Have you heard of Pea Protein Supplements? I didn't until I was walking through the health food store recently and came across the product. There was an informational flier next to the product so I picked it up and started reading about why pea protein might good for us. Since I first ran into it, pea protein has been showing up everywhere. There is even pea protein milk now! Is pea protein as good as whey protein? How about soy? Let's look at some of the research and see what we can discover.
What is Pea Protein?
Pea protein is simply the protein from peas. Peas are members of the legume family , which also includes beans, peanuts and soybeans. As is mentioned in this review, adding pea protein to processed foods is growing exponentially worth almost 35 million by 2020.
Currently pea protein can be found in wide range of products such as
- “meat” products (“Beyond Meat”)
- “chicken” products (“Beyond Meat”)
There are also a variety of pea protein powders too.
How Much Protein Do Peas Have?
Gram for gram, they contain more protein than a cup of milk (11g vs 8g for milk). Given that some people may have milk allergies, this makes pea protein an attractive option.
Pea protein has a high biological value (BV) which basically has to do with how well the protein is absorbed and used by the body. Eggs are usually given a BV of 100%. Pea protein, is about 65%. Regardless of the percentages, pea protein is absorbed pretty well and as such can contribute the protein needs of the body. That’s great.
Among all the things being said about pea protein, there was something that I did not see – namely how does protein that comes from peas
While the protein in peas is not complete (its missing a couple of amino acids) that does not necessary mean its inferior to cows milk. The idea of complete vs incomplete protein is pretty much falling by the wayside these days as new research suggests as long as you are getting enough calories from good sources, it's ok if you are eating incomplete proteins.
Thats because all those incomplete proteins assemble together – in you – to make complete proteins.
Pea Protein and Exercise
One interesting study was published in 2015 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It was titled, pea protein oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled clinical trial vs. whey protein.
Here is a summary of the study:
- The study lasted 12 weeks and involved 161 men (average age 22)
- Men either revived a placebo, pea protein or whey protein
- Men either took a placebo 2x per day or 25 grams of whey protein 2x per day or pea protein 2x per day.
- The men lifted weights 3 times per week.
- Pea protein caused more muscle hypertrophy in the biceps compared to placebo
- Between pea protein and whey protein there was no differences. So they appeared to be as good as each other
Now, some things to mention is that the type of pea protein used was called NUTRALYS, which is made by a french company called Roquette. Also, the maker of the pea protein (Roquette) funded the study but they took no part in the study so I don't think that matters.
Based on this study, pea protein would appear to be as good for muscle hypertrophy as whey protein, when combined with a strength training program.
What's The Best Pea Protein?
Ultimately I think this comes down to personal preferences. The study I summarized above used a product called Nutralys but since that is made by a french company, I'm not sure if it will be available in the US. Personally I think all pea protein supplements would work the same. As long as they are quality made and provide the same amount of protein used in the study (50 g per day) I don't think there would be a difference.
Here are all the pea protein supplements on Amazon to compare prices.
What do you think?