Pea Protein for Weight Loss
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Pea Protein for Weight Loss

With claims of promoting weight loss and muscle gain, pea protein is a plant-based dairy protein alternative that is commonly used by vegans and vegetarians.

Pea protein is a plant-based protein and is generally used as a dairy alternative, particularly by vegans and vegetarians who may struggle with incorporating protein-rich foods into their diet. Aside from being used as a dairy alternative, there are claims that pea protein can contribute towards weight loss and muscle gain. This article will explore pea protein in detail, observing it’s benefits, where you can buy it and how you can use it, as well as looking at any supporting clinical evidence. Furthermore, this article will compare pea protein with other types of protein, and will discuss any potential side effects associated with the ingredient.

What is Pea Protein?

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Pea protein is a plant-based protein that is extracted from the ‘Pisum sativum’ plant, otherwise and perhaps more commonly known as ‘garden pea’ or ‘yellow pea’. Unlike whey protein or casein protein, both of which are increasingly popular in the bodybuilding industry, pea protein is plant-based, making it more suitable as a weight loss agent or, more commonly, an alternative to dairy for vegans, vegetarians or those with lactose intolerance, who may otherwise struggle to consume an adequate amount of protein into their diet.

Although there are claims that pea protein can aid in weight loss, it’s believed that there are a number of other benefits as well. There are allegations that pea protein is hypoallergenic and is high in branched-chain amino acids such as arginine which is said to aid in building muscle.

As well as allegedly being fully vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free, rich in protein and packed with amino acids, it’s also said that pea protein is easy to digest and easy to dissolve in water, as well as having a low carbohydrate content. Furthermore, there are allegations claiming that pea protein may aid in appetite suppression and keeping you full.

How Does Pea Protein Aid Weight Loss?

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Pea protein is said to have several weight loss properties; although there don’t appear to be claims of it burning fat or boosting metabolism directly, it’s said that pea protein activates satiety promoting hormones into the body, and because pea protein shakes are also thick in consistency, this may potentially fill you up using both physical and psychological methods. In addition, because pea protein is allegedly easy to digest, this might allow the body to absorb amino acids and the properties that activate the appetite suppressing hormones directly into the body.

While pea protein may be an ingredient used in weight loss/meal replacement shakes, there’s also evidence to suggest that it may contribute towards building muscle. Although pea protein contains fewer carbohydrates than whey protein, which is generally the most popular type of protein for building muscle, this study argues that there aren’t any significant differences between the two. It’s believed that pea protein shakes may produce most effective results when combined with resistance training, and it’s also said that pea protein may be most beneficial for beginners or those returning to training.

It’s said that pea protein achieves muscle gain because it contains high levels of the amino acid ‘L-arginine’, which is allegedly a key component in building muscle. Again, because pea protein is believed to be easy to digest, this allows the body to absorb the L-arginine easier which may potentially increase the rate of muscle building.

Clinical Studies on Pea Protein

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One article examines an oral supplementation of pea protein, particularly observing its potential to promote muscle thickness during resistance training. This study was placebo-controlled, but it also compares the results of pea protein with the perhaps more popular whey protein. A sample of 160 males aged between 18-35 years old were enrolled into the study, where they partook in 12 weeks of resistance training, particularly targeting the muscles in their ‘upper limbs’.

Participants were randomly divided into three groups; the first group consisted of 53 men who consumed pea protein, while 54 participants made up the second group and were given whey protein. Lastly, the third group consisting of 54 subjects were given a placebo. The doses administered remained the same throughout, with each group receiving two 25g doses of their given supplement each day for 12 weeks.

A series of appropriate measurements were taken before, in the middle, and after the 12 week study, and results showed ‘a significant time effect for biceps muscle thickness’ in all groups due to the resistance training. However, when they looked at the change in muscle mass in the perhaps more weaker participants, they found much more significant differences between the groups. These results indicated that pea protein caused a much more significant increase in muscle thickness compared to the placebo group. However, there appeared to be no significant difference between the whey group when compared with the pea protein and placebo groups. Therefore, they concluded that pea protein may be a suitable alternative to whey protein, and it appeared to be most beneficial for those ‘starting or returning to training’.

Using a sample of healthy young men aged between 20-30 years old, a second study investigates and compares the effects of yellow pea protein on food intake, appetite and blood sugar levels compared to the effects of fibre. The study is introduced by discussing the low-glycaemic index of protein-rich pulses and how they can provide 20-25% of protein. Participants were split into groups where they were given either 10g or 20g of yellow pea protein or fibre. They were then fed an ad-lib pizza meal either 30 minutes or 120 minutes after supplementation, and they could eat as much or as little as they desired or needed.

Results showed that when the meal was consumed 30 minutes after supplementation, food intake was lowest in those who consumed 20g of pea protein. While both doses of pea protein appeared to lower blood glucose when measured before the meal, only the higher 20g dose of pea protein seemed to lower blood glucose after the meal when consumed between 50-120 minutes after supplementation. Furthermore, there appeared to be no effect on appetite either pre-meal or post-meal, and there were no significant changes in food intake, blood sugar levels or appetite in those consuming the meal 120 minutes after supplementation. Therefore, they concluded that though pea protein may be effective in producing very short-term effects, it may not be a long-term solution for suppressing appetite, lowering food intake or blood sugar.

