The tiny, humble pea doesn’t exactly look like a powerhouse veggie, does it? But Pea Protein Powder is a very popular dairy-free protein source with an extra-long shelf life (2 years).
If you’ve been hanging around the health and fitness sphere long, you’ve probably noticed Pea Protein has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity. Today, Pea Protein seems to be in just about everything — from non-dairy milk and protein bars to meat alternatives and of course, protein supplements.
Pea Protein Nutrition Facts
Spoiler alert: Pea protein is a nutrient powerhouse. Curious about just how great it is? Just one scoop — 30 grams (we’re using Zen Principle Organic Pea Protein Powder as the example) contains a wide array of nutrients, plus some pretty impressive macros for muscle building. Take a look:
- Calories: 125
- Protein: 24 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0.7 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Saturated Fat: 0.6 grams
- Dietary Fiber: 1.2 grams
- Potassium: 70 milligrams
- Sodium: 444 milligrams
- Calcium: 6.4% of your recommended daily allowance
- Iron: 21% of your recommended daily allowance
Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan or omnivore, Pea Protein is a great way to get those all-important, essential amino acids in your daily diet. And because it also contains crucial minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium, it’s kind of like taking a tiny multivitamin, too.
Health Benefits of Pea Protein
If you’re adding protein powder to your daily diet, chances are you’re looking to put on some quality muscle mass or even shed a few pounds. This is where Pea Protein shines.
The humble pea — whether you believe it or not — is actually quite mighty. This muscle-building, health-promoting pulse offers a wide range of benefits that other plant-based protein powders simply cannot boast.
Pea Protein Contains All Nine Essential Amino Acids (and BCAAs)
Out of all 20 amino acids, 9 are essential, meaning your body cannot make them on its own. To get those nine amino acids, you must consume them as part of your daily diet.
Animal-based proteins have long been touted as superior muscle-building foods because they’re complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids — but Pea Protein might be the new rival on the block. In fact, a study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition set out to determine just how anabolic Pea Protein really is.
What did the researchers find? At the end of the study, individuals who consumed Pea Protein in combination with resistance training developed muscle thickness gains that rivaled the gains delivered by whey protein.
Whey protein might be considered the king of all protein supplements, but according to science, we may just have a usurper on our hands.
Besides its complete amino acid profile, Pea Protein also contains a hefty dose of branched-chain amino acids. If you’re not familiar with BCAAs, they’re a combination of three essential amino acids that comprise about 21 percent of your body’s total protein content. These three amino acids — leucine, isoleucine and valine — help stimulate muscle protein synthesis, decrease post-workout muscle soreness, prevent muscle catabolism and may even help reduce fatigue during exercise.
Pea Protein Can Help With Weight Loss
Do you ever feel completely ravenous? Like a bottomless pit that just can’t be filled? A sneaky little hormone called ghrelin is the culprit — and if you’re trying to shed some weight, ghrelin is not your best friend.
Ghrelin essentially tells your brain that you’re hungry, then your brain tells you to go find food. And until ghrelin backs off, you’ll just keep eating. Not exactly the best scenario for weight loss, right? Fortunately, though, there are ways you can reduce ghrelin secretion to further your fat-shedding efforts. And guess what is great at lowering ghrelin?
Yep — Pea Protein.
Pea protein also helps boost your levels of another hormone — cholecystokinin — that helps boost your weight loss efforts. CCK helps your body release the necessary enzymes that break down the fats, proteins and carbohydrates you ingest. When you’re finishing up a meal, and you begin to feel full, that’s CCK working behind the scenes to tell your body you’ve had enough.
Since losing weight is already rough, why not make it easier on yourself? Pea protein moves both of your critical hunger hormones in the right direction. Lower ghrelin equals less hunger, while higher CCK equals more satisfaction after meals. Sounds like a win-win for weight loss, right?
Pea Protein Is Completely Plant-Based
If you take a close look at the ingredient labels of most popular protein supplements, you might be a little confused. These products are supposed to be healthy for you, right? Why then, do the vast majority of popular proteins contain so much junk? On a typical protein nutrition label, you’ll likely find:
- Artificial flavors
- “Natural” flavors
- Refined sugar
- Artificial sweeteners
- Synthetic vitamins
- Artificial fillers
- Soy ingredients
It’s no wonder so many people have trouble digesting protein powders — they’re not just getting protein, they’re getting a bunch of chemicals and other ingredients, too.
Pea protein isn’t like that - provided the Pea Protein Powder manufacturer isn’t adding anything more than peas! More on this later.
Because Pea Protein is completely plant-based, you won’t have the digestive issues that often accompany other proteins. Keep in mind that even non-meat protein sources often contain dairy, soy, whey or egg ingredients. Many supplement manufacturers are sneaky, and unless you diligently read the labels of everything you eat, you might be eating ingredients you don’t necessarily want inside your body.
If you’re sensitive to common allergy-producing foods like gluten, soy, lactose or dairy, Pea Protein is a great way to provide your body with all of the protein you need, and none of the stuff you don’t.
