You purposefully went to Target for protein powder, thinking it would be simpler than the supplement store or Amazon. What you found was an aisle full of choices and that familiar feeling of overwhelm. Other than chocolate, you have no idea which protein powder is going to give you a delicious smoothie for breakfast. Is whey protein or plant protein better? What exactly is the difference between whey protein and plant protein?
Deciding whether whey protein or plant protein is better for you is a great place to start narrowing the choice. Once you understand the difference between whey protein and plant protein, your decision will be so much simpler.
Whey protein is a fast digesting protein that comes from milk. Fast digesting means it gets to the cells for usage fairly quickly. That makes it an ideal choice for a post workout shake to give muscles the materials they need to start the rebuilding process. As an animal protein it also has all the essential amino acids, the building blocks of all tissue in the body. (Otherwise known as a complete protein.)
Whey protein is easy to find (you can even get it by drinking a glass of milk instead of a shake) and also works well for cooking and baking if you prefer to make a batch of my Vanilla Coconut Protein Pancakes on Sunday. Generally speaking it blends easier, can be less gritty and you’ll find more “fun” flavors like cookies and cream or banana crème.
However, that also means it might not be the ideal choice for a breakfast smoothie. At least not on its own. If your goal is to do one scoop of protein powder with your favorite almond or coconut milk and a banana for breakfast you may find yourself hungry again soon. If you want use whey protein powder in your morning shake you’ll need to add on or two extra ingredients with fat and fiber. Fat and fiber will slow down the digestion process and enhance your smoothie’s staying power. I might suggest trying my Iron Woman Smoothie or following the Super Shake blueprint to come up with your own satisfying combo.
But what if dairy isn’t your friend? Or maybe you don’t want the extra work of using the blender for your morning shake? This is where a plant protein might be the choice for you.
Plant based vegan protein powders include soy, pea, brown rice and hemp protein powders. Each have their own unique benefits but share one important thing – by themselves they don’t taste great. Plant protein blends are your best choice for a great tasting basic breakfast protein smoothie.
A blend of plant-based proteins will make sure you get all your essential amino acids a single serving. (With the exception of soy protein, plant based protein are usually low on one or more essential amino acids, making them incomplete on their own.) Blends also taste much better with a creamier consistency. (Single proteins like brown rice can be gritty.) Plant protein powder blends are generally thicker. If you take the time to blend your shake or make a smoothie bowl you’ll be rewarded with a deliciously creamy consistency.
Plant protein powders, even the blends, tend to have an “earthy” taste. That means you may find more sugar in these blends to help balance out the flavor. For a plant-based protein powder you’ll want to double check the label for added sugar.
After years of answering questions about protein powders I can tell you one thing for sure; everyone’s tastes are different. I can’t recommend one best but I can recommend a few to try that seem to be the most popular.
For whey protein my top choice is Designer Whey from Designer Protein. I have been using their products for over a decade in everything from a basic post workout shake to protein crepes. The price is reasonable and the chocolate and vanilla almond flavors are delicious. (Please note: I have recently become an affiliate for Designer Whey. If you purchase a product from the link I will be very minimally compensated.)
Another great whey choice is True Athlete from the Vitamin Shoppe. The flavors are basic but satisfying and the ingredients are simple. Another benefit is you can walk into your local Vitamin Shoppe and get a single serving package to try before you buy a big tub. This is something I recommend you do when you can with ANY protein powder.
Speaking of minimal commitment, if you also live in 417land you can get a simple whey protein powder from the Mama Jean’s bulk section. The chocolate is good and you can get as much or as little as you need.
When it comes to plant protein powders Vega is top of the line. They do have a huge variety of options but for a simple breakfast smoothie I would recommend the Vega One All In One Protein Powder. With greens and veggie extracts added you’ll get a jump start on your 5 a day. Plus it also has probiotics added to help keep your microbiome happy.
Vega One also goes great with just coconut or almond milk in your shaker bottle. If you want something besides basic chocolate or vanilla try the mocha flavor. You should be able to find single serving packages in stores to give it a try.
With the facts and a willingness to experiment you’ll be able to easily figure out if whey protein or plant protein is better for YOU. Buy a sample or two to try when you’re not rushed and try them out at home when have more time to taste test. Once you know your best protein powder you’ll never have to worry about the overwhelm of the protein powder isle again.