Pea protein powder is a highly pure, vegan-friendly source of protein derived from peas that can help you build muscle, gain strength, and drop fat.
If you are looking to avoid dairy-based proteins like whey and casein, pea protein is one of your best alternatives. It’s highly concentrated, and it has a robust, well-rounded amino acid profile to help improve your recovery, boost your performance, and lead to a leaner, stronger physique.
Does that sound like what you want? Our research team has studied and ranked the ten best sources of pea protein below, so check it out.
1. NorCal Organic Pea Protein
Sourced from organic peas and grown in the United States, NorCal Organic is a great, simple pea protein for several reasons. First, its organic certification means it is less likely to contain traces of pesticides.
Additionally, its purity is certified by an independent third-party laboratory. While some people might prefer it in a plastic tub instead of a resealable plastic bag, that’s not enough to prevent it from being the top overall pea protein on the market.
2. Naked Pea
Naked has built a great reputation as a source for extremely pure and natural supplements, with nothing in the way of extraneous ingredients or fillers.
Their pea protein supplement is a perfect example of this, and Naked Pea is one of the best single-ingredient pea protein supplements out there.
3. Anthony’s Premium Pea Protein
Anthony’s Premium Pea Protein is a solid source of 100% pure pea protein isolate. It’s tested and certified gluten-free, meaning it has passed rigorous testing for the presence of gluten from cross-contamination during the manufacturing process.
The resealable bag is a little less convenient than a plastic tub, but that’s about the only fault you can find with this pea protein supplement.
4. BulkSupplements Pure Pea Protein
BulkSupplements delivers again with its high-volume and high-purity pea protein supplement, available in up to 20 kilogram bags.
While other products might have a leg up with regards to organic certifications and other perks, BulkSupplements should still be your top priority if you go through tremendous quantities of protein.
5. Smart138 Pea Protein
Smart138 is one of the best sources for pea protein if you dislike the slightly chalky and mildly vegetal taste of raw, unflavored pea protein powder.
This pea protein powder is flavored with natural vanilla flavoring and monk fruit extract, a natural non-caloric sweetener. With few other pea proteins that are flavored, and fewer still that are flavored without sugar or artificial sweeteners, Smart138 stands out from the crowd.
6. TerraSoul Superfoods Pea Protein Powder
TerraSoul is a good brand of pea protein if you want your protein from organically grown peas. It uses pea protein isolate, the purest form of pea protein, and comes in three options (1.5, 3, and 4.5 pound bags).
It’s a good choice if you want to buy large amounts of bulk pea protein that is also organic.
7. Now Sports Pea Protein
Now Sports offers up a pretty simple pea protein supplement whose only ingredient is pea protein isolate from yellow peas.
The pea sources are non-GMO, and the supplement carries the “Tested for Sport” certification, meaning an independent lab has tested and certified that this supplement contains no banned substances in sports competition. It’s naturally flavored and has an emulsifier, making it a little easier to mix into shakes and smoothies, at the expense of more ancillary ingredients.
8. Orgain Organic Protein
Orgain is a blend of a variety of plant proteins, but its main constituent is pea protein. It employs rice protein and chia seed alongside to bolster the amino acid content of pea protein, which is slightly weak in a few essential amino acids.
It’s flavored with a mix of erythritol and stevia, which is less than ideal: some people get digestive when consuming large amounts of this synthetic sweetener.
Surprisingly, even with these non-caloric sweeteners, this supplement is fairly high in carbohydrates, making it difficult to recommend for low-carb dieters. Even when it comes to flavored pea protein supplements, there are better options out there.
9. Naturade Plant Based VeganSmart Pea Protein
Naturade is somewhere in between a protein shake and a sports drink. It uses pea protein isolate to deliver a high dose of protein, but it’s also got cane sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt for sugar and electrolyte content.
As you’d probably guess, the carbohydrate content of this protein supplement is fairly high, at 8 grams of carbs for every 20 grams of protein.
Still, if you are an athlete who needs a rapid recovery drink, this is a good choice for replenishing your carbohydrate stores and jump-starting muscle recovery.
10. Source Naturals Pea Protein Powder
Source Naturals makes a fairly simple pea protein powder, but it’s the less-pure pea protein concentrate form, not the more highly concentrated and biologically active pea protein isolate you’ll find in many of the other pea protein powder supplements on the market.
Unless you’ve got a reason to go for concentrate over isolate, you should probably pass on this one.
Pea protein benefits and side effects
Pea protein is possibly the best plant-based source of protein. It’s got a strong amino acid profile, and many vegan protein powders use pea protein as their primary constituent.
Because of its high purity, extremely low carbohydrate content (practically zero for pure pea protein isolate) and well-balanced amino acid profile, pea protein powder is the perfect solution for increasing muscular strength and shifting your body towards gaining muscle instead of fat.
It’s equally valuable for athletes in training and dieters trying to lose weight.
