Anyone who has ever considered taking a protein powder supplement will likely have come across whey protein as one of the most commonly consumed protein supplements.
Today, I wish to share some research that suggests plant-based proteins such as pea protein can be just as effective for muscle building compared with whey proteins. Pea proteins also outperform casein and soy.
What makes some protein sources different?
Proteins are an essential nutrient and can be broken down into 20 building blocks known as amino acids. Out of these 20 amino acids, 9 are considered to be essential as the body cannot synthesize these on its own, meaning we must obtain these from animal and plant sources.
Within the 9 essential amino acids, there are 3 branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s): leucine, isoleucine and valine which are again different to the others as they do not require metabolizing by the liver, and are therefore taken up directly by skeletal muscle. Also, these 3 aminos are the most important for the manufacture, maintenance and repair of muscle tissue.
Of the three, leucine has shown to be the most effective amino at stimulating protein synthesis (the process of building muscle protein and therefore growth), yet the three work better together to provide a host of benefits and even boost energy during workouts.
Pea protein vs whey protein
Researchers have compared many different types of protein for their muscle building potential (1). Specifically, they sought to determine whether pea protein could replicate the muscle-building benefits widely observed with whey protein.
Increased levels of leucine particularly favours muscle building and its effects on muscle are greater alongside the other amino acids found in pea protein (2).
Protein synthesis is 20 percent higher after consuming leucine combined with protein and carbohydrates, compared to ingestion of carbohydrates and protein alone (3). Taking pea protein after intense exercise can help maximise muscle mass gains during the recovery period of training.
For more information or support in finding the right protein supplement for your training, contact us to learn about the whey and pea protein options we offer at Fitness Is My Life.
1. Babault N, Pazis C, Deley Gl et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2015;12:3.
2. Balage Ml, Dardevet D. Long-term effects of leucine supplementation on body composition. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 2010;13:265-70.
3. Koopman R, Saris WH, Wagenmakers AJ, van Loon LJ. Nutritional interventions to promote post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. Sports Medicine 2007;37:895-906.