Whey protein has been the standard protein powder choice for years, but there are new contenders in the market: pea protein and collagen. This article will focus on pea vs whey. For more info on collagen vs whey go here

Is pea protein a complete match for whey protein, or are there some big differences you should be aware of before choosing one or the other? Let’s take a look at how pea protein powder compares to whey protein powder in detail.

Pea Protein Overview

Pea protein doesn’t come from an animal source at all. It’s harvested from yellow split peas and is extracted in both a dry and liquid phase, during which peas are dried, ground up, and mixed with water to separate their starch and fiber from other materials.

Interestingly, pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete plant-based protein source. It stands in stark contrast to other plant-based proteins, as the majority of other options don’t include all nine major acids, which are histidine, isoleucine, lysine, leucine, phenylalanine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, and methionine.

Whey Protein Overview

Whey protein, meanwhile, is often considered to be the gold standard of protein powders, although collagen protein is likely better for most. As collagen does not contain dairy, carbs from peas, and no lactose which turns to sugar. Whey is created from the primary protein in cow’s milk and it includes plenty of all nine essential amino acids. 

Whey protein is prized primarily because of its ease of access and because it has really high leucine content. Leucine is one of the most commonly consumed proteins among fitness communities since it can promote muscle building quickly by increasing insulin and amino acid concentration in the blood.

Similarities Between Pea Protein and Whey Protein

The biggest similarity between both protein types is their complete collection of all nine major amino acids. 

A comparison of 25 g of both protein types reveals the following:

WheyPea
Carbs8.78.8
Protein2525
Calories157.4162.5
Fat2.12.6

The above table shows some mild nutritional differences between both pea protein and whey protein. Both are quite similar overall and you shouldn’t expect either type of protein to produce overall large differences in terms of muscle mass production.

There are other major similarities as well. Both whey protein and pea protein are relatively tasteless and lack a defining texture. This is actually a benefit since it allows fitness enthusiasts to mix both types of protein powders in water, nut milk, and other beverages with ease.

Big Differences

However, pea protein and whey protein also have a number of significant differences.

For starters, whey protein comes from an animal product (cow’s milk in particular). This means that a lot of whey protein products will contain allergens like gluten and lactose. As a result, whey protein is not an acceptable fitness supplement for individuals who are allergic to those compounds.

In addition, lots of people have mild food allergies to dairy products like whey protein. Even whey concentrate products can sometimes lead to indigestion and other side effects because of the whey protein’s original source.

In contrast, pea protein products are usually free from common allergens. Pea protein is created from yellow legumes, so it’s totally free from any dairy products and possible associated allergies.

Alongside these differences, pea protein provides a number of other benefits, including:

  • Perfect for people following a vegan diet, as no animal products are used in its production
  • Gluten-free and cholesterol-free
  • Hypoallergenic protein product
  • Many pea protein products are made with non-GMO practices

Which is Better: Pea Protein or Whey Protein?

Pea protein and whey protein contain roughly the same amount of protein in the form of amino acids, so neither is necessarily better when it comes to raw strength training or muscle building.

You have to remember that protein powders are especially beneficial for people who don’t get enough protein from their regular diets. In a vegetarians case pea protein may make this up.  Although, whey protein does have slightly higher concentrations of key amino acids like leucine compared to pea protein, both proteins contain at least some of all nine acids. This does mean that whey protein slightly outshines pea protein in terms of raw amino acid content.

There have been multiple studies in the last few years noting that both whey protein powders and pea protein powders produce roughly the same effects in terms of increasing muscle mass and recovery speed. In other words, whether you use whey protein or pea protein is unlikely to affect your overall muscle-building success.  

Which Should You Use?

Interestingly, other studies have shown that pea protein may be a slightly better choice if you want to lose weight while building muscle simultaneously. That’s because pea protein may have a slightly better effect on your appetite, leading to a fuller feeling for longer, compared to whey protein.

This can help with certain weight loss goals by reducing your appetite and making you less likely to snack. Whey protein, in contrast, doesn’t have any effect on your appetite since it lacks significant fiber content and your body burns through fiber pretty quickly. For those who have insulin-resistant conditions and  inflammation related conditions, whey protein should be avoided as it can spike your insulin and promote inflammation. Collagen protein is a great alternative to Pea and Whey as it does not spike insulin or promote inflammation and can also aid in weight loss. 

Pea protein cannot necessarily help you lose weight by itself. Although, it may be a better choice for those who are vegetarian and want to burn calories and build muscle at the same time.

In the end, which should you use: whey protein or pea protein? In general, both protein powder types are an option if you need a protein supplement when trying to build muscle. Avoiding dairy and the sugars of whey and pea protein is ideal which is why we recommend collagen instead. 

You should choose pea protein if you:

  • Have an allergic reaction to a protein or any of the compounds found in whey protein products
  • Follow a vegan lifestyle

You should use collagen protein if you:

  • Want to maximize potential muscle growth
  • Don’t follow a vegan diet or have any other allergic concerns
  • Want to lose weight while building muscle
  • Are insulin-resistant 
  • Want to stick to an anti-inflammatory diet
  • We do not recommend the use of whey protein.

Dr. Livingood, yes that is his real name, is the Founder of drlivingood.com natural health site and also the founder of Livingood Daily. He has authored two Amazon #1 Best Selling Books Livingood Daily and Make Food Simple. In 2007 after nearly losing his father to health conditions, Dr. Livingood was prompted to find a health care system to save his father’s life. Where medicine failed Dr. Livingood discovered solutions that got his father off 15 medications and overcame major heart and autoimmune conditions. As a Doctor of Natural Medicine and DC he now serves thousands of people in Morrisville, NC, and millions through his online and media presence. Dr. Livingood, his wife Jessica, and three kids spend their lives leading people nationally and locally in the hopes that others can experience real health.

Sources

Whey vs. Plant-Based Protein Consumption | NCBI

Whey and Pea Protein on Muscle Damage | NCBI

Effect of Different Protein Sources | NCBI

Different Proteins and Biopeptides | NCBI

Pea Protein Facts | Texas Health