The high protein concentration of pea protein can help keep weight off after dieting. One of the toughest things about dieting isn’t actually losing the weight—it’s keeping it off once you’ve lost it.
A high-protein, low-carb supplement like pea protein powder can make a big difference. Initial evidence that supplemental protein has a beneficial effect on weight maintenance after a dieting program comes from a 2005 study published in the International Journal of Obesity (1).
In the study, over 100 volunteers underwent the same dieting protocol, then were randomly assigned to either a supplemental protein group or a control group during the three month follow-up period. The protein group received a supplement with 50 grams of protein power day, while the control group followed standard post-diet advice.
The results showed that the group that received the supplemental protein regained 50% less weight than the control group. Moreover, that was only fat mass, highlighting the role that concentrated sources of protein play in building muscle and dropping fat.
Replacing carbs with pea protein can cut down on hunger and increase fat burning. A review study published by two researchers at Harvard School of Public Health examined the effects of replacing dietary carbohydrates with protein among people who have lost or are actively losing weight (2).
According to the authors, replacing carbs with protein is advantageous for two reasons: first, greater protein intake induces a feeling of fullness, wich nutritionists call “satiety.” This just means your body isn’t feeling hungry anymore. The second benefit of high protein intake is that it induces thermogenesis, which is an up-regulation in your body’s baseline metabolic rate to burn more fat and produce more energy.
You burn more calories at rest after a meal that’s high in protein than you do after one that’s high in carbohydrates. Pea protein, with its very high protein content and its extremely low carbohydrate content, is an ideal source of protein to tamp down on hunger and to kick-start your metabolism.
These mechanisms likely explain why protein supplements appear to help with both weight loss and weight loss maintenance.
Conventional weight loss wisdom, which dictates that “a calorie is a calorie,” would suggest that taking in additional calories in the form of protein is counterproductive, but the latest nutritional evidence suggests otherwise.
Pea protein can help vegetarians and vegans gain muscle mass. One of the biggest concerns with a vegetarian or a vegan diet is that it becomes more difficult to gain muscle mass when you are an athlete in training.
This has been documented in scientific research. One study published in 1999 found that men who consumed an omnivorous diet gained more lean body mass over the course of a 12 week training intervention compared to a group of men who ate a vegetarian diet (3).
The good news is that supplementation with pea protein can counteract this problem.
According to a review article on protein sources published by Jay R. Hoffman and Michael J. Falvo at the College of New Jersey, supplementation with plant-based protein such as pea protein can counteract the tendency of vegetarian and vegan diets to make it more difficult to gain lean body mass (4).
Plant sources of protein can be just as beneficial as animal sources. A study published in 2013 in the Nutrition Journal sought to compare the effects of an animal-based protein supplement (whey, in this case) and a plant-derived protein supplement on athletic performance gains over the course of an eight week training intervention (5).
A group of college-aged athletes were randomly assigned to either an animal-derived or plant-derived protein supplement, and all underwent the same training for eight weeks.
At the study’s beginning and end, the researchers tested the athletes’ body composition, strength, and power. They found no differences between the groups, though each group increased their strength, lean body mass, and power over the course of the study, and decreased their fat mass.
The fact that there was no difference across groups implies that plant-based proteins like pea protein can deliver the same benefits as you’d get in an animal-based protein powder like whey protein, so vegetarians and vegans who supplement with pea protein need not worry that they’d be better off with whey or casein.
Like other protein powders, pea protein is exceptionally safe since it’s derived from yellow peas—one of the most mundane and safe foods out there.
Pea protein’s only weakness is a modestly low level of tryptophan and methionine, two essential amino acids.
However, these amino acids are common in other foods like seeds, soy protein, cheese, eggs, and beans, so it’s unlikely you’ll run into problems due to a lack of these amino acids, unless pea protein powder is your only source of dietary protein—and if that’s the case, you’ve likely got bigger issues.
Athletes should aim for 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day, if they are runners, cyclists, or other endurance athletes.
Weightlifters and other strength, speed, and power athletes need to aim higher: 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day, according to research by Peter Lemon at Kent State University (6).
As for those looking to keep off weight lost during a dieting protocol, the minimum amount of supplemental protein (in addition to your regular dietary intake) appears to be 30 grams per day, and 50 grams per day might be better.
Since pea protein isolate, the purest form of pea protein, is 80% protein by weight, you’ll have to divide that amount by 0.8, arriving at a range of 38 to 63 grams of pea protein isolate per day.
Pea protein is a great, vegan-friendly source of protein that’s highly concentrated and can deliver the same athletic and weight loss maintenance benefits as whey protein and other animal-based proteins.
Both athletes and dieters can benefit from pea protein, though guidelines on optimal dose depend on the specific application.
Vegetarians and vegans, who can have difficulty maintaining lean body mass without specific dietary protein supplementation, are especially good candidates for including a pea protein powder as part of their daily diet.
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Author: John Davis