Pea protein powder is becoming an increasingly popular product in the health and fitness market. Research indicates this as an attractive alternative to whey-based products, and suggests it works just as well. With many different pea protein products around, we’ve taken a closer look and compared some of the best pea protein powders available.
Who Needs Pea Protein Powder?
Potentially everyone who includes resistance training in their health and fitness regime can benefit from pea protein powder, and everyone else too!
The benefits of a regular exercise programme are widely known, but results take time, dedication, motivation, consistency and a lot of hard work. Pea protein powder has been proven to be an effective method to maximize the results of all of the effort involved in maintaining a regular fitness routine and growing muscle mass. (source)
Scientific research even highlights pea protein powder as a good form of nutrition to help maintain muscle strength when physical activity decreases. (source) So it can have a beneficial effect during the off-season of your chosen sport or activity, and in times of injury.
How Does Pea Protein Powder Work?
There are many botanical proteins available on the market such as brown rice, hemp and chia protein, however, unlike many other plant-based proteins, pea protein powder is a complete protein source.
It contains all of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which can’t be produced by the body. It is particularly high in branch chain amino acids (BCAA) which are known to decrease post-workout muscle breakdown and help the body maximize production of muscle proteins.
As we currently understand the principle of muscle overload, resistance training causes tiny tears, or microtrauma, in the muscle which, given the right conditions, stimulates muscles to heal and strengthen in response to the microtrauma. Pea protein helps to provide the optimum conditions to maximize muscle repair and strength.
Compared to both whey and casein proteins, pea protein produces a high quality nutritional protein which remains readily available for the body to use to repair and strengthen muscles. It has also been proven to increase the thickness of muscles. (source)
Weight Loss and Decreasing Hunger Pangs
When it comes to weight loss, many people focus on monitoring their consumption of carbs and fats and overlook the importance of protein. However, the benefits of sufficient protein intake for weight loss are well known and is thought to increase the metabolism of fat. (source)
Pea protein powder contains a good dose of protein per serving, and so is an excellent way of maximizing weight loss. Yet another benefit of pea protein powder with regards to weight loss is its ability to reduce hunger pangs. (source)
It consists of long chains of amino acids which take longer for the body to process. Essentially, this means your stomach stays fuller for longer, and delays the release of hormones which stimulate our desire to eat. And there’s more.
Other reported health benefits of pea protein powder are not to be taken lightly. One study reports benefits in terms of helping to regulate blood sugar (source), others suggest it can also help to control high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease (source) which in turn may prevent or delay the start of kidney disease.
Longer Lasting Natural Protein
Compared to milk proteins, pea protein is thought to move more slowly through the digestive system, suggesting it remains in a form that can be used by the body for muscle strengthening gains for a longer period of time before being broken down.
Pea protein powders are an easily digestible, natural vegetable protein. They also tend to be dairy free, gluten free, soy free and with no animal products, are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Most pea protein powders have generally established a reputation for being well tolerated by the majority of users – to the point of being labelled “hypoallergenic”. Most manufacturers recommend introducing pea protein powder initially in small amounts, and gradually build up to a full daily dose. It can be taken before and after a workout to provide the body with a good supply of amino acids.
Can’t I Just Eat Lots Of Peas?
Scientific research has shown that just eating peas is not as effective as adding pea protein powder to your diet. The raw protein in peas needs to be activated by specific enzymes, which happens in the production of pea protein powder by way of a special extraction process.
This makes pea protein powder more effective than consuming the vegetable itself.
Choosing The Right Pea Protein Powder
Universally speaking, pea protein powders generally don’t taste brilliant, and the best to hope for is a mild or neutral taste. This said, as with everything in life, it really depends how creative you are as to how much the taste will bother you personally.
Some people use pea protein powder to bake with as a replacement for flour, although there’s a risk of denaturing the amino acids within. Other people have no issues with the taste when mixed into juices or smoothies – particularly those containing green fruit and vegetables.
Most pea protein powders seem to have a slightly chalky consistency, and some have a slightly stronger flavor and aroma. This varies from product to product, so it’s important to explore and find the product that works for you.
We take a closer look at five leading brands currently on the market.
From the five products we reviewed, my top choice is Source Naturals Pea Protein Powder. Although the raw materials are produced in China, the manufacturing is US regulated.
It mixes well in smoothies and soups which makes the mild taste almost undetectable and packs a great punch of protein considering the small serving size. Add to that the excellent value for money, and you can see why we think this is a winner.