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Pea Protein - What it is and Why it Works

January 23, 2017



This article is co-authored with Ash Booth, the founder of Reebok CrossFit Asphodel (Hong Kong's first CrossFit gym).  In addition to be one of the best athletes in Hong Kong, Ash holds some pretty diverse and impressive qualifications:

  • BSc (Hons) Sports Science

  • NASM Certified Personal Trainer

  • Irish Strength Institute Mentorship Program

  • CrossFit Level 2 Trainer

  • CrossFit Certified Gymnastics Trainer

  • IKFF Level 1 Certified Kettlebell Teacher

  • IKSFA Level 1 Sport Coach

  • WMC Certified Muay Thai Instructor

  • Traditional Thai Massage Practitioner

This is a quick read and is worth every second.


Ash says that "before moving to Hong Kong I didn’t have any allergies.  But now I suffer from intense food allergies (see related post from KMP on effects of air pollution) to commercial pasteurized dairy and whey protein, so I gave Nuzest golden pea protein a try after numerous 'What am I going to eat?' moments."


Even talks about the benefits: "Pea protein is not a major allergen. It is a safe alternative for people with allergies to milk and milk products, who must avoid casein or whey proteins, for people with lactose intolerance, and for vegetarians with soy allergies. It’s a safe option for people who cannot tolerate animal based protein powder mixtures."


Wait, pea has protein in it?  Yes, and it's a "complete protein," meaning it contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids required for survival.


Whey protein is the go-to protein for the large majority of people who hit the gym.  Whey is one of the proteins found in milk (it's the watery part of curds and whey).  It also absorbs very quickly after being consumed.  For many people, it's fine to consume whey.  But for others (especially true in Asia), allergic reactions come out.  You could end up suffering from serious stomach pains, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and even nausea and skin reactions.  Precision Nutrition explains that "Lactose Intolerance in certain individuals (those without enough lactase enzyme activity), undigested lactose [from the milk] passes through the stomach into the intestines where it must be fermented. Through this process, lots of gas is formed, causing stomach cramps, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea." For these people, an alternative should be found.


Taking a closer look at pea protein (see the comparison below for 25 grams of pea protein vs whey protein), you can see that they are very similar except for when it comes to BCAA's (which you can easily supplement for).  What the chart doesn't tell you is that pea protein has about three times more of the amino acid arginine than whey.  "Arginine may not be a BCAA, but it’s essential to building muscle, and may explain why pea protein does such a good job at boosting men’s muscle gains.  In a 2015 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition study of men ages 18 to 35, those who paired their lifting sessions with pea protein enjoyed the same increases in muscle size as did those who used whey protein.  For anyone interested, you can find the entire amino acid profile of pea protein in the study's link, table 3.


Last but not least, pea protein may aid in weight loss by possibly lowering the "hunger hormone" ghrelin (pronounced "yer-a-lin") levels. Ghrelin is a substance secreted by the stomach that tells your brain that you're hungry.  Ghrelin levels will typically rise following a schedule (think about lunchtime and what your stomach feels like).  According to Dr. Axe, pea protein slows this process and therefore slows the release of ghrelin, making us feel fuller for longer.


So the take-away is that you can get strong consuming pea protein.  It's changed my life and might change yours as well.



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