Pea protein and soy protein are two of the most popular plant-based protein powders on the market. But how do they compare in terms of taste, texture, protein content, digestibility, safety, and recommendations for use?
In this blog post, we will help you learn more about which protein powder to use: pea protein vs soy protein.
Protein powder can be a great way to supplement your diet with more protein, especially when you’re an athlete on the go. Protein helps you build and repair your muscles, keep you full and energized, and support your overall health.
But among the plant-based protein powders, which one is better for you: pea protein vs soy protein?
Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of pea protein vs soy protein and how to use them effectively.
Plant based protein powders
Plant-based protein powders are a good option for people who are vegan, vegetarian or have allergies or intolerances to animal products.
They are also more environmentally friendly and sustainable than animal-based protein powders.
What is pea protein
Pea protein is a plant-based protein powder that comes from yellow split peas. It is a good choice for people who want to avoid dairy, soy or gluten, as it does not contain any of these allergens. (1)
Pea protein has all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein that your body cannot make on its own. It’s higher in the amino acid lysine, however it is lower in methionine.
What is soy protein
Soy protein is another plant-based protein powder that comes from soybeans. It is also a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids that your body needs.
Soy protein has some health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol levels and preventing some forms of cancer.
However, soy protein may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may have an allergy or intolerance to soy.
Side by side comparison of pea vs soy protein
|Factor||Pea Protein||Soy Protein|
|Made from||Yellow split peas||Soybeans|
|Protein content||18-24 g per serving||20-25 g per serving|
|Amino acid profile||Complete but low in methionine||Complete|
|Texture||Smooth and fine but may be chalky or gritty||Smooth and fine or fibrous and chewy (textured)|
|Taste||Mild and neutral but may have earthy or grassy aftertaste||Mild and neutral but may have nutty or beany aftertaste|
|Digestibility||High but may cause gas or bloating in some people||High but may cause allergy or intolerance in some people|
|Allergens||None||Common food allergen|
|Environmental impact||Low water and land use||Moderate water and land use|
|Affordability||More affordable||Tends to be more expensive|
Both pea and soy protein have a high amount of protein per serving, ranging from 18 to 25 grams depending on the brand and serving size. However, both pea and soy protein are lower in an essential amino acid, methionine. (2)
Often it’s recommended to find a pea or soy protein powder that is combined with other plant based protein sources, such as corn, hemp or brown rice, to provide a complete amino acid profile.
Pea and soy protein still have a high quality and quantity of protein that can support your health and fitness goals.
In fact, some studies have shown that pea protein can be as effective as whey protein in increasing muscle mass and strength. (3)
Let’s take a closer look at the nutrition facts for both pea protein and soy protein. These numbers are based on one serving (usually one scoop) of each protein powder:
|Nutrition Component||Pea Protein (30 g)||Soy Protein (30 g)|
|Protein||24 g||23 g|
|Fat||2 g||1 g|
|Carbohydrates||1 g||2 g|
As you can see, both pea protein and soy protein are very similar in terms of their nutritional profile. They both provide a good amount of protein per serving and are low in fat and carbohydrates.
However, due to the bioavailability of pea and soy protein, you may need to eat more of these to equal the same amount of animal based protein. (4)
Also, pea protein does have the added benefit of providing a small amount of soluble fiber per serving, which can help with digestion and overall health.
Both pea and soy protein have a smooth and creamy texture when mixed with water or milk. They can easily blend with other ingredients and create a thick and satisfying consistency.
However, some people may find soy protein to be more chalky or gritty than pea protein, while pea protein may be more thick or foamy than soy protein. These textures may depend on the brand and quality of the protein powder you use.
Here are some tips on how to improve the texture of both types of protein powder:
- Use a blender. Using a blender can help you achieve a smoother and more even texture for your protein shakes or recipes. It can also help you mix in other ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or yogurt.
- Add more liquid. If you find your protein powder too thick or clumpy, you can add more liquid to thin it out and make it easier to drink or eat. You can use water, milk, plant-based milk, juice, or coffee as your liquid base.
- Use a different type of milk. If you find your protein powder too thin or watery, you can use a different type of milk to make it creamier and richer. For example, you can use whole milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or oat milk as your liquid base.
Both pea and soy protein have a mild flavor that can be easily masked by other ingredients, such as fruits, nuts or sweeteners.
You can mix them with water or milk to make a simple protein shake, or add them to smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes, or baked goods for a boost of protein.
However, some people may find soy protein to have a slightly bitter or metallic aftertaste, while pea protein may have a slightly earthy or grassy flavor. These flavors may depend on the brand and quality of the protein powder you use.
Here are some tips on how to improve the taste of both types of protein powder:
- Use flavored varieties. Some brands offer different flavors of pea and soy protein powders, such as vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or coffee. These flavors can help mask the natural taste of the protein and make it more enjoyable.
- Add spices. You can also add some spices to your protein shakes or recipes to enhance the flavor and add some health benefits. For example, add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or turmeric to your protein powder for a warm and spicy taste.
- Blend with ice. Blending your protein powder with ice can make it more refreshing and creamy. It can also help reduce the foaminess that some pea protein powders may produce.
Digestibility of pea vs soy protein
Both soy and pea protein are considered to be highly digestible protein sources, meaning that they are easily broken down and absorbed by the body. However, pea protein may be more digestible than soy protein due to better absorption (5)
Pea protein does not cause any stomach discomfort or gas. It can help you feel full and satisfied after your workout.
Soy protein can also be harder to digest for some people, which can cause gas, bloating or diarrhea.
Therefore, pea protein may be a better option for individuals with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues.
How to incorporate pea protein and soy protein into meals
Now that you know the differences between pea protein and soy protein and have seen their nutrition facts, you may be wondering how to incorporate them into your diet. Here are some ideas:
- Smoothies: Both pea protein and soy protein can be added to smoothies for an extra protein boost. Simply blend together your favorite fruits, vegetables, and protein powder for a healthy and delicious meal or snack.
- Overnight oats: Stir in a scoop of protein powder into your favorite overnight oats recipe. This will boost the protein when combined with milk and low fat greek yogurt. Add honey and fresh berries for extra fiber and sweetness.
- Baked goods: You can also add protein powder to baked goods like muffins, pancakes and bread. This is a great way to sneak in some extra protein without even noticing it.
- Energy balls: Energy balls are a popular snack that are easy to make and perfect for on-the-go. Mix together nut butter, oats, protein powder and other ingredients of your choice for a healthy and filling snack.
- Soups and stews: You can also add protein powder to soups and stews for an extra boost of protein. This is a great option for people who may not enjoy the taste or texture of protein powder in other foods.
Check for third party testing
When choosing a protein powder, it’s a good idea to look for products that have been certified by either NSF or Informed Choice. This can help ensure that you’re getting a high-quality product that has been tested for safety and purity.
Look for the NSF or Informed Choice logo on the product label or check the organization’s website for a list of certified products.
When it comes to pea vs soy protein, both are great options for adding extra protein to your diet. They each have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the one that works best for you.
Whether you choose pea protein or soy protein, make sure to incorporate it into a well-balanced sports nutrition diet and exercise routine for maximum benefits.
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 22 years of experience in public health and nutrition. As a performance registered dietitian nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.