As people begin to make the change to live a healthier lifestyle they often turn to supplementation for support. For those seeking to build muscle, protein is often one of the first things they turn to.  Your body needs protein to build muscles and it also helps suppress the appetite so it’s a great two-for-one deal for anyone looking to get into shape.

When choosing a protein supplement one will be faced with a major divide, should I choose a plant or dairy-based proteins? Unless you’re vegan this can be a difficult decision to make. What are the differences anyway? Let’s compare.

Dairy-based proteins such as Whey or Casein offer high levels of protein with a great flavor. Because of this, there are many flavor options and you are almost guaranteed to find something you will love to eat or drink. But this doesn’t come without a cost. Dairy proteins are notoriously hard on the digestive system. They are difficult to digest and often leave people with intestinal discomfort. These effects can be somewhat mitigated by the digestive enzyme lactase which helps aid in the digestion of dairy products, but usually with only limited success. Many products may even already include lactase as an ingredient. Think of it like reducing a hurricane to a tropical storm. It’s not as bad, but still not very pleasant. Lactase should not be considered a cure for this discomfort, just a buffer.

Also, it is worth noting that most people are lactose intolerant and many don’t realize it. One estimate says that about 65% of adults are lactose intolerant with some regions such as Asia, being as high as 95%! Lactose intolerance can manifest in many ways, not just intestinal discomfort, if you are experiencing symptoms such as frequent headaches, inflammation or joint pain (rheumatoid arthritis), acne, etc., then you may be lactose intolerant.

  Let’s now examine plant-based proteins. There are many sources for plant proteins, the most widely used are pea, brown rice, pumpkin, and chia. There are many advantages to consuming a plant-based protein. One is that it is easier to digest. They do not have the same discomfort that often follows dairy-based proteins. They are also high in fiber and other nutrients. This means that you are not only supplementing protein, but you are also getting a wider range of benefits not naturally available in dairy proteins. All of this comes with the same protein performance as their dairy counterparts. It seems like the obvious choice.

There is one catch though, plant-based proteins generally fall short is in flavor and texture. Plant proteins can tend to be grainy and bitter making it more difficult to flavor. It’s very difficult for it to compete with the natural creamy sweetness of whey. However, this tide is gradually changing. Recent improvements in technology and techniques have been pushing plant proteins to new levels, closing the flavor gap.  Just because you tried one plant protein that was difficult to palette doesn’t mean they are all this way. Explore the world of plant protein bars and shakes and you are almost certain to find one you like.

Written by Jake Johnston