What the Hey, Whey? Pea Protein vs. Whey Protein

pea protein powderIt turns out that the humble pea is a power-packed veggie protein source that’s worth your attention, especially if you have specific food allergies or sensitivities.

If you exercise on a regular basis, pea protein helps provide both a pre-workout energy boost and improved post-workout muscle recovery. It has a complete array of amino acids, including high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

While its amino acid profile is similar to whey protein, pea is particularly high in arginine, lysine, and phenylalanine. Its well-balanced profile fulfills the essential amino acid requirements outlined by the World Health Organization for adults.

PEA PERKS

Unlike popular whey protein powders, pea protein digests easily since it contains absolutely no lactose or glutens. That means no bloating! Many “healthy” foods lead to bloating, which is a common food allergy symptom. Pea protein is anti-inflammatory and has high bioavailability which means that it absorbs well. Not only does it absorb well, but it is slow-releasing which has been shown to be better for muscle recovery.

Pea protein may aid in weight loss by possibly lowering ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is a substance secreted by the stomach that signals the brain to stimulate the sensation of hunger. Ghrelin levels tend to rise within a certain time period after consumption of a meal in anticipation of the next meal, thus signaling hunger.

Pea protein slows this process by forming a greater number of peptides, thus delaying gastric emptying, lowering ghrelin levels, and sustaining satiety for longer periods of time.

Unlike whey, pea protein is naturally cholesterol and fat free. Pea is also free of animal protein and soy proteins. It is considered a “greener” product than animal-based whey.

Pea protein is generally more concentrated than whey. It contains 25 grams of protein per 30 gram scoop, while many whey proteins contain 23 or so grams of protein.

Muscle-Building

How does pea protein stack up when it comes to muscle-building potential?

It’s likely you’ve come across whey protein powders or bars as the go-to option for body-builders, but did you know that pea protein is a great alternative?

Pea protein has been proven to be just as effective as whey at increasing muscle thickness after resistance training according to studies in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Not only that, but is is beneficial in maintaining blood sugar levels and appetite.

The Downsides to Whey

Whey works. It’s a complete protein that absorbs quickly into the body, its cheap and its sold everywhere. However, there are a few eyebrow raising issues to be aware of when consuming whey:

  • Digestion can be difficult – Flatulence (of worse). Whey is derived from lactose which can be cause for some unsavory moments.
  • Artificial sweeteners – Most manufacturers fill their whey products with artificial sweeteners, including acesulfame potassium and sucralose. Ahem…..translation: more flatulence.
  • Quality Control – Whey protein is heavily processed leading to defects in nutritional quality including unsafe levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium on top of the fact that it is not regulated by the FDA.

But Is Pea Protein a Complete Protein?

It’s true that whey is a complete protein, but as an athlete or someone pursuing an active lifestyle, it is important to get an ample protein distributed throughout the day. No one said you need to get all essential amino acids in one sitting. By eating a variety of foods (like we were taught at a young age) you can easily get all essential amino acids in. Pea protein is considered a “complete” protein by most standards.

However, pea protein has a nearly complete amino acid profile with the exception of methionine, which is easy to correct for by including small amounts of animal protein or rice protein. Methionine is also found in quinoa, found in all Real Food Bars. Hooray!

Here’s the amino acid profile of peas:

amino acid profile

Pea protein is approximately 9% leucine by weight, which is excellent (whey, for example, is 10% 10 11% by weight). Pea protein is also one of the purest forms of protein you can get at about 85% protein, 7% fat, 3% carbs and 5% vitamins and minerals compared to whey, which is about 90%.

Nutrient Density

Pea protein not only is better for digestive reasons, but for the many extra nutrients found in plants such as B vitamins, calcium, iodine, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and zinc. All that being said, it makes for an easy meal replacement or on-the-go snack.

The Winner: Plant-Based Protein

Pea protein is one of the unsung heroes among plant-based protein powders. It’s a complete protein, easy to digest, with high quality amino acids, low residual additives and high nutritional density. Give it a spin. For those reasons, we favored pea protein over other alternatives to help push you through your day. Learn more about our Real Food Base.