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Whey Vs Plant Protein: Thorough Comparision

June 16, 2024

Whey Vs Plant Protein By Robor Fitness


When it comes to powering up your gym routine, the debate between whey protein vs plant protein is more relevant than ever. Are you team whey or team plant? Your choice could impact not just your workout results but your overall health.

In this face-off, we’ll explore how each protein compares in areas like production, nutritional content, taste, and more. Whether lifting weights or running tracks, understanding the pros and cons of these protein powerhouses will help you make the best decision for your body.


Whey Protein Vs Plant Protein – Comparison

Now, let's dive into the detailed comparison of whey protein versus plant protein. Each has unique benefits and drawbacks, tailored to different dietary needs and health goals. From how they're made to their environmental impact, we will cover every angle to help you decide which protein is the champion for your fitness journey. Stay tuned as we break down the specifics, one topic at a time!


Manufacturing Process

Protein powder manufacturing plant


Let's start our comparison by examining how whey protein and plant-based protein powders are made. This is where the journey of your protein shake begins!

Whey protein comes from milk. During the cheese-making process, liquid whey separates from the curds. This whey is then pasteurized and dried into a powder. There are two main types of whey protein you might see on the shelves: whey concentrate and whey isolate.

Whey concentrate contains less protein by weight, about 60-70%, and includes more fats and lactose. Whey isolate, on the other hand, is further processed to remove fat and lactose, packing up to 85% protein. This makes it a great pick if you’re looking to reduce overall calorie intake.

Plant proteins are extracted from various sources, such as peas, soy, and hemp—each with its unique process. Generally, the raw plants are ground into a fine powder and then processed to remove fats and carbohydrates, leaving a rich protein concentrate.

Pea protein is made by drying and grounding yellow peas into flour, which is then processed to remove fiber and starch. Soy protein involves washing soybeans to remove sugars and dietary fibers, followed by drying and grinding into a powder. Hemp protein is made by cold-pressing hemp seeds to extract the oil and grinding the remaining seed cake into a powder.

While both whey and plant proteins undergo a series of processing steps to increase their protein content, the sources and methods vary significantly, catering to different dietary needs and preferences.


Protein Content

Choosing between whey protein and plant protein is not just about the amount of protein per scoop. Whey protein, particularly in its isolate form, generally packs more protein pound for pound than whey concentrate. However, plant-based proteins often come in larger serving sizes, balancing the scale so that the protein content per serving is comparable.

But there’s more to it than just protein content. The real game changer is the amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, crucial for muscle protein synthesis—the process your body undergoes to build new muscle. Among these amino acids, leucine plays a star role, especially noted for its muscle-building capabilities. Research shows that about 3 grams of leucine per serving is optimal for maximizing muscle protein synthesis (1).

Whey protein excels in this area, typically offering a robust leucine content. On the flip side, while pea protein holds its own reasonably well, other plant proteins like soy, hemp, and pumpkin seeds may fall short in leucine amounts. This leads to a consensus among fitness enthusiasts: whey protein generally provides a superior amino acid profile, enhancing muscle protein synthesis more effectively than most plant-based proteins, as supported by studies (2).

For those leaning towards plant-based options, choosing a protein like pea, which boasts a favorable amino acid profile, can be a strategic move in meeting your muscle-building needs.


Protein Quality

When it comes to building muscle, not just any protein will do. You need the right kind, and that's where the concept of a "complete protein" comes into play.

Whey is renowned for being a complete protein source. This means it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for our body's functions. These amino acids are called 'essential' because our body cannot produce them independently—they must come from our diet.

A complete protein is critical for maximizing muscle protein synthesis, the process our bodies use to build new muscle fibers. This makes whey protein a powerhouse for those looking to enhance their muscle gains.

The landscape of plant proteins is more varied. While some plant-based proteins such as pea, soy, and hemp are complete, providing all essential amino acids, others like rice, almond, pumpkin, and sunflower seed proteins are not. These are considered incomplete because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. For instance, like almond protein, rice protein is low in lysine.

Opting for a complete protein source is advisable, especially if muscle growth is your goal. For those choosing plant-based proteins, blending different types (such as rice with pea protein) can ensure you're getting a complete amino acid profile.



