Whey Protein Powder vs. Plant-Based Protein Powder – Which Should You Choose?

Whey Protein Powder vs. Plant-Based Protein Powder – Which Should You Choose?

We all know that protein fuels our muscles and helps our bodies function. From beef to eggs to vegan-friendly tofu, protein choices are not hard to come by. But sometimes grilling up a steak or whipping up a vegan protein-packed stir fry is not convenient. We’re too busy.  

Protein powders are a lifesaver for busy people who are living a healthy lifestyle. They make getting enough of this essential macronutrient incredibly simple – just add a scoop to a smoothie or mix with water or juice. But choosing the right protein for you can be overwhelming. 

There’s whey, soy, pea, rice and more.  To help you decide which protein powder is the best for you, we’ve dug into the differences between whey protein and plant-based proteins. 

Protein Basics

Before we explore which protein powder is the best choice, it is important to understand what protein actually is. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. And of the twenty amino acids that exist, nine are essential—meaning that the body needs them to function -- but it can't make them. Therefore, it is essential that we eat enough of these 9 amino acids to fuel our bodies. 

Proteins are involved in numerous functions in the body, including repair, maintenance, and growth of tissues. Plus, this nutrient plays a role in the proper functioning of hormones, enzymes, and the immune system. 

Protein is an extremely important nutrient to consume in adequate amounts. 

How much protein do I need? 

How much protein you need depends on a few factors including age, height, and gender, how much you’re training and your fitness and weight goals. 

Both men and women will need at least 0.8 grams of protein per 2 pounds of body weight each day. Adult men, at a minimum, require 56 grams of protein per day. If you start increasing the intensity of your workouts to build muscle, aim for 1 gram per 2 pounds of body weight. If you are lifting heavyweight and training 3 or more days a week with a primary goal of gaining muscle, you will need more. Increasing to 1.5 grams per 2 pounds of body weight is safe to start. 

Using those ranges, here are a few examples: 

  • A 150-pound female that takes Pilates classes, walks the dog, and plays tennis (moderately active) will want to aim for at least 60 grams of protein per day 
  • That same 150-pound woman who starts a weightlifting class twice a week will want to increase to 75 grams per day. 
  • A 185-pound man that plays golf and coaches youth soccer (light activity) will need 75 grams per day. 
  • A 175-pound man that lifts weights three days a week and plays basketball twice a week will need 90 grams a day.  

To meet these needs, you will have to pay attention to the foods you are eating, as well as the portion sizes of these foods. 

A 3-ounce serving of beef or chicken will fuel your body with around 22 grams of protein, while a 3-ounce serving of tofu will give you 7 grams of this key macronutrient. 

Other sources of protein include walnuts (4 grams of protein per 14 halves), milk (8 grams per 1 cup, fish (20 grams per 3-ounce serving), and eggs (6 grams per 1 large egg). 

Do I need a Protein Powder? 

There are many reasons you might consider adding a protein supplement to your meal plan. 

  • You're not seeing the results you want: Maybe you’ve increased the intensity of your workouts, or maybe you’re busier than usual and struggling with food prep. 
  • You're ramping up your exercise routine: If you add weight lifting to build muscle to improve your metabolism, or you’re adding a H.I.I.T. workout class three days a week, you’ll need extra protein.  
  • You're busy: Maybe you’re traveling more, running the kids all across town, or maybe you’re sick of all of the grocery shopping and food prep—protein powders are super convenient. 
  • You're tired of weighing and measuring your food: No doubt this can get old, and sometimes we all need a hiatus.  
  • It's quick to prepare and easy to digest: A high-quality protein powder is not only easy to shake up with water or unsweetened almond milk, but it will also be easy to absorb and digest. 

 Which protein powder is the best for your health and fitness?

Whey Vs. Plant-Based Protein Powder – What Is The Difference? 

Two of the most popular protein powder options are whey-based and plant-based.  

Whey-based protein powders utilize the whey protein that is obtained from cow’s milk. Many people opt for a whey-based – or any animal source-based – protein powder because these are a complete protein, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids the body needs. Whey protein digests quickly and is well utilized by the body. 

Plant-based proteins can come from sources like soy, peas, brown rice,  and hemp, and they are a perfect option for people who are following a plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian diet or who do not tolerate milk-based protein powder choices. Unfortunately, while many plant-based proteins are chock-full of antioxidants and other good-for-you nutrients, many varieties are not a complete protein and are missing some essential amino acids. Also, plant-based protein powders are oftentimes not as efficiently digested as options like whey, casein, and egg.

If you are opting for a plant-based protein powder choice, leaning on an option that contains all of the essential amino acids, is fermented to promote digestibility, and contains zero grams of sugar is key. Zhou Nutrition’s Plant Complete Vegan Protein checks all of these boxes, making it an optimal plant-based protein powder choice for people who want to put the best ingredients in their bodies. 

Instead of only including one protein source, this powder includes a blend of both pea and rice protein, resulting in a complete amino acid profile. The blend is fermented with shiitake mushroom mycelia to improve digestibility and result in a product that has the equivalent digestibility of whey protein (but with no animal products included!). 

Plus, thanks to this fermentation process, the protein powder has a smooth texture, making it a natural addition to a slew of recipes that can use a protein boost – from smoothies to baked goods.

If you are looking for a protein powder that has a PDCAAS of 1 (the best digestibility score a protein can receive), blends well with many recipes, has zero sugar, and is a complete plant-based protein, including Zhou Nutrition’s Plant Complete Protein Powder in your daily healthy-eating regimen can help support your health goals in a convenient and delicious way.