With varieties such as casein, soy, whey, hemp, and rice, the world of protein powder can be confusing and overwhelming. Although whey is often considered the gold standard of protein powders, it’s time to give some attention to a rather recent entry into the protein powder realm: pea protein.
As one of the most recent innovations in the protein powder world, some people jump at the chance to try something new. Others, however, may be hesitant to take a chance on something new.
Here, we’ll compare these two popular options to help you determine whether pea or whey protein is a better fit for your lifestyle.
What Is Pea Protein Powder?
It’s no surprise that pea protein powder is sourced from peas. However, it is not derived from sweet peas, as many people might asssume. Rather, it comes from the variety Pisum sativum, a yellow pea.
Pea protein powder is not to be confused with pea flour. Pea flour consists of dried peas that have been ground up. On the other hand, pea protein powder undergoes a rigorous processing regimen before it can be transformed from peas to protein powder.
Along with the benefits that come from being dairy-free, pea protein also offers benefits from being plant-based. Nutritionists and dieticians have long praised plant-based lifestyles for their numerous potential benefits. Today, an increasing number of people are wanting to learn more about cutting out dairy and adding more plant-based foods to their diets.
What Is Whey Protein Powder?
Milk consists of two main kinds of protein, whey and casein. Whey protein contains a mix of proteins that have been isolated from whey, the liquid portion of milk that gets separated during the process of making cheese.
The watery part of milk is where whey can be found. If you’ve ever noticed watery liquid floating on top of yogurt after you open it, that is whey. Before cheesemakers discovered its value, the whey used to be discarded.
Once the whey is separated during the cheesemaking process, it goes through varying steps to turn it into what is recognised as whey protein powder. Whey protein is typically used in meal replacement bars and shakes.
Since whey protein does not have a very pleasant taste on its own, it is often flavoured. Vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate are popular varieties. It is important to scan the ingredient list to avoid the refined sugar that is found in many brands.
Pea Protein vs. Whey Protein: What Are the Differences?
Nutritionally speaking, here’s a side-by-side comparison of how these two protein powders stack up against each other. Exact numbers may vary based on certain brands and products.
25 Grams of Pea Protein vs. 25 Grams of Whey Protein
|Pea Protein||Whey Protein|
As seen in the chart above, the nutritional numbers are fairly similar. However, there are several key differences between whey and pea protein.
To begin with, pea protein is dairy-free. This is of particular importance for vegans and individuals who are lactose intolerant. In addition to being beneficial for certain dietary restrictions, dairy-free products also offer numerous benefits including:
- Improved Blood Sugar Control – Plant fibre helps slow the absorption of sugars in the bloodstream
- Decreased Cholesterol Levels – Plants are free of any cholesterol and may hep decrease cholesterol levels
- Weight Loss – Diets that are plant based are low in sugar and fat but high in vitamins, minerals, and fibre to help support healthy weight loss by curbing cravings and keeping you full
- Decreased Inflammation – Plant based diets help encourage a well-reguated, healthy digestive system
- Decreased Constipation – Thanks to their high fibre content, plant based products help support regularity
Legumin is the protein in pea protein powder. Legumin has a similar molecular structure to casein.
Unlike other plant-based options such as rice-based protein powder, pea protein is a complete protein. This means it offers all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for building muscle.
Does Pea Protein Work As Well As Whey Protein Powder?
Although most of the nutritional stats between whey and pea protein are comparable, pea protein does have less BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) than whey. This causes some people to be concerned that pea protein will not build muscle as effectively as whey protein.
However, pea protein does boast three times the amount of arginine, an amino acid, than whey. While arginine is not a BCAA, it is still crucial for building muscle and may help indicate why pea protein powder does such an efficient job at increasing muscle gains.
In 2015, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition studied men between the ages of 18 and 35. Researchers discovered that the men who incorporated pea protein with their lifting sessions experienced similar gains in biceps size to those who consumed whey protein.
Which Kind Of Protein Powder To Buy – Pea or Whey?
If your goal is to avoid both soy and dairy, pea protein is probably the best option for you.
Pea protein is also mostly flavourless. Alternatively, whey protein is notorious for having a distinct, less than desirable taste. This makes pea protein an excellent addition to shakes and smoothies. It also blends well with other ingredients such as nut butters, veggies, and fruit. Also, some companies offer pea protein powder in a variety of flavours.
Isagenix, for instance, offers a variety of delicious, nutrient-dense shakes that incorporate pea protein in flavours such as rich chocolate and vanilla chai.
Considering most individuals consume more than one protein source in their diets, pea protein might be the more favourable option. It is dairy free, does not have the unfavourable palate that whey does, and is also plant-based.