Coins graph

For many gym enthusiasts, the cost of choosing between whey protein and plant protein is significant. Here's how these protein powders stack up in terms of your wallet.

Whey protein is generally more wallet-friendly than plant-based proteins, especially if you opt for whey concentrate. This type of whey protein undergoes less processing and retains more fats and lactose, making it cheaper to produce and buy. However, whey isolate is your go-to if you prefer a cleaner protein with less fat and lactose. It's more expensive due to the extra processing required to strip away those additional elements, but you get a higher protein content per scoop.

On the other hand, plant-based proteins tend to come with a higher price tag. The production process for plant proteins is more complex and often involves extensive processing to extract protein from plants and remove unwanted carbohydrates and fats. This added labor and technology contribute to their higher cost.

The choice between spending more on plant-based protein or the often less expensive whey could depend on dietary preferences, allergies, or specific health goals.



While you can get pure forms of whey and plant-based protein powders, most powders have added ingredients to make them taste better and mix easily. Regarding flavor, manufacturers know that the palate is critical, so they often add flavorings—increasingly leaning towards natural options like stevia instead of artificial flavors—to enhance the taste. Emulsifiers are also commonly added to both powders to create a smoother, thicker consistency that's more palatable and easier to blend with liquids.

Taste, of course, is highly subjective. What delights one person might not please another. Over the years, whey protein has become incredibly popular, leading manufacturers to develop various flavors. As a result, whey protein often offers more flavor options than its plant-based counterparts. However, as plant-based proteins are popular, the range of available flavors is expanding rapidly.

Plant-based proteins often have a more earthy taste, which makes sense given their botanical origins. This can be a bit of an adjustment if you're used to the creamy flavor of whey. Personally, I enjoy both whey and plant-based protein powders for their unique characteristics.



When prepping your protein shake, ease of mixing is crucial. Both whey and plant-based protein powders generally mix well in a standard shaker, eliminating the need for a blender. However, a few differences worth noting affect how smoothly they blend into your favorite shake.

Whey protein powders, mainly concentrates, have a higher potential for clumping than isolates. This is because concentrates contain more carbohydrates and fats, which don't mix as seamlessly with water. If you aim for a smoother texture with minimal fuss, whey isolates might be your best bet, as they are purer and contain fewer fats and carbs.

Plant-based protein powders, especially those derived from legumes like soy and peas, might also present some challenges due to their natural carbohydrate and fiber content. These elements can reduce their mixability, leading to a slightly thicker shake.

Plant-based options often include emulsifiers like sunflower lecithin or soy lecithin, which help create a creamier consistency. Despite this, they tend to froth up more and may leave more residue in your shaker. If you find your plant-based shake too thick, a simple fix is to add more water or milk to thin it out to your liking.

In summary, whey and plant-based protein powders can be prepared easily, but a few tweaks might be necessary to perfect your shake's consistency.



Digestibility is crucial when choosing between plant-based and whey proteins, especially if you have dietary sensitivities. Many individuals find whey protein challenging to digest due to lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. If you experience bloating, gas, or discomfort after consuming whey protein shakes, switching to a plant-based protein might provide relief.

Unlike whey, plant-based protein shakes tend to cause fewer issues like bloating and gas. However, it's worth noting that some plant-based options contain FODMAPs—fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These carbohydrates can be difficult for some people to digest and might lead to digestive issues similar to whey.

Another point to consider is fiber content. Plant-based protein powders generally have higher fiber content than whey protein, which can benefit digestive health but may also contribute to gas if your body isn't used to it.

Whey protein has a higher bioavailability when it comes to the efficiency with which your body can utilize these proteins. This means it allows your body to absorb more amino acids per gram than plant proteins like pea protein. A study published in the journal Nutrients in 2019 highlighted that whey protein is superior in terms of how effectively our bodies can use it (3).

An important metric in evaluating protein quality is the PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score), which assesses protein quality based on humans' amino acid requirements and their ability to digest it. This scoring method confirms that while plant and animal proteins can fulfill dietary needs, whey protein often scores higher due to its complete amino acid profile and digestibility (4).

