Pea Protein: The Non-Dairy Muscle Builder (that Also Boosts Heart Health)
Pea protein powder is becoming a favorite for gym-goers and health-conscious people alike. Not only is it gluten- and dairy-free, but it’s been proven to be spectacular for your kidneys, heart and waistline too!
Although you can typically get enough protein each day by following a well-balanced and nutritious diet, real life often has a tendency to get in the way, and preparing a healthy meal rich in plant-based protein foods can be a bit of a hassle at times. That’s why smoothies with protein powder can be a great option, augmenting protein intake with minimal prep time.
Another great reason to use protein powder is that consuming it within 30 minutes of working out has been shown to help speed up muscle growth and recovery to optimize your workout and get faster results. Preparing and eating a full meal is not only difficult directly after working out — it can often make you feel nauseous and heavy. A light smoothie packed with great proteins, on the other hand, is a quick and easy alternative to help bump up your protein intake.
Rotating the types of protein powders that you use is a great strategy to make sure your body consistently benefits from each one as much as possible. Ready to learn more? Let’s explore why pea protein should be a part of that rotation.
What Is Pea Protein?
Protein powder is available in several forms, most commonly as whey protein, brown rice protein powder and soy. Whey and brown rice protein have some incredible benefits, and both are very useful in their own right.
Soy protein, on the other hand, may not be so stellar for health due to its high concentration of phytoestrogens and the fact that nearly all soy in the U.S. is genetically engineered.
Although pea protein powder isn’t currently in the top three, experts predict that it will begin drastically increasing in popularity over the next few years given the huge surge in health-conscious consumers and the continued push toward following a more plant-based and sustainable diet.
The rising popularity of this pea supplement should come as no surprise considering the amazing makeup of this veggie protein powder. Pea protein powder is among the most hypoallergenic of all protein powders, as it contains no gluten, soy or dairy. It’s also easy on the tummy and doesn’t cause bloating, a common side effect of many other protein powders.
So how is pea protein made? It’s produced by grinding the peas into a powder and then removing the starch and fiber to leave a highly concentrated pea protein isolate that’s perfect for adding to smoothies, baked goods or desserts to quickly boost protein intake.
Whether you are allergic or sensitive to gluten or dairy or are simply looking for a healthy, plant-based vegan protein powder, pea protein is one of the best protein supplement options available.
The nutrition profile of pea protein is what contributes to its potential health benefits for weight loss, heart health and more.
1. Aids in Weight Loss
As with all good protein powders, pea protein can be a handy tool in your arsenal of weight loss weapons. Particularly if you’re looking to lose weight fast, introducing protein in your diet is one of the best ways to do it.
In fact, a 2020 study indicates that consuming a high-protein breakfast containing pea protein helps increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation.
It’s common for people trying to lose weight to neglect protein intake, which can stall and slow weight loss in the long run. However, getting between 0.8–1.0 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight each day helps you build muscle and burn fat faster. If you weigh 140 pounds — which is about 64 kilograms — for example, you should take in about 51–64 grams of protein each day.
In fact, research shows that pea protein matches dairy-based proteins in its ability to help you feel fuller for longer!
2. Supports Heart Health
Not only is pea protein good for your waistline, but it’s also proven to support a healthy heart. In 2011, one animal model out of Canada reported that pea protein lowers high blood pressure. Impressively enough, the rats in the study showed a significant drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over the course of just eight weeks.
In another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that intake over time of plant-based proteins, rather than animal-based proteins, was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
If you are at any sort of risk for heart problems, the best thing you can do is to eat foods that reduce inflammation, such as peas and other plant-based ingredients. Inflammation is the cause of almost every major heart disease, and CHD is not excluded from that list.
3. May Promote Kidney Function
Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that pea protein could help delay or prevent the onset of kidney damage in those with high blood pressure.
It could also help those with kidney disease live longer by stabilizing blood pressure levels and can increase urine function to help the body rid itself of toxins and waste more efficiently. In this study, it was only when the protein in peas was extracted and activated with special enzymes that the pea protein became especially beneficial for kidney health.
4. Increases Muscle Thickness
A common misconception about vegetable-based natural protein powder supplements is that they don’t have the same effect on muscle growth and muscle recovery after workouts as dairy-based whey protein. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition proved that pea protein was just as effective as dairy-based proteins at increasing muscle thickness after resistance training.
Research suggests that the muscle-boosting benefits of protein may be due to the high quantities of L-arginine in pea protein, which is found in higher concentrations than in other protein products.
Arginine — and L-arginine — is an important amino acid that helps you to build muscle. This is because it stimulates the secretion of human growth hormone, a type of hormone involved in the regulation of growth, metabolism and muscle mass.
5. Balances Blood Sugar Levels
High blood sugar can impact many aspects of health and can cause a range of diabetes symptoms, such as fatigue, increased thirst, slow wound healing and unintentional weight loss.
Some research shows that all-natural protein powder supplements like pea protein could be beneficial when it comes to maintaining normal blood sugar levels. For instance, a study conducted by the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences tested the effects of pea protein on food intake, blood sugar levels and appetite in healthy young men.
While the addition of pea protein didn’t change food intake or appetite, the blood sugar levels of subjects stayed lower than they normally would. This suggests pea protein can be considered a beneficial ingredient and can help improve glycemic control when paired with other foods.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute as medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.