Whey Protein vs. Soy Protein: Which is the Best Choice?
With thousands of protein powders on the market it’s hard to know which one to choose. Let me start by saying protein supplements are for “supplementing” a diet that is already high in quality sources of protein that come from real foods like free-range eggs, poultry, wild caught fish, raw dairy, and grass-fed beef. Check out my superfood plate below for a breakdown of how much protein/fat/carbs I recommend and sources for each.
Real Food Superfood Plate
Now that you’re consuming high quality proteins as part of your diet, you have the green light to search out some quality protein powders.
The top 3 selling protein powders to date are whey, soy, and brown rice. Let’s break down each one and talk about which one comes out on top. But before we do that, let’s discuss what protein is and why you need it to get fit and healthy.
The Importance of Protein
The word Protein comes from a Greek word meaning first priority or of first importance. The Greeks were highly concerned with their physical health and appearance and knew the vital importance of protein in the diet. Protein is essential to rebuilding cells and tissues, keeping fluids in balance, protecting enzyme functions, supporting nerve and muscle contraction as well as supporting the health of skin, hair and nails!
As more people today are becoming aware of the importance of protein in the diet and concerned with their physique, protein supplementation is becoming more and more popular, even for non-athletes.
One of the most popular protein supplements today is whey. According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, whey protein is a great way to increase muscle strength. Recently I’ve written about the benefits of whey protein supplementation, but I want to take it a step further and compare the pro’s and con’s of two very popular protein supplements; whey and soy protein supplements. I’ll also share the protein source I personally use. Let’s get started with whey protein.
Whey Protein 101
Whey proteins are globular proteins derived as a by product of cheese production. It ‘s one of two types of proteins found in milk; whey and casein proteins. There are three types of whey protein. These are the following:
Concentrates – containing low level of fat and cholesterol, higher levels of bioactive compounds in the form of lactose. This is the best and least processed form.
Isolates – the fat has been removed, lower in bio-activated compounds with a mild to milky taste and proteins can be denatured.
Hydro-isolates – with these the cost is higher, and they are less allergenic than the other forms of whey. However, this is by far the most processed and proteins have been denatured. I do not recommend this form of whey.
Whey protein is highly digestible and used in a number of common grocery store products.
Whey Protein is Found in:
- Meal replacement products
Benefits of Whey Protein
Whey protein is one of the most popular proteins used by athletes and bodybuilders alike for its muscle enhancing effects. It is theorized to help not only build muscle and enhance body composition but also to speed the recovery of broken down and stressed muscles (as occurs from exercise). This is attributed to the leucine found in whey protein.
In the study mentioned earlier by the British Journal of Nutrition, whey protein was found to contain “active components that are superior to amino acids for stimulating muscle protein synthesis and initiating translation.”
But these aren’t the only benefits of whey protein. In addition, numerous recent studies point to added health benefits of whey. Some of these include the following:
- Appetite suppression
- Anti-oxidant properties to fight free radical damage
- Preventing inherited allergies
- Reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes
Side Effects of Whey
As with most supplements, there are certain side effects from whey protein. Some of these side effects include gas, bloating, cramps, tiredness, fatigue, headaches and irritability. Many of these side effects are blamed on the consumer of whey being lactose intolerant or from the added artificial sweeteners found in some whey protein powders. (Below I’ll explain what you MUST look for and what to avoid when buying a protein powder.)
There are a number of benefits to using a whey protein supplement and studies continue to mount supporting the above mentioned benefits of whey protein. Now let’s discuss soy protein supplementation.
Soy Protein 101
Soy protein is derived from the soybean that has been dehulled and defatted. These dehulled and defatted soybeans are then processed into three forms:
- Soy flour
- Soy concentrates
- Soy isolates
Soy protein has many uses and was not originally used as a food product but for paper coatings used as a pigment binder. Today, soy is used in many foods and other products as well.
Soy Protein is Found in:
- Salad Dressings
- Beverage Powders
- Frozen Deserts
- Infant Formulas
- Breakfast Cereals
- Pet Foods
For a time, there were a number of health claims about soy protein. Some of these claims stated that soy protein consumption helped lower bad cholesterol, prevented heart disease and even fought off some cancers. However, more recent studies have indicated that many of these health claims are not only false but that there are serious concerns with concentrated soy protein consumption.
Health Concerns with Soy Protein
These concerns have to do with the phytoestrogens found in soy proteins, especially the concentrated soy proteins. Phytoestrogens mimic estrogen. The concern with this is that many people today are becoming estrogen dominated and this can be potentially hazardous to our health. Much of this estrogen dominance has been attributed to plastics that contain a form of estrogen that when heated and undergo extreme temperatures leach into the foods and beverages held in the plastics. When we consume the foods we consume the plastics. High levels of estrogen have been associated with increased risk of certain cancers in both men and women.
This is my concern with adding more estrogen to the diet and with using soy supplements.
The Protein I Personally Use
1. Sprouted Brown Rice Protein
I personally mix my protein sources. First, I aim to get the majority of my protein from high quality, organic food sources. When using a protein powder I rotate between sprouted brown rice protein (Garden of Life) and a high quality whey protein concentrate (Teras Whey). I like raw sprouted brown rice protein because it’s a plant based protein, is easily digested and very few people are allergic to it– unlike whey.
If you’re considering adding a protein supplement to your diet, I recommend starting with 1 scoop Raw Brown Rice Protein (scroll to the bottom of the link to see more flavors) in your morning smoothie. This protein powder contains 17g of protein per serving and meets all seven guidelines I recommend in choosing any protein powder.
2. Whey Protein Concentrate
If you want to rotate your protein sources and add a good whey protein concentrate.
In summary, let’s take a look at what the most important lessons of this article are:
- When buying Whey choose a “Whey Concentrate” as it’s the least processed form.
- Sprouted Brown Rice is superior to soy as a plant based protein.
- Whey and Rice do not run the risk of increased estrogen in the body as with a soy protein.
- Follow my seven rules for finding a high quality protein supplement.
- As always, use organic natural foods as your primary source of protein.
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