Plant vs Whey? Which is better?


When it comes to eating healthy, there’s theory and there’s practice. We know that our bodies need carbs, fats and protein to function. Of these, protein gets a lot of attention – for all the good reasons (more on that here). So it’s not surprising that many people, the world over, are adding protein supplements to their diets for all kinds of reasons – general good health, weight loss, muscle performance, a healthy metabolism and more.

Protein powders are among the most common nutrition supplements available on the market today. These powders are often derived from whey (a byproduct of milk) or different plants (the most common being soy, hemp, pea and rice). But how different are the two types of protein?

Whey: the what, the how and the why

If you remember your nursery rhymes, you’ll recall that Little Miss Muffet was eating curds and Whey when the spider came along to scare her off. The rhyme also tells you where Whey comes from – milk. Specifically, whey is a byproduct of cheese making.
Whey powder is made by removing the carbs, fats and other components and then spray-drying just the protein. Because it is made from milk, whey powder often has lactose – which is not good news for those who are lactose intolerant.

Plant-based protein: the lowdown

Plant-based protein is derived from different sources – brown rice, soy, pea and hemp. Some manufacturers use just one plant source, while others combine more than one source. And since it is made entirely from plants, it does not have the lactose – which is good news for the aforementioned lactose-intolerant folk.

Whey protein vs plant protein: a comparison

Whey protein has been around longer and is generally believed to be superior to plant-based protein because it is an animal protein (and animal protein is a complete protein – more on that here). But while not all plant proteins are created equal, this generally isn’t a problem if the protein combines several sources of plant protein.

In fact, there are now several studies that show that there is no significant difference between the two types of protein in terms of its effect on the body. Plant-based protein is just as effective as whey in promoting strength, endurance and muscle growth/toning. Plant-based protein does have the edge over whey for those who are sensitive to lactose, and they are way more earth-friendly too.

The question: which one do you choose?

Our vote is for a plant-based protein for a few reasons. First, they are easier to digest. Think about it – your body digests veggies easier than it digests cheese and dairy. Factor in the bloating and discomfort that many people experience with dairy, and you have a clear winner. Second, they’re packed with nutrients. Plant-based proteins are derived from legumes and whole grains, which are nutrient-dense foods – so you get protein punch and the added nutrients. Finally, plant proteins are better for the environment than whey because whey is derived from milk, and processing required to refine and dry whey has a hefty carbon footprint.

If you’re looking for a good protein powder to add to your diet, there are more than a few plant-based offerings, such as Origin Nutrition available in the market. Origin brings a ‘clean please’ philosophy to the table, with clean ingredients and careful preparation so you get the protein that you need without worrying about additives, toxins or GMOs. The website also offers a protein calculator and recipes to help you on your journey towards better health. Just the fact that you’re here, reading this article is a great start!