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Whey vs Plant Based Protein Powder - What's the Difference?

Protein powder is a very popular fitness supplement! Protein supplements are fantastic for people who may not be reaching adequate protein needs through their diet, gym junkies and casual athletes.

There are thousands of different brands and different choices of protein on the market, but when it comes down to it there are two different types of protein powders you can take.. animal based or plant based. I used to work in a fitness/health food & supplement store as a product specialist and "whats the real difference between plant based and whey?" was a common question I got asked.

Let's start off with a quick breakdown!

Animal based protein powder

Is usually sourced from whey protein or casein and you can find it sourced from eggs or beef. It contains all essential amino acids (proteins) making it a complete source of protein. Whey protein is the most common form used in the fitness industry.

Plant based protein powder

Can be sourced from many different plants like soy, quinoa, hemp, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, coconut etc. YES plants actually have protein, but usually less grams of protein per scoop then whey.

Most plants do NOT contains all essential amino acids, therefore most brands combine plant based foods (like brown rice and peas) in order to get a complete source of protein, unless the source is a complete protein itself - like quinoa or hemp.

Example: brown rice + peas combined contain all essential amino acids, making it a complete source of protein.

How do you know what is the better choice for you and your goals?

Protein powder is used by TONS of fitness, gym junkies and body builders, all different kinds!

Whey is available in the form of concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. Whey protein comes from dairy. You know the thin watery layer sitting on top of your yogurt? That is the whey! In the manufacturing industry, to source the whey they kill any bacteria and dry it out - this is then used as whey protein and additives to certain foods.

Whey Concentrate - most common type of whey protein. May be better for people looking to try a protein powder for the first time or to incorporate it into their routine.

Whey Isolate - contains more protein per serving, less carbs and fat compared to whey concentrate. It is usually more expensive due to this process! May be better for people who are looking for a higher quality whey.

Whey Hydrolysate - studies have shown it has greater effects at stimulating muscle growth in combination with weight / strength training. May be better for people looking for muscle growth.

These are often sweetened with artificial flavours to enhance the flavour. Most of these flavours are not made naturally!

Plant Based Protein - is used by vegans, vegetarians and people who are wanting to add more whole and WHOLE foods to their diet - not a by product of the dairy industry. It's a great and quick source of protein for vegans and vegetarians who have a slightly limited protein intake then others.

Let's break them down a little bit further:


  • Sourced from animals, dairy

  • Higher risk of antibiotic, hormone and heavy metal contamination

  • Contains all amino acids making it a complete source of protein

  • Cheaper source of protein

  • Can be difficult to digest since some people are lacking the digestive enzymes to breakdown the protein

  • Not a great source of whole foods or a meal replacement since the main ingredient is whey and milk

  • Heavily processed and mass marketed

  • Usually flavoured with artificial sweeteners and dyes

  • Tastes smoother than plant based protein

  • Builds muscle and burns fat, improves strength gains, aids in exercise recovery


  • Sourced from plants

  • Little to no risk of antibiotic and hormone contamination

  • Look for a plant based protein powder that is made from several different plants (brown rice, peas, hemp, quinoa etc.) to ensure you are getting a complete source of protein

  • Sometimes more expensive source of protein but still affordable

  • Often easier to digest for most people, since its more of a whole food product

  • Excellent source of whole foods or a meal replacement since there can be a wide range of ingredients (blending plant based protein powder with almond milk and a banana is what I use as a meal replacement if I have a busy day)

  • Usually no additives, colours or artificial flavours

  • Tastes less smooth than whey, has a slight grainy texture BUT HERE'S A TIP if you let it sit in water or almond milk for 10-15 minutes to dissolve, the graininess goes away!

  • Builds muscle and burns fat, improves strength gains, aids in exercise recovery just like whey


There are quite a few differences between whey and plant based but both will help build muscle, improve strength gains, aid in recovery after exercise and improve hormonal & brain function!

Protein is 100% necessary for our overall health (metabolism, hormonal function, building muscle etc.) but the truth is, you DO NOT need to be taking protein powder to reach your fitness and/or health goals if your diet is in shape. Adequate protein requirements can be reached through your diet.

For a custom daily protein recommendation - head to the WholeFit app.

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