Pea Protein vs. Whey: Get the Scoop Here

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You may have noticed pea protein turning up everywhere. From vegan protein shakes and bars to cereals and mac and cheese, it's becoming an ingredient staple. The question is, how does pea protein stand up to whey protein, the reigning Titan of the industry? Let's jump right in and compare pea protein versus whey protein.

From a nutritional standpoint, pea protein looks pretty similar to whey. It has all nine essential amino acids, including the coveted BCAAs. It's also a good source of iron and is considered hypoallergenic due to the fact that it lacks gluten and lactose. Whey, on the other hand, comes from milk, so of course, contains lactose. To get started, we'll take a look at some of the best pea and whey protein powders on the market. The ACTIVE Reviews Team scours the marketplace to bring you products worthy of your consumption.

Why Trust Us?

The health and safety of ACTIVE's readers is of the utmost importance to us. To ensure your well-being when consuming dietary supplements, the ACTIVE.com editorial team prioritizes products that are independently tested by a third party. We've also consulted with a team of nutritionists and dieticians to ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. This helps us create the most accurate, authentic review content for our readers. 

What Is Pea Protein?

Pea protein is a bioavailable complete protein extracted from yellow split peas. It was first brought to market in 2014 by Puris, an agricultural company that not only grows and mills peas but also isolates pea protein. It seemed like a slow start, but once manufacturers recognized its value, pea protein was off to the races. Hence why you see it in many food products these days.

Our Top Pea Protein Picks

Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake

Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake

SPECS

  • Type: Plant
  • Source: Pea Protein
  • Flavor: Vanilla
  • Certifications: Informed Sport Certified
  • Uses: Mixed with water as a protein shake
  • Protein: 20g
  • Calories: 115
  • Sugar: 0g

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Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake gets its protein from USA grown peas. They're a unique company because they make their active ingredients traceable by listing each one's origin on their website. With each serving, you'll get 20 grams of organic, non-GMO pea protein in a delicious vanilla flavor.

What We Like

  • Gluten-free
  • Pea protein is organic and non-GMO
  • Third-party tested

What We Don't Like

  • At over $2 per serving, this protein shake is on the higher end of the price spectrum
  • Only 1 flavor option

BUY: Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake

Swolverine® Plant Protein Pea Protein Isolate + Pumpkin Seed Protein

Swolverine® Plant Protein Pea Protein Isolate + Pumpkin Seed Protein

SPECS

  • Type: Plant
  • Source: Pea and pumpkin seed protein
  • Flavors: Chocolate Cake, Salted Caramel
  • Certifications: N/A
  • Uses: Powder mixed with water or beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 22g
  • Calories: 130
  • Sugar: 0g

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Swolverine® Plant Protein Pea Protein Isolate + Pumpkin Seed Protein is unique because of the addition of pumpkin seed protein. Pumpkin seed protein adds omega-3 and 6 fatty acids as well as minerals. This mix provides 22 grams of protein per serving to improve muscle protein synthesis and repair.

What We Like

  • Vegan and soy-free
  • Gluten free and non-GMO
  • Transparent label providing the breakdown of pea versus pumpkin protein

What We Don't Like

  • Not third-party tested
  • Not solely comprised of pea protein

BUY: Swolverine® Plant Protein Pea Protein Isolate + Pumpkin Seed Protein

NOW® Pea Protein

NOW® Pea Protein

SPECS

  • Type: Plant
  • Source: Pea Protein
  • Flavor: Unflavored
  • Certifications: Informed Sport Certified
  • Uses: Powder mixed with beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 24g
  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 0g

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With 24 grams of protein per serving, NOW® Pea Protein has the highest amount of plant-based protein on our list so far. This unflavored protein gives you the freedom to flavor it how you'd like. We like that it lacks artificial flavorings and sweeteners. With third-party testing, you can be sure that you are getting good quality protein that stands up to its claims.

