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Pea protein powder

Nutrition, benefits, side effects, and dosage

Pea protein powder is a supplement made by extracting protein from yellow peas. This article reviews the nutrition, health benefits, and possible side effects of pea protein powder.

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Pea protein powder: Nutrition, benefits and side effects
Last updated on October 12, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on May 31, 2023.

Pea protein powder is a supplement made by extracting protein from yellow peas. Pea protein is a high-quality protein and a great source of iron. It can aid muscle growth, weight loss, and heart health.

Pea protein powder: Nutrition, benefits and side effects

Pea protein powder is typically used to increase the protein content of smoothies and shakes and is a great fit for almost any diet since it’s naturally vegan and hypoallergenic.

This article reviews pea protein powder’s nutrition, health benefits, and possible side effects.

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Nutrition profile of pea protein powder

Pea protein powder — or pea protein isolate — is made by isolating the protein from ground yellow peas, forming a beige powder.

Nutrition facts can vary between brands, but an average of two scoops (20 grams) of organic pea protein powder contain:

Pea protein powder offers a variety of nutritional benefits.

Pea protein powder is a high-quality protein source

Pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids your body cannot create and must get from food. However, it’s relatively low in methionine.

You can compensate for this by including other methionine-rich foods, like eggs, fish, poultry, beef, pork, or brown rice.

It’s also a great source of branched-chain amino acids, especially arginine — which promotes healthy blood flow and heart health — and leucine, isoleucine, and valine — which promote muscle growth.

Animal proteins are more easily digested and absorbed than plant-based proteins.

Still, research demonstrates that pea protein is one of the more easily digested plant-based proteins — just behind soy protein and chickpeas.

Pea protein powder is rich in iron

Pea protein powders are also rich in iron.

Most products contain around 5–7.5 mg of iron per serving — roughly 28–42% of the recommended daily intake for premenopausal women and 62–94% for men and postmenopausal women.

However, the iron in plant foods is less absorbable than in animal products.

This can be improved by consuming pea protein powder with vitamin C or vitamin-C-rich foods like citrus — which boosts iron absorption by up to 67%.

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Suggested read: The 7 best types of protein powder

Since approximately 10% of American women are iron-deficient, including pea protein powder in your diet could be a great way to boost your nutrient intake.

Pea protein powder works with many special diets

Pea protein powder is naturally vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free and does not contain any of the top eight food allergens — peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, cow’s milk, wheat, and soy.

Therefore, it works with nearly any diet.

Pea protein blends well with water and has a less gritty or chalky texture than other plant-based protein powders like hemp.

While pea protein powder works for most people, anyone with an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to peas should avoid it.

Summary: Pea protein powder is a high-quality protein rich in iron, arginine, and branched-chain amino acids. It’s digested and absorbed well and works with a variety of diets.

Health benefits of pea protein powder

Pea protein powder may be nutritionally beneficial and good for your health.

Here are some of its main benefits.

Pea protein powder builds muscle mass

Studies show that pea protein powder can help build muscle when paired with resistance training.

In one 12-week study, weight-lifting men who consumed 50 grams of pea protein per day gained the same amount of muscle as those taking whey protein.

This suggests that pea protein powder is just as effective at building muscle mass as more common dairy-based protein powders.

Suggested read: Plant-based protein vs. whey protein: Which is better?

However, adding extra protein to your diet without working out is not likely to have any effect on your muscles — it must be paired with consistent exercise.

Pea protein powder keeps you full

Research has found that protein helps people feel fuller for longer than carbs or fat.

This means that high-protein diets may reduce overall calorie intake and lead to gradual weight loss over time.

Pea protein powder offers an easy way to add protein to your diet and reap these benefits.

A 2022 study found that pea protein powder promotes fullness more effectively than dairy-based protein powders like casein or whey.

Pea protein powder is a good option for increasing protein intake and boosting feelings of fullness after meals.

Pea protein powder is good for heart health

Animal studies have found that pea protein powder can reduce some risk factors for heart disease, like elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Pea protein hydrolysate — a partially digested protein powder containing smaller proteins — has been shown to lower blood pressure levels in rats after three weeks significantly.

Animal studies have found that pea protein powder can reduce cholesterol levels. It’s believed to work by increasing cholesterol uptake into cells and reducing the body’s production of fats.

Though these results are promising, more studies are needed to see whether pea protein powder can lower cholesterol in people.

Summary: Pea protein powder has various health benefits, including boosting muscle growth, increasing feelings of fullness, and promoting heart health.

Potential downsides of pea protein powder

Pea protein powder is generally well tolerated.

Since it’s made by isolating protein from peas, it is relatively low in fiber and does not tend to cause gassiness or bloating like whole peas can for some people.

Suggested read: Whey protein: The ultimate beginner's guide

Nevertheless, pea protein powder can be relatively high in sodium — with products containing 110–390 mg per serving.

Therefore, people on a sodium-restricted diet may need to watch their intake.

Summary: Pea protein powder is generally well tolerated. However, it can contain a relatively high amount of sodium.

Pea protein powder serving sizes and how to use it

Pea protein powder is an easy way to boost your protein intake.

It may be especially helpful for people trying to increase muscle mass, like bodybuilders or older adults.

Research shows that eating 0.73 grams of protein per pound (1.6 grams per kg) of body weight per day is the most effective dose for building muscle.

However, it’s important not to exceed 2.3 grams of protein per pound (5 grams per kg) of body weight per day or get more than 35% of your calories from protein.

This is because, at extremely high doses, your liver may struggle to process protein fast enough, causing side effects like high ammonia levels in the blood, nausea, diarrhea, and even death.

Most people who use pea protein powder add it to smoothies or mix it with juice or water as a post-workout beverage.

Other creative uses include:

Pea protein powder should be consumed within two hours of exercising for maximum muscle-building effects.

Summary: Pea protein powder can be added to food and beverages to increase protein intake. To boost muscle mass, drink your protein shake within two hours of exercise — but don’t consume all of your day’s protein allotment in one go.

Summary

Pea protein powder is a high-quality, easily-digested protein source from yellow peas.

It’s rich in iron, arginine, and branched-chain amino acids and offers benefits like improved muscle growth, feelings of fullness, and heart health.

It works with most diets, as it’s naturally vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and hypoallergenic.

Pea protein powder is a great option if you’re looking to add more protein to your diet.

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