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What Is Pea Protein and Why You Should Be Using It

If you’re a non-vegan athlete, and have come across pea protein powder for the first time, chances are high that you probably just bypassed it completely. However, after learning a bit about the basics of pea protein powder, we’re sure you will want to give it a second look.

The fact is that pea protein can be extremely beneficial for you, regardless of if you are vegan or not. You do eat vegetables don’t you? In that same way pea protein should be considered a useful tool in your arsenal towards a healthier life.

What Is Pea Protein?

The name should be self-explanatory, but in particular, it is obtained from yellow peas (Pisum sativum), which are sustainable enough to ensure continuous supply in the event that demand rises significantly. The peas are ground into a fine powder, and subsequently refined to remove the fibre and starches to leave behind a high purity protein powder.

Not surprisingly, pea protein is the number one vegan based protein powder on the market, and coupled with its many benefits is likely to remain here for a long time.

Wondering what these notable benefits include? Let’s check them out now.

Pea Protein Powder Is Complete

The major flaw with vegan based protein sources is the fact that they lack one or more of the essential amino acids, and are accordingly classified as incomplete protein sources. Pea protein does possess all the 9 essential amino acids[i], although its overall methionine content is a little low.

However, since we are confident you won’t be relying on pea protein as your sole source of nourishment, you can easily deal with this by consuming brown rice, or various meats if you are so inclined to get sufficient amounts of this amino acid.

Pea Protein Possesses Low Allergenicity

You’ve probably seen (or even yourself) people that are allergic to animal based proteins, or have insensitivities to some aspect of the product. This is very common with the dairy based proteins casein and whey that are notorious for causing gastric distress, bloating and even anaphylactic reactions in severe cases.

This isn’t limited to just dairy based proteins, but also egg, beef and even insect protein. These allergies are very rare when dealing with vegan proteins.

For one, pea protein is easily digestible, reducing bloating and distress from difficult digestion. By removing much of the fibre as well, digestibility goes up a notch. The removal of a common anti-nutrient in phytic acid, also helps the protein powder boast a high absorbability.

Pea protein powder is referred to as low FODMAP[ii], and suitable for people with symptoms of IBS.

Pea Protein Is Rich In Iron

One of the biggest nutritional challenges vegetarians and vegans encounter is to ensure that they meet their daily recommended intake of dietary iron. Given, iron deficiency is fairly common even in non-vegetarians, which makes it important for you to actively seek out foods that are excellent sources of this mineral.

Pea protein powder is a great source of iron[iii], with an average scoop of the powder supplying anywhere between 25 to 40% of the daily recommended intake. Of course, this will be the non-heme variety which is not preferred, but nevertheless still a necessary source.

Pea Protein May Help Support Weight Loss

When trying to lose weight, at the end of the day all that matters is the number of calories you ingest against the amount you expend. While this sounds like simple mathematics, there are many hormonal and biochemical mechanisms that come into play which complicate things much more.

Amongst these is hunger. Feeling hungry all the time can easily make you ingest hundreds or thousands of calories more than you were planning to. As such, any food or supplement that can help to suppress your appetite is a major plus. Pea protein is much more slowly absorbed than whey protein, helping to keep your appetite under control for a longer period of time.

For instance, whey protein causes a spike in insulin levels in as little as 20 minutes after ingestion, while pea protein peaked after three hours, and to a lesser degree than whey[iv].

What this means is that you are more likely to consume fewer calories using pe protein than when compared to dairy based proteins, more specifically whey.

Pea Protein May Support Muscle Gain And Impair Muscle Breakdown

While whey protein remains one of the best protein powders you can choose for its muscle building properties, its rapid absorption and clearance from body doesn’t make it the best suited for preventing catabolism (muscle breakdown).

Slower acting proteins, such as casein and pea are much better suited for this as they slowly liberate amino acids over the period of many hours. This does not take away from the amazing muscle building potential[v] of the protein either (which is comparable to whey), as the ability to slowly release amino acids for several hours is a great recipe for muscle building.

In Summary

Interest in pea protein powder is rapidly increasing, as testament to the fact that over the past decade hundreds of new manufacturers of the product have popped up. Pea protein is an excellent choice whether you are on a full plant-based diet or not, thanks to its unique amino acid release pattern and overall nutritional profile.

Just be sure to choose a high-quality powder that offers more than 20 g of protein per serve.


[i] Tömösközi S, Lásztity R, Haraszi R, Baticz O. Isolation and study of the functional properties of pea proteins. Nahrung. 2001;45(6):399-401. doi:10.1002/1521-3803(20011001)45:6<399::AID-FOOD399>3.0.CO;2-0

[ii] Iacovou M, Tan V, Muir JG, Gibson PR. The Low FODMAP Diet and Its Application in East and Southeast Asia. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2015;21(4):459-470. doi:10.5056/jnm15111

[iii] Perfecto A, Rodriguez-Ramiro I, Rodriguez-Celma J, Sharp P, Balk J, Fairweather-Tait S. Pea Ferritin Stability under Gastric pH Conditions Determines the Mechanism of Iron Uptake in Caco-2 Cells [published correction appears in J Nutr. 2019 Mar 1;149(3):542]. J Nutr. 2018;148(8):1229-1235. doi:10.1093/jn/nxy096

[iv] Overduin J, Guérin-Deremaux L, Wils D, Lambers TT. NUTRALYS(®) pea protein: characterization of in vitro gastric digestion and in vivo gastrointestinal peptide responses relevant to satiety. Food Nutr Res. 2015;59:25622. Published 2015 Apr 13. doi:10.3402/fnr.v59.25622

[v] Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(1):3. Published 2015 Jan 21. doi:10.1186/s12970-014-0064-5

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