Putting on muscle weight has always been about eating enough protein. You want that dream body you’ve been working so hard to achieve, but as a vegan anything dairy is off limits.
Maybe you’ve thought about including whey protein into your diet, but after so many years, even a small amount of dairy might throw your system off entirely, so what should you do?
For a while, soy protein powder proved to be the go to dietary supplement, but even soy has its issues. Recently, pea protein isolate made its way onto dietary shelves everywhere. If you’re like most people, you probably don’t look at that bowl of peas as a great way to bulk up, but maybe it’s right for you.
Here’s everything you need to know about pea protein isolate.
Wait, There’s Protein in Peas?
If you’re like most kids growing up, at some point in time a parent looked at you and said: “you’re not leaving the dinner table until you finish your vegetables.”
And, if you’re like most kids, at some point in time those vegetables you didn’t want to finish were peas. You probably never knew you were consuming plant-based protein with every spoonful. Truth be told, every organic item you eat, whether it is meat, vegetables, grain or anything else naturally grown, has some sort of protein in it. Peas just happen to pack more than most other vegetables. In fact, you’ll find 10 full grams of protein per cup of peas (Men’s Health, 2016).
Now, there’s a reason you didn’t see Rocky chugging glasses full peas. While peas have a high level of protein for a plant-based object, it still doesn’t come close to what chicken, beef or an egg can provide. In protein powder form though, that is a different story.
As any isolate protein, the food is processed down and the most favorable materials removed. In this case, protein.
Nutrition Values of Pea Vs. Whey Protein
Whey protein is the go-to form of protein for most people without dietary restrictions.
It is easy to find anywhere, inexpensive and packs some of the biggest protein to calorie punch around.
So now that there’s pea protein, how do the two compare.
On average, 25 grams of pea protein is 162.5 calories, while 25 grams of whey protein is 157.4 calories. Whey has slightly fewer carbs at 8.7 to 8.8, and it has slightly fewer grams of fat at 2.1 to 2.6. It also features more branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) at 7.8 while pea protein has 5.9.
So, when you compare the two, while both are extremely similar in every category, whey protein is better in each category.
Pea Protein Vs. Other Plant-Based Protein
In reality, pea protein had little chance of outperforming whey protein.
Whey is derived from milk, which is packed with protein and, when condensed down, simply has an extremely high protein to calorie level.
A better method for comparing proteins is to look at pea protein against other plant-based proteins.
Looking at each side by side in terms of calories and carbs per 25 grams of protein would prove cumbersome, but the most important aspect of pea protein against other plant protein is that the pea option includes all nine essential amino acids (which make up the BCAAs). In order for your body to fully feel the effects of muscle growth from protein, it needs to have all nine.
Pea protein is one of the very few plant based proteins that contains all nine.
Most other plant proteins lack several of the amino acids.
Even if other plant-based proteins could deliver a higher protein to calorie level, it wouldn’t affect the body as well due to the reduced number of BCAAs. This ultimately makes pea protein one of the very best non-animal protein isolate (Men’s Health, 2016).
Who Should Take Pea Protein?
When you’re putting in your cardio at the gym and you see the guys by the front downing their protein shakes, you probably don’t think of them drinking pea protein.
You may assume pea protein is just for the vegans out there. Realistically, pea protein is for anyone who might want something different. You don’t need to have an allergy or other health condition to force you into pea protein. With that said though, a pea protein isolate is an excellent option for those who do have some allergies.
Whey protein is derived from milk, so anyone lactose intolerant will likely find consuming enough protein to be tricky.
Pea protein is one of the more beneficial options out there. The same is true for individuals with egg allergies. If you’re allergic to soy or nuts, pea protein is one delivery method for increasing your protein levels. As milk, peanuts, and eggs are three of the most common food allergies out there, having a plant based option is always good (Exercise, 2017).
What to Watch Out For When Selecting Pea Protein Isolate
As is the case with any other form of protein isolate, not all pea proteins are created equal. It is very important to look at the nutrition facts on containers of pea protein. Look past the beauty numbers of calories, carbs, and protein.
Look towards the sodium levels.
Many companies pump up more sodium into the pea protein. This is for varying reasons, but there are some pea protein brands on the market that contain upwards of 330 milligrams of sodium per scoop. Other brands, on the other hand, contain lower than 120. Not only is the higher level of sodium not great for the cardiovascular system, it may cause your body to retain water and bloat (Livestrong, 2017).
When shopping for pea protein, you should look towards the ingredients list as well. If you have any allergies to soy, eggs, nuts or milk, it is important to make sure these ingredients are not listed.
