Of the three macronutrient groups, protein is arguably the most important. While your body can use either carbohydrate or fat for energy, and both are abundant, your body uses protein for functions such as muscle repair and growth. It also plays a critical role in the various structures of your body, the synthesis of enzymes, and a host of other biological processes.
Despite its obvious importance, a lot of people fail to eat enough protein. This can undermine recovery from exercise, leading to slower progress. Also, not eating enough protein can affect the health and strength of your hair and nails.
A well-balanced diet should provide most of the protein you need, but we all have days when this is not possible. That’s where protein supplements come in.
Protein supplements make getting enough protein much easier. Just mix a scoop of protein powder with water and chug it down. Easy! There are lots of different protein powders to choose from, including whey and beef protein. But what if you are a vegetarian or vegan?
The good news is there are several plant-based protein supplements too. In this article, we look at pea protein vs. hemp protein, so you can decide which one is best for your needs.
Pea Protein vs. Hemp Protein
What Is Pea Protein?
A lot of people think that peas are a vegetable when, in fact, they’re a legume which means they have more in common with beans than they do cabbage and lettuce.
Pea protein powder is made from yellow peas, which are especially high in protein and other beneficial nutrients.
Pea protein is low in carbs and fat and contains all nine essential amino acids.
These are the amino acids your body cannot make and must get from your diet. When supplied with the nine essential amino acids, your body can manufacture the remaining 11 conditionally essential aminos. Pea protein is gluten-free, rich in iron, and both vegan and vegetarian-friendly, so it’s compatible with most diets.
Peas are a nutritious protein source, and, as such, pea protein has some notable benefits. Reasons to add pea protein to your diet include:
Muscle Repair and Growth
Like all types of protein, pea protein can help build muscle when combined with an appropriate workout regimen.
Adding pea protein to your diet will ensure your muscles get all the amino acids they need to get bigger and stronger.
However, consuming more protein won’t have much of an effect if you don’t work out regularly.
Keeps You Feeling Full
Pea protein powder is very satiating. That means consuming pea protein may reduce the desire to eat, leading to weight loss. Pea protein is also low in calories. Try replacing a high-calorie meal with a low-calorie pea protein shake to lose weight more easily.
Good For Heart Health
Pea protein has been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise good HDL cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Pea protein may also lower blood pressure, again boosting heart health.
Pea protein is all but free from allergens and is well tolerated by most people. Because it’s made from legumes, pea protein is more nutritious than many other protein supplements, including the ever-popular whey protein. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to consider before adding pea protein to your diet:
Bloating and Gas
Pea protein is high in fiber. If you aren’t used to eating lots of fibrous foods, you may find that pea protein causes bloating and gas. Avoid this problem by introducing pea protein gradually and not exceeding the manufacturer’s maximum recommended daily intake.
High Sodium Content
Peas are a natural source of sodium, and pea protein may contain between 110-390 mg of sodium per serving.
If you are on a low sodium eating plan like DASH, the sodium in pea protein may be a problem, especially for people suffering from hypertension.
What Is Hemp Protein?
Hemp protein is another popular plant-based protein powder. It’s made by grinding hemp seeds to make a fine powder. Hemp seed protein powder has a nutty, earthy taste and is very easy to digest.
Like pea protein, hemp protein contains all nine essential amino acids but maybe slightly deficient in lysine. This means it scores lower on most protein quality scales, such as the biological value (BV) scale and the net protein utilization (NPU) scale.
Because of this, hemp protein contains less protein per serving than soy and pea proteins. However, hemp protein is not very processed and is a very natural and nutritious source of protein.
Hemp protein powder is a good of not just protein but of nutrients too. The benefits of consuming hemp protein include:
Easy to Digest
Hemp protein is very easy to digest, making it ideal for people with sensitive stomachs. Also, because it is digested easily, it releases its amino acid payload quickly, making it especially useful after exercise.
An Excellent Source of Fiber
Hemp protein provides 7-8 grams of fiber per 30-gram serving. This can go a long way to reaching the recommended 35 grams of fiber that most people need per day.
Where most protein supplements are all but fat-free, hemp is high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
As such, hemp seed protein could help reduce heart disease and inflammation.
Hemp seeds are a good source of various minerals and antioxidants, including phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, and copper.
While hemp powder is a good source of protein that’s also loaded with beneficial nutrients, there are a couple of drawbacks to consider before using it:
While whey protein is often flavored, hemp protein is not. It tastes earthy, nutty, or grassy, which some people find hard to stomach. Hemp protein is best added to smoothies and shakes and is less enjoyable when mixed with plain water.
Bloating and Gas
While hemp protein is easy to digest, its high fiber content means it could cause bloating and gas, especially if you aren’t used to eating lots of high fiber foods. Increase your intake gradually to avoid gastric distress.
Some studies suggest that hemp protein may be unsafe during pregnancy and while nursing. Speak to your doctor before using hemp protein if you are pregnant.
While most people can get enough protein by eating whole foods, such as chicken, fish, eggs, and beef, it’s not always easy. A lot of meals are built around carbohydrates, and some contain no protein at all. Getting enough protein usually means making a conscious effort to eat more high-protein foods, and that’s not always practical or possible.
Protein powder supplements making consuming more protein a whole lot easier. Most contain 20-30 grams per serving, and a shake or two per day is all that’s needed to take your protein intake from below average to above it.
Getting enough protein will enhance workout performance and also speed up muscle repair and growth after exercise. There are lots of plant-based protein powders to choose from, but two of the best are pea and hemp. Both are complete proteins, which means they contain all the essential amino acids. But, is one better than the other?
Pea protein is almost 100% protein but tends to be lower in nutrients than hemp. In contrast, hemp is less protein-dense but is arguably the more nutritious of the two. That’s why pea and hemp protein blends are so popular.
So, if you just want a convenient, concentrated source of protein, pea protein powder is probably your best choice. But if you want protein AND nutrients, hemp is arguably the best way to go.