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  • Whey Protein? Plant Protein? What’s the Difference?

  • Whether you’re starting a new workout regimen or becoming more aware of how you’re fueling your body, one thing you’ve probably heard a lot about is protein.

    There are a lot of factors to consider when figuring out how much protein your body needs, but a common benchmark for an active woman is .5 grams per pound of bodyweight (or 10% of your caloric intake). For example, a woman weighing 150 pounds needs 75 grams of protein per day. While most of us think of protein as the macronutrient that builds and repairs muscles, it is also a big supporter of fat loss.

    One way to increase protein intake, of course, is to consume more high protein foods like meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Increasing the amount of food that you’re eating, especially when new on the nutritional journey, can be a little overwhelming. The good news is you have a ton of options when it comes to protein powders.

    The bad news? Choosing a protein powder can be intimidating because it almost seems as if there are infinite options. That’s where Buddy Nutrition steps in. Here, we break down the difference between two of the most popular protein powders — whey protein and plant protein — to help you decide which one is best for you.

    Whey Protein vs Plant Protein

    Whether to add whey protein or plant protein powder to your diet isn’t always an easy choice to make. If you are vegan, vegetarian or have known sensitivities to dairy it can be a relatively straightforward decision. If you are the meat eating, no sensitivities type, then lean in because there are some important things to know.

    Whey Protein

    Whey protein is the most common type of protein and it comes from the liquid that gets separated from the curds of milk from animals. One of the major benefits is that whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids (EAAs) your body needs but cannot make on its own. These EAAs contribute to a variety of things like cognitive function, muscle repair and growth, stress reduction and sleep support.

    For the most part, whey protein is pretty straightforward. The main thing you want to look for is that the one you choose is made of mostly whey protein isolate that is 90 percent pure protein as opposed to whey protein concentrate, which can be anywhere from 30-80 percent pure protein.

    Plant Protein

    Contrary to what your red-meat loving dad may say, there are tons of plants that contain protein. Plant-based protein powders can be made of peas, soy, hemp, lentils, pumpkin, chickpeas or brown rice.

    Pea protein is the most common type of plant protein that you will see on shelves and also one of the most complete out of all the plant proteins. The one EAA that’s missing is leucine which aids muscle repair and growth. Creating this complete protein can be as simple as combining or finding a pea protein with soy or pumpkin protein (or adding those things to your diet). However, a big benefit of pea protein is that it isn’t made of any of the eight most common allergens.

    If you’re looking for a plant-based protein that most closely rivals whey protein, hemp is the way to go. It is the only plant-based protein that is considered a complete protein, and by weight, the amount of protein found in hemp seeds is almost exactly the same as that found in beef. (Hemp isn’t just for your hippy friends after all!)

    The Choice is Yours

    If you’re in the camp of no dietary restrictions, it may seem like whey protein is the way (see what I did there?) to go — but not so fast! Plant-based protein is starting to trend for a few reasons: It’s more sustainable and good for those with a dairy sensitivity. If the latter is your truth but you prefer the smooth consistency of whey protein, look for a whey protein with digestive enzymes. Otherwise, plant-based protein is the one for you as long as you’re okay with a more gritty, earthy taste.

    Still Stumped?

    Don’t sweat it. At Buddy Nutrition, we create fully-customized protein powder blends that are uniquely suited to help you achieve your fitness goals. Just answer a few quick questions, and we’ll make the decisions for you. Fitness just got easier.

    Katie Ferraro is a lifestyle writer based in Santa Cruz, CA who is passionate about fitness, sustainability, and holistic wellness. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the beauty of California.