Whey Protein vs. Pea Protein: Which Is Better?
The body builder’s best friend. The weight loss warrior’s answer to prayer.
Protein is an essential nutrient for growing and maintaining a healthy body. Made from amino acids, proteins are the building blocks for each of your cells, helping with normal metabolism and tissue repair (1).
Several clinical trials also show that for those looking to slim down, upping their protein intake can help burn more fat and maintain a better physique over those who simply restrict their calories or go on fad diets (2).
But when looking around for a good protein powder, you’ve probably noticed two in particular --- whey protein vs pea protein.
How do you know if one is better than the other? How are protein powders made, anyway? Generally, protein powders are created when the proteins of certain foods are taken out and condensed into a more concentrated form. Then, they’re dehydrated and turned into powder.
Being in powder form makes it easier to dissolve in liquids or mix in foods. Not only can you mix it with water to make the popular protein “shake”, but you can also get creative by adding it to your:
- Favorite pancakes
- Festive-flavored energy bites (3)
So if protein powders can help you reach your health and wellness goals, which kind is better for you? That depends on a few factors, which we’ll go over today.
First, let’s take a closer look at each of these protein powders.
What is Whey Protein?
When you see the words whey protein on a nutrition label, what you’re actually looking at is a collection of eight different proteins that are found in cow’s milk (4).
When cheese is made, enzymes are added to the milk to form curds. After the curds are removed, the watery, white liquid that remains is the whey. This animal-based protein is one of the most popular types on the market, with three different types to choose from:
- Isolate: this type is designed to be low in fat and lactose and high in protein. It’s often a good choice for those looking to build muscle or those with lactose sensitivities.
- Hydrolysate: this type is also known as hydrolyzed whey. This is the easiest type to digest because long protein chains are broken down into smaller ones. Some medical supplements and infant formulas carry this type of protein.
- Concentrate: this type has a variety of fat, lactose, and protein ratios and is commonly found in infant formula, protein drinks, and snacks.
Whey protein can be a good choice if you’re looking to gain weight, specifically more muscle mass. If you suffer from a physical or psychological eating disorder, this can help fill in nutritional gaps. The amino acids are also helpful in wound healing and repair.
Because whey protein comes from milk, it’s not a good choice if you have milk allergies. Many supplement companies are also not regulated by the FDA, possibly allowing trace amounts of heavy metals, pesticides, or other harmful substances. Some people may also struggle to digest lactose.
What is Pea Protein?
Pea protein is almost exactly what it sounds like. This is a plant-based protein source that you get from peas --- yellow split peas, to be precise.
These little green vegetables pack a punch on their own at about 8 grams of protein per serving (5), but when turned into a protein powder their protein counts nearly double!
Like whey protein, pea proteins have three different types:
- Concentrate: this type contains a more rounded product of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. It’s often used as a meal replacement or as part of a weight-gain regimen.
- Isolate: this type is simply pea protein and amino acids. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s most helpful for building muscle.
- Textured: this type won’t typically be found in supplements. Because it is the least processed form of the three, texture pea proteins tend to be used more by people adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Some people prefer pea proteins because they’re easier to digest. Because this plant-based powder doesn’t contain any lactose, it’s much easier on the digestive tract. It also has a creamier consistency, which may be more appealing to some. In addition to being vegan and allergy-free, it contains higher amounts of iron. This nutrient helps keep your energy levels at healthy levels.
Other than the possibility of contaminants from unregulated manufacturing, the only downside to pea proteins is that they’re not very “bioavailable”. This means it doesn’t contain the natural amino acids other protein sources have. If you decide to use pea protein, make sure you’re getting amino acids so that you can absorb the pea protein.
Which Protein Is Better (Wrapping It Up)?
Determining which protein powder is better depends on your personal goals, how well your digestion works, and your texture preferences.
It might take time to experiment with different brands. If you can tolerate whey and are more focused on losing weight, isolated whey protein may be the right choice.
But if you need something easier on the stomach and prefer plant-based nutrition, pea protein could be a great fit!
Remember to always consult your medical professional before adding anything new to your regimen.
Have you tried both types of protein? Which do you like better? Let us know!
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author