Hemp Protein vs Pea Protein: What’s the Difference?

In the past, we’ve explored the benefits of plant-based proteins against their animal derived counterparts, how each of those plant-based options provide extra nutritional value, and if they can be used together to provide a well-rounded alternative to the more traditional whey and casein powders.

We’ve also examined in further detail the differences between types of plant proteins, their benefits, any potential risks, and how they can be used to complement daily protein intake on a plant-based diet, depending on how you want to meet your goals. 

We use a blend of hemp and pea protein in all of our protein powders. This led me to wonder: is one of them technically superior to the other? Or do their diverse nutrient profiles act as a perfect combination?

Let’s look at hemp first: 

Devoid of THC, the compound in cannabis which causes the high, hemp protein powder is thought to be a high quality, complete protein source, as it contains all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies use, but can’t produce on their own. It does appear to be lower in lysine than other proteins, which is why it is often blended with other sources to ensure a good balance of EAAs. 

Alongside a high protein content, hemp protein powder contains dietary fibre, numerous minerals (including good levels of various B Vitamins), and healthy fats which also add to its nutritional value. Due to the natural presence of Omegas 3, 6 and 9 (unsaturated fats which are vital for our bodies), hemp is naturally higher in calories than other types of protein, which might not help with your goals if you are attempting to get a little leaner. However, fatty acids are needed to boost the function of our brains, eyes and other vital organs and can be a challenge to find in plant-based sources, which makes hemp protein quite desirable! 

Hemp protein has also been found to be between 90-98% digestible, which means that almost all of its nutritional value and protein content is usable by the body. It also means that it is less likely to cause stomach issues in the same way as an animal derived protein source, like whey. However, hemp does contain around 8g of dietary fibre per serving, which can cause bloating if consumed too fast! If that’s not a sign to low down and enjoy your shake mindfully, I don’t know what is! 

Hemp is also known to contain certain compounds called lignanamides. These are believed to have the ability to protect your body from oxidative damage through the presence of antioxidant properties. For those with chronic illnesses linked to this kind of damage, such as heart disease, hemp protein is thought to help offset some of the damage caused. 

Now for pea protein: 

Like hemp, pea protein is considered to be a complete protein source. Also, like hemp, pea protein has slightly lower levels of one of the essential amino acids. In this case, pea protein is lower in methionine than other complete protein sources, but complementing pea protein with a source that has higher levels of methionine (hemp being one of those!) can help to redress the amino acid balance. 

However, unlike hemp, pea protein triggers what is known as a satiety response. This means that pea protein is great for helping you to feel fuller for longer, which is fantastic for a protein powder! 

It has high levels of branched chain amino acids and arginine, all of which are vital for enhancing your muscle building potential and energy at the gym. Plus, pea protein is a great source of iron for people on a vegan diet, as well as being allergen free and suitable for people who have a need for low FODMAP diets. 

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your pea protein, look for ‘raw’ or ‘cold pressed’ - this is because when pea protein is heat treated it can make the branched-chain amino acids less easily digested by the body. The bio-fermented and cold pressed pea and hemp protein blend in Vivo Life’s protein powders help to ensure the best bioavailability and digestibility possible. 

If beans or peas have a tendency to make you feel a little gassy or bloated in their whole foods form, then you might think that pea protein might not be for you. However, it’s usually the high fibre content in peas which causes the bloating, and most of this is removed during the pressing and treatment processes. That means that most of the fibre and starch content is removed, making it much more easily digestible. However - make sure you drink your protein shake slowly to help prevent any tummy troubles.

What’s the verdict then? Well, it appears blending these two protein sources can help to provide you with all good levels of nutrition alongside the high quality protein both sources offer. They both have a very low risk of allergen response, are easy to digest and contain more than just protein. They both have a high bioavailability, are more sustainable that other alternatives and don’t contain any animal products. 

So why choose just one when you can reap the benefits of both?!