Understanding these aspects can help you choose the protein source that best fits your digestive health and nutritional needs.


Environment Impact

Cows grazing


When it comes to the environmental impact of protein powders, the difference between plant-based and animal-based (like whey) is significant. Plant-based proteins generally leave a lighter footprint on our planet, crucial for those looking to make more sustainable choices.

The production of plant-based protein powders typically requires less land and water than animal-based proteins. Plants such as peas, soy, and hemp are less resource-intensive and contribute to soil health through nitrogen fixation, which can enhance soil fertility.

Additionally, plants emit fewer greenhouse gases than livestock. Choosing plant-based protein can be a more sustainable option, as it reduces the strain on our planet's resources and minimizes environmental degradation.

In contrast, whey protein is derived from dairy, an industry known for its heavier environmental demands. Dairy farming requires significant amounts of land and water for growing feed, not to mention the methane emissions from cows, which contribute to global warming. The overall water footprint, including the water used to hydrate animals and grow their feed, makes animal-based proteins less sustainable.

Opting for plant-based protein can be a step towards reducing your environmental impact, contributing to a more sustainable future while still meeting your dietary and fitness goals.



Versatility is critical when incorporating protein powders into your diet beyond the shaker. Plant-based and whey proteins offer diverse uses, but there are distinct advantages depending on the culinary context.

Plant-based options might be your best friend if you enjoy baking or cooking with protein powder. They perform exceptionally well in baked goods like brownies, cakes, and pancakes. This edge in baking can be attributed to their binding properties, which help maintain structure and moisture in recipes. Additionally, the subtle, sometimes nutty flavors of plant-based proteins like pea or hemp can complement a variety of recipes without overpowering other ingredients.

Whey protein can also be used in baking and cooking; however, it sometimes presents challenges due to its tendency to dry out or create a rubbery texture in heated dishes. It's excellent for quick recipes like protein shakes or smoothies where heat isn't a factor, and its wide range of flavors can enhance these beverages.

The versatility of plant-based protein powders in cooking and baking makes them a particularly appealing option for those who like to get creative in the kitchen. This ensures that their protein intake is not only nutritious but also delicious.


Vitamins and Minerals

Plant-based protein powders generally outperform whey protein regarding the variety and amount of vitamins and minerals they provide. For instance, pea protein is particularly rich in iron, offering up to 35% of the daily recommended intake in just one serving. This feature makes plant proteins a key player in combating nutritional deficiencies.

Additionally, plant proteins such as pea and soy are excellent sources of antioxidants and vitamins that you won't find in whey protein powders. These nutrients are derived from the vegetables from which the proteins are extracted, embodying the natural nutrient profile of their sources. This means that when you opt for a plant-based shake, you get protein and ingest a broader spectrum of health-supportive nutrients.

This diverse nutrient profile provides significant benefits. Plant proteins pack vital nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which contribute to athletic recovery and improved cardiovascular health, among other advantages. A study highlighted in the journal Nutrients confirms that these additional nutrients in plant-based diets support overall health and performance (5).

Therefore, incorporating plant-based protein powders into your diet can be a great way to enhance muscle growth and repair and your general nutrient intake, making it a comprehensive addition to a health-conscious lifestyle.


Best for Muscle Growth

Protein recommendations for muscle growth


The question of whether plant-based or whey protein is more effective for muscle growth has been a topic of much debate. However, recent studies have clarified this issue. Research shows that whey and plant-based protein powders can be equally effective at promoting muscle hypertrophy—increasing muscle size—provided they contain comparable amounts of protein and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) per serving.

A critical study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition indicates that the source of protein, whether animal or plant, does not significantly impact muscle growth as long as the necessary nutrients are consumed in sufficient amounts (6). This finding is significant as it highlights that the composition of the protein, rather than its source, matters most for muscle development.

Further dispelling myths, a 2021 study demonstrated no significant differences in muscle strength or mass between individuals following plant-based diets and those on omnivore diets as long as they met their daily protein intake targets. A similar conclusion was drawn in a 2023 study, reinforcing that adequate protein intake is the critical factor, irrespective of whether the protein is derived from animal or plant sources.

