Is Pea Protein a Complete Protein?

Amino acids that make up the proteins in our diet provide the building blocks for the creation and maintenance of all cells and tissue. Of the 20 amino acids that the human body uses to create protein structures, nine need to be provided from the diet, as they can’t be synthesised within the body.

These nine Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Two of these: methionine and phenylalanine, are closely correlated with conditionally essential amino acids (cysteine and tyrosine respectively) and are often grouped together with these when discussing functional requirements.

It is commonly considered that the vegetable proteins are incomplete, or in other words, they don’t provide all essential amino acids (in contrast to the animal derived proteins that are considered to be complete). This is not factually correct though as some quality proteins such as high-quality pea protein isolates contain all essential amino acids, and in greater than or near-equivalent amounts to those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for growth and development of the human body. In a functional sense, the concept of complete proteins may also be flawed as it is not necessary to consume all amino acids required for human metabolism in one sitting.

Clean Lean Protein, a high-quality, premium golden pea protein isolate is a 100% vegan protein that contains all the essential amino acids.

The WHO compiles evidence from all available scientific sources to determine the necessary amounts of nutrients for health. According to this information, amino acids should be present in the following quantities per gram of protein:

WHO recommended mg/g protein Clean Lean Protein mg/g protein
Leucine 59 84
Isoleucine 30 45
Valine 32 50
Tryptophan 7 10
Methionine + cysteine 22 21
Methionine 16 11
Cysteine 6 10
Histidine 15 25
Lysine 45 72
Threonine 27 30
Phenylalanine + tyrosine 47 93

(WHO, 2007)

One can see that Clean Lean Protein exceeds all amino acid requirements for the healthy functioning of the human body as defined by the WHO, except for a methionine and cysteine in which it is only fractionally under the recommended amount (by 1 mg in total). This amino acid profile also compares very favourably with the recommended amino acid pattern proposed by the Institute of Medicine of the United States National Institutes of Health* (Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients), 2005).  

Just one serving per day of Clean Lean Protein helps to provide around ¾ of someone’s base amino acid requirements for health:

Amino Acids per serving of Clean Lean Protein Amino Acids Recommended per day (average) by the WHO Percentage of daily amino requirement for an average person in ONE serving of CLP
Leucine 1680 2418 69.48%
Isoleucine 900 1240 72.58%
Valine 1000 1612 62.03%
Tryptophan 200 248 80.65%
Methionine + cysteine 420 930 45.16%
Histidine 500 620 80.65%
Lysine 1440 1860 77.42%
Threonine 600 930 64.52%
Phenylalanine + tyrosine 1860 1550 120.00%


The concept of consuming protein with the recommended ratios of amino acids in every meal has been a concern for vegetarians and vegans in particular. However, it is now considered unnecessary to combine protein types in order to provide all essential amino acids at all meals as a mixed diet (including one based solely on plant foods) can supply all necessary amino acids and encourage optimal protein status (Craig & Mangels, 2009; Young & Pellett, 1994). Other indicators of protein quality (such as allergen potential), absorption and total protein content are probably more important when evaluating protein supplements.

Functional Properties:

Pea protein exhibits gastro-ilial uptake of over 89% (Gausserès et al., 1997) and is therefore an extremely absorbable protein type.

In a functional evaluation of pea protein isolate vs. whey protein, both protein types elicited near the same increases in muscle thickness when compared with placebo (Babault et al., 2015), demonstrating that pea protein is equally beneficial for muscle growth to whey protein and offers a viable alternative to whey for vegans, vegetarians, and for those not tolerant to dairy or other proteins.

Clean Lean Protein provides a complete protein solution for your athletic and general health requirements.

* The Institute of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health is an independent, peer-reviewed, non-governmental organisation that provides unbiased information on issues relating to biomedical science, medicine, and health to policy-makers, professionals, and the public.


Babault, N., Païzis, C., Deley, G., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Saniez, M.-H., Lefranc-Millot, C., & Allaert, F. A. (2015). Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 3.

Craig, W. J., & Mangels, A. R. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc, 109(7), 1266-1282.

Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). (2005). The National Academies Press.

Gausserès, N., Mahe, S., Benamouzig, R., Luengo, C., Ferriere, F., Rautureau, J., & Tome, D. (1997). [15N]-labeled pea flour protein nitrogen exhibits good ileal digestibility and postprandial retention in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 127(6), 1160-1165.

WHO. (2007). Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation.

Young, V. R., & Pellett, P. L. (1994). Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 59(5), 1203S-1212S.

This article written by

Cliff Harvey – ND, Dip.Fit, HbT, Adv.Psych-K, naturopath, strength coach, author

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