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The Lowdown on Pea Protein Powder

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pea protein powderWhey has long been the go-to protein powder. But there’s a new protein powder in town, and it’s taking the vegan and plant-based worlds by storm. Pea protein powder is one of the latest and greatest protein options available on the market. In fact, it made the 2017 food trends list.

The global revenue from protein supplements and powders is expected to hit $21.5 billion by 2025. Protein powders, by far, are the most popular protein supplement, comprising 64.5% of that revenue. Plant-based players like pea protein are expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.9% through 2025.

Before you write off the tiny pea, you should know that one cup of peas contains 10 grams of protein. Today, pea protein has infiltrated the vegan market, and is being used in top meat alternatives like Beyond Meat. From 2013 to 2016, Mintel reported that pea protein products grew by 195%. The pea-craze has seen the launch of pea flour, pea milk, pea protein sauces, pea protein bars and of course, pea protein powder.

What’s all the hype about?

There’s a reason pea protein has made it to the top of many people’s protein supplement lists. Studies have shown a plethora of benefits, including lower blood pressure thanks to its high potassium levels. The anti-inflammatory properties can also decrease the risk of coronary heart disease. It may also decrease the risk of kidney disease. The University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences conducted a study that suggested peas have a positive effect on regulating blood sugar levels.

Considering that pea protein is dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, casein-free, vegetarian and low carb, it’s a powerful option for nearly anyone looking to supplement their protein intake. Pea protein contains three times more arginine than whey. This makes up for the lower numbers of branched-chain amino acids, keeping it as a serious, muscle-building player. One study showed that men who used pea protein saw similar muscle growth as their whey-consuming counterparts.

What is pea protein?

Protein is the building block of muscle, and a vital component of good health and fitness. For men, it can aid in developing muscle mass, recovering from workouts and strengthening bones. For women, it can help build lean muscle mass and improve skin, hair and bone health.

Pea protein is derived from yellow split peas, and is a popular protein source for a number of diet adherents. It’s also one of the rare plant-based proteins that contain all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

You may have heard of pea protein isolate, which is a highly-concentrated pea protein. Regular pea protein removes a lot of the non-protein material that’s part of the original food source, including fiber. After removing even more of the non-protein elements (up to 95%), the isolates remain. While soy has gotten some backlash for its unhealthy isolate process, pea protein isolates are less likely to be derived chemically than their soy counterparts. Pea protein isolates are made by soaking ground peas in a saline solution to separate the isolates from the rest of the pea.

Is pea protein powder more effective than protein-rich foods?

Research has shown that protein powders increase muscle mass a little faster than a meal alone, and protein shakes have been shown to increase workout performance. And while protein-rich foods are great at providing the nutrients your body needs for building muscle, they aren’t always as convenient (or as quickly absorbed) as protein powders. Hydrolyzed protein powders, for example, are already partially broken down, making them more easily absorbed into your muscles for faster recovery

Is pea protein powder safe?

Pea protein powders tend to be purer, more simple protein powders than many kinds of protein supplements. This can make it easier to stick to many diets, whether gluten-free, low-carb or dairy- and soy-free.

However, there’s a downside. While pea protein is generally a great option for those abstaining from whey or soy, you may want to avoid it if you have gout or gastrointestinal issues. The high levels of certain nutrients in peas can trigger or increase symptoms. It can also be dangerous for dialysis patients because of the high levels of potassium and phosphorous.

Should you use pea protein powder?

Unless you have one of the conditions noted above, pea protein is generally a safe option for increasing muscle mass and aiding your body’s recovery after a big workout.

But while it offers a great alternative for athletes and individuals seeking a protein supplement, no protein powder should be your sole protein source. While pea protein contains all the essential amino acids, they aren’t a complete food or nutrition source in themselves. Good health and nutrition comes from many different amino acids, not only the essential ones. So make sure to eat a variety of whole, nutritious foods.

How much pea protein should I take?

As with all protein powders, this depends on a number of factors, including your size, gender, activity levels and goals. Research has shown that if you’re looking to build some mass (or lean muscle) have 20 grams of protein within 2 hours of your workout. Chugging down that same amount within 30 minutes can ensure faster recovery.

Before you buy any protein powders, check out these top-rated protein supplements to find the best one for you. If you do choose to add a pea protein powder supplement to your day, make sure you’re eating a well-rounded nutritional diet—then watch your results take shape.

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