With the upcoming release of our latest product, the Millionaire Crunch we think it’s the right time to explore the differences between vegan protein and whey based products. Is one better than the other and is there a reason for you to consider moving towards plant-based products and away from whey?
Protein powders and protein bars are an undeniably convenient way to increase your protein intake which is especially important for health-conscious individuals, athletes and dieters.
Over the last few years veganism has experienced massive growth with a rise of nearly 600% in the US and UK between the years of 2014 and 2017. This takes the number of vegans from 1% of the population to around 6%. While 6% isn’t a huge amount of the population, it’s big enough not to be ignored, especially when you consider that even among non-vegans there is a growing interest in vegan nutrition.
If you follow a vegan diet, you’ll know how tricky it can be to get enough protein, particularly when snacking post-workout when you might not have enough time to prepare a proper meal. Getting enough protein immediately after exercise is important as this is the period when your muscles begin the process of rebuilding and repairing (known as protein synthesis).
Isn't Whey Protein Vegan?
Your average protein bar or flapjack bar is usually made using whey protein. Whey is a ‘complete-protein’ meaning it consists of all 22 amino acids that the body needs for muscle recovery. This makes it ideal for athletes.
Unfortunately for vegans, this super high-quality of protein is a by-product of the cheese and yoghurt industries meaning you’ll need to look elsewhere for your protein boost, though it is suitable for vegetarians.
The Facts About Whey Protein
There are a few reason why whey is so popular, and why we use it in our snack bars.
- Complete Protein - As we’ve already discussed, whey protein contains all of the 22 amino acids critical for muscle development.
- Promotes Muscle Growth - Whey protein is rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s). Made up of three essential amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, BCAAs promote recovery and increased muscle mass growth.
- Rapid Digestion - BCAA’s are most effective when absorbed rapidly after exercise. Whey digests quickly, providing a rapid rise in amino acids.
- Taste and Texture - Especially when compared to vegan protein, whey actually has a pretty decent texture and flavour. It also takes on flavours well making it ideal for use with a variety of flavours.
- May Cause Stomach Discomfort - While it doesn’t affect everyone, consuming large amounts of whey protein can upset some people’s stomachs, possibly down to the lactose in the whey (which also means whey isn’t suitable if you’re lactose/dairy-intolerant.
- Reduces Appetite - A number of studies have shown that consuming whey protein can help reduce appetite and ultimately your overall calorie intake, which is another plus if your goal is to lose weight.
In short whey protein digests rapidly and provides a complete amino acid profile which can help you gain muscle quickly.
What are Vegan Protein Bars made from?
There are a number of common sources of vegan protein. The most common types are pea, soy, rice and hemp.
Unlike whey, the only source of vegan protein which is considered a 'complete protein' is soy. This means that by themselves these sources won't provide you with all of the nutrients you need in your diet. We use soy protein in the Millionaire Crunch for this reason!
They're also processed more slowly in the body than whey, so you're unlikely to get the rapid BCAA absorption that is part of the parcel with whey protein, nor will they supress your appetite in the same way that whey does.
It's not all bad though, as long as you consume a variety of vegan proteins through your broader diet you should end up getting everything you need day-to-day.
If you struggle with an upset stomach when you eat whey, you'll be pleased to know that most vegan protein bars should be much easier on the stomach too.
The jury is still out though and only you can make that call. Most vegan protein bars offer comparable macros, although some of them contain more carbohydrates and natural sugars thanks to the fruits and nuts in their recipes. Unless you’re really serious about cutting carbs, this shouldn’t be a problem if you lead an active lifestyle, specifically when you consider all the additional vitamins and minerals packed in.
Do they Taste As Good?
That’s a very subjective question and arguably the best vegan protein bars taste great much better than they did even two or three years ago! The real issue for many vegan bars is their slightly dusty texture.
While whey provides a satisfying texture (although it can be quite tough!), vegan proteins just aren't as good when brands try to emulate the same kind of products are typical protein bars.
I'm going to namedrop again, because well...I can. Our MillionaireCrunch is baked with a based of satisfying 'protein-crunchies' . This makes the best use of the natural properties of soy protein rather than trying to make a poor mans Low Sugar Protein bar that sucks!
Gluten-Free Vegan Protein Bars
Many vegan bars are also gluten-free. While this won't affect the vast majority of us, if you suffer from coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance these combo bars are a brilliant way to snack and ‘up’ your protein intake.
How Much Protein?
Arguably, the better tasting vegan protein bars contain a little less protein than their non-vegan counterparts. While you might feel a little bit short-changed, don’t be. 10-15g is plenty of protein to kickstart your recovery, even if you’re snacking after exercise or between meals.