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Vegan protein vs whey protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient involved in key biological processes like the secretion of hormones and enzymes, muscle growth, weight management, and tissue repair.

One way of keeping our protein intake high is by following a protein-rich diet. This approach can work fairly well if your goal is to maintain a good protein profile, but if your needs are more specific, you'll have to get creative. For instance, if you want to improve your protein intake for the sake of weight management or to boost muscle growth, improving your diet alone won't cut it. You'll need to add protein powders for better and faster results.

Protein powders are food supplements that increase protein levels significantly. They used to be popular among track athletes and fitness enthusiasts alone, but today they are used by everyone thanks to the continued publicity of the various health benefits they deliver.

So, which protein powder should you use? Well, if you are in the market looking for protein powders, you will have two main options to choose from, vegan or whey protein. The best way to know which one is right for you is by understanding the key differences between them.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is sourced from animal products, the liquid part of milk left behind during the production of cheese. It is a complete protein since it contains all the nine essential amino acids. But that alone doesn’t make it better than vegan proteins.

It's a common misconception that while whey protein can give you all the essential amino acids in a single scoop, vegan proteins cannot do the same. Sure, some vegan proteins can miss one or more essential amino acids, but if you want to get all nine, you can easily do so by going for a soy protein or a blend of several vegan proteins.

Whey proteins are available in two quality options, a concentrate that is 30 to 90% pure or an isolate that is 90 to 95% pure. Whey protein concentrate contains more lactose than the Isolate. In any case, you are still getting some lactose, which can be an issue for vegans and lactose intolerant individuals.

Generally, whey proteins go through a lot of processing. They also have a terrible taste, and that's why they're usually sweetened with flavors.

What Is Vegan Protein?

Vegan or plant protein is derived from plant sources such as pea, hemp, chia, soy, rice, etc. These proteins are not just ideal for vegan and dairy-free users but for everyone else who is concerned about environmental sustainability. They are also ideal for lactose intolerant individuals looking to enjoy the vast benefits of plant-based proteins without any adverse reactions.

All vegan proteins are not equal, though. Their amino acid profile varies depending on where the protein powder is derived from. For instance, pea proteins extracted from yellow split peas are rich in leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are essential for muscle growth. It is, however, low in methionine. Meanwhile, Soy protein is a complete vegan protein that contains all nine essential amino acids.

Compared to whey protein, vegan proteins taste way better without the addition of any flavors.

Vegan Protein Vs Whey Protein: Digestion

Vegan proteins are easier to digest than whey protein. They are dairy-free and contain digestive enzymes that support efficient digestion with a significantly lower risk of adverse effects. Plant-based proteins can only be problematic if you have a specific allergy to the plant used, e.g., individuals with soy allergies should avoid soy proteins. The good news here is that there are different vegan plants, so you can always get something that's perfect for you.

Whey proteins, on the other hand, can be very problematic. If your body struggles with digesting dairy or lactose products, you’ll have to avoid these protein powders lest you end up with adverse effects like bloating, gas, stomach aches and discomfort, and fatigue.

Vegan Protein Vs Whey Protein: Which is best for Muscle Growth?

Whey proteins are the more popular option for building muscles because they contain all three branched chain amino acids (BCAA) required for efficient muscle growth.

Some vegan proteins are not complete amino acid sources, so they may lack some of the critical BCAAs required to turn on muscle protein synthesis. The exception here is soy proteins and some pea proteins like the pea protein isolate. You can also mix various plant proteins to get a complete protein that will aid your muscle-building efforts. Some examples here are brown rice + pea proteins or pea proteins + hemp or quinoa.

For the best muscle growth results, vegan protein powders have to be supported with the right diet and workout routine. 

In summary, both vegan and whey proteins can support muscle growth, repair, and recovery. The latter is more popular mostly because people do not fully understand that there are different types of vegan proteins, some of which are just as effective for building muscles. And unlike whey proteins, the vegan alternative is much gentler to your digestive system, and it also delivers additional nutrients that promote other body functions.

Vegan Protein Vs Whey Protein: Environment

We honestly cannot ignore the impact our decisions have on the environment. Therefore, we must mention that the dairy industry harms our environment, which makes whey proteins unsustainable.

Vegan proteins are not just sustainable, but they also encourage organic farming. They are the clear winner here.

So, Should You Use Vegan or Whey Protein?

Both vegan and whey proteins are beneficial. That much is clear. However, for the whey proteins, the benefits are hugely limited to muscle growth. Another drawback of this protein powder is that it is not friendly to lactose-intolerant individuals. Even the Whey Protein Isolate, which has little lactose, can still trigger some health issues.

On the other hand, vegan proteins can support your muscle-building efforts and deliver additional benefits at the same time since they are also rich in fibers, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Moreover, if you are using some vegan proteins for weight management, their fiber-rich profile will help you feel full for longer than is the case with whey proteins. Plant-based proteins are also kind to the environment, and that has to mean something.

Check out our vegan protein with digestive enzymes here.