Pea Protein vs Whey: Which One Fits Your Fitness Goals?
Believe it or not, there are still a lot of misconceptions around protein—like that it’s only for bodybuilders or those looking to pack on muscle. But, in fact, protein is a major building block of our bodies’ composition—the second most prevalent substance in the body, after water. It keeps your cells, tissues, and organs functioning and growing. And, yes, it does help maintain muscle mass—which helps us burn more calories throughout the day, long after our daily sweat sessions have ended.
Protein is key for weight control in other ways, too. It gives us that feeling of fullness and suppresses ghrelin, which is a hormone that triggers feelings of hunger. It boosts metabolism, reduces cravings for unhealthy foods, and keeps our blood sugar at stable levels. Protein even supports the brain, maintains energy, and promotes recovery after exercise (or in the face of daily stressors).
Unfortunately, many people don’t get their recommended levels of protein per day. That’s where a supplement, like protein powder, can help tremendously.
How to Calculate Your Protein Needs
How much protein do you need per day? And is your diet giving you enough? To calculate your unique protein needs, use this equation:
Divide your ideal body weight in pounds (not your actual weight) by 2.2. This is your weight in kilograms. Multiply that number by 0.8 to 1.0, which is how many grams of protein you should be eating per kilogram of weight. Use the higher number (1.0) if you’re very physically active, or the lower number if you are less active.
Therefore, if you’re a woman who is 125 pounds, that equals about 56.7 kilograms. With a high level of physical activity, you’d want to aim for just under 57 grams of protein per day. A lower level of activity would call for just over 45 grams. Overall, the ideal protein intake varies according to weight, activity level, and age. But, as a general rule, most people require between 45 and 100 grams of protein every day.
You can then use this number to calculate your ideal protein consumption per meal or snack, spreading that out over three meals and two snacks per day. About 20 to 25 grams of protein per meal is a great rule of thumb, but you may need more or less.
Protein Supplements: Pea Protein vs. Whey Protein
In today’s busy world, we don’t always reach our recommended protein intake through sit-down meals. When you’re grabbing a meal on the go, you might want to supplement with a boost of protein powder. For example, I call smoothies my favorite fast food, and they’re great with an added scoop of Omni Protein Powder, which is available in Vanilla or Chocolate.
These powders utilize a blend of protein sources that are all plant-based. While in the past many manufacturers tapped animal-based products such as whey for protein, today’s formulators have made significant strides in using plant sources. OMNI combines pea, rice, quinoa, and chia proteins, packing in 22 grams of balanced, complete protein per serving. The powder is not only free of animal products, but all kinds of potential allergens—corn, soy, artificial additives, gluten, and yeast—so it’s suitable for any diet. Plus, it’s sugar-free, sweetened naturally with organic stevia.
Why do we want to say “no whey” to protein powders made with dairy-based products like whey? I’ve long promoted ditching the dairy, and in my book, The Omni Diet, I outline a bunch of reasons why dairy is not our friend. Here are some reasons why whey is not the best option for obtaining our recommended daily protein intake.
First of all, many people can have sensitivities to ingredients in milk, such as whey or casein. It’s not the exception for human beings to be lactose-intolerant; it’s the norm. Humans are designed to ingest (human) milk as babies, but after 2 years old, less than 35 percent of people produce the enzyme called lactase, which is what breaks down lactose. And certain populations are less likely to produce this enzyme than others, including those of Jewish, Italian, West African, Arab, Greek, and Asian descent.
When lactose is not properly digested, it leads to potential gastrointestinal issues. Even if you can digest lactose, that’s not recommended, either: Your body converts it to galactose and glucose, which raises blood sugar and leads to inflammation. In fact, casein, which is a protein found in milk, has been identified as an excitotoxin, a category of substances that are brain damaging. That’s because they overstimulate neuron receptors, which creates inflammation in the brain and, over time, may lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Pea protein, on the other hand, offers a fortifying balance of amino acids and is very easily absorbed by the body. It’s one of the richest sources of plant protein in existence.
And, before you think that plants can’t compare with animal protein sources, check out the science. In one study, researchers compared pea vs. whey protein supplementation among both men and women engaging in high-intensity functional training over 8 weeks. The study looked at factors like body composition, muscle thickness, force production, workout performance, and strength. Ultimately, no difference was found among any of these categories when comparing intake of the two protein sources; subjects showed similar outcomes across the board.
Gut Health Benefits of Protein Powder
While you may find yourself able to eat enough protein at most meals, finding a great on-the-go option like protein powder can be a lifesaver when you’re pressed for time or traveling. Or, like me, you might just love the taste of a smoothie infused with delicious vanilla or chocolate flavor. It’s a super versatile, tasty option.
Beyond the taste and convenience benefits, there are many other reasons I reach for Omni Protein Powder, including to support gut health. For example, one key ingredient, inulin, is a prebiotic fiber that promotes balance in those crucial healthy gut microorganisms. (Remember that prebiotics are what feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut.) Meanwhile, 150 milligrams of plant enzymes make the powder easier on the digestive system, which eliminates the bloating you might experience from other protein drinks. Finally, this formula includes L-glutamine, which protects the intestinal lining for additional gut health support.
How to Use Protein Powder
Even when you’re on the go, protein powder is an easy addition to your diet. I like to mix 1 heaping scoop of Omni Protein Powder with 8 to 10 ounces of water, almond milk, or coconut milk. Or simply add it to your favorite beverage. If I have a couple of extra minutes to spare, I love whipping up shakes or smoothies. Just add a scoop to your preferred blend of berries, greens, healthy fats, or any other mix-ins you like. Men might want to add an extra scoop for a total of 2, as their protein needs (particularly if they are active) will usually be higher.
That said, beware of consuming too much protein. Our bodies are designed to handle a certain amount effectively, but ingesting over a certain limit can have damaging effects. You could create oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, accelerate aging on a cellular level, reduce the efficiency of DNA repair, and even contribute to future disease.
As we’ve established, protein isn’t just for bodybuilders. But it does help promote key functions that build the body, like increasing energy levels, boosting athletic performance, promoting muscle generation and recovery, managing a healthy weight, and supporting brain health. With the right formula and in the appropriate amounts, plant-based protein powder can be a very useful and versatile addition to fuel your entire body—anywhere, anytime.
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