This evidence suggests that consuming enough protein daily is the key to muscle growth. Whether you choose plant-based or animal-based proteins, meeting your daily protein requirement will most effectively support your muscle-building goals.


Best for Weight Loss

Plant and whey protein powders can be powerful allies in weight loss. The secret lies in the type of protein you choose and how you incorporate it into your diet.

The fundamental rule of weight loss is balancing calories consumed and burned. Consuming more calories than you burn leads to weight gain, whereas burning more than you consume results in weight loss. Protein powders can be pivotal in managing this balance, whether from plant or animal sources.

Protein and Satiety: One key benefit of including protein in your diet is its ability to increase satiety. Protein-rich meals or shakes can leave you feeling fuller for more extended periods. This sensation of fullness is crucial as it can help prevent overeating by reducing your overall calorie intake, thereby tipping the "calories in vs. calories out" equation in favor of weight loss.

Effectiveness for Weight Loss: Both whey and plant-based protein powders are effective for weight loss because they help maintain muscle mass and boost metabolism. Whey protein is particularly good at this, as it contains a high level of leucine. This amino acid plays a critical role in protein synthesis and can therefore help with muscle maintenance. The more muscle we have, the bigger the boost on our metabolism.

Meanwhile, plant-based proteins benefit those who prefer a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, offering a compatible option that supports satiety. Whether you choose whey or plant-based protein, both can be integral to a weight-loss strategy when used properly within a calorie-controlled diet.


Our Recommendations

After reviewing over 70 different protein shakes, it's fair to say we know a thing when it comes to choosing the best protein powder to help us in our fitness journey. 

If you're in the market for a Whey Protein Shake, we highly recommend Legion Whey+ 

Legion protein powder Check Price on Amazon


Check Price on Legion Use Code: “Robor” for 20% off


And if you're looking for a plant based product, we recommend Promix Vegan Protein:
Promix chocolate vegan protein Check Price on Promix


We have published detailed reviews on both of these products, so click on the product name for the comprehensive review.

The Final Say

Choosing between whey protein and plant protein ultimately comes down to personal preferences, dietary restrictions, and specific health goals. Whey protein offers a high-quality, complete protein that is excellent for muscle synthesis and recovery, making it a favorite among athletes.

On the other hand, plant-based proteins provide a sustainable option that is gentle on the planet and offers versatility in the kitchen. They are suitable for those with dairy allergies or following a vegan lifestyle.

Both options support weight loss by enhancing satiety and can be integrated into various recipes to boost protein intake. As the variety and quality of plant-based protein options continue to improve, the gap in taste and texture between these two contenders is narrowing.

Whether you prefer whey or plant protein powder, incorporating protein powder into your diet can significantly support your fitness and health goals. Choose what best fits your lifestyle, and enjoy the journey to a healthier you.



  1. Atherton, P. J., Smith, K., Etheridge, T., Rankin, D., & Rennie, M. J. (2009). Distinct anabolic signalling responses to amino acids in C2C12 skeletal muscle cells. Amino Acids, 38(5), 1533–1539.
  2. Gorissen, S. H., Crombag, J. J. R., Senden, J. M., Waterval, W. a. H., Bierau, J., Verdijk, L. B., & Van Loon, L. J. C. (2018). Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids, 50(12), 1685–1695.
  3. Liu, J., Klebach, M., De Visser, M., & Hofman, Z. (2019). Amino acid availability of a dairy and vegetable protein blend compared to single casein, whey, soy, and pea proteins: a Double-Blind, Cross-Over trial. Nutrients, 11(11), 2613.
  5. Hertzler, S. R., Lieblein-Boff, J. C., Weiler, M., & Allgeier, C. (2020). Plant proteins: Assessing their nutritional quality and effects on health and physical function. Nutrients, 12(12), 3704.
  6. Banaszek, A., Townsend, J. R., Bender, D. A., Vantrease, W. C., Marshall, A., & Johnson, K. D. (2019). The Effects of Whey vs. Pea Protein on Physical Adaptations Following 8-Weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): A Pilot Study. Sports, 7(1), 12.

Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.