Side Effects Associated with Pea Protein

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As protein is an essential nutrient that the body needs, the risk of side effects from consuming pea protein is said to be fairly low, especially because it’s a natural, plant-based ingredient. However, excessive consumption of protein may be dangerous as it’s said to increase the risk of kidney failure and joint pain, as well as potential weight gain. It’s said that protein should make up around 15% of your daily calorie intake and shouldn’t exceed 30%; the recommended daily allowance is 0.36g per pound of body weight, or 2g per kilogram.

A review paper explores the literature regarding the correlation between protein intake and kidney function. They found that although any long-term evidence on excessive protein consumption is inconclusive, and there was no evidence to suggest that protein can negatively affect healthy kidneys, there were links between high-protein diets worsening kidney disease in those who already have the condition, but more evidence is needed. Therefore, it may be advised to consult your doctor before using pea protein, especially if you have any medical condition or are using medication. Judging by the results discussed before, it would be highly recommended that patients with any type of kidney condition should monitor their protein intake and consult with their doctor beforehand. In addition, conditions such as diabetes are also said to worsen kidney disease, and therefore sufferers should also be cautious.

How to Use Pea Protein

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Like the majority of different protein products, pea protein is sold in the form of a powder, and is said to dissolve very well in liquids. Most consumers choose to consume protein powders as shakes mixed with milk, but as pea protein seems to target vegans and vegetarians, milk may not be the best mixer. Most products direct customers to blend / shake 1 serving of the powder with a cold beverage of your choice; 1 serving generally seems to be roughly a 33g scoop, and on average, this appears to include 20-30g of protein, depending on the brand. You could mix the powder with water, but other options include non-dairy milks, juices, or even frozen fruit to create a protein-rich smoothie.

In addition to the option of mixing pea protein powder into drinks / smoothies, there are also many recipes available online which allow you to add the powder into homemade meals and snacks. This may be suitable for vegetarians / vegans who can be increase the protein content of their foods so that their bodies receive an adequate amount of nutrients. Examples of the recipes available include pea protein oat muffins, pancakes, energy bites, homemade protein bars, ice cream, banana bread or cookies. Some also suggest using the unflavoured pea protein powder in savoury foods such as pizza, crackers, vegetarian bean burgers or soup.

However, using a protein supplement isn’t always necessary; many people assume that in order to consume a sufficient amount of protein purely through your diet, you need meat or other animal-based products, but this idea is challenged in one clinical study. While you can supplement animal-based products with plant-based proteins like soy and pea protein, it’s said that many vegan-friendly foods can provide the same amount of nutrients. These include green soybeans, tofu, roasted soy nuts and meat substitutes like veggie burgers are said to be nutritional, especially as a vegan / vegetarian meat alternative.

Furthermore, it’s believed that ‘plant proteins’ such as beans and grains are also healthy sources of protein capable of providing the body with essential nutrients. Examples of protein-rich grains include quinoa, spelt and amaranth, while examples of protein-rich beans include black beans, lentils, chickpeas and split peas. It’s said that these beans can be used to make soups, dips, spreads, amongst other dishes and condiments.

Where to Buy Pea Protein

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Pea protein can be purchased from a number of different retailers; like most protein supplements, it’s generally sold in the form of a powder which can then be used as an ingredient in shakes or recipes, as discussed above. Pea protein powder can be purchased online from an extensive range of different body building / sports manufacturers. These include BodyBuilding.com, TheProteinWorks.com, BulkPowders.co.uk or NaturesBest.co.uk, amongst others. Here, the quantities vary from 500g – 5kg, and the prices range from £6.25 – £337.49, depending on the size.

Although pea protein isn’t sold in supermarkets, you could visit high street retailers such as Holland and Barrett, where they sell a 250g pouch for £8.99 or a 1kg pouch for £11.49, reduced from £22.99. Alternatively, you can purchase pea protein powder from a range of sellers on Amazon.co.uk. Again, the quantities range from 250g – 5kg and prices vary depending on the size and the brand, ranging from £7.99 – £40.79. Compared to whey, soy and casein protein, pea protein is generally sold at a similar price. However, there appears to be a lack of variety in terms of brands and flavours compared to more popular protein powders, which tend to be sold in a wide range of appetising flavours, while pea protein seems to only be vanilla or plain.

Conclusion

In conclusion, evidence suggests that pea protein may have the potential to aid in building muscle, promoting short-term satiety and providing the body with essential nutrients. The predominant purpose of pea protein appears to be to provide vegans and vegetarians with an adequate amount of protein, although this may not be necessary as there are plenty of protein-rich non-animal-based foods available. Overall, pea protein may be a suitable dairy alternative that could potentially help to build and strengthen muscles if combined with exercise. However, it’s important to consult your doctor before incorporating it into your diet, particularly if you have any type of medical condition.

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