Check out any fitness magazine and judging by all the attention protein supplements get – it would almost appear that protein intake = fitness!
There’s a bit more to the story than that . . . however there’s no doubt that protein intake does support healthy muscle mass and an improved body composition.
Protein is a macronutrient found in many foods such as meats, dairy products, nuts and beans to name a few. It’s comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of lean body tissue that promote healthy skin, hair, bones, fingernails, as well as muscles.
Whilst we encourage that you obtain the bulk of your protein needs from whole food sources (such as encouraged on the ‘Eat Savvy Diet’), protein supplements (as well as green superfood supplements) can make it easier to boost your protein intake as well being sure that you are getting an array of amino acids for the repair of all your body tissues.
With a balanced, superfood-rich diet, you can theoretically consume enough protein foods to keep your body in ‘tip-top’ condition. On the other hand, ‘real life’ has a tendency to get in the way and some days, fully preparing a protein-rich meal can be a hassle. That’s why smoothies and shakes with protein powder are a great option, augmenting protein intake with minimal time in the kitchen.
However, not all protein supplements were created equal and some can produce nasty side-effects for many people – like bloating, digestive upset and flatulence.
Complete vs Incomplete Protein
Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body are known as ‘essential amino acids’. ‘Complete proteins’, contain all nine essential amino acids, whereas ‘incomplete proteins’ contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids. Some popular protein powders are not complete proteins, so you need to be aware of this in order to have a balanced intake.
Common Protein Powder Options
Whey, Casein, Egg, Soy, Rice, Pea . . . the list of protein powder sources can be confusing – and each source has its own ‘pros and cons’!
Whey protein has certainly been the gold-standard of protein powders for decades – shown to promote lean muscle growth, fat loss and a healthy metabolism. Whey is also quickly absorbed by the body, making it especially useful for post-workout recovery. It’s an inexpensive source of ‘complete protein’ with the downside being the sugar found in milk (lactose) is a common allergen that can make whey indigestible for some and cause flatulence for many.
Other protein sources, like Rice protein, are ‘incomplete proteins’ – so they need to be mixed with others to create a complete array of amino acids. Then there is Egg and Casein – known to produce smelly flatulence for many people.
Pea Protein and Whey are our favourites!
In the land of muscle and ripped physiques, it’s difficult to imagine that fuel can come from the almighty … Pea.
Yet pea protein powder is fast becoming a favorite for gym-goers and health-conscious people alike, not only is it gluten and dairy free, it actually has many beneficial effects for your body!
Pea protein and Whey protein are actually great together – as the combo balances the amino acid profile. In addition, whey is fast digesting and and yet pea protein is slower to digest, making pea protein far more sustaining than whey. If you tolerate whey protein well – it shines as a post-workout shake . . . however as a snack it falls short to the benefits of pea protein.
So unless you’re an active gym-goer seeking a top post-workout option . . . Pea protein could very well be your next ‘best protein friend’!
Yes, the humble pea protein is a power-packed veggie protein source that’s worth your attention, especially if you have specific food allergies or sensitivities.
This 100 percent plant-based protein is typically made from yellow peas and towers above common protein powders in a few regards. It is naturally fat-free, pea protein isn’t derived from dairy, making it appropriate for those who are lactose and casein intolerant. Lastly, it’s actually very sustaining and slow digesting – making it a great meal replacement or snack.
7 ‘Perks’ of Pea Protein!
Pea protein is not a major allergen. In fact, pea protein powder is among the most hypoallergenic of all protein powders, as it contains no gluten or dairy.
It is a safe alternative for people with allergies to milk and milk products, who must avoid casein or whey proteins, for people with lactose intolerance, and for vegetarians with soy allergies. It’s a safe option for people who cannot tolerate animal-based protein powder mixtures or egg protein.
It’s also easy on the tummy and doesn’t cause bloating, a common side effect of many other protein powders.
2. Aids Weight Loss
As with all good protein powders, pea protein is a handy tool in your arsenal of weight loss weapons. Especially if you’re looking to lose weight fast, introducing protein is one of the best ways to do it. It’s common for people trying to lose weight to neglect protein intake, which generally means they don’t actually lose much weight.
Another great feature of pea protein is its ability to lower levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Your stomach secretes ghrelin when it’s empty to tell your brain that you’re hungry. Pea protein produces a great number of peptides that delay the emptying of your stomach and secretion of ghrelin. (study)
3. Great Amino Acid Profile
Pea protein has a well-balanced amino acid profile that fulfills the essential amino acid requirements outlined by the World Health Organization for adults. It has a complete array of amino acids, including high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), protein compounds that have been shown to delay fatigue during exercise. That’s exciting, because the amount of BCAAs in pea protein comes close to those found in milk and eggs, but is less likely to cause allergic reactions or intolerances.
While its amino acid profile is similar to whey protein, pea is particularly high in arginine, lysine, and phenylalanine. Arginine is an amino acid shown to enhance immunity, fight erectile dysfunction and improve fertility. The lysine content in peas helps the body absorb calcium and decreases the amount of calcium lost in urine, thus helping to maintain strong bones.
4. Increases Muscle Thickness
A common comment about vegetable-based proteins is that they don’t have the same effect on muscle growth and muscle recovery after workouts as whey proteins. However, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition proved Pea protein increases muscle thickness just as potently as dairy-based proteins.
The source of this muscle growth is probably the high quantities of l-arginine in pea protein, which are found in higher concentrations than in other protein products.
5. Supports a Healthy Heart
Pea protein is not only good for your weight – it’s also proven to support a healthy heart. In 2009, Canadian scientists found that pea protein lowers high blood pressure. The rats in the study showed a 20 percent decrease in blood pressure over the course of just eight weeks of pea protein treatment. This is probably also due to the l-arginine content as well – as in the body, l-arginine converts to nitric oxide, which may help lower blood pressure by relaxing and opening blood vessels. (study)
6. May Decrease Risk of Kidney Disease
The study in Canada that proved pea protein lowers high blood pressure was intended to determine the effects of pea protein on chronic kidney disease. Although they couldn’t say exactly why, researchers stated that pea protein consumption could actually delay or prevent the onset of CKD. For patients already diagnosed, pea protein’s ability to regulate blood pressure levels poses a significant benefit, because many CKD-related deaths are due to cardiovascular complications, as CKD is associated with increased blood pressure.
What’s fascinating about this particular study is that it was discovered that peas themselves do not provide these same benefits — it’s only the protein isolate that proved to be so useful.
7. Regulates Blood Sugar
A study conducted by the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences tested the effects of pea protein on food intake, glucose levels and appetite in healthy young men. While the addition of pea protein didn’t change food intake or appetite, the blood glucose levels of subjects stayed lower than they normally would. This suggests pea protein can be considered a value-added ingredient, and when added to other foods, it can improve glycemic control.
With it’s great amino acid profile, low allergenic response and additional benefits, Pea protein warrants inclusion in your health and wellness supplement regimen. It great for both gym-goers as well those less active.
Keep in mind that when it comes to buying protein, as in life, “You get what you pay for.” Low-cost proteins often use inexpensive protein blends that may not be very digestible by the body.
Of course, different protein sources provide different benefits, we recommend mixing up your proteins sources and eating a well-rounded diet. Just because it’s easy to chug a shake – doesn’t mean protein powders should replace whole foods entirely. Protein powders are supplements, best used to supplement a healthy diet of nutritious whole foods and other supplements.