Casein vs. Whey vs. Plant-Based Protein Powder

Protein is essential for your muscles to recover, function and perform for training. Whether your diet is vegan or incorporates animal products- we all need to maintain protein in our diet for our bodies to function properly or gain lean muscle mass. 

A common way to incorporate more protein in our diet is by adding protein powders to a smoothie, drink or food products. There are many options when it comes to protein powders, whether it be from whey, casein, plant protein and more. But with an endless list, how do you know which powdered protein is best for you? 

To start, let’s look at some of the most popular options- casein, whey and plant-based protein powders. The protein supplement market is rapidly growing with many options ranging from ingredients to price and more. Here is our comparison to breaking down these types of protein powders, so you can give your body exactly what it needs for your training. 

Casein and Whey Protein 

Milk contains two types of protein- casein and whey. Casein is 80 percent of the milk protein and whey is 20 percent. 


Athletes commonly use whey as protein supplementation, alongside their training exercises, to help improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean muscle mass. Although whey protein powders are very popular in the protein supplement industry, it is important to know the effects on the body before consuming this product on a daily basis. Whey protein can have some side effects due to the fact it is an animal product, but most of these side effects are related to lactose intolerance since lactose is the main carb in whey protein. 


Casein is a slow-digesting dairy protein that people often take as a supplement. It releases amino acids slowly, so people usually take it before bed to help with recovery and reduce muscle breakdown while they sleep. As animal proteins go, casein is a complete protein source--eaning it contains essential amino acids. There are two main forms of casein: micellar casein and casein hydrolysate. Micellar casein is the most popular form for people to take and is digested slowly. Casein hydrolysate is a form of predigested protein and is rapidly absorbed. Casein is well known as a “time-release” protein because of its slow absorption rate in the digestive system. This means that it feeds your cells with amino acids at a low level over a long period of time, keeping you fuller for longer. For this reason, it’s called “anti-catabolic” and helps reduce muscle breakdown. 

A reason many people stray away from the two animal product proteins are usually from lactose, digestion and ethical issues. The casein and whey proteins are a by-product of dairy products that comes from cows. The cows used for dairy production do not have many protection rights and are often kept under abusive conditions which steer people to choose a more plant-based protein to fulfill their protein needs and still see results when gaining lean muscle. 

Plant Protein 

Plant protein can be extracted from hundreds of different vegetables, nuts and seeds. In fact, quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, blue-green algae and soybeans are all complete sources of protein and essential amino acids. For example, the ATAQ Fuel protein powders are vegan and made from natural sources and use over six different sources of plant-based protein to match the amino acid composition of whey.

A complete plant-based protein solution is worth it since its blend of several veggies, nuts and seeds ensures all nine amino are provided in the right quantities. Most common are pea and brown rice to supply the recommended levels of lysine and methionine, but pumpkin and chia seeds are also high in methionine, and quinoa and black beans are also rich in lysine. When you are buying plant-sourced protein, look for a label that offers a variety of ingredients. Another reason plant protein is it’s a great option is its nutrient density. Whey may offer calcium and a few B vitamins, but it doesn’t compare to the nutrient content in plants and let’s face it- most of us do not eat the suggested amount of fruits and vegetables in our day. With a plant-based protein, you’re increasing your protein and your daily allowance of plant food.

Which is Better for Muscle Gain?

Need help building muscle? It all circles back to protein. This is why most athletes supplement their diets with protein powders. But, it's what's actually in the protein that helps your body build muscle (or even help with fat loss). In terms of muscle gain, your body will break down protein into amino acids, and the amino acids needed for muscle gain (such as BCAAs) will then support growth. If you don’t have all the essential amino acids, your body might not be able to put the amino acids to use and help build the muscle you require. So while both whey and plant protein can help you build muscle, it’s important to make sure your protein is made from all the amino acids and from natural sources. 

Why Plant-Based Protein

Plant-based nutrition is a great way to balance your diet for sports, wellness and health. If you choose to fuel your body naturally, plant-based protein is the best option for you. Our protein powders at ATAQ Fuel are plant-based and utilize over six different sources of plant-based protein to match the amino acid of whey as closely as possible for muscle growth and recovery, but without the issues, whey causes for those with lactose intolerance or sensitive stomachs. We have chocolate, vanilla and matcha flavors to try and mix up your smoothie routine!

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Here’s an easy recipe to incorporate after a training session to easily get the protein you need in, it’s packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats and probiotics. 


12 oz water

1 cup spinach

2 cups frozen mixed berries

1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt

2 scoops ATAQ vanilla protein powder

1 tbsp walnuts

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

500 calories, 57 g protein, 54 g carbs, 14 g fiber, 11 g fat
Interested more in sports nutrition? We have our guide for you here!

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