Plant-Based Protein vs Whey Protein

September 27, 2022

What are the key differences between plant-based protein and whey protein?

r/VeganInfographics - Plant Based Protein vs Whey Protein
Plant-Based Protein vs Whey Protein (Graphic Credit: Raw Nutritional)

Protein Content:

Plant-based protein and whey protein typically contain similar amounts of protein - around 20-30 grams per serving. 

The main difference is that plant-based protein generally contains less-than-ideal amounts of amino acids. In contrast, whey protein contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. If your goal is to increase muscle mass, whey protein may be the ideal choice, as amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential for muscle building. Whey protein is also high in leucine, the most critical amino acid for building muscle, and cysteine, which helps boost muscle growth.

Additionally, plant-based protein contains fewer BCAAs when compared to whey powders.  


Common side effects of whey protein include gastric irritation and digestive issues. You should avoid whey protein if you have a dairy or lactose intolerance. Comparatively, plant-based protein is the better choice for those with dietary restrictions, as they are dairy-free and less likely to cause inflammation. 

Plant-based protein powders can be made from various ingredients, including the common allergens of soy and gluten. Make sure you select protein powders labelled soy or gluten-free if needed. Additionally, some plant-based protein powders potentially cause bloating if you have irritable bowel syndrome, especially those made from pea protein.


Whey protein has many impressive benefits for weight loss, as it can increase satiety. However, our bodies are typically slower to metabolize plant-based protein than whey protein, which may help keep you fuller for longer. Additionally, whey protein powder often contains saturated fat and macronutrients, which leads to a higher fat and calorie content than plant-based options.


Whey protein formulas typically contain artificial flavors and sweeteners to enhance the taste. Plant-based protein powder, often derived from peas, brown rice, and soy could be a good choice if you're looking for a more natural form of protein.


The pricing of plant-based and whey protein powders varies between brands. Generally, you should be able to find either type with similar pricing. However, some plant-based proteins with specialized ingredients, such as those advertised as organic, keto, or paleo, may come with a higher price tag.

Which is better, whey protein or plant protein? 

The best type of protein for you depends on your dietary restrictions, lifestyle, and fitness goals. 

If you want to gain muscle, whey protein may be the better choice as it has high leucine content and can be quickly and easily absorbed. Whey protein is also a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids, which promote muscle recovery and boost your immune system.

If your main goal is weight loss, plant protein may be the better choice, as they are slower to digest and helps to keep you feeling full for longer. Plant-based and whey proteins are excellent sources of protein and are very versatile as they can be added to various drinks or food or consumed on their own.

Whether you choose plant-based or whey protein depends on your individual fitness goals, budget, preferences and dietary restrictions. 

Overall, the best protein powder for you is the one that suits your dietary needs and contains 20-30 grams of protein per serving.

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Written by

Ken Lu

Ken has a Bachelor's Degree of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, specializing in Sport Psychology. As well as being a Certified Personal Trainer, Ken is also a Movement & Mobility Specialist, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has trained for and won the 2018 NPAA BC Men's Physique Championship.