Q & A - Plant Protein VS Whey Protein

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The Question

'Hey guys, just wondering if it's better to have whey or plant based protein powder?'

Protein Powder

A great question and one I've been dying to sink my teeth into! The first thing to understand and something I really want to drill in to you guys is that not everyone actually needs protein powder at all!

I may sound like a broken record but we really want to emphasize the importance of getting our nutrients, and in this situation, our protein, in from whole food sources (chicken, beef, fish, eggs etc.) Always, always aim to do this every day! 

With that said, its honestly a lot easier said than done to prepare and eat whole food meals all day, 7 days a week. We all work, have uni commitments, family life, some of us travel etc. so being able to not only prepare a whole food meal but to then find the time to sit down and eat it each day, does become an issue.

That's where protein powder supplements come into play. For those people who know they struggle to do the above each day, protein powders act as a safety net for you to fall back on in the situation you're not able to sit down and eat an actual meal. You can whip your shake out, fill it up with water, quickly drink it then continue on with your busy day whilst still feeding your body a hit of quality nutrients. 

With that said, let's get into the debate of plant protein vs whey protein!!

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Plant Based Protein Powder - Pros

Let's first discuss some of the benefits of taking a plant based protein powder.

The first and most obvious pro of plant based protein powders is the fact no animals are part of the process / production (none are harmed, none are slaughtered) with all protein sources being derived from plants. Obviously this caters for vegans and those with strong ethical morals about the use of animals within foods. 

The other major benefit of plant based protein powders is that it caters for people who have issues with digestion, in particular dairy and lactose. If you're the sort of person that every time you use a whey based protein you get stomach issues, GI problems, it just doesn't sit well with you etc. and you're looking to move away from a dairy based protein, then a plant based protein will definitely help and solve these issues. There's no dairy or lactose within these plant protein powders. 

You won't get any stomach discomfort, you won't feel bloated, there will be no GI stress etc. This is the main reason as to why people opt to use plant based protein powders with many of us not being able to digest and comfortably handle dairy / lactose.

Plant Based Protein Powder - Cons

Definitely the most noticeable and for those who have tried plant based protein powder can agree that a major con of these proteins is the taste and the consistency. They simply aren't as pleasant as a whey based protein powder. As the market for plant proteins grows however, we are seeing a significant improvement in the taste since more and more people are wanting to use them. 

With that said, in my personal opinion, if you were to take the absolute best tasting plant based protein powder on the market today and put it up against a really nice tasting whey protein, it simply doesn't compare! 

One thing you're always going to have with plant based protein powders also is their grainy, gritty, earthy consistency that you just don't get with whey proteins. Whey proteins have a smooth, creamy, milkshake consistency which in my eyes is a lot more enjoyable to drink than the grainy plant proteins.

Plant Based Protein Powder - Incomplete sources of protein

Another major con of plant based protein powders that isn't really talked about or commonly known, is the fact that plant based proteins for the most part, are incomplete sources of protein. What does this mean?

The whole reason for us to consume a peptide-bound protein source (whether it comes from protein powder or whole food sources) is to get essential amino acids, to get these building blocks that allow our body to repair and rebuild tissue. 

When we look at plant based protein powders and the naturally occurring peptide bound essential amino acids that naturally occur in these plant based sources, most of them are missing 4 main essential amino acids. They're missing lysine, tryptophan, methionine and phenylalanine. These essential amino acids don't occur naturally in plants and plant based protein sources.

They do occur naturally however, in every other protein source like whey, beef, chicken, eggs hence why we refer to these protein sources as 'complete' because they all have a full spectrum, a full range of essential amino acids that our bodies require to rebuild and re-heal tissue.

So basically when you go from an animal based protein powder like whey to a plant based protein powder, you're going to be missing out on these 4 essential amino acids. If you have no choice but to take a plant protein because of your dairy issues or the fact you're a vegan, then we strongly suggest you look into supplementing with those 4 essential amino acids to ensure your're getting a sufficient amount of them to allow your body to do what it needs to do with the protein (rebuild and re-heal tissue).

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Whey Protein - Variety

Besides having a creamy consistency, tasting far superior and being a complete source of protein, whey protein powders also come in a number of different varieties and types to really cater for each individual's specific needs and purpose.

- Protein blends (blend of fast, medium & slow digesting sources)
- WPI's (an extremely fast absorbing source of whey protein)
- Hydrolysed WPI (is WPI that's already partially digested and broken down further)
- Casein (a slow digesting source of protein)
- Whey protein concentrate (is the most commonly used source and basis for post whey protein powders)

By having such variety, consumers can pick and choose specific options that really cater for what they're trying to achieve. For example, if you're someone who simply wants to supplement with a protein shake immediately post workout, a WPI or Hydrolysed WPI would be perfect to ensure a rapid release of nutrients to your muscles. You really do have the option to narrow down a particular type of whey protein to match you and your needs.

The verdict

It's quite evident that in our opinion, we much prefer whey based protein powders over plant based protein powders. If you don't have any issues with dairy / lactose and aren't a vegan than we highly recommend you use a whey based protein. There is really no reason for you to be using a plant-based protein at all.

As mentioned, whey proteins tastes superior, they have a much better creamy, enjoyable consistency, they're not missing any essential amino acids and you have plenty of variety to select specific types for your goals.

On the other hand, those who simply have no choice because of your dairy / lactose issues, veganism etc., then these are the ones who should have plant based protein powder tubs in their pantry. 

*Tip* Many WPI (whey protein isolate) and hydrolysed WPI proteins contain very little traces of lactose! If you struggle with dairy, we suggest you first try a WPI first. You may find certain WPI's sit really well in your stomach and you have no stomach issues at all. If you still have stomach discomfort however, then a plant based protein is for you!

We hope that gives you some insight into whey protein vs plant proteins and how in our opinion, whey protein reigns supreme over the plant based proteins!

If you have a question you'd like answered, please contact us and we will do our best to answer as openly possible

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