Whey Protein vs. Beef Protein | Bodybuilding Guide

Many bodybuilders are acutely aware of how the right diet is just as important as the right training protocol when working toward building lean muscle mass. When looking at protein supplements available on the market, it can get a little overwhelming. Two of the most common among bodybuilders and other strength athletes are whey protein and beef protein. But what is the difference?

What is Whey Protein?

Have you ever opened a yogurt container to see a slightly translucent liquid floating on the top? That is whey! Whey protein is a milk derivative that contains lactose. It is one of the most protein-rich substances available and has all 9 essential amino acids. To turn that liquid into an edible protein source, it is simply dehydrated, flavored, and ground into a powder.

This liquid was commonly considered to be a waste or byproduct from the cheese-making process but has spent the last several decades as a shining star in supplement cabinets to help people build strong muscles.

What is Beef Protein?

Beef protein is exactly what it sounds like – beef! Beef is boiled down to remove all fats, then it is dehydrated and flavored and finally ground into a fine powder which can be mixed with water or with other foods. On average, a 30-gram serving of beef protein will have about 24-28 grams of protein. It is incredibly high in protein while remaining very low in fat and carbohydrates, making it an effective alternative to whey.

What are the Benefits of Taking Whey Protein?

Whey protein is the reigning champion of powdered supplements because it is economical, pleasant to consume, readily available, has a superior amino acid profile, and metabolizes very quickly. 

A bodybuilder’s gym routine will be focused on creating as many small tears in muscle fibers as possible during their lifts under heavy loads. In order to maximize all of this work, they need to consume nutrients that will aid in muscle repair and recovery as quickly as possible. Whey is the fastest-digesting protein source on the market, which is why it’s the top choice for many athletes.

Whey protein has also been heavily linked to improved cardiovascular function, reduced blood pressure, and lowered risk of stroke. Veteran bodybuilders are some of the most high-risk individuals for these issues because of years spent with their bodies undergoing heavy stress from weight training, so this is very beneficial for them.

PDCAAS is the Protein Digestability-Corrected Amino Acid Score which ranges from 0 to 1. Whey protein is the top-scoring protein in their system, with a perfect score of 1 because of how well our bodies can metabolize whey and put it to use in recovery, compared to beef which sits at .92.

What are the Benefits of Beef Protein?

There are many benefits to choosing beef protein when you are shopping for a protein supplement to add to your routine.

One promising study done in 2015, despite its small size, showed some very promising results. Men and women weightlifters that were taking beef protein saw 1% more muscle growth than their counterparts who were taking whey protein powder. [1]

Similar to whey, beef protein also blends very well and is generally considered pleasant to consume, unlike other proteins like collagen or hemp protein.

Beef protein also seems to help the body metabolize more iron. This means fast recovery times and more long-term retention of those built-up muscle fibers. [2]

Beef protein is also without any lactose or gluten, which makes it safe for those with similar stomachs or with a concern about bloating.

Is Beef Protein Good for Muscle Gain?

Beef protein is one of the best sources of protein when focused on gaining and maintaining large amounts of muscle tissue. It has many of the essential amino acids needed for muscle building and maintenance. One study has found that it functions similarly with whey, and may even potentially help with muscle building slightly more. [3]

How Do the Effects of Beef and Whey Protein Compare for Bodybuilding?

One of the biggest differences between whey and beef proteins, for bodybuilders specifically, is the link between whey protein and bloating. Even athletes who do not consider themselves to be lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive can fall victim to bloating when taking whey protein regularly throughout their competition prep.

Because bodybuilding competitions are so rigorous, even a small amount of bloating on show day can cost an athlete top placements in their divisions. For this reason, many choose to cut all whey (and other dairy products) from their diets in the days and weeks leading up to showtime.

Because whey protein is the only source of protein that contains lactose, these possible negative side effects don’t apply to beef protein. Thus, beef protein is completely safe to consume through the entirety of an athlete’s competition prep period.

Bottom Line: Whey or Beef Protein – Which Should You Choose?

The bottom line is that whey protein and beef protein are two of the most similar supplements on the market today. The differences between the efficacy of the two are staggeringly similar. There is a slight difference in amino acid profiles, speed of digestion, and nutritional profile.

One study showed that, over a long period of time, athletes that took beef protein increased their muscle thickness more so than their counterparts that were taking whey or were in a control group without taking any protein at all. This is just one study, though, and more will need to be tested. [4]

Another notable difference between the two is price points. A high-quality beef protein is often nearly twice as expensive as a high-quality whey supplement.

Which should you choose? With the differences being so minuscule, you should choose the protein that most appeals to you and that you will actually ingest in order to reap the benefits from it. If you worry about bloating, choose a beef protein source. If cost is a driving factor for you, choosing whey will be the clear choice.


At the end of the day, both protein sources can be massively beneficial to help bodybuilders and strength athletes to reach their daily protein goals. Whether an athlete chooses whey or beef-sourced protein will come down to personal preference and dietary restrictions.

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