Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps build muscles, repair tissues, and make enzymes and hormones. Protein powder also helps aid in weight loss and muscle toning. There are many different protein powder options to choose from, including dairy-based and plant-based options.
Here at Haven Athletic, we are dedicated to providing you with reliable information to help you make the most informed decisions about how to maximize your overall health and fitness.
In this article, we will discuss the difference between soy protein and whey protein. We will also examine the benefits both protein supplements have to offer.
What Is Soy Protein?
Soy protein isolate is a plant-based protein that comes from soybeans. Soy protein is made from ground soybeans which are then processed into a powder. The soybean powder is nutrient-enriched with fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, and B vitamins.
Soy protein is used to help lose or manage weight, boost energy, and build muscle. It can also help maintain your hormone balance and can lower the risk of certain illnesses.
Benefits of Soy Protein
There are many benefits of soy protein supplements:
- Helps Manage Cholesterol: Because there is no cholesterol found in soy protein, it is superb for lowering cholesterol levels, low-density lipoproteins (which transport cholesterol in the bloodstream), and triglycerides.
- Uses Plant Protein: One of the biggest benefits of soy protein is that it is plant-based. So, individuals who are strictly vegan or vegetarian and are unable to use other protein supplements can still get protein through soy protein powder.
- Contains No Dairy: Many people who suffer from dairy allergies or other dairy-related sensitivities benefit from soy protein because it is lactose-free and contains no dairy products.
- Contains Many Nutrients: Soy protein offers an abundance of nutritional value. Soy contains all the essential amino acids and is packed with vitamins and minerals that help your body function.
- Improves Gastrointestinal Health: Soy is loaded with fiber which helps keep your stomach and lower intestines healthy.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is an animal-based protein that comes from milk. The milk is pasteurized and separated into two different proteins: casein and whey. The whey protein is processed to remove carbs, fats, and water, which turns it into a fine powder.
Whey is a term used to refer to a complex substance that is separated from milk and is made up of a combination of protein, lactose, minerals, immunoglobulins, and small amounts of fat.
Whey protein isolate has some highly bioactive peptides making it a superfood for fat loss and lean muscle mass.
Types of Whey Protein
There are three types of whey protein made through variations of this processing method:
- Whey Protein Concentrate: This is the healthiest form of whey protein because it is the least processed. Due to its minimal processing, it still contains low levels of fat and cholesterol but high levels of bioactive compounds in the form of lactose.
Some argue that this form of whey protein is more flavorful due to the unprocessed fat levels and remaining lactose.
- Whey Protein Isolate: This whey protein goes through a lengthier process to remove higher levels of carbohydrates and fats. Whey protein isolates contain approximately 90% or more of all the protein in milk with low levels of lactose.
- Whey Protein Hydrolysate: In this protein powder, the whey protein isolate has been “hydrolyzed” by larger proteins, meaning it has been broken down into smaller pieces. This allows the protein to be absorbed more rapidly. It also increases blood insulin levels which is helpful for athletes who want to build lean muscle mass.
Benefits of Whey Protein
There are many health benefits whey protein can offer.
- Increases Strength and Builds Muscle Mass: Whey protein is a very effective way to add protein to your diet without the added carbs or fats. Because whey protein can contain approximately 90% of the protein in milk, it provides the body with the nutrients it needs to build muscle and strength.
It also helps aid in muscle recovery after a workout.
- Burns Fat: A research study examined the effects of whey protein, with and without resistance training, on body weight and body composition. The study found that those supplementing with whey protein showed a significant decrease in fat and body weight. This effect was significantly increased among those who also did resistance training.
- Reduces Cravings: There are two hormones that help regulate your appetite: ghrelin and leptin. Leptin affects your energy balance which can help regulate how much food your body uses for fuel. Ghrelin regulates hunger.
A study showed that whey protein helps balance out ghrelin and leptin hormone secretions and helps reduce the hunger cravings associated with overeating.
- Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels: Whey protein has been found to lower blood sugar levels when consumed before a meal that contains high levels of glycemia.
Research has shown that whey protein can help manage diabetes symptoms because it encourages gastric emptying, stimulates insulin and gut hormones after you eat, and decreases blood glucose levels.
- Increases Energy: When consuming whey protein, glycogen levels increase, which provides energy that is used during exercise.
Because whey protein is easily digested and absorbed, it is quickly converted into energy and helps boost energy levels.
- Improves Exercise Performance: Whey supplementation has also been shown to improve exercise performance, strength, and body composition through increased energy levels due to the amino acids present in the whey protein.
The Key Differences Between Soy Protein and Whey Protein
There are a few key differences between soy and whey protein. However, the main difference between soy and whey protein is what they are made of. Whey protein is animal-based, while soy protein is plant-based.
These two proteins also differ when it comes to taste. Some say soy has an earthier flavor with a bitter aftertaste, while whey protein has a mild flavor with little-to-no aftertaste.
When it comes to texture, whey protein is described as creamy, and soy protein has been described as coarse.
While both sources of protein offer many health benefits, whey protein has been found to be more beneficial when combined with resistance training as it promotes more gains in lean muscle mass than soy protein supplements.
Protein powders are very beneficial when it comes to health and fitness. It's easy to see that protein supplementation can really benefit athletes, though there can be many other health benefits for older adults, vegetarians, and vegans who may not exercise on a regular basis or need an additional source of protein.
When deciding which protein is best for you, do your research and consult with a medical professional or dietitian prior to purchasing protein powder. Ultimately, the choice between soy and whey protein is up to you and what best suits your health and fitness needs.
For athletes, protein is an essential fitness staple that should be included in everyone’s gym duffel bag in some way to help with muscle recovery right after a workout. For more health and fitness tips and information, be sure to check out our Haven Athletic blog.