Although whey protein and soy protein still rule most of the protein powder market, they’ve recently had to make room for a new source, pea protein.
Pea protein has been around for a while now, but it’s only recently begun to gain popularity along with other plant-based, soy-free protein powders. But is it comparable to whey and soy protein or is it just a trendy product sparking consumers’ interest with great marketing?
Let’s look at pea protein and how it compares to the gold-standard whey protein powder as a plant-based alternative.
What is Pea Protein?
Pea protein is a protein powder made from yellow split peas. Like most legumes, it is a good source of plant-based protein and has become a great option for those with food allergies. Pea protein is considered hypoallergenic and has become a staple for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet who also want to avoid soy.
Pea protein, like other protein powders, is made by isolating and extracting the protein from yellow split peas and turning it into powdered form to be mixed into drinks and various foods. Aside from being free of the most common allergens, pea protein is also easily digestible, making it a great option for those with food intolerances. It has a mild flavor and light texture making it incredibly versatile when added to food and drinks.
Pea protein also contains a superior amino acid profile. Although considered an incomplete protein, pea protein contains high amounts of the branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are best known for their impact on muscle growth and recovery .
Is Pea a Good Plant-Based Alternative to Whey?
Surprisingly, pea and whey proteins are quite similar to each other. Both are good sources of protein, versatile, and don’t have a strong flavor or texture to them. Whey protein has more protein per serving than pea protein however, both are low in carbs and fat. Whey protein contains more calcium and potassium from milk whereas pea protein contains higher levels of iron and fiber.
Pea protein has also been found to provide similar benefits when it comes to strength, performance, and muscle composition, according to recent studies. This could be due to the high levels of branched-chain amino acids found in pea protein as with whey protein. All in all, pea and whey proteins are quite comparable to each other. Those following a plant-based diet will likely find this to be a great alternative to whey protein [2, 3, 4, 5].
Pea Protein is Incomplete
Nine essential amino acids are needed to build a complete protein source for our body to use. Animal sources of protein, including whey protein powder made from milk, contain all nine of these amino acids. Plant-based proteins are often missing one or more of the amino acids needed to make them complete.
Pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids however, it is low in the amino acid methionine and some powders may not meet the needs for a complete protein. Don’t worry, you can get everything you need to ensure you get the most out of your pea protein supplement by consuming other sources of methionine throughout the day, such as brown rice, oats, or Brazil nuts [6, 7].
How to Complete Pea Protein
The best way to complete a plant protein, such as a pea protein, is by combining incomplete proteins. Most of this can be achieved by consuming a balanced diet rich in a variety of different foods. Combine foods such as legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains into your meals to get the most out of your plant proteins.
Research has found these foods do not need to be combined during the same meal for your body to be able to use them as needed. So, don’t worry about calculating exactly which foods to combine with what to get a complete protein and focus more on choosing a balanced diet .
When choosing a pea protein powder, be mindful to choose one from a trusted brand, preferably with independent third-party testing available, such as Naked Nutrition’s pea protein powder. Avoid pea protein supplements that contain high amounts of added sugars and artificial ingredients.
Breakfast Pea Protein Smoothie Recipe
Ready to give pea protein a shot? Check out this delightful strawberry oatmeal breakfast pea protein smoothie to get your day started on the right foot.
Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Protein Smoothie
- ¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- ½ frozen banana
- 2 scoops of Naked Pea
- ¾ cup plant-based milk or water
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more or less liquid (plant-based milk or water) to achieve desired consistency.
This post is sponsored by Naked Nutrition
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