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Rice Protein vs Whey: Which is Better? [Complete Guide]

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: August 5, 2023
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To answer the argument of brown rice protein powder vs. whey protein powder, we have to compare a plant-based protein with a dairy-derived one.

As with all protein sources, though, the basic criteria for scoring them stay much the same.

How do they measure up for weight loss and appetite suppression, and which is best for muscle building?

We'll get into the details of how each performs in the article below.

How Are Rice Protein Powder And Whey Similar?


Nutritionally, the two protein supplements score remarkably similar. For one serving, the two brands we compared contained practically no fat and only 1-2g of carbohydrates.

The rice served a little higher in protein at 27g but also a little higher in calories at 117, while the whey provided 26g of protein for only 109 calories.

But how about in performance? In a study conducted in 2013 [1], both rice protein and whey protein supplements were compared.

The study tested for their effects on performance, recovery, body composition, and muscle building in comparative doses. There was no discernible difference, with both scoring positively in equal measure.

How Are They Different?

The fundamental difference between the two is that one is derived from an animal product, namely milk, while the other is a plant-based protein. This means one of them is obviously preferred by the vegan and the dairy intolerant communities.

Whey may be faster-acting and have some minor additional benefits, but are you really going to see those benefits directly? I don't know if you will.

- Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Science, Central Washington University

Rice protein has 8 of the 9 and would need to be combined with another protein sources such as pea protein powder to become complete.

There are other plant based proteins that are already complete protein sources such as soy or hemp.

Rice Protein - Pros and Cons

rice protein


1. Additional Nutritional Benefit

Being made from brown rice, there are a few additional benefits to be found in a rice protein powder that you can't get from whey.

Rice protein is rich in fiber, which aids in healthy digestion. It is also high in antioxidants and B vitamins too.

2. Easy To Digest

Not only does the fiber in rice protein aid a healthy gut, but it is also free of lactose, which is a common bowel irritant with over 65% of the world's population being intolerant.

An ever larger percentile is sensitive to lactose, and if whey gives you the tummy rumbles, you should at least try an alternative.

3. Less Expensive

It should come as no surprise that rice is a lot easier to produce, so the protein derived from it reflects the lower cost of its production.

With studies proving rice protein to be just as effective as whey, it's clear to see that cost and value are not interchangeable. If you're looking to be as cost-effective per scoop as possible, rice protein powder is a great choice.


rice study

1. Inconvenient

As it is not a complete protein in itself, rice protein powder must be supplemented with other protein sources in order to acquire all of the 9 essential amino acids the body needs.

This can come at a cost to your wallet, having to buy two different supplements, or your time planning out meals to make up the lysine that rice protein lacks.

2. Not As Well Tested

Whey protein has been the protein supplement of choice for such a long time, and it comes tried and tested with a lot of scientific research and study done on its efficacy.

While there may be new studies coming in to show rice may be as effective, there just isn't enough hard data to guarantee that fact as of yet.

The major difference between the two proteins though, is that whey has a complete amino acid profile containing all nine of the essential amino acids that the body needs and cannot create for itself.

Whey Protein - Pros and Cons

protein powder


1. The Whole Package

While rice protein may not be a complete protein, whey certainly is. It contains all 9 essential amino acids and generous amounts of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that increase muscle growth and boost performance.

You can also choose to increase the efficacy and composition of whey by choosing whey isolate over whey concentrate. Whey isolate has an increase in its protein content and a decrease in its fat and carbs per scoop.

You can take a more thorough look over our list of protein powders compared to see which one is a better fit for you.

2. Better Flavors

Rice protein powder can be a little earthy. It's hard to disguise it even when you're mixing it with other ingredients. Whey, however, when used plain, has an inoffensive and almost unnoticeable flavor.

The market is flooded with fantastic examples of how genuinely delicious it can taste.

3. Proven Track Record

Whey protein has a wealth of science to back up its claims, such as studies that show it has the effect of a proven reduction in appetite or that which shows a definite link to muscle growth when used alongside strength training. [2][3]

Thanks to research such as this that whey protein supplements can offer money-back guarantees because they know the product works if used correctly.


thumbs down and protein powder

1. Cost

The cost of whey protein on a per scoop basis is much higher than other protein supplements. This is largely due to the cost of production and also because of the market.

At the cheaper end, you'll find many whey products that are mostly just filler ingredients or hiding behind proprietary blends. At the higher end, there are a lot that won't provide any additional value that warrants their more expensive price tag.

2. Environmental Cost

You don't have to be a vegan to care about how your diet is affecting the environment and the world around us.

Rice protein is incredibly easy to produce with little to no negative impact, as are most of the plant-based food out there.

Whey, however, is a derivative of the dairy industry, which is arguably one of the most harmful. You check out this video for more helpful tips ...

Related: What’s the Difference Between Casein and Whey Protein?


Can You Take Both at the Same Time?

You can take both rice and protein powder, but really there is no need too.

They both provide similar benefits, and if you were going to mix rice with another protein powder, you might as well keep it plant-based and choose one that supplements the essential amino acids it lacks.

Check out these guides when choosing the best protein powder for you:

Should I Take Rice Protein Powder Or Whey?

When it comes to deciding whether to take rice protein powder or whey, there is research done to prove that the beneficial effects of both proteins are comparable.

Nutritionally and in application, there is little to separate the two, and so it all comes down to choice and dietary preference.

If you feel whey leaves you feeling a little… gastronomically unsettled, then we highly recommend at least giving an alternative a try or at least upgrading to whey isolate which is a little more tummy-friendly.

Have you made the switch from whey to rice protein?

How did it go for you?

Let us know in the comments below.


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