For years, whey protein has been considered the ‘gold standard’ in protein powders. And with an exceptionally high protein content and an excellent amino acid profile, it’s been almost impossible for anyone to argue otherwise.
But the marketplace is changing. New technology and growing awareness has not only seen plant based protein powders catch up with whey – they’re now surpassing it.
What’s more, plant based protein powders don’t come with the drawbacks and pitfalls associated with whey protein. We’ll get on to those in more detail shortly.
If you’re still contemplating making the switch to plant based proteins, here are 7 reasons to bite the bullet once and for all.
7 reasons to switch to a plant based protein
#1 - It won’t upset your gut
Do you ever feel yourself getting bloated or uncomfortable after consuming whey protein? This is a tell-tale sign that you probably need to back off the dairy-based shakes.
Approximately 65% of the human population have some degree of lactose intolerance¹. And as the symptoms are so wide ranging, the vast majority of us don’t even know it.
Lactose intolerance can manifest itself in countless ways: skin complaints, headaches, lack of energy – but 9 times out of 10, the first place you’ll notice it is in your gut. If you get any sort of digestive discomfort when you eat dairy products, why should you make an exception for a whey protein shake after your workout?
Whilst it is true that whey protein contains less lactose than other dairy products such as milk and cheese, lactose is still present. And with just trace amounts of lactose enough to cause a reaction in even mildly sensitive individuals, whey will still be a trigger for more people than not.
Most plant proteins, on the other hand, are hypoallergenic. Hemp protein, pea protein, and sprouted brown rice protein are easy to digest and won’t cause you the same discomfort that you’ll have grown used to after drinking whey protein.
#2 - You’ll absorb more
If you’re even mildly intolerant to whey protein, there’s no way you’ll be able to get all the benefits. That digestive discomfort that you feel after consuming whey? It’s an obvious sign that your body is struggling to break it down efficiently.
So, whilst it may say 25g protein per scoop on the label, it’s very unlikely that you’re actually getting that much. Your body can only utilise what it can absorb, after all.
In comparison to whey, hemp protein is composed of globular proteins edestin and albumin. Don’t panic – I don’t need you to remember the names. What I do need you to remember is that globular proteins are regarded as the most bio-available of proteins due to the ease of which they are absorbed².
Why waste your money on extra grams of protein that you can’t absorb, when every penny of a plant based alternative can be used efficiently?
#3 - You’ll build muscle faster
Controversial statement, I know. But hear me out.
If you struggle to break down whey efficiently based on the reasons mentioned above, you’re going to get better results from a plant based protein that you can digest properly.
Put it this way – if you were to consume 25g whey protein but can only actually absorb 20g of it, versus 25g pea protein of which you can absorb all of it, which is going to give you better results?
If you still don’t believe me, consider the science behind the theory. In a 2015 study by the International Society of Sports Nutrition, supplementing with pea protein was shown to promote faster muscle gains than supplementing with whey protein³.
Now, imagine how these results could be even further amplified by using a plant based protein powder with an amino acid profile superior to whey. For years, whey has been considered the gold standard in protein powders. But the game is changing fast, and it’s now struggling to keep up.
#4 - It's safer
There have been countless studies and investigations that have detected high levels of heavy metals in some of the leading brands of whey protein on the market.
Perhaps the most alarming of all of these was the now infamous American Consumer Reports study4, which showed ‘particularly concerning’ levels of cadmium, arsenic, mercury and lead in these whey protein shakes.
Arsenic exposure has been linked to various cancers; including lung, skin, kidney, liver and prostate cancer, and blood vessel damage5. Cadmium has been shown to damage DNA6, whilst mercury can destroy brain cells7.
Heavy metals find their way into whey protein because of the GMO feed that the dairy cows are fed on. It’s cheap, and although it’s not a natural diet for the cows, the manufacturers couldn’t care less about their welfare. And, consequently, they couldn’t care less about your welfare either. Why would they when you’re still buying their stuff and the profit continues to roll in?
If you use whey protein, it is crucial that you ask your manufacturer to show proof of their heavy metal check. Do it now. It’s that important.
Plant protein is by no means a free pass, and you should always ask the manufacturer if they carry out heavy metal checks. But the risks are much lower, especially with grain free proteins like pea and hemp.
We personally check every ingredient for heavy metals at source to eliminate any possible risk for all of our PERFORM protein powder and products. This is the gold standard practice and in my opinion, should be compulsory for every protein manufacturer.
#5 - It’s better for the environment
Whether you choose to bury your head in the sand or not, we’ve got a duty of care to this planet that we call home. And with the global production of livestock having a greater environmental impact than anything else in the world8, what better way to reduce your footprint than by switching to a plant based protein powder.
#6 - It’s more ethical
Unless you choose an organic whey protein made from the milk of free range, grass fed cows, you’re directly supporting the inhumane cattle-factories that we call ‘the dairy industry.’ Conventional whey protein is made from the milk of intensively reared, unhealthy cows kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions and fed a diet of GMOs, artificial hormones and antibiotics. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
Collectively, we can let our pounds do the talking. Every time you choose plant based over whey, you’re sticking a metaphorical two fingers up at the dairy industry.
#7 - It’s better for your health
Remember those artificial hormones and antibiotics we spoke about that are used in cattle production? Well, an unhealthy cow yields unhealthy milk, so you better believe that those hormones and antibiotics will be finding their way into your body every time you drink conventional whey protein.
Which would you rather put in your body?