What We Like

  • Vegan, soy-free
  • Non-GMO
  • Third-party testing
  • Unflavored protein

What We Don't Like

  • Unflavored protein powder may lead to excess sugar usage in flavoring the product to consume
  • Some claim that although it is unflavored, it still has a significant taste of peas

BUY: NOW® Pea Protein

Bulk Supplements Pea Protein Isolate

Bulk Supplements Pea Protein Isolate

SPECS

  • Type: Plant
  • Source: Pea Protein
  • Flavor: Unflavored
  • Certifications: N/A
  • Uses: Mix protein powder with beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 21g
  • Calories: 110
  • Sugar: 0g

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Next on our list is Bulk Supplements Pea Protein Isolate. This is another unflavored option that contains only one ingredient: pea protein isolate. It's also free of sugar, soy, gluten, and additional additives. We like that they have a wide variety of sizes to choose, ranging from 3.5 ounces to 44 pounds.

What We Like

  • Unflavored
  • Vegan, soy free, gluten-free
  • Large variety of sizes options to choose from

What We Don't Like

  • Unflavored protein powders can lead to excess sugar intake when flavoring at home
  • Not third-party tested

BUY: Bulk Supplements Pea Protein Isolate

Naked Pea

Naked Pea

SPECS

  • Type: Plant
  • Source: Pea protein
  • Flavor: Chocolate, Vanilla, or Unflavored
  • Certifications: N/A
  • Uses: Mix with beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 25-27g
  • Calories: 120-160
  • Sugar: 0-5g

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Naked Pea uses pea protein from North American grown peas, free of GMOs, to create one of the most simplistic protein powders on the market. There are, at most, three ingredients in their products including pea protein, coconut sugar, and cocoa powder or vanilla. And with anywhere from 25-27 grams of protein per serving, you're getting serious bang per scoop.

What We Like

  • Third-party tested
  • Free of additional unnecessary ingredients
  • Vegan, soy free, gluten free, non-GMO

What We Don't Like

  • Some might overdo and increase overall sugars when creating their own mixtures using the unflavored version
  • Although a natural sugar, chocolate and vanilla are sweetened with coconut sugar which add to total sugars in the beverage

BUY: Naked Pea

What Is Whey Protein?

If you remember little Miss Muffet, you might know that whey protein is a byproduct that is separated from cheese curds. It is one of the primary milk proteins and widely used as a protein supplement. It is the most studied protein in terms of muscle protein synthesis, and is hands-down a trusted ingredient to meet daily protein needs.

Our Top Whey Protein Picks

Kaged Whey Protein Isolate

Kaged Whey Protein Isolate

SPECS

  • Type: Animal based
  • Source: Whey protein isolate
  • Flavor: S'mores, Chocolate, Cinnamon French Toast, Vanilla, Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Certifications: Informed Sport Certified
  • Uses: Mix with water or beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 25g
  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar:1g

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Kaged Whey Protein Isolate comes in five naturally-flavored varieties. With each serving you'll get 25 grams of whey protein isolate, which is whey protein that has been "isolated" from other tag-along nutrients like lactose, cholesterol, and other fat. This type of whey protein is often more easily digested due to having little to no lactose. The addition of the digestive enzyme, Prohydrolase®, will make digestion even smoother.

What We Like

  • Whey protein isolate used as protein source
  • 5 flavors to choose from
  • Addition of Prohydrolase® digestive enzyme
  • Third-party tested

What We Don't Like

  • Sucralose used as a sweetener rather than a more natural sweetener like stevia
  • Some claim this product is on the sweeter side, and might be considered too sweet for some depending on the flavor

BUY: Kaged Whey Protein Isolate

Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

SPECS

     

  • Type: Animal-based
  • Source: Grass fed whey protein isolate
  • Flavor: Oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, chocolate peanut butter, Milk chocolate, cinnamon French Toast, Strawberry, Mocha, Vanilla Peanut Butter, French Vanilla
  • Texture: Powder
  • Certifications: Certifications of analysis and composition are listed on their website
  • Uses: Mix into beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 28g
  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 1g

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We like Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate because, as their name implies, they are transparent in their manufacturing and processing. You can find certificates of third-party testing on their website. They offer 28 grams of clean, grass-fed whey protein isolate per serving with no artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.

What We Like

  • Transparency
  • No artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives
  • Third-party testing

What We Don't Like

  • On the higher range of the price spectrum
  • If for any reason you aren't satisfied with the product, there are no returns if it's been opened.

