Functional Training Institute

Pea Protein may boost adaptations to HIFT

Continuing with this months focus on protein intake, in this weeks post, we are going to look at the results of a recent study which investigated the effects of pea protein supplementation on the physical responses to high intensity functional training (HIFT). Why pea protein, you may ask? For one, some individuals due to personal preference or factors such as dairy intolerance may need plant based proteins to meet their nutritional requirements. As discussed in last weeks post, research suggests the protein intake range of 1.4-2.0 g/kg/day. Whey protein as a additional protein source, is highly regarded, due to its high leucine content, ability to be digested rapidly and proven ability to stimulate muscle anabolism. However, previous research has shown pea protein when compared to whey protein; may be equally anabolic (Babault et al, 2015). Therefore the researchers in this current study hypothesised that pea protein may be equally effective at stimulating muscle anabolism and other training adaptations such increased muscle strength following 8-weeks of HIFT.

In this study, 15 trained men and women performed 4 HIFT sