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[Study] Rice Protein Has Identical Benefits To Whey, MASSIVE Ground-Breaking Study Proves


Move over whey – findings from new groundbreaking research revealed that plant-based rice protein has identical benefits and produces identical results to that of its dairy-based counterpart.


The Details

A new double-blind study from the University of Tampa, announced Monday 3/11, tested the effectiveness of rice protein vis-a-vis traditional whey protein isolate on 4 key metrics: recovery & soreness, muscle growth, change in body composition, & strength improvement.

The study meticulously followed 24 healthy, college-aged, experienced bodybuilders over the course of 8 weeks.1 Participants were split into two groups, both of which completed an identical workout routine 3x per week, and consumed 48g of either (a) plant-based rice protein or (b) whey protein isolate immediately post-workout. Each supplement contained an equal number of calories & protein.

Throughout the study each of the groups was tested on the following 4 metrics:

  • Perceived ratings of soreness, recovery, and readiness to train
  • Muscle thickness
  • Body composition (% body fat, % lean muscle, etc.)
  • Bench press and leg press strength

At the end of the 8-week program researchers shockingly found identical results – across all 4 measurements – between the rice and whey protein groups.

Between the two test groups there were no significant differences in reported soreness or recovery time. Additionally, each group experienced major improvements in strength, power, muscle mass, and body composition, including a decrease in body fat. All observed improvements were statistically identical across the rice and whey protein groups.


What It Means

sunwarrior rice protein, sunwarrior brown rice protein

This is MASSIVE science, especially for vegans. Between its full-spectrum of amino acids, high bioavailability and digestibility (AKA your body’s ability to absorb and use a given type of protein), and purity, whey was touted for decades as the de facto, standalone gold standard of protein powders.

And rightly so. This study is not an indictment on whey – it’s still the same muscle-building, fat-shredding powerhouse that it’s always been – but rather a revelation for vegans and the larger fitness community as a whole. If you’re vegan, someone with lactose intolerance or other GI issues, or simply scared off by rBGH hormones and other preservatives added to dairy, consider rice the definitive, go-to source for raw, plant-based protein powder. It should effectively be held in the same upper echelon as whey.2

I personally switched over to a bag of SunWarrior’s Raw Vegan Rice Protein about a month ago (before this study came out) to test out the hype – my growth and muscle recovery haven’t missed a beat, and my stomach feels considerably better.

This study erases any second-thoughts I had. I’ll be sticking with the rice for the foreseeable future – I highly recommend that you give it a shot, too.

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References, Notes, Links

  1. PRNewswire: First Double Blind Study Proves Plant-based Rice Protein Has Identical Benefits To Animal-based Whey Protein []
  2. Soy is under assault for its high phytoestrogen content and low bioavailability; the jury is still out on hemp and other plant-based proteins []


Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
  • Dr. Reg

    Yawn, Study write up read like an.advertisment for the product they used. No mention of the diet that these kids followed the other 23 hours of the day. Perceived soreness is not a reliable test as it will vary widely from person to person and cannot be measured. Nothing groundbreaking in my eyes. Should note I have nothing against rice protein and have used it before.

    • – Product they used wasn’t mentioned once here, nor have I ever taken it.

      – I think it’s safe to assume that bodybuilders follow similar dietary guidelines, and even if there were drastic differences, the double-blind randomized trial balances things out.

      – I agree that perceived soreness is subjective, but that’s only one element here. Still, I KNOW for a fact when my body is more or less sore with a certain supplement and I could definitely quantify it if asked. It’s not a perfect test of recovery, but it’ll provide a valid trend.

      You’d also be surprised how much research is based on opinions and “feelings” – it’s ridiculously pervasive in science, advertising, consumer research, big data, etc.

    • scarlett

      Yes, perception is just that, perception. Bottom line is these psychological tests indicate that results from rice were indeed comparative to whey. Again, significant (maybe not to you) but to the sports nutrition industry and all the whey-crazed beefcakes.

  • Dr. Reg

    Should also note that they only worked out 24 times in 8 weeks and only had 24 rice shakes. Would be hard for me to attribut much body comp. change to 24 shakes in 56 days, the entire diet needs to be monitored.