Pea Protein is Heart Healthy
If you’re watching your cholesterol or blood pressure, Pea Protein may be just the supplement you need. According to researchers, Pea Protein can help lower systolic blood pressure while simultaneously reducing cholesterol levels.
Scientists aren’t quite sure of the mechanism behind peas’ cholesterol-lowering abilities, but they believe Pea Protein powder helps increase cholesterol uptake into cells. At the same time, dietary Pea Protein appears to help reduce the body’s production of lipids.
Pea protein also contains high levels of arginine, a non-essential amino acid. Arginine works to keep your blood vessels dilated, which means your heart won’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body. Essentially, arginine helps decrease stress on your heart.
Lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol and a de-stressed heart? Sounds like a win-win-win.
Now, if Pea Protein could only de-stress your brain...
Whey Protein Versus Pea Protein: Which is Better?
Obviously, Pea Protein is a powerhouse, but does it still fall short compared to the long-time king of protein - whey?
That depends on how you look at it.
Like any comparison, both Pea Protein and whey protein have their benefits and drawbacks — the one that wins out depends on your dietary preferences, digestive system and of course, your taste buds.
How do the two compare?
In terms of calories, both pea and whey protein contain relatively the same number. The same goes for grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat — depending on the brand you’re considering, of course. However, whey protein trumps Pea Protein in its BCAA content by about two grams. On the other hand, Pea Protein contains soluble fiber, something whey protein simply cannot boast.
Whey protein is also highly processed, typically with various chemical solvents. As a result of its heavy processing, whey can create substantial inflammation in your digestive tract. Pea protein, however, is anti-inflammatory and even contains phytonutrients that support digestive health.
For most people, though, here’s where the greatest difference lies: Pea protein doesn’t contain dairy; whey protein does.
If you have a sensitive stomach or you’ve experienced digestive issues with protein powders, obviously, Pea Protein wins out here. And while we’re on the subject of digestibility, let’s go ahead and compare digestion rates, too.
Pea protein breaks down slowly after ingestion, while whey breaks down quickly. Depending on your goals, one may win out over the other. According to researchers, slower digesting proteins may be more beneficial for long-term muscle building since they supply your body with a steady stream of amino acids over a prolonged period. However, researchers have also demonstrated that immediately after a workout, consuming a fast-digesting protein — like whey — stimulates increased muscle protein synthesis.
All things considered, Pea Protein and whey protein are relatively similar. It’s up to you to make the choice.
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Pea Protein Consumption
On the whole, Pea Protein powder is very well tolerated — unless you’re allergic to peas, of course. Because it is naturally free from the most common allergy-inducing ingredients, the vast majority of people will have no adverse reaction to Pea Protein powder.
That said, the powder is relatively high in sodium compared to other protein powders on the market. If you follow a sodium-restricted diet for health reasons, you can still consume Pea Protein; you’ll simply need to keep your intake moderate.
How To Use Pea Protein
Looking to boost your protein intake with some heart-healthy, muscle-building, anti-inflammatory Pea Protein? Great! Here’s how to get started:
Begin by calculating how much protein you should consume on a daily basis. If you’re looking to build muscle, the most beneficial daily dose of protein hovers right around 0.73 grams per pound of body weight.
So for a 150-pound individual, that would mean 109.5 grams of protein per day. Once you’ve calculated your recommended intake, it’s time to figure out where you’d like to add Pea Protein to your day.
To supplement your protein intake with a shake, add five scoops daily to six to 10 ounces of water, juice or your favorite beverage. Toss the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can use a shaker cup and shake away for 25 to 30 seconds. Other creative uses for Pea Protein include:
- Stir it into soups or stews.
- Add it to muffins, pancakes or other baked goods.
- Stir it into oatmeal or other breakfast cereals.
- Add it to a smoothie, pour it into popsicle molds and freeze.
There you have it! Now you know where Pea Protein lies on the protein powder spectrum — and if we do say so ourselves, it’s right up there with the heaviest hitters. If you’ve been thinking about giving Pea Protein a shot, go ahead and give it a try. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose — and a substantial amount of muscle to gain!
Finding quality Pea Protein Powder
A fact often ignored, the source of peas in Pea Protein Powder is important. Are they grown and harvested sustainably and organically? Or are they imported en masse from countries where health and worker regulations are lax?
Zen Principle® Organic Pea Protein is derived from whole, yellow peas sourced exclusively from small, organic farmers based in the United States and Canada.
Because heat can quickly denature amino acids and critical vitamins and minerals, we make our Pea Protein by gently drying the peas at low temperatures to preserve their precious nutrients. Following strict health and safety guidelines, we then grind our dried peas into a super-fine powder, remove the starch and leave a healthy dose of soluble fiber.
If you take a look at the ingredient label of our Zen Principle® Organic Pea Protein, you’ll find just one ingredient: Pea Protein. No added sweeteners, no fillers, no chemicals — nothing but a bunch of pulverized peas. No surprises here.
And speaking of nutrition information, Zen Principle® Organic Pea Protein is very low in phytate at 1.2 milligrams per gram — meaning it fits within all but the strictest of Paleo diets.
Anytime you choose to include supplements in your diet, it’s critical that you locate the source of the raw materials and learn how the product is processed.