What is the Difference Between Whey and Lean Protein

The main difference between whey and lean protein is that whey protein generally contains significant levels of fat, but lean protein contains little or no fat. However, whey protein isolate does not contain both fat and lactose. Furthermore, whey protein is a protein supplement important for bodybuilding, while lean protein is generally a natural protein source, which comes from either fish, meat, eggs or milk.  Also, lean protein may contain healthy nutrients such as beneficial plant chemicals, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. In general, lean protein helps to burn more fat as it contains low fat.  

In brief, whey and lean protein are two types of protein sources important in providing amino acids for the body. Specifically, they are important for increasing lean muscle mass. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. What is Whey Protein
     – Definition, Features, Importance
2. What is Lean Protein
     – Definition, Features, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Whey and Lean Protein
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Whey and Lean Protein
     – Comparison of Key Differences  

Key Terms 

Amino Acids, Fat, Lean Protein, Protein, Whey Protein

Difference Between Whey and Lean Protein - Comparison Summary

What is Whey Protein 

Whey protein is a mixture of globular proteins separated from the whey. Generally, whey is the leftover liquid material in the coagulation procedure of cheese production. Therefore, it consists of soluble components of milk that is a 5% lactose solution with lactalbumin and some minerals. Here, the protein component of whey includes beta-lactoglobulin (~65 percent), alpha-lactalbumin (~25 percent), and serum albumin (~8 percent). Moreover, the processing of whey involves drying or the removal of the fat and other non-protein content, which in turn increases the protein content.

Though whey protein is popular among bodybuilders, it is responsible for some forms of milk allergies and lactose intolerance.  

Whey Protein vs Lean Protein

Figure 1: Whey Protein

Commercially, whey protein is available in the market as a dietary supplement in four types. They are:  

  1. Whey protein concentrate (WPC – WPC contains significant levels of fat and cholesterol and a high amount of carbohydrates in the form of lactose when compared to the other forms. Typically, WPC contains  29-89% of whey protein by weight. Hence, it is slight to mild milky in taste.  
  2. Whey protein isolate (WPI) –  WPI is a processed form of whey protein that does not contain fat as well as lactose. By weight, WPI contains 90% of whey protein.  
  3. Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) –  WPH contains pre-digested and partially hydrolyzed whey protein that eases metabolism. Therefore, WPH is costly in general. The highly hydrolyzed form of whey protein is the least allergenic.  
  4. Native whey protein –  It is not a by-product of cheese, but an extract of skim milk. Both concentrate and the isolate forms are available in the native whey protein. 

What is Lean Protein 

Lean protein is a natural source of protein with a lesser amount of fat. Usually, protein accounts for 10 to 35% of total daily calorie intake. That means; one has to consume around 50 to 175 g of proteins. Out of this, the importance of intaking lean protein, excepting high-fat dairy and processed or fatty cuts of meat, is to control the intake of total calories, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol. In addition to this, as lean protein is a type of natural protein source, it also provides vitamins, minerals, beneficial plant chemicals, and dietary fiber.

What is the Difference Between Whey and Lean Protein

Figure 2: Lean Protein

Looking at the source of lean protein, some examples of both animal- and plant-based lean protein include:  

  1. Poultry or white meat, which is lower in calories and saturated fat in comparison to other types of meat. 
  2. Fish, which is rich in heart-healthy fats.
  3. Yoghurt and low-fat milk that contains calcium. 
  4. Egg whites, which has very little fat. 
  5. Lentils and beans that contain dietary fiber and plant nutrients, and pea, a source of dietary fiber.
  6. Nuts, containing heart-healthy fat, and soy foods, which is low in unhealthy fat.
  7. Mushrooms, which is low in calories and also provide vitamin D  
  8. Seeds,  which supply vitamins and minerals. 

Similarities Between Whey and Lean Protein  

  • Whey and lean protein are two types of protein sources, which provide amino acids for the stimulation of protein synthesis.  
  • Therefore,  they are important for increasing lean muscle mass.    
  • However,  they are unique depending on the other ingredients present in the source. 

Difference Between Whey and Lean Protein 

Definition 

Whey protein refers to a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production, while lean protein refers to the food rich in protein, which is either animal or vegetarian-based and especially, low in fat. 

Source 

Whey protein is the solidified liquid by-product of cheese production, while lean protein is a natural source of protein, which can be either animal or plant-based. 

Containment of Fat 

Whey protein generally contains a significant level of fat, while lean protein indeed contains a low amount of fat. 

Other Ingredients 

Whey protein may contain lactose and cholesterol, while lean protein contains less amount of dietary cholesterol but, high amounts of beneficial plant chemicals, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. 

Importance 

Whey protein is important as a protein supplement for bodybuilding, while lean protein, which contains a lesser amount of fat, helps to burn more fat. 

Health Effects 

Although whey protein can be allergic or exerts lactose intolerance, it is good for type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, lean protein, so far, is not associated with allergies and lactose intolerance, but it controls total calorie intake. 

Conclusion 

Whey protein is a dietary supplement, which contains a higher amount of protein. Generally, it is the solidified liquid by-product of cheese production. However, it contains a higher amount of fat and lactose. Still, whey protein is important as a bodybuilding supplement. In contrast, lean protein is a natural source of protein, coming either from meat, fish, egg or milk-based sources. Therefore, it also contains other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other beneficial plant chemicals. Importantly, it contains a lesser amount of fat. Therefore, lean protein helps to burn more fat in the body. Hence, the main difference between whey and lean protein is their source and importance. 

References:

1. Nordqvist, Joseph. “Whey Protein: Health Benefits, Side Effects, and Dangers.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 27 Nov. 2017, Available Here.
2. “What Is Lean Protein?” MyFoodDiary, 4 Apr. 2016, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “whey-protein-1034149” By Oleh Palamarchuk (License) via Pexels
2. “Protein-rich Foods” By Smastronardo – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia   

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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