    • Point is that the whey control group had the same exact protein administration (3 x 8) and there was no difference – the volume of shakes is irrelevant as long as it’s equal. Your second point implies that body comp. change is predicated on protein powder consumption, which it 100% isn’t. It helps, but there are a ton of other ways around it.

    • Scarlett

      The study was submitted for publication–obviously not all details were released to the press. FYI, The diet was tightly controlled for macros by a registered dietitian/sports nutritionist. Also, the study might not be significant to you, but it is significant to the sports nutrition industry considering whey is the “standard” and considering the “stereotype” by many that “you can’t get as large muscle gains” from a plant-based supplement.”

      • Dr. Reg

        where did you get this extra info from? Obviously we can only comment on the article. The obly real way this would be impressive to me at all is if the rice group followed a vegetarian diet. If not they would benefiting from animal based proteins throughout the rest of the day.

      • Couldn’t agree more with this – it’s HUGE for the industry and for the frame of mind regarding plant-based proteins.

  • Dr. Reg

    – Sorry I meant the article you linked read like an advert not yours, your synopsis is well written.

    – Its a study on diet we shouldnt have to make such large assumptions about the participant’s diets. No before and after weights or overall macros were given, you can admit this is a large ommision.

    – Im aware at how common perceived affects are in studies, but without a placebo control group perceived affects are useless, another ommision by the
    research team.

  • Dr. Reg

    If you agree that body comp changes cannot be attributed to protein consumption alone then whats the point of this article? All it did was compare two types of protein consumption.

    This would be like me replacing three of your chicken meals a week with tofu, ignoring the other 40something other meals you eat in a week and then declaring tofu and chicken as equals because you noticed no change.

    Im not saying this study is totally useless just not as groundbreaking as your title implies.

    • To Scarlett’s point – we don’t know the full extent of the study and the conditions used, as it hasn’t been released yet, so it’s hard to criticize/dismiss the study if that’s your POV.

      To your point – the point of the study wasn’t to test the effectiveness of protein supplementation. It was to test if plant-based rice protein can produce similar results to that of whey over the long-run. It did, which is HUGE, because the science has always suggested – and the industry has always maintained – that plant-based proteins were inferior to whey protein.

      In the same light, IMO, the whey group can be considered the control group because that’s the population they’re testing against. It’s rice vs. whey users, not rice vs. non-protein powder users.

      • Dr. Reg

        If we dont know the full extent of the study then how can you call it groundbreaking? You havent even read the full text yet.

  • Dr. Reg

    This is a good discussion scarlett lets not stereotype and name call whey users beefcakes.

    Again psychological tests need a control to be useful, as far as we know there was no placebo group. If there was and the placebo group did not report increased recovery then you would have something. But as is all you have are the comments of a group of people that knew they were part of a test measuring recovery. With no control to measure against.

  • Dr. Reg

    Bryan I think you are missing my point.

    They had 24 rich shakes, if they didnt follow a vegetarian diet for the rest of the 200+ meals they ate during 8weeks then you cannot say rice is equal. If you want to compare plant based proteins to animal based hen do it with a complete diet not just 3 meals a week.

    You said it yourself its eay to assume a bodybuilders diet. Lots of meat and eggs and whey. If they were free to eat all the animal protein they want at times other than post workout you cant attribut the gains to just the rice.

    • YOU’RE still missing the point. The study wasn’t testing a total vegetarian diet vs. a normal diet — all that matters is the split/difference/variance from supplementing with rice. They could’ve ate cardboard for all that matters and the test would hold.

      The hypothesis was that the whey group would experience better gains/results because it’s always been viewed as a higher quality protein. There wasn’t any significant difference = rice isn’t inferior = groundbreaking new science.

      Think of yourself – if you supplemented your normal diet with whey or rice protein for two months, which would ultimately help you yield better progress? The thought has always been whey by a large margin. These results show that that’s not the case.

      No hard feelings BTW , just a good debate.

      • Dr. Reg

        Bryan, how many meals do you eat per day including shakes

        • Typically 6, whey shakes are usually a part of 1-2 meals/day (but I’ve recently switched from whey > rice to test out if there’s any difference).