The protein supplement market has seen exponential growth over the past few years as more people became aware of the benefits of these products.
One of the most famous protein supplements is whey protein, which contains a variety of amino acids to help your muscles grow after lifting weights. However, there is a relatively new player in the game. Plant-based protein supplements are gaining a lot of traction due to a variety of reasons (more on that later).
In this article, we will introduce plant-based protein and whey protein then discuss the pros and cons of each product.
Plant-based protein, or vegan protein powder, leads to improved athletic performance and muscle hypertrophy.
This product contains numerous amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that enhance your overall health and optimize your fitness.
Aside from amino acids, plant-based protein also has medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), ingredients with potent antioxidative properties (e.g., Acai Berry, Acerola, Amla), vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.
All of these compounds promote muscle strength, blood circulation, and hormonal balance.
In a 2015 study, researchers inspected the effects of pea protein –a primary ingredient of plant-based protein powders– on muscle development. The study included 161 young men and lasted for 12 weeks.
After analyzing the results, researchers noted that the weakest volunteer gained 20% extra muscle mass in his biceps, which is significantly higher than the 8% placebo group.
Another study found that brown rice protein leads to a 12% increase in lean muscle mass, which is similar to the result given by whey protein.
Pros Of Plant-based Protein
In the world of medicine and nutrition, experts are always debating about the best diet that offers the most health benefits. You will always find a group of experts that advocate for the use of a certain diet (e.g., intermittent fasting ) while another group advises against it.
However, the scientific community seems to be in accordance when it comes to the superiority of plant-based foods (including protein) over other products.
Plant-based protein carries health benefits that extend beyond muscle growth to include weight loss, decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, slow down age-related cognitive decline, and improvement of diabetes symptoms.
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Cons Of Plant-based Protein
- Incomplete protein – this refers to the absence of certain amino acids in plant-based protein powders, which may require you to take other supplements. However, there's a certain plant-based protein that contains complete amino acids like that of Whey protein.
- High ratio of carbohydrates – if you are trying to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time, make sure to choose a plant-based protein powder with low carbohydrate content.
- Higher cost than whey protein – as a general rule, plant-based powders are more expensive than other protein supplements.
Flatulence Effect Of Plant-based Protein
When first switching to plant-based protein powder, you may experience some flatulence, gas, and mild abdominal cramping.
In fact, people who switch from whey protein to vegan powders often report having stronger symptoms.
The reason behind this is simple:
Plant-based protein tends to be richer in fiber (i.e., indigestible forms of carbohydrate). As a result, your gastrointestinal tract finds it difficult to adapt to the high quantity of fiber, leading to flatulence.
We should note that this symptom is not a sign of anything serious; it is merely an inconvenience that disappears after a few days.
Whey protein is the result of the cheesemaking process, which produces one of the richest sources of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Leucine is an amino acid that’s abundantly found in whey protein. It is especially effective at promoting muscle growth and improving recovery after exercise.
Even more than all other protein supplements, whey protein is universally known as the go-to product for muscle growth in the fields of strength training and bodybuilding.
Throughout hundreds of studies and experiments, researchers confirmed the positive effects of whey protein on muscle growth, athletic performance, and energy production.
You should be aware that whey protein can trigger side effects in people with lactose intolerance. Therefore, if you experience any unwanted symptoms, you may want to switch to plant-based protein powders.
Pros Of Whey Protein
According to one study, whey protein is superior to most other anabolic products, including casein and soy protein.
The study highlights that whey protein increases lean muscle mass by up to 31% higher than other supplements.
Aside from optimizing fitness-related features, whey protein also improves:
- Skin health
- The immune system
- Cognitive function
Cons Of Whey Protein
- Calories –whey protein contains a lot of calories stored in the forms of carbohydrates and fats. Consequently, you could end up gaining more fat than intended, especially if you don’t work out hard in the gym.
- Lactose intolerance – as we mentioned above, whey protein is the result of the cheesemaking process, which means it could trigger flareups in people with lactose intolerance. Note that some whey protein products take out the dairy from their formula to make it suitable for everyone.
- Lack of nutrients – unlike plant-based powders, whey protein lacks important nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, antioxidants).
Flatulence Effect Of Whey Protein
Since whey protein doesn’t have as much fiber as plant-based powders, it is usually easier on the stomach. However, many people report flatulence and symptoms of indigestion after their first intake of whey protein.
Note that developing severe symptoms of indigestion could be a sign of lactose intolerance.
Choosing between plant-based protein and whey protein can be a difficult task, especially for beginners.
Hopefully, this article managed to clear out the confusion to make this choice easier for you. If you have any specific questions about this topic, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.