The subject of Vegan vs Whey Protein has been a hot topic for some time and I have toyed with whether to write about it, but in keeping with wanting to uncover the actual truth of sports supplements, and not just what brands recommend you to take, it's TIME to talk Vegan vs Whey!
(If you are dairy intolerant/allergic or are on a Vegan diet then this article isn’t for you, however for those that have a choice I just wanted to put all the cards on the table so you can make your OWN decision rather than following the norm.)
I for one have NOTHING against Vegan Protein brands, despite running a whey protein company of my own.
When plant sources are combined in the correct way (e.g. Pea Protein AND Brown Rice) they offer up the essential amino acids the body needs (albeit in lower %’s), HOWEVER I also feel that Whey has been taken on a rough ride of late. EVERY article on Whey vs Vegan on the first 2 pages of Google are all swayed towards Vegan Protein powders. But is this accurate and fair?
Vegan Protein is great, but it’s not necessarily better than Whey. Actually when comparing the essential protein nutrients (as it's a protein supplement after all), gram-for-gram whey still comes out on top, quite convincingly (around 20-30% more BCAAs in Whey). To compensate and get the same level of protein & amino acids, you’ll need to take a much larger serving size of Vegan Protein powder which in turns makes it much more expensive.
Whey also has years of clinical trials to prove its effectiveness whereas Vegan Protein is still relatively untested.
A key point to note here is that not every finished Whey powder is the same. Quite the opposite actually (mainly due to the filtration of the Whey & the fillers that are added to the final product). So here I’m comparing Vegan Protein vs Whey Protein & whey’d Protein. whey’d was started to answer all the unmet needs that other Whey brands do not and a lot of the time the reason why people chose Vegan is because the typical Whey does not compete. This is not a biased blog for whey’d, just the facts.
Side note: An area that confuses me a lot (it’s not that hard to do to be fair) is that the majority of women I speak with feel the only protein powder they can take is Vegan Protein…. I’m not talking about women that choose a Vegan diet here either. It seems women are scared off by Whey for some reason? Maybe it’s years of marketing to men – probably so. But actually a high quality Whey product is something that shouldn’t be easily dismissed.
First, let's look at Vegan Protein vs Whey Protein in general. Very hard to quantify as there are numerous Vegan and Whey proteins, and Whey is categorised as Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) & Hydrolysed Whey Protein (WPH) however the figures used are an average.
Now let's look how Vegan Protein compares to whey'd Protein:
There are numerous other factors that I will look to add on to these infographics over time as more research becomes available - such as the environmental effect of Vegan vs Whey. It's a hard one to quantify and there are some great sustainable Whey producers that have 100% grass-fed, GMO-free Whey Protein (click here to read more about whey'd) however Vegan will always have a lower carbon footprint of the two (that said - at whey'd we plant the relevant number of trees with The Woodland Trust to offset the carbon footprint of our whey production).
Okay so who won?
I think it’s really unfair to say that one is better than the other and I certainly don’t agree that one is healthier than the other. They both have unique benefits (when you pick from the good sources) so the decision really comes down to preference. I’m not quite sure why they are so many people with a polarised in opinion and I for one would happily take both – why does it have to be one or the other!