BUY: Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

Jacked Factory Authentic ISO

Jacked Factory Authentic ISO

SPECS

  • Type: Animal-based
  • Source: Grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • Flavor: Vanilla, Vanilla Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Certifications: N/A
  • Uses: Mix with water or beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 25g
  • Calories: 110
  • Sugar: 1g

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Jacked Factory Authentic ISO is also made with 100% grass-fed whey protein isolate for faster absorption and digestibility. At 110 calories per serving, you'll get 25 grams of protein. This high-protein, low-calorie shake is great before or after a workout, or anytime throughout the day for a protein boost.

What We Like

  • Grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • Hassle-free money-back guarantee
  • No dyes or fillers

What We Don't Like

  • Not third-party tested
  • Sweetened with sucralose while natural stevia is also used

BUY: Jacked Factory Authentic ISO

GHOST® WHEY Protein Powder

GHOST® WHEY Protein Powder

SPECS

  • Type: Animal-based
  • Source: Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed whey protein isolate
  • Flavor: Cereal Milk, Milk Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cereal Milk, Coffee Ice Cream, Fruity Cereal Milk, Chips Ahoy, Nutter Butter, Oreo, Oreo Birthday Cake
  • Certifications: NSF Certified
  • Uses: Mix with water or beverage of choice to meet protein mean throughout the day
  • Protein: 26g
  • Calories: 160
  • Sugar: 3g

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GHOST® WHEY Protein Powder is made with a combination of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, and hydrolyzed whey protein isolate. These proteins will absorb at different speeds yet each have their own benefit. Perhaps even more interesting than the protein mixture is their brand partnerships that allow them to make familiar flavors that people love like Chips Ahoy, Nutter Butter, and Oreo.

What We Like

  • Fun and interesting flavors
  • Third-party tested
  • Added digestive enzymes

What We Don't Like

  • Use of artificial flavors and sweeteners
  • Not gluten or soy-free

BUY: GHOST® WHEY Protein Powder

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder

SPECS

  • Type: Animal-based
  • Source: Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed whey protein isolate
  • Flavor: 18 flavor varieties to choose from
  • Certifications: Informed-Sport Certified
  • Uses: Mix with beverage of choice to meet daily protein needs
  • Protein: 24g
  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 2g

Check Price

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder is an industry-standard protein powder with over 30 years on the market. With the use of their protein blend made up of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, and hydrolyzed whey protein, they cover all the bases on the protein front. Known for their delicious flavor variety, we know you'll find one to love.

What We Like

  • 18 flavor options to choose from
  • Third-party testing
  • Gluten-free, no artificial growth hormone

What We Don't Like

  • Sucralose used as a sweetener
  • Artificial flavors

BUY: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder

Which Is Best: Pea Protein or Whey?

Well, which is best for you? Pea protein may be better for some because it's vegan, considered hypoallergenic due to its lack of lactose and gluten, and often more easily digested. Whey protein is tried and true, slightly more bioavailable, and found in most protein powders.

Because multiple studies have proven pea and whey protein to have very similar results in muscle protein metabolism and body composition, the best option is the one that works best for your body.

FAQs About Pea Protein vs. Whey


Can you build muscle with pea protein?

Yes, studies have shown that you can build muscle using pea protein in a very similar manner as you would using whey protein.

Does pea protein affect kidneys?

In general, low-protein diets are recommended for most with chronic kidney disease. There is some evidence that pea protein can have a beneficial effect on certain kidney ailments such as fibrosis. However, the research is still very new and more studies are needed to make changes to recommendations. Always seek the guidance of your doctor prior to adding any nutritional supplement.

Is whey the healthiest protein?

Whey is a great option for those looking to meet their protein needs. In terms of health, it's comparable to other proteins on the market, including pea protein.

Which protein is best for fat loss?

There is not a single protein that is better for fat loss based on current scientific data. However, we do know that a higher protein diet is linked to lower body fat composition because it helps satisfy hunger and burn more calories.

About the Author

Bryee Shepard, MS, RD

Byree is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition. Bryee is fascinated by food science and biochemistry but also enjoys simple recipe creations as she loves breaking down evidence-based info into digestible guides.

See More from Bryee

Byree is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition. Bryee is fascinated by food science and biochemistry but also enjoys simple recipe creations as she loves breaking down evidence-based info into digestible guides.

See More from Bryee

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