Brown Rice Protein vs. Whey Protein for Bodybuilding

When it comes to bodybuilding, protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. But with so many types of protein available on the market, which one should you choose? 

In this article, we’ll compare two popular forms of protein powder: brown rice protein vs. whey protein – for bodybuilding purposes.

We’ll look at their differences in terms of amino acid profile, cost, nutritional value, and more. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of which type of protein may be best for your needs when it comes to bodybuilding.

So let’s get started!

What is Brown Rice Protein Powder?

Brown rice protein is a plant-based, vegan dietary supplement made from whole-grain brown rice ground up into a fine powder.

It is a good source of protein free from dairy, soy, eggs, yeast, or gluten, so it can be enjoyed by those with food sensitivities or allergies.

Also, brown rice protein powder has fewer calories than whey but could have slightly less bioavailability as well, but more on that later.

What is Whey Protein Powder?

Whey protein powder is a dairy-based dietary supplement made from whey, a byproduct of cheese production. Unlike casein, whey comes from the watery portion of milk, not the curd, and is processed somewhat differently.

Whey is universally considered to be the number one option for bodybuilding due to its excellent amino acid profile, containing all nine essential amino acids your body needs for muscle growth and repair.

What’s the Difference Between Brown Rice Protein and Whey Protein?

The main difference between brown rice protein and whey protein is their source: one is plant-based, and the other is animal-based, which is usually the main deal-breaker when deciding between the two.

Other than that, there are a few less known and less noticeable differences:

Digestibility

While brown rice protein is generally easy to digest, it doesn’t come close to whey protein according to PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score), which is a score that measures the quality of protein. With PDCAAS, whey protein has a score of 1.0, whereas brown rice protein has a score of 0.4-0.5, depending on its source.

Nutritional value

When it comes to nutritional value, whey protein is superior. It has a higher content of essential and non-essential amino acids than brown rice protein, which is also the reason for such a great difference in the PDCAAS score.

Cost

When it comes to cost, brown rice takes the victory. As it is much easier to source and manufacture, brown rice protein is generally much cheaper than whey protein, whether you’re shopping small or in bulk.

Amino-acid profile

As we’ve said earlier, whey protein has a (much) higher content of amino acids than brown rice protein.

To showcase this difference, here’s the amino acid profile for both of these, sourced from the “Amino Acid Composition of an Organic Brown Rice Protein Concentrate and Isolate Compared to Soy and Whey Concentrates and Isolates” study. [1]

Brown RiceWhey
Histidine1.8g1.3g
Isoleucine3.4g5.6g
Leucine6.4g10.2g
Lysine2.4g9.7g
Methionine2.3g1.7g
Phenylalanine4.4g2.6g
Threonine2.9g7.9g
Tryptophan1.1g1.9g
Valine4.6g5.9g

Per 100 grams

Keep in mind that both of these protein powders could have different amino acid profiles depending on their source. That said, this should give you a general idea of the differences between the two.

Are Both Brown Rice and Whey Protein Complete Proteins?

No, whey protein is a complete protein, while brown rice is not a complete protein.

While brown rice protein does contain all of the essential amino acids, it doesn’t contain enough of them (enough to lysine, to be precise) to be considered a complete protein. This makes it debatable how good of a whey protein alternative brown rice protein will be.

How Do the Benefits of Whey Protein and Brown Rice Protein Compare for Bodybuilding?

All things considered, it should be quite easy to deduce that whey protein has an advantage over brown rice protein when it comes to bodybuilding in pretty much every category.

It has a higher bioavailability and digestibility, it contains more amino acids, and it’s also much easier to find in high-quality forms, and it has far more research behind it to back up its effectiveness.

That said, brown rice protein does have its advantages, mainly when it comes to cost. However, when you factor in the overall costs of bodybuilding (if you want to do it properly), a small dent in your wallet from using whey protein isn’t really that big of a deal.

Also, going back to the study we referenced for the amino acid comparison, it should be noted that the organic brown rice protein used in the study was also compared to soy protein. Once again, it lost.

The reason we’re mentioning this is there was a study directly comparing the effects of whey and soy protein on athletic performance, and the results showed that gram for gram, whey protein is 40% more effective than soy protein. [2]

If we were to “stack” the results of those two studies, we could conclude that whey protein is at least 50-60% more effective for bodybuilding than brown rice protein.

Who is Brown Rice Protein Powder Best For?

If there is a group of people that can benefit from the use of brown rice protein, it’s those who are looking for a vegan-friendly source of protein that’s very unlikely to cause them any allergic reactions.

Also, due to its lower cost, brown rice protein can be a great option for those who don’t have the budget to purchase whey protein. But at the same time, if you adjust the cost to match the results you’re getting, you’ll probably find that the cost difference is swaying in the other direction.

Bottom Line: Brown Rice Protein vs. Whey – Which is Better for Bodybuilders?

The bottom line is – whey protein is a much superior option for bodybuilders than brown rice protein.

If you factor in everything we’ve discussed so far, it becomes quite clear that whey protein is the better choice for bodybuilders since it’s far better in every category that matters.

The only reason why a bodybuilder would opt for brown rice protein is if they’re vegan and they’re allergic to soy, peas, or hemp.

Conclusion

All in all, whey protein is the key winner in this comparison due to its superior bioavailability, digestibility, amino acid content, and all-around effectiveness.

Brown rice protein is a decent, but probably the worst wide-spread vegan option that’s available on the market, so if you have to go plant-based – choose soy or pea.

If the source doesn’t matter – whey all the way!

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Pierce Reiten
Pierce Reiten

Pierce Reiten is an NASM certified personal trainer with over a decade of experience in the gym. He's passionate about providing information to help you improve your fitness and life.

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