Written by Ben Carlisle
Last updated on: Sep 18, 2022
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No matter what your fitness goals are, in most cases protein shakes can help you move towards them faster. However, if you want to avoid animal proteins you will need to used plant based protein supplement. However, with this approach it can be challenging to get good levels of all the essential amino acids.
To get around this, combining different plant proteins can provide good level of every amino acid. It is becoming more common for plant based supplements to contain blends of different plant proteins to give all the critical amino acids in one supplements. Combining the plant proteins pea and rice is one of the best ways to do this. Below we will explore this combination in more detail.
One of the ways of obtaining a well-balanced amino acid profile is to combine pea and rice protein. By using pea isolate and brown rice, you can obtain a blend which has good levels of every essential amino acid. While each of these supplements has a good mix of amino acids, each has low levels of an amino acid which the other has good levels of.
Pea lacks methionine while rice has it in abundance. Rice, on the other hand, has low levels of lysine which pea is high in. By combining these hypoallergenic proteins, individuals can obtain good levels of both iron and fiber as well.
When comparing pea's amino acid profile with a standard amino acid profile, there are more than adequate levels of amino acids with the exception of methionine. To increase the levels of methionine as well as other amino acids, brown rice is added. Brown rice powder is often used in vegan protein supplements.
The human body requires 20 amino acids for good health. Of these 20 amino acids, nine are essential to human health and cannot be made by the human body. This table compares the level of an essential amino acid required to be considered a complete protein against the essential amino acid profile of pea protein.
As you can see, pea protein exceeds the protein standard in all but one amino acid. This amino acid is methionine, which must be obtained elsewhere in the diet if you use a standalone pea protein supplement. Recently, the best pea protein powder supplements have started to add extra ingredients to give good levels of methionine. These are known as pea protein blends. The added ingredients normally contain at least one of brown rice or hemp protein, due to them being high in methionine.
Pea protein is made by grinding down yellow split peas and extracting the protein. To isolate the protein from the rest of the pea, it is milled into flour.
While pea is considered a complete protein by many, and has a good amino acid profile containing all of the essential amino acids, it does have a low amount of methionine present in the isolate.
It is also beneficial for the heart and cardiovascular health as it contains a high level of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that also promote muscle growth (1).
There are a range of benefits associated with pea protein.
Pea protein powder typically contains 75% protein, including all nine essential amino acids. It is also an easily digestible protein (3). Pea is widely used in vegan protein supplements due to research find it to be an effective supplement to assist with progress towards fitness and athletic goals.
The BCAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are supportive of the growth of muscle tissue (1). For this reason, it is highly desirable to have a protein supplement which has good BCAA levels.
Together with its high level of essential amino acids, pea powders provide optimal nutrition for individuals engaged in healthy exercise and weight training programs.
Nutritional iron deficiencies are found throughout the human population worldwide.
For this reason, ways to improve the uptake of iron are always top of mind when producing any healthy nutritional supplement. Pea protein has been identified as a suitable carrier for microencapsulated iron (4).
It has been known for some time that Arginine promotes a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
It does this by assisting blood flow through a process of dilating the arteries and relaxing the artery wall muscles. This is accomplished through its interactions with the enzymes responsible for producing nitric oxide (NO) (2).
It is so successful that it is being touted as a potential treatment therapy for cardiovascular disease.
The most common allergens are gluten, dairy, fish, and eggs. As a vegan alternative to animal-based proteins, pea avoids these common problems and provides a high-quality source of the most essential amino acids.
So long as one is not allergic to peas or has a sensitivity to peas, the use of pea and pea/rice blend provides a low-risk option when supplementing with protein. All the benefits that one associates with increasing amounts of high-quality protein in the diet, both for muscle building and general health, are present while excluding the risks associated with egg and whey.
Research found improvements in muscle protein synthesis, performance enhancement, and increases in strength when subjects used pea protein were almost identical to those who used whey protein (5).
Another study returned similar results with the finding that the use of pea and whey protein supplementation produced results so similar that they could be interchanged successfully (6).
With pea's superior amino acid profile, including consideration of the effects of its high levels of BCAAs, pea protein’s suitability as a replacement for animal protein is not in question.
Research supports the use of pea as a substitute for whey when training for strength improvement, performance enhancement, and muscle mass in combination with resistance training.
Research also highlights the importance of pea protein’s ability to make you feel full. A large part of a healthy lifestyle, and especially when engaged in various forms of resistance training and sport-specific training, is the ability to manage calorie intake.
To make a healthy eating plan sustainable, individuals need to feel satiated after meals, otherwise, they run the risk of gorging on unhealthy food in an attempt to still hunger pangs.
Researchers found pea was more successful at suppressing study participants' appetites when compared to other protein powders including whey (7). This has far-reaching consequences for athletes and healthy individuals who are engaged in training programs where weight loss or the maintenance of a healthy weight is a priority.
As the name suggests, this protein powder is derived from brown rice. However, the rice is not only dried and milled to produce powder. It must go through a process of germination and hydration first (8).
Brown rice is an intermediate phase between the rice obtained from a rice paddy and the white husked and milled product you purchase in the store. Brown rice still has its husk, which contains important components necessary to produce a high-quality protein powder.
The brown rice is germinated for up to 48 hours, during which time a complex chemical process within the rice produces the maximum quantity and quality of protein available. The rice is then heated to extract the protein and produce the powder.
Rice protein contains approximately 78% protein, of which 36% are essential amino acids and 18% branched-chain amino acids.
The result is a hypoallergenic protein supplement and an excellent source of plant-based nutrition.
Studies have found brown rice protein has the ability to potentially assist in managing and protecting against diabetes.
These studies show that eating brown rice lowers the glycaemic index response in healthy individuals by 12.1% and diabetic subjects by 35.6% (9).
This finding has major implications for the management of diabetes and pre-diabetes as well as allowing healthy individuals to better manage their insulin response during and after meals.
Insulin resistance is associated with heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and a host of other metabolic diseases. Recent findings have shown that brown rice reduces the markers associated with insulin resistance as well as lowering total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels (10).
Insulin resistance has long-term negative effects on health and a dietary supplement that can help lower the levels of insulin resistance in the body will have a major impact on health outcomes.
A recent finding in a study on the effects of brown rice on the regulation of glucose levels in the body shows that it may help to regulate glucose through its interaction with GLP-1 (11).
GLP-1 stimulates insulin secretion and inhibits glucagon secretion. Insulin helps to store glucose as fat, which is the reason why those with obesity are generally insulin resistant. Glucagon, on the other hand, prevents blood sugar levels from dropping too much, by increasing blood sugar levels.
These results are comparable to whey protein’s effects on blood sugar and hypertrophy.
Rice protein rates very favorably when compared to whey protein.
It has been shown to help in decreasing bodyfat mass while improving lean body mass in human subjects. Other benefits include increased skeletal muscle protein synthesis as well as gains in both power and strength. These results have been achieved at levels similar to what is seen with whey protein supplementation (12).
For individuals engaged in resistance training programs, using a protein supplement based on brown rice was found to be just as effective as whey (13).
This is the finding of a study where participants were subject to an eight-week resistance training program and received daily protein supplements split between whey and brown rice powders.
Participants experienced similar body composition and performance results no matter which protein supplement they received.
While both pea and rice protein supplements are available in isolation. Rice protein blended with pea in a single supplement allows for a complete protein source. This gives good levels of every essential amino acid including lysine and methionine which these proteins lack when used in isolation. Having a complete protein source is extremely attractive to people who want the convenience of obtaining a full amino acid profile from a single supplement.