Plants rule! New study shows bodybuilders can go whey-free

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Plants rule! New study shows bodybuilders can go whey-free

By Elizabeth Gordon, This Dish is Veg
March 2013

It’s what bodybuilders are famous for: pumping iron, posing in front of mirrors, and choking down tons of whey. Why whey? Because whey protein—a by-product of the cheese industry—is known for its ability to help build lean muscle, which is exactly what bodybuilders are after.

And even though vegan bodybuilders have been wildly successful (just check out the amazing Robert Cheeke), there’s been a decades-long perception in the bodybuilding community that plant-based protein supplements were somehow inferior to animal-based ones.

Of course, vegan body builders have always known the stereotype was bogus. But now there’s proof. A newly released double-blind study has concluded that plant protein (specifically the one found in whole-grain brown rice) has the same muscle- and strength-building power as the long-lauded whey.

The study, conducted at the University of Tampa’s Department of HealthSciences and Human Performance, found that rice protein
"decreases fat-mass and increases lean body mass, skeletal muscle hypertrophy, power and strength comparable to whey protein isolate."
In other words, rice gives you all the benefits of whey without subjecting you to whey's dark side—not the least of which is the way that whey, like all milk protein, nourishes cancer growth.

And it's not just bodybuilders, or would-be body builders, who stand to gain from the transition away from whey. The dairy industry—which confines, rapes, drugs, and forcibly separates millions of mother cows from their calves before eventually slaughtering them—is one of the cruelest forms of factory farming. And whey, the supplement of choice for generations of body builders, has helped to support this terrible practice. Fortunately, this new study proves there's no need to choose between having magnificent muscles and a compassionate heart.


Elizabeth is a writer, educator, and vegan advocate. She lives on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border with her husband and their quirky animal companions: a dog, two cats, and four fish (all rescues). An avid plant-based cook, she's proud to have finally perfected vegan versions of foods from her dual heritage—meatloaf, mac and cheese, and bacon from her Southern side, as well as potstickers, summer rolls, and wonton soup from her Asian side. (Plus she makes a drool-worthy buffalo wing pizza.) Elizabeth is the creator of the website MassVegan.org and founder of Vegans of North Central Mass.