Protein shakes are probably the most used products in the world of sport nutrition. Among them, whey protein is the most popular one. However, there are other alternatives like pea protein with great properties that provide remarkable results. Moreover, it is suitable for groups of people that cannot take whey, such as vegetarians or vegans.
What is pea protein?
Peas (and pea protein for that matter) belong to the leguminous family. More specifically, they come from the plant Pisum sativum and its green and yellow peas which are the raw ingredient of the powder. In fact, peas are naturally higher in protein (20-25%) than snap peas (5-6%), which is why the former is used to make the product due to its protein content.
Even though it is not at the top of most consumed proteins, the experts believe it will gain more popularity in the next years. Specially those who are worried and aware of their health as well as those who want to follow a vegetable diet, removing any animal product.
Pea protein is a solution for those who do not want or cannot eat meat, dairy or gluten.
Properties of pea protein
Some of its main properties are:
Protein content of peas
When we talk about pea protein, we may picture a bowl full of peas… But this is not the case. Thanks to the protein processing, we will have a product with a high protein percentage with important amino acids such as the BCAA's.
This means that it does not have any animal product or byproduct, which is ideal for vegetarians and vegans. However, you can still use it even if you do not follow this kind of diets.
Pea proteins do not have gluten, one of the most common allergens. Moreover, it will not cause any issue among vegans or vegetarians, like soy protein actually does. It will also be a great choice for those who cannot take egg protein.
It does not have lactose either. There are many people who experience stomach discomfort, swelling or flatulence due to the sugar from milk.
Easy digestion and tolerance
Low fat and sugar content
Most pea proteins (specially isolates) will not contain these elements, except for some traces. Therefore, its consumption will be totally suitable for any kind of diet based on pure protein sources.
This parameter is a way of measuring the quality of a protein depending on its aminogram. A complete aminogram will include all the essential amino acids, which are those that our body cannot synthesize. Consequently, we will have to take them from external sources (diet and/or supplementation). This is a way of assessing if the protein will be able to help us produce new protein structures. Actually, pea protein has a great score (65/100) when compared to other sources.
If we want to increase this value, we will just need to combine it with other vegetable proteins to get a superior aminogram.
We also need to emphasize that we do not have to take complete proteins in a single meal. Rather, we can distribute them throughout the day.
That is, it has a good dissolution either in water or milk (vegetable milk too). Nevertheless, we can use it as the main ingredient for many hot and cold recipes and bakery.
Tip: protein can be used for cooking regardless of its source. Heat does not destroy protein but it changes its molecular structure (like cooking an egg). Therefore, it will still be available for our organism. Evidently, we should avoid burning or overcooking it.
Benefits of pea protein
It is high in BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids. They are made up by L-leucine, L-valine and L-isoleucine, which belong to the essential amino acid group. In other words, our body cannot synthesize them so we need to take them from the food we eat. These amino acids make up a third of the skeletal muscle and they suffer a higher breakdown rate caused by physical stress.
Its amino acid profile is very similar to other sources such as whey or meat. In fact, it is specially high in arginine, lysine and phenylalanine. Unlike other proteins, its lysine content is particularly high in this type of vegetable protein. This essential amino acid is a precursor form of carnitine with important tasks on the organism:
To illustrate this point, let’s take the chocolate flavored Pea Protein Isolate from the brand EssentialSeries:
|Amino acid||Per 100g|
It helps to lose fat
When it comes to losing weight ans specially fat, we need to create a caloric deficit. In other words, we need to eat less calories than what our body uses. Consequently, our organism will have to use the fat deposits in order to obtain energy. During this process, protein will come in handy in order to calm the appetite, since it has a great satiating effect, unlike other macronutrients (fats and carbs). Therefore, both whey protein and pea protein share this ability to increase the feeling of satiety.
Moreover, the thermal effect that protein requires to be digested is superior to the other macronutrients as well. Therefore, our metabolism will increase after taking a product that is high in protein.
We can take several servings of protein throughout the day, and not only in shakes. In fact, we can use any recipe to make a delicious protein meal. After all, we will have the necessary material to regenerate the muscle fibers and support the recovery in order to preserve the muscle mass.
It regulates the blood sugar
When we eat foods rich in carbohydrates, our blood glycemia (blood sugar) increases. Our body then counters this effect by releasing insulin in order to go back to a basal state. According to a study, taking pea protein powder with this type of products improve the post-pandrial response, keeping the glucose levels and appetite under control.
It keeps the heart healthy
A report about cardiovascular health revealed that those who eat a 70% more cereals, fruit and vegetables have 20% less chances of dying from a heart attack.
Moreover, a vegan or vegetarian diet is good for the heart because it is rich in fiber and low in saturated fats. However, we still need to take a proper dose of quality amino acids when following these diets. In this case, pea protein could be the solution since it is a vegetable protein rich in amino acids.
A 2009 clinical study proved that after taking a pea protein supplement for eight weeks, we can lower the blood pressure in a 20%.
It helps to keep the kidneys healthy
Pea protein can lower the blood pressure and increase the urinary excretion of patients with chronic renal failure.
A 2009 clinical study assessed the effect of pea protein in rats with polycystic renal disease. After taking pea protein for eight weeks, the rats had a lower blood pressure when compared to those that followed a normal diet.
Hypertension is an important risk factor in cases of chronic renal failure. The researchers also found out that the urinary excretion increased significantly. Therefore, we can eliminate toxins more easily.
It can lower the blood pressure, preventing or reducing the renal damage and prolonging the life expectancy of those with chronic renal insufficiency.
How much, how and when should I take pea protein?
The 3 most frequently asked questions … Its use will be exactly the same as any other source. In this case, our main objective will be to meet the daily protein requirements.
How much protein
1.8-2.5g of protein per kg of body weight
A person that weighs 80kg who goes 3 times a week to the gym for 1-1.5h and then does cardio 2-3 days. This person could take between 144 and 200g if it follows a caloric deficit in order to lose weight.
The rest of the population, both old and young people, will need a lower amount, although we can take more than the 0.8g advised by the WHO. In fact, there are studies and meta-analyses that show how it improves our physical composition and health.
How to take it
As we mentioned previously, there are many ways we can take protein apart from shakes:
- Smoothies with fruits and/or vegetables and seeds
- With fresh cheese or yogurt
- Mixed with peanut, almond or cashew butter
- Fit pizza dough
When to take protein
Moreover, we can take this nutrient supply whenever we need, such as before the workout or as for breakfast.
Who can benefit from pea protein?
Anyone can consume it, since it is a hypoallergenic protein (no allergens at all) apart from being quite affordable. But there is a group of people who will specially benefit from this product:
- Vegetarians and vegans
- People with lactose intolerance
- Those with gluten intolerance
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