Whether you're following a vegetarian diet or just trying to limit your intake of animal foods while upping your protein intake, pea protein is a vegan-friendly option. Made from split green or yellow peas, pea protein is rich in essential amino acids and an appropriate supplement for muscle building. You don't want to overdo it, however, or you might experience side effects such as a weight gain, a decrease in kidney function or joint pain.
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Pea Protein Nutrition
The nutritional profile of pea protein varies depending on the manufacturer.
One 33-gram scoop of a commercially available pure pea protein isolate, which is about 4 1/2 tablespoons, contains 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbohydrate and 24 grams of protein. The protein is also a source of vitamins and minerals, including iron and calcium.
Some brands, however, are high in sodium, as much as 330 milligrams per scoop, so read the nutrition facts labels and look for brands with 120 milligrams or less.
Potential for Weight Gain
One side effect you may experience when adding pea protein to your diet is weight gain. If you're working out to gain muscle, this may be a positive side effect. If you're not trying to gain weight, however, this may be disappointing. Eating too many calories from any source, even a pea protein supplement, leads to weight gain.
An extra 120 calories consumed every day for 30 days may cause you to gain 1 pound. Make sure you count any calories from pea protein as part of your daily calorie intake to avoid accidentally eating too many calories. Eating more protein than you need doesn't offer any benefits over simply meeting your needs.
While certain groups of people, such as athletes, have higher protein needs than others, most Americans get more than enough protein in their diets, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, getting too much protein in your diet may impair kidney function in healthy people, though it's not clear whether extra protein actually causes kidney disease.
Adults should aim for 10 percent to 35 percent of calories from protein for balance and health.
If you have a history of gout, pea protein may not be the best way for you to get more protein in your diet. Split peas are a source of purines, which can increase the amount of uric acid in your blood, potentially leading to a gout flareup. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center suggests you limit your intake of legumes, such as split peas, to two 1/2-cup servings a week, which translates into about 1 1/2 scoops of pea protein powder a week.