calories. This high calorie density is because whey is an animal protein and thus contains fats and other macronutrients within the powder as well. One thing to consider though is that whey has more grams of protein per cup thus to get the same quantity of protein you will have to consume more plant sources of protein.

Moreover, it's also important to consider the fact that whey is digested and absorbed by the body relatively quickly, making you feel hungry again sooner. In comparison sources of plant based protein take longer to digest and hence can leave you feeling fulfilled for more time.

Thus it can be noted that whey protein contains a lot more extra calories, whereas plant proteins are more nutrient-dense and have a better nutritional make-up overall.


One aspect of importance to many people is how their protein foods taste. Although no one expects these supplements to taste particularly good, the taste is still a consideration.

In this regard, plant based sources have a nutty taste to them. This taste in not too displeasing to most people, however, if you prefer something else, you can also find flavored varieties. These can include timeless classics such as chocolate and vanilla, as well as more recent inventions like berry and peanut butter.

On the other hand, whey has a less appetizing natural flavor that can be difficult to tolerate. Due to this unpalatable flavor most whey has artificial flavorings added. Although these flavorings make whey taste better, they ultimately make it unhealthy for most people to consume.

Hence, plant proteins are the better bet as these can be taken in their natural form, free of additives, and still taste good. In comparison, if you want to go for whey you will have to use artificial flavors to make it palatable.

Is plant based protein better for you?

After taking these factors into consideration, the question becomes, which of the two types is better?

In terms of protein, both whey and plant options can provide sufficient quantities. Thus the decision between the two needs to be made with the help of other factors.

One key fact to consider is that whey is not a good option if you are lactose intolerant. Moreover, because whey is an animal protein, it is also more damaging to the environment. This is because livestock needs to be farmed for whey and then many steps of artificial processes need to be carried out.

In comparison, one of the best features of sources of plant based foods is that they contain many other nutrients such as B vitamins and omega fats. Moreover, these are also better for health as they contain fewer calories than the alternative. These supplements can also work for people on a vegan diet or those who are practicing plant based eating.

Also, the production of plant protein does not involve factory farming of livestock or industrial processing. It is a more environmentally friendly and natural product. Whereas most whey products contain unnatural additives such as sweeteners and flavorings.

Thus, in conclusion, plant based protein supplements are the better option for more people. Not only are they healthier for you, but they're the healthier choice for the environment as well!

Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.