At one time the protein category was much less confusing. The dominant protein source was whey. Today whey and other animal proteins are criticized as "unhealthy". What is the reality?
All protein is composed of the same building blocks, 21 amino acids. The properties of any protein are dependent on the specific amino acid composition which is different for every protein. Whey is considered a high quality protein and is particularly suited for athletes for fueling and recovery. Whey is rapidly absorbed, quick acting and contains a high concentration of specific amino acids responsible for restoring immune function, repairing and rebuilding muscle protein and reactivating the body's natural antioxidant system.
Plant based protein will deliver the same benefits but you must consume more to make up for the fact that plant protein has lower levels of certain essential amino acids and a lower level of sulfur containing amino acids. Studies have shown that plant-based protein offers significant health benefits including a delay in aging, reduction of oxidative stress and an improvement in glucose regulation. A recent study of 12,000 subjects found that a plant based protein diet led to a significant reduction in cardiovascular risk. The researchers attributed these findings to the lower levels of sulfur amino acids found in plant based protein.
So here is the dilemma. One could argue that whey protein enhances recovery, raises the training level and improves endurance performance and there are many studies that show that endurance fitness increases longevity, reduces diabetes and cardiovascular disease. For me the bottom line is exercise, recover and refuel with whey protein but eat lots of vegetables and fruit.