Whether you're a fitness enthusiast or just starting to think about incorporating more protein into your diet, you've probably heard about the benefits of plant-based and grass-fed proteins. But what are the differences between these two types of protein, and which one is better for you? Here's a look at the pros and cons of plant-based and grass-fed proteins so you can decide which is right for you.
Let’s face it: Choosing the right protein supplement can be a nerve-racking experience.
It’s like hitting the bull’s eye on a 10-inch target with an air rifle from 100 yards - it’s certainly not impossible, but you have to be an excellent marksman to get the job done.
To that end, we’ve put this guide to help you pick between two of the best options on the market: plant protein and grass-fed protein. We offer both products because, above all else, we want to provide the highest quality supplements to our customers.
With that in mind, let’s have an in-depth look at both supplements, their unique benefits, and which one you should choose.
What is Plant Protein, And Is It Any Good?
As the name suggests, plant proteins come from plants instead of animals (such as beef or whey). Some research indicates that plant proteins have less potent effects inside the body, which might be true but only to a certain degree.
For example, in one review, researchers compared the effects of animal and plant protein on measures of muscle protein synthesis, growth, recovery, and more. The researchers found that plant protein doesn’t have the same anabolic properties as animal-based protein. In other words, plant proteins don’t cause the same level of growth and recovery as animal nutrients do.
Plus, which do you imagine would help you gain more muscle: a steak or a bunch of legumes in a bowl? Exactly.
Still, all is not lost for plant proteins. For one, we need more research to examine the effects of different plant proteins on muscle protein synthesis. There is also need for long-term studies that look at the impact of various proteins on muscle growth, fat loss, and such. Sure, a plant protein might have had slightly lesser effects when compared to an animal-based one, but would that genuinely lead to less progress in the long run?
Finally, we also have to consider the ethical side of the conversation. Many people choose to rely on plant-based protein not because they seek better results but because they follow a vegan diet.
What is Grass-Fed Protein?
Grass-fed proteins come from animals fed a grass-based diet rather than GMO-based substitutes, like soy and corn. Two of the most popular options of such proteins are whey and casein.
Unlike some plant proteins (such as those that come from most legumes), animal proteins are considered complete because they contain adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids. As such, these proteins can trigger a more potent anabolic response, possibly leading to more muscle growth, better recovery, and such.
However, we aren’t sure how the two types of protein would compare over a more extended period (say, six months) because many factors go into the equation. Among these, we can’t overlook:
- The training program you follow. Aside from fueling your body well, you need to follow a good training program, do enough workouts, make steady progress, and work your muscles from different angles.
- Your overall nutritional approach. The diet you follow will also determine the results you can expect. For example, you might supplement with a solid grass-fed protein, but if the rest of your diet isn’t good, you will struggle.
How much you sleep. Getting good sleep is crucial for protein synthesis, proper recovery, and fat loss. A good training program combined with a solid nutritional plan won’t be enough to make optimal progress if you don’t rest well at night.
There is a reason why these products are named “supplements”. They exist to supplement the effort that already goes into your training, nutrition, and recovery.
Grass-fed protein also has a different environmental impact than the factory-farmed beef and dairy products we’ve grown so used to. This holds true because proper land management and livestock use can play a significant role in preventing or, at least, slowing down climate change. For example, allowing livestock to roam outdoors and consume wild vegetation can promote the return of carbon to the soil instead of letting it go into the atmosphere. You can read more about the entire process here.
Another thing to consider is the health of the animal providing us with meat or dairy. Corn is often the go-to choice for livestock feed because it offers the highest consumable calorie amount per acre. Although humans find it relatively easily to digest corn, ruminants (like cattle, buffalo, and cows) don’t. Such carbs can lead to acidosis and dysbiosis in the rumen (the first stomach), causing health issues and possible problems with the dairy and meat derived from such animals. You can read more about the implications here.
Plant or Grass-Fed Protein: Which One Should You Pick?
For those following a vegan diet, the answer here is pretty simple:
Go with a plant-based protein and never look back. You can even check out our product and decide if it fits your needs. In addition, you should include a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet to guarantee sufficient supply of all 9 essential amino acids. Some options include:
- Green peas
- Soy milk
But what about everyone else?
Digestibility and sustainability are the two primary factors we should consider when choosing what supplements to purchase. Plant-based and grass-fed proteins are both great because they share many similarities.
For one, their digestibility is almost identical as we can easily take up their nutrients. Both can stimulate muscle growth, recovery, fat loss, and general health. Grass-fed protein offers a slightly better amino acid profile, but plant proteins are richer in other nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Plus, animals consuming wild vegetation (instead of corn) digest the food better and maintain their health, resulting in higher quality meat and dairy.
There’s just an issue with certain whey and casein products as they might contain lactose and cause stomach distress. Consider a plant-based alternative if you feel bloated or nauseous from dairy-based proteins.
Second, the sustainability of production is identical between the two proteins. For instance, grass-fed protein has a favorable environmental impact, especially compared to factory-farmed beef. As briefly mentioned above, providing wild vegetation to livestock can promote carbon uptake in the soil.
Overall, we lean in favor of grass-fed protein because of the slightly superior amino acid profile. Grass-fed protein also offers a bit more of the nutrient per serving, making it a great product to reach your daily goals with ease.
Looking for a grass-fed protein supplement? Check out our grass-fed protein products!