The debate of which is better between whey protein or plant protein powder is popular among fitness buffs. And it is often brought when discussing the multi-billion-dollar protein supplement industry.
Although both forms of protein can be made with high-quality ingredients and are effective for most people, they each have pros and cons.
How do you define a "quality" protein source?
Ultimately, the whey protein vs plant protein debate boils down to a question of quality. Although protein quality is a vital factor that distinguishes the two powders, it's not the only factor. It's certainly not the only factor you should consider when making your choice. The supplement you choose should reflect your specific goals and preferences.
In light of this, let's examine what defines a high-quality protein source.
A high-quality protein source is assessed based on two main factors:
- Protein content and amino acid composition
Comparing the amino acid composition of plant and animal proteins
Generally, foods containing all nine essential amino acids are considered high-quality protein sources. Essential amino acids require dietary supplementation since the body cannot make them on its own.
Complete proteins like the LA Whey Gold , contain all nine amino acids. Those lacking one or more essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins.
Whey protein, for example, is a complete protein. Generally, it provides all nine of the essential amino acids in the ratios necessary to maintain growth and metabolic processes in the body.
The ratios and levels of essential amino acids in plant-based protein sources are often suboptimal. While this may be the case for many plant protein foods, you can conveniently solve this problem by combining complementary proteins into a protein powder blend.
Comparing the digestibility of plant and animal proteins
Protein absorption, and subsequently, biological value, should also be considered. It is a measure of how readily your body can utilize the protein you consume from a meal.
When evaluating protein foods, experts use a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score or PDCASS. The score is determined by calculating the total protein consumption, then nitrogen intake versus excretion. Higher nitrogen retention compared to the amount excreted through your waste indicates a higher biological value for the food consumed.
The biological value of animal products, including dairy, meat, fish, eggs, and poultry, is high.
Plant-based proteins, such as legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, have a lower biological value. This is due to the missing one or two essential amino acids.
The low biological value of plant protein may seem negative, but consuming enough complete protein and combining it with plant proteins can make up for it.
Benefits of whey protein
Animal-based whey protein naturally contains all essential amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) that promote muscle recovery and synthesis.
It contains calcium, healthy fats, and other beneficial compounds. Concentrated whey protein is more beneficial than isolate because it contains more of these beneficial compounds.
Negatives of whey protein
Whey is a dairy product. It is rich in lactose, which some people might find that they are lactose intolerant.
Benefits of plant protein
Unlike animal sources, plant proteins contain high amounts of fibre and antioxidants. These two essential nutrients are either in small amounts or non-existent in animal proteins.
Only soy protein powder has proved to contain all essential amino acids. Among plant proteins, soy earns the highest ranking when it comes to protein quality.
Negatives of plant protein
It takes more diligence to consume adequate amounts of essential amino acids from plant sources. And this is because there are fewer complete proteins in plant-based sources. As a result, many plant-based protein powders use a combination of different plant proteins to make up for their lack of complete proteins. This technique makes it possible to create a supplement that contains all the essential amino acids.
It all boils down to goals and preferences when deciding between whey protein and plant protein. But for those who want to gain muscle, whey protein is your best bet. Protein powders such as LA Whey Gold has proven to be high-quality protein supplement for those who want to build muscle fast.