Whey Protein vs Pea Protein: What’s the Difference

Whey Protein vs Pea Protein: What’s the Difference

Whey Protein vs Pea Protein: What’s the Difference” was written by dietetic intern Sarah Schiffer, BS & reviewed/edited by Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND. Sarah is working on becoming a dietitian and recently started her own blog trendynutritionist.com.

*This page includes affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Pea Protein vs Whey Protein Whats the Difference

What is Protein?

Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients that play many critical roles in our bodies. Macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) provide our bodies with calories or energy.

Protein plays a huge role in regulation, functionality and structure of our body’s tissues and organs.

What are Amino Acids?

Pea protein vs whey protein- Amino AcidsAmino acids are the building blocks of protein.

In fact, protein is made up of 20+ different amino acids. Our bodies don’t store amino acids.

We rely on regular intake of food to get the protein our bodies need.

There are 9 amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. Therefore, we must get them from food. This is also why it is very important to make sure we are eating enough protein. So our bodies have the amino acids to create protein that we need.

Why Do You Need Protein?

Protein is in every cell in our bodies, and plays some major roles in our bodies.

  • Protein is responsible for repairing cells and tissues and creating new ones. We find protein in muscles, tissues, skin, hair, and bones.
  • Protein plays an essential role in hemoglobin. Hemoglobin transfers oxygen throughout your body into your blood.
  • More than half the protein we consume is used to create enzymes. Enzymes are important for create chemical reactions in our bodies. In other words, making the body work.
  • Protein helps make antibodies that fight off infections and illnesses.

Why Do You Need Protein Powder?

Most dietitians, including myself, will advocate for getting all or most of our nutrients from food. However, there are times where supplements can help us get the nutrition our bodies need.

Many times, people have a hard time meeting their protein needs. As discussed earlier, protein is essential for our bodies to stay healthy and alive.

Therefore, if it is too difficult for someone to get all of their protein from food, they can use a protein powder to get their required amount of protein.

Different Types of Protein Powders

Protein powder is a concentrated source of protein either coming from an animal or plant source.

Common animal protein sources:


Common plant protein sources include:

What is Whey protein?

blankWhey protein is an animal source of protein.

Is made from the byproduct of milk that is leftover during the cheese making process.

During the cheese making process, the milk undergoes high levels of heat to kill the harmful bacteria. This process splits the milk into curds and a liquid form of whey.

The liquid whey then goes under a process where it is made into a powder and ready for consumers to eat.

During the heating process, some of the lactose (milk sugar) is taken away from the whey liquid. Therefore, whey isolate is more processed so it contains less lactose than whey concentrate, which retains most of the lactose.

Whey Protein Benefits

Whey protein contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on its own. This makes it a great complete protein source.

Additionally, whey protein contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which plays a major role in promoting muscle growth, heart health, and healthy blood flow. BCAA’s also play a role in boosting our immune system.

What is Pea protein?

Pea Protein

Pea protein is a plant-based source of protein. This makes it a good option for anyone that is vegan or dairy free.

This protein is made the way you would likely guess: by extracting protein from peas.

Pea protein is a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make.

Pea Protein Benefits

In addition to being a complete protein, pea protein is also a good source of iron. A 20 mg scoop of pea protein powder contains 5 mg of iron.

Because this is a plant-based food, the iron in pea protein is less absorbable than iron from animal products. So, try pairing it with a food high in vitamin C to maximize iron absorption. 

You can learn more by reading our article on iron rich foods.

Like whey protein, pea protein is also a great source of branched chain amino acids which promotes muscle growth, a healthy heart, and healthy blood flow.

And finally, pea protein is free of all the top 8 allergens making it an option for almost anyone on any diet.

Whey Protein vs Pea Protein: What’s the Difference

There are a few differences between whey and pea protein. The main difference is the source of protein that the powder is coming from. If you recall, whey protein is made from dairy and pea protein is made from peas.

Whey protein is an animal-based source of protein and has a bland and milky flavor. While pea protein is a plant- based source of protein that has a raw and earthy flavor.

TABLE: Pea Protein vs. Whey Protein

  Pea Protein (20gm) Whey Protein (28 gm)
Category Plant-Based Animal-Based
Source Pea Plant Component of Dairy
Protein per scoop 15 grams 25 grams
Color Cream Cream
Taste Raw, “earthy” Bland, typically flavored
Research Newer in research Heavily studied
Other Contains iron High in BCAAs

Pea Protein vs Whey Protein Infographic


Whey Protein Nutrition

Most whey protein powders will have minimal ingredients. A 28 gram scoop of protein powder provides 110 calories, 25 grams of protein, and minimal fat/carbs.

Nutrition information for 28g of whey protein powder:

Whey Protein Nutrition Facts

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1162804/nutrients


Pea Protein Nutrition

Most pea protein powders are made from less than 5 ingredients. A 20 gram scoop of protein powder provides 80 calories, 25 grams of protein, and minimal fat/carbs.

This is the nutrition information for 20g of pea protein powder:

Pea Protein Nutrition Facts

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1162800/nutrients


Whey protein vs. Pea protein- Which Should I Eat?

Both whey and pea protein are great source of protein. If you have allergens and can’t tolerate whey protein or don’t eat dairy, pea protein is a great alternative.

I would also recommend trying both of them to see which one you like better. They both have very different textures and taste because of the source that they are coming from.

When it comes to whey protein vs pea protein, both are good options. Choose the one that best meets your individual needs and personal preferences.

Pea Protein Powder Options

Here are a few different pea protein powder options. Everyone has their own brand and taste preferences. These are some ideas to get you started! 


Note the size of the product prior to purchasing. Most pea protein powders seem to be sold in smaller batches where whey protein is sold in larger containers.

Whey Protein Powder Options

And here are a few different whey protein powder options. Again, everyone has their own brand and taste preferences. These are some ideas to get you started!


Best of luck!

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