So, how does pea protein stack up to the gym-goers go-to, whey? Whey protein is derived from cow's milk that has been chemically processed to isolate and extract the protein content. Because it is a dairy-based product, whey is a "complete" protein, providing all nine essential amino acids. Due to its high protein content and full amino acid profile, whey is a popular choice among active individuals or those looking to lose weight with a high-protein diet. Whey protein powder typically provides around 20 grams of protein per 100-calorie serving.
Pea protein can provide similar benefits to whey protein without the dairy allergens and sustainability issues. Although pea protein is not a "complete" protein, one study found that pea protein promoted muscle growth as effectively as whey when both protein powders were paired with a resistance training plan. In fact, as we mentioned, the high levels of BCAAs and naturally occurring sodium in pea protein make it a great post-workout recovery fuel alternative to whey.
Also, if weight loss is your goal, you may want to try pea protein. In a study comparing protein sources, those who consumed pea protein before a meal subsequently ate significantly fewer calories than those who had consumed whey protein. This may be because pea protein is digested more slowly than whey, which makes it more satiating (though it's important to remember that calories are only one part of the weight loss equation).
For those who suffer from allergies, avoid dairy, or just want to shake up their protein game, pea protein is a great option.
How to pick a pea protein
When it comes to selecting the right protein powder to add to your diet, there are a couple of important factors to look out for to ensure the product you pick aligns with your goals. First, check the sugar content. Whether it's whey, pea, or another source, many protein powders contain added sugars and artificial sweeteners. If the flavor seems too good to be true (looking at you, ice-cream-sundae-flavored protein powder), it likely has added sugars. Also, watch out for hidden sugars, like dextrose and xylitol, in the ingredient list, to be sure your "healthy" shake isn't just a milkshake in disguise.
When it comes to plant-based proteins, you also have to be mindful of soil quality. Plants can soak up heavy metals, like lead and arsenic, in the soil, and peas are no exception. Look for trustworthy companies with third-party testing to ensure you are getting a clean pea protein.
No matter your health goals, pea protein stacks up as a healthy and sustainable protein source.