Protein shakes can be a great way to get the nourishment your body needs while on the go. It can be confusing, though, trying to figure out what kind of protein powder you should be using for the best results.
There are hundreds of protein powders on store shelves and available online, and each one professes to be the very best. How are you supposed to know which to choose?
When it comes to shopping for protein powder, one of the first distinctions you should make is whether you want an animal-based protein powder, such as grass-fed whey protein, or a plant-based source, such as pea protein.
If you’re not sure what to choose between these two, keep reading. Outlined below is everything you need to know about the differences between them. You’ll also find some tips on how to choose the healthiest protein powder for your needs.
Table of Contents
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey is the name for the liquid that separates from milk when you’re making cheese. It’s the same liquid that floats to the top of the yogurt container after it’s sat in the fridge for a while.
Whey is a complete protein source. This means that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs to function properly.
It is considered by many to be the most superior form of protein, not only because of its amino acid makeup but because it’s easy for most people to absorb and digest. It can even be safe for those who are lactose intolerant as long as it’s delivered as whey protein isolate. In this form, it contains little-to-no lactose.
Whey protein supports muscle repair and muscle gain better than many other protein sources. It provides a healthy dose of the amino acids needed for antioxidant defenses and proper detoxification, too. This includes cysteine, glycine, and glutamine.
What Is Grass-Fed Whey Protein?
Grass-fed whey protein is made with whey that comes from the milk of grass-fed cows. It’s of a higher quality than traditional whey protein (the kind that you can buy in a plastic tub at your local grocery store).
When you buy grass-fed whey (especially when it also has the proper certifications/accreditation), you can enjoy more benefits compared to conventional whey. Grass-fed cows eat primarily, you guessed it, grass. Because of this, they’re generally healthier than conventionally raised cows, which eat a diet of grains like corn and soy.
Because grass-fed cows are healthier, the protein derived from the milk they produce is also healthier. Research shows that grass-fed whey contains higher levels of bioactive compounds that benefit the immune system. This includes compounds like beta-lactoglobulin, lactoferrin, and lysozyme.
What Is Pea Protein?
As the name suggests, pea protein is derived from peas. Specifically, it comes from yellow split peas, a legume.
Of all the plant-based proteins on the market (and, these days, there are several) pea protein remains one of the most popular. This has to do, in part, with the fact that it is one of the few plants that is a complete protein.
It’s important to note, though, that even though pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids, it doesn’t contain significant amounts of all of them. For example, it’s composed of just one percent methionine, which is much more abundant in whey protein.
Despite being low in certain amino acids, pea protein is still considered a superior plant-based protein and an ideal choice for vegans and those who don’t want or are unable to consume dairy-based protein powders. It’s also been found to be effective when it comes to supporting muscle repair/gain.
Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Whey Protein
In addition to being a good source of essential amino acids and being easy to digest, there are lots of other advantages that come with choosing a grass-fed whey protein powder over others. The following are some of the most noteworthy benefits it has to offer:
Good for Weight Loss
Adding shakes made with whey protein powder to your diet can be better for weight loss than those made with other types of protein powder. It can help you to keep your appetite under control. As a result, you’ll be less likely to overeat.
Whey protein is also good for weight loss because it’s most effective when it comes to helping you gain and maintain muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be and the more calories you’ll be able to burn at rest and while exercising.
Promotes Blood Sugar Balance
Grass-fed whey protein can help you to balance your blood sugar, too. It does this by increasing your insulin production and increasing your insulin sensitivity. This makes it easy for your body to manage blood sugar and avoid serious spikes and crashes.
Better Taste and Texture
Most people agree that grass-fed whey has a better taste and texture compared to plant-based protein sources. Plant-based protein powders are notorious for having an unpleasant aftertaste (not all of them are this way, of course, but enough are that people tend to be a bit cautious when sampling them). If you’re looking for a protein shake that tastes good and helps you to feel your best, whey is likely better.
Health Benefits of Pea Protein
Pea protein also provides some unique health benefits. If you’re looking for an effective plant-based protein powder, pea protein is a good choice to consider. Here are some of the most well-known reasons why:
If you follow a vegan diet, pea protein is a plant-based option you can feel good about. Many vegetarians also prefer not to eat dairy-based protein sources as well, so pea protein is a safe choice for them.
In general, grass-fed whey is considered an easily digestible protein source. For those who don’t handle dairy well, though, pea protein can sometimes be a better fit. If someone is severely lactose intolerant or has an allergy, for example, they’ll likely have good luck with pea protein powder.
Higher in Fiber
Pea protein powder contains more fiber than whey protein, too. Adding more fiber to your diet can help you to feel satiated, which is good for weight loss and weight management. It can help to improve digestion in some people as well (although it should be noted that some people experience more digestive issues when they increase their fiber intake, so it’s not a guarantee).
How to Choose the Best Grass-Fed Whey Protein
Grass-fed whey protein is one of the healthiest proteins to incorporate into your routine. It has a great amino acid profile and is easy for most people to digest. As with any type of protein powder, though, there are some types of grass-fed whey that are healthier than others.
If you need help finding the healthiest grass-fed whey, here are some tips to remember when you’re shopping:
- Check the label to ensure the producer is accredited and that the protein comes from 100 percent grass-fed cows
- Make sure you’re choosing organic grass-fed whey protein to ensure it doesn’t come from cows treated with antibiotics or growth hormones
- Look for grass-fed whey protein isolate if you’re lactose intolerant or want a lower calorie/lower carb option
- Buy cold-processed whey protein powder to ensure the protein and other nutrients aren’t damaged before they get to you
Be sure to look up ratings and reviews before selecting your protein powder, too. This will help you find one that tastes great and meets your specific nutrition needs.
How to Choose the Best Pea Protein
If you need a plant-based protein powder, either because you eat a plant-based diet or because you don’t do well with dairy-based proteins, pea protein is a solid pick. Some people have complaints about pea protein’s taste and texture, though. If you’re having a hard time tracking down a palatable and high-quality pea protein powder, here are some tips that can help:
- Check the label to ensure its macronutrient and micronutrient composition works for your needs (for example, some pea proteins are higher in carbs than whey protein powders)
- Make sure it’s cold-processed to minimize damage to the protein and other nutrients
- Consider a certified organic pea protein to avoid exposure to harmful pesticides or other chemicals
- Check for heavy metal testing, as many plant-based proteins contain metals like lead and arsenic
Check ratings and reviews for your pea protein, too, especially when it comes to taste and texture. These protein powders can be a bit of a hit or miss, so it pays to do your research before settling on one.
Find Your New Favorite Protein Powder Today
Selecting a nutritious and delicious protein powder to supplement your diet can seem like a daunting task at first. Don’t let all the options out there overwhelm you though.
Remember the information and tips outlined above as you begin shopping around. As long as you keep them in mind, you’ll have a much easier time deciding whether grass-fed whey protein or pea protein is a better fit for your needs and health goals!
Read more from our Health Section to get more Health Blog and Tips.