Pea Protein vs. Whey Protein: Is One Better Than the Other?
Pea protein is a rising star in the world of protein powders thanks to its versatility and neutral taste, which makes it easy to combine in smoothies, shakes and other recipes. In addition, there is pea protein easily assimilated 1making it a great option for those with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues.
Vegetable protein, from which pea protein is usually made yellow split peas2 which are subject to a strict refinement process3 extract their protein. It can usually be found in three forms4: pea flour, pea protein concentrate, pea isolate.
Pea protein has a Adjusted Amino Acid Assessment of Protein Digestibility (PDCAAS)5 from 0.78 to 0.91 depending on the product, making it one of the easiest plant proteins to digest (although still harder to digest than animal proteins such as whey, which have a PDCAAS score of 1.0). This rate allows your body to efficiently use pea protein’s essential amino acids (EAA) for muscle growth, repair, and recovery after workouts. In one study, participants who supplemented with pea protein a greater increase in muscle thickness was observed6 compared to those taking a placebo.
“Pea protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids (including the branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine) needed for muscle protein synthesis. For this reason, pea protein is effective in building muscles7and multiple clinical trials support this,” says Emily Werner, PhD, RD, CSSD, registered sports nutritionist.
However, some people do not consider pea protein a complete protein because it is low in some essential amino acids, such as methionine. It also contains less of the amino acid leucine than whey, making it less effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis.