Plant-Based Protein vs. Whey: Which is Better?

plant-based protein vs whey

Protein powders are used by health and fitness enthusiasts everywhere to supplement a healthy diet with a reliable, steady supply of proteins.  There are two major types of protein powder to choose from: plant-based protein vs. whey protein powders. But which is better for you? It turns out that both can offer you what they say, but you’ll also have to look out for what they don’t say.

Plant-Based Protein vs. Whey: Which Has Complete Proteins?

Whey protein powder comes from cow's milk, which contains all nine of the essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own.  Plant protein powder, however, can come from all kinds of different sources—nuts, seeds, beans, rice, peas, soy (in fact, all plants contain protein).  Every plant is different though, so be sure to choose powders made from plants with the full assortment of amino acids, such as:

These and other plants that have complete proteins, like buckwheat or quinoa, can provide all of the same essential muscle-healthy molecules offered by whey or animal-based foods. 

Whey also comes from only one food source, whereas plant powders can include a mix of plant-based proteins for an even more multi-dimensional blend of nutrients. Healthy Truth developed the GO PRO Protein Powder Blend with a super-star combination of antioxidants, omega 3s, and other health benefits you can’t find in whey protein.

Dangers of Plant-Based Protein vs. Whey Protein

Whey’s effects on the body are only partially understood, but there are a few well-known causes for concern:

  • Whey Can Disrupt Digestion: Some research has shown that high levels of whey protein can cause stomach discomfort, bloating, nausea, and other gastrointestinal issues. 
  • Dairy Allergies: Since why comes from milk, it’s a risk for anyone with lactose intolerance, allergies, or even dairy sensitivity.
  • Whey May Interfere With Your Medicine: There’s reason to believe that whey protein delays or hinders the body’s ability to absorb antibiotics and certain other drugs (1).
  • It’s Less Natural: There’s no natural food equivalent to condensed whey proteins. Also, whey may have been processed through the cheap and easy method that involves intense heat and chemicals. Then, sweeteners and artificial ingredients are often used to fix the flavor of the acid-flush process. Added sugars and calories aren’t what you signed up for, so be careful.

It’s protein, so whey certainly can help with muscle-building and energy.  However, folks who are wary of the side effects or interested in eliminating animal products from their diets often turn to plant-based alternatives.  But plant proteins take careful selection too!

Not All Plant Proteins Are Created Equal

Plant-based protein powders are often processed by major companies with a chemical neurotoxin called “hexane” to remove fatty oils from the plants (2).  This isn’t really necessary when natural, enzyme-based methods can accomplish the same thing.

Powders without organic ingredients could also have traces of pesticides and herbicides in them, which throws the whole clean eating agenda out the window.  Add those kinds of powders to a protein shake, and suddenly it’s not as healthy as you may have hoped.

The safest choice is to go with raw, organic plant-based powders from companies that only put ingredients you recognize on the package. Try to avoid added sweeteners and refined sugars, too, for a pure, health-conscious protein source.

Clean Eating Basics An Introduction to Plant Based Nutrition


1) Mayo Clinic - Whey protein
2) Slate - The risks of hexane in soy products.