There are some pea proteins out there that do include at least trace amounts of these ingredients.
The packaging usually indicates it is gluten, lactose, and nut free if none of these ingredients are found. If you don’t see labeling indicating as such, look towards the ingredients list.
Who Shouldn’t Consume Pea Protein
Pea protein is not for everyone. If you have a history of suffering from gout, it is best to avoid not only pea protein but peas in general. This is because peas contain purines, which may cause the body to increase the amount of uric acid found in the blood, which has the potential of increasing gout flare ups. To keep gout flare ups under control, it is recommended to not eat more than 1 cup of legumes (including peas) per week. This is about 1.5 scoops of pea protein, which would render using pea protein pointless if you can only take it once a week (Livestrong, 2017).
There are some known side effects to taking pea protein.
Most of these side effects though are experienced by individuals who are allergic to peas. These side effects can include abdominal cramps and bloating, diarrhea or other digestive problems, hives, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, throat irritation, sneezing, itchy eyes and coughing. If you experience any of these kinds of symptoms it is recommended to stop using the pea protein isolate and to schedule an allergy test.
This way, you’ll know for sure if you’re allergic to peas (so you really did have a reason to not finish those peas at the dinner table as a kid). You’ll also discover other possible allergies.
Always Talk To Your Doctor
If you have experienced any kind of medical issues in the last several years, it is highly recommended to talk with your doctor before starting any kind of new diet. Increasing your protein levels in order to put on muscle mass or to maintain muscle mass as you try to strip away fat counts. If you have suffered from any kidney issues or have a family history of kidney problems, an increase in protein may prevent your kidneys from functioning correctly. You don’t need to be sick for this to be an issue.
Even healthy individuals with family history of kidney problems may end up suffering from premature health conditions if they increase their protein levels quickly.
Benefits Of Pea Protein Beyond Muscle Repair
As pea protein isolate is derived from peas, there are other health benefits you might not suspect. For starters, according to a Canadian research team, protein consumed from peas may be able to help combat problems with high blood pressure (Science Daily, 2009).
Which Pea Protein is Right For Me?
There are many different kinds of pea protein on the shelf, so which one is right for you?
Realistically, it is always a good idea to start with the price. Pea protein has two things going against it. For starters, it is a health supplement, so stores are already going to charge more for it. Second, it is seen as a specialty health supplement, which gives company CEOs the Scrooge McDuck dollar pupils. It is far too easy to walk into a health food store and leave paying well over $100 for three or four pounds of pea protein powder.
This simply is way too much to pay for protein powder.
Health food stores are great locations to find a wide range of pea proteins, but you should start out with grocery stores you feel comfortable shopping. Look into the protein powder isolate sold at these stores and read the labels. While likely more expensive than what the whey protein is going for, as long as the pea protein doesn’t have the excessive amount of sodium or the trace food elements you want to avoid, it may simply be a better option to buy this protein over the overpriced option.
It does come down to what you’re comfortable spending on the pea protein. Don’t just assume you have to spend $50 plus on a single pound of protein powder though.
Mix and Match
There’s nothing wrong with mixing the different kinds of proteins like beef protein, casein protein or organic whey protein take throughout the day. Perhaps you are happy with your soy protein but want to make sure you’re also getting the nine important amino acids as well (which you likely are not receiving with a soy protein isolate).
Booth soy and pea proteins share an earthy flavor to it, so mixing the two won’t be terribly out of the ordinary and can help make up for the lack of certain amino acids. You can also mix the pea protein in with your whey protein if you want to up your vegetable intake for the day.
Help! It Tastes Terrible!
So you take your first sip of pea protein isolate and you almost gag. Really, it’s not that bad, but if you’re used to the peanut butter cookie or double chocolate whey proteins, pea protein does leave much to be desired.
But how can you make it taste better without jamming it full of calories?
This is where you can actually improve upon the protein drink.
Consider adding cinnamon and fresh ginger to the drink. Cinnamon powder is fine here, but make sure to use fresh ginger and not the cooking spice (just use a cheese greater). Both cinnamon and ginger will boost your metabolic rate (combined over 20 percent for several hours), which in turn helps you burn more calories. You’ll do all of this without adding any extra sodium to the drink (Dr. Oz, 2009).
With so many different protein options out there, you’ll always have one best suited for you. Pea protein is great for individuals who may not be able to consume milk-based products, for one reason or another. There are always upsides and downsides to every protein type, but as long as you take everything here into consideration, there is a good chance you may find pea protein isolate can prove to be the best method of increasing your protein intake available, based on your personal needs.