By now, you probably already know the importance of getting enough protein in your diet. Protein is arguably one of the most important macronutrients because it is needed by every cell in your body. It also helps build and repair muscle, skin, and other tissues within the body.
While it’s always important to try to meet your daily protein needs through a well-balanced, healthy diet, it can be difficult for some. A great way to ensure that your protein needs are met is by taking a high-quality protein powder supplement.
Whether you’re new to using protein powders or are simply looking to change things up, you may question which protein is best for your lifestyle.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at pea protein and whey protein, two of the most popular protein powders on the market. We will discuss the pros and cons of each protein powder and its nutritional compositions to help you decide which one is right for you.
- Both pea and whey protein powders are a great way to increase your protein intake and can effectively build muscle.
- Organic pea protein powder may be best for those who are vegan, have food allergies, or want a more sustainable protein powder. Pea protein also contains more iron than whey protein.
- Whey protein powders are derived from animals and might be better for people with allergies to legumes like peanuts or other peas. Whey protein also contains more essential amino acids and calcium.
PEA PROTEIN VS WHEY: DIFFERENCES
Despite both being excellent choices to increase your daily protein intake and build lean muscle mass, there are a few key differences between pea and whey protein.
The main difference is their source of protein.
Whey protein begins its life as the liquid part of a cow’s milk that separates from the solid curds during the cheesemaking process.
The liquid whey is then isolated and goes through many processes to form the powdered whey protein we find packaged in protein supplements today.
Since it comes from milk, whey protein powder usually contains lactose (the sugar in milk). The exact amount of lactose in whey protein powders will vary by brand.
Pea protein is made from extracting protein from peas, typically yellow split peas. This happens through a manual food production process that involves grinding dried peas into a fine powder.
From there, most of the starch and fiber are removed to make a pea protein concentrate. It’s also lactose-free since it is not derived from dairy.
Pea protein powders typically have more of a smooth, creamy texture that some report tastes more “earthy.”
PEA PROTEIN VS WHEY: SIMILARITIES
Pea protein and whey protein supplements have similar protein content.
They also both have a somewhat bland taste that mixes well in most foods and beverages. Many people choose to blend whey or pea protein with water or milk. You can also mix both powders into smoothies, muffins, oatmeal, and many other foods and beverages.
Last but certainly not least, both pea protein and whey protein both can effectively build muscle and are great options to fill dietary protein gaps.
In fact, one study published in 2019 found no significant differences between whey protein and pea protein on muscle-building capabilities, athletic performance, and muscle thickness.
We know that both of these powders are high in protein and can effectively build muscle, but what else can they offer you?
To start, both whey protein and pea protein have a similar calorie content, and both are fairly low in carbs, fat, and fiber.
Since pea protein powder is derived from legumes, it contains a much higher amount of iron than whey protein.
In contrast, since whey protein is an animal protein and made from milk, it has more calcium and a more complete amino acid profile than pea protein. Whey protein is also higher in potassium.
Whey protein contains lactose, which may not be the best option for people with lactose intolerance.
Pea protein is free of most common allergens, making it a good choice for most people regardless of their diet restrictions.
Whey protein is naturally gluten-free.
However, some powders may include additives like stabilizers or preservatives that contain gluten or be cross-contaminated with it.
Since whey protein comes from milk, it contains lactose and may not be appropriate for someone with a dairy or lactose intolerance.
Of note, many whey protein powders, especially whey protein isolate, are typically very low in lactose. Many people with mild or moderate lactose sensitivity report tolerating whey protein without difficulty.
Pea protein is dairy-free, making it a safe option for those with an intolerance to lactose or dairy. However, since it is a legume, people with an allergy to other legumes like soybeans, peanuts, or other peas should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet.
If you have a food allergy, be sure to choose a product that has gone through third-party testing to ensure the label is accurate and there are no hidden allergens in the product.
ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
There are nine essential amino acids that your body cannot make.
They must be consumed from your diet or supplement regimen. Essential amino acids are vital for important functions throughout the body, including nutrient absorption, tissue repair, and protein synthesis.
When a food or supplement contains all nine essential amino acids in quantities that our body needs, they are called complete proteins.
Whey protein powder is considered a complete protein because it is high in all nine essential amino acids. In particular, it is high in the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine that can help support protein synthesis.
While pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids, it is relatively low in methionine, an essential amino acid.
Depending on the brand of pea protein, some powders may not meet the ratio of essential amino acids necessary to be considered a complete protein.
On the other hand, some companies may add methionine or other plant-based proteins like rice protein that is high in methionine to provide a more complete amino acid profile.
Nevertheless, compared to other plant-based protein powders, pea protein is considered one of the “most complete” protein powders available.
Pea protein powder is also a great source of BCAAs that work to promote muscle growth, reduce muscle soreness, and support healthy blood flow.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the nutritional content of these two popular proteins to see how they stack up!
PEA PROTEIN POWDER
Here’s a look at the average nutritional profile of a 1 ounce (30 gram) scoop of pea protein powder:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 22.5 grams
- Fat: 2.25 grams
- Carbs: 1.5 grams
- Fiber: 1.5 grams
- Calcium: 87 milligrams, 7% Daily Value (DV)
- Potassium: 31.5 milligrams, 1% of the DV
- Sodium: 345 milligrams, 15% DV
- Iron: 7.5 milligrams, 42% of the DV
WHEY PROTEIN POWDER
Here’s the nutritional profile for the same amount (30 grams) of whey protein powder:
- Calories: 118
- Protein: 27 grams
- Fat: < 1 gram
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Fiber: 0 gram
- Calcium: 130 milligrams, 10% DV
- Potassium: 166 milligrams, 4% DV
- Sodium: 48 milligrams, 2% DV
- Iron: 0 milligrams, 0% DV
Overall, whey protein and pea protein powder supplements are great options for diets lacking in protein or for those struggling to meet very high protein requirements.
Neither of the two protein supplements is superior to the other when it comes to muscle gain or athletic performance.
Picking the best protein powder is ultimately based on your individual preferences and lifestyle.
If you’re looking for a protein supplement that is vegan or more sustainable, pea protein powders or other high-quality plant-based protein powders are going to be your best option.
On the other hand, whey protein powder is a great option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly protein supplement and do not have any dietary restrictions.
If you do not have a specific reason to choose one over the other, we recommend trying both to see if one is more appealing to your taste buds!
Looking to try a plant-based or whey protein powder?
We offer one of the best-tasting, smoothest plant-based protein powders on the market that contains a perfect blend of organic rice protein and organic pea protein.
We also offer a grass-fed whey protein that is free of artificial flavors and contains zero added sugar. Our BUILD whey protein comes in cocoa and cinnamon cereal to satisfy a range of taste buds.