Soy or Whey: The Superior Protein

Walk into any gym or fitness center and you will most likely be suggested to include protein supplements, in the form of powders in your diet. Even if you are not a serious athlete or bodybuilder, chances are you?ll be encouraged to include protein in your meal plan. 

Wondering why? This is because what you eat, most likely, doesn?t meet your daily protein requirements! A recent IMRB survey has revealed that 9 out of 10 plates in India's metros are deficient in protein. 

Though proteins are easily available and can be extracted from a wide range of food products, the lack of knowledge and time scarcity makes it difficult for you to reach your daily minimum intake of protein. And this is where protein supplements come to your rescue. These are the easiest way to balance demand and supply of proteins in your body. 


Both whey and soy score 1.0 on PDCAAs (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score), the highest rating for a protein source. While soy protein is being tagged as a ?feminizing? compound, whey protein is the new standard. But there is another side to it. Neither soy is feminizing nor is whey superior to soy. Actually, your selection of proteins depends on your fitness goals, protein requirements, digestion, tolerance with lactose and cost. 


Extracted from beans, soy is a plant-based protein  with all nine essential amino acids and heart-friendly omega-3s. Whey is the water soluble part of cow?s milk - one of the two proteins found in milk. As whey is found in milk, yogurt, and cheese, it contains lactose. Therefore, if you are a vegan and intolerant to lactose, soy is your ally. Whey works well if you have a great tolerance for lactose. The American Heart Association (AHA) also recommends adding at least 25g of soy protein every day to a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart diseases.  


A study presented at The American College of Sports Medicine Meeting in 2004 demonstrated that both soy and whey proteins are equally effective at boosting muscle hypertrophy post workout. So, no matter whether you consume soy or whey post workout, both work, but whey works more because it digests quickly and offers more amino acids per serving. 


The general perception is that soy is feminizing and upsets (reduces) the testosterone levels in males. A study underwritten in 2005 by the Solae Company revealed that soy only promotes lean body mass. It doesn?t negatively affect testosterone levels in males when they are enrolled in weight-training programs. The study was conducted over 12 weeks where 41 athletes consumed soy protein shakes twice daily.



Whey concentrates are said to have up to 89 per cent of protein content. Isolates have more than 90 per cent of protein by weight. Soy concentrates contain more than 65 percent protein content whereas isolates contain up to 90 percent protein by weight. Additionally, whey has low but significant levels of fat and cholesterol while soy is cholesterol-free. When you choose a protein, make sure to consider your protein requirements and cholesterol level.

Obviously, both soy and whey make great choices, but if you?re intolerant to lactose, soy is your call.  However otherwise, soy-whey blend works the best. The fast absorption of whey can be balanced with slow digestion of soy while the higher protein content in whey can promote faster muscle building. Together they provide more energy, as a result, more prolonged release of amino acids. Alternatively, rotating the protein supplements is also effective


Many studies have demonstrated quick digestive properties of whey protein. As it is water soluble, it is digested shortly after intake. It doesn't coagulate with other molecules in the stomach and is, therefore, quickly emptied into the small intestine. And because it's quickly digestible, the effect of whey short-lived.

On the other hand, soy digests slower than whey. This is because the former contains a significant level of fibre. The best way to ensure better digestion and results is to combine soy and whey, whenever possible. A study published in 2013 in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" found that whey protein absorbed quickly and helped maximize muscle synthesis. The higher concentrations of amino acids in whey protein is important for muscle building and therefore resulted in greater muscle protein synthesis than soy protein. Moreover, whey protein reduced cortisol, a hormone that can break down muscle following an exercise. 


Obviously, both soy and whey make great choices, but if you?re intolerant to lactose, soy is your call.  However otherwise, soy-whey blend works the best. The fast absorption of whey can be balanced with slow digestion of soy while the higher protein content in whey can promote faster muscle building. The blend of soy and whey will helps you build more muscle mass by cleverly complementing each other.  Together they provide more energy by prolonging release of amino acids.

Since soy protein, particularly soy protein isolate, is fairly fast-digesting and rich in arginine, the amino acid that?s regularly converted to nitric oxide (NO) in the body,  you should add soy to your pre-workout whey protein shake for more energy and stamina before you workout. 




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