Plant-Based Protein vs. Whey Protein: Which Is Better?

Medically Reviewed on 8/19/2022
Plant-Based Protein vs. Whey Protein: Which Is Better
Whey protein typically has a better essential amino acid composition, making it preferable to plant-based protein for some people

Plant-based protein and whey protein both provide similar benefits as far as muscle building is concerned. But which protein powder is better? With so many protein powder brands on the market, it is important to do your homework before settling on a protein powder.

One of the most important factors that affect muscle protein synthesis (recovery and development) is essential amino acid availability. Changes in essential amino acid compositions across different protein powders can impact their efficiency after a workout.

Some plant-based protein powders contain added amino acids or in specific combinations to achieve a better amino acid profile. However, whey protein typically has a better essential amino acid composition, making it preferable to plant-based protein for some people. 

Nonetheless, soy-based protein powders and some plant-based protein mixes provide almost the same amino acid concentration and bioavailability as whey protein.

Learn about the differences between plant-based protein and whey protein.

What are the differences between plant-based protein and whey protein?


  • Plant-based protein
    • Most often derived from pea, brown rice, and soy
  • Whey protein
    • Derived from the cheese-making process, hence not truly vegan
    • Liquid whey is removed from the curds and then concentrated protein is extracted

If you are lactose tolerant or do not eat animal by-products, whey protein may be a better option for you.

Protein content

  • Plant-based protein
    • Generally has less-than-ideal amino acid ratios and may not be as helpful if your main aim is protein consumption
    • Often requires mixing different plant-based proteins to get the right ratios
    • Soy protein is the only plant-based protein that contains all the essential amino acids
  • Whey protein
    • Contains all 9 essential amino acids in optimal proportions

If you have concerns about whether your protein powder has all 9 essential amino acids, whey protein is a better option.


  • Plant-based protein
    • High in nutrients (phytonutrients), since many of the plant sources of protein are rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Whey protein
    • Derived from milk and may not provide many of the nutrients of plants

Plant-based protein is higher in nutrients. If you want more vitamins and minerals from your protein powder, plant-based is the way to go.


If you have food sensitivities, choosing between plant-based vs. whey protein is a matter of personal preference depending on your needs.


  • Plant-based protein
    • Costs may vary, but because they are newer to the market and typically require a higher dose than whey protein, they may cost more in the long run
  • Whey protein
    • Easier to harvest and more plentiful and therefore often less expensive than plant-based protein

Whey protein is generally less expensive than plant protein. When considering cost, however, you should not compromise on quality. Whichever protein you choose, buy from a reputable brand.

Health benefits

  • Plant-based protein
    • Health benefits include lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and healthier skin
    • Additional health benefits stem from the added nutrients contained in various plants used in protein mixes
  • Whey protein
    • Lowers levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone
    • Keeps you feeling fuller for longer

Although both plant-based and whey proteins provide health benefits, the nutritional value of plant-based protein may be slightly higher.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

How do protein powders help with workouts?

Protein powders are most used as a post-workout recovery supplement, best taken within 30-60 minutes of finishing weight training or an endurance workout. This helps stimulate muscle regeneration and protein synthesis.

Protein after resistance exercise

Most studies support the use of protein after exercise, claiming that intake of high-quality protein shortly after exercise enhances muscle protein synthesis. Protein supplementation improves resistance-training benefits, such as muscular growth.

In terms of quantity, a dosage of 20-30 grams of protein is optimum, with some newer studies suggesting that up to 40 grams could be beneficial. This may depend on the type and intensity of the workout and your overall health.

Protein after endurance exercise

Protein plays an important role in endurance exercise recovery. According to studies, consuming protein alongside carbs after a workout helps enhance glycogen regeneration when carb intake is restricted (i.e., filling up those energy stores in your muscles again).

The suggested dosage is 15-25 grams of protein along with some carbs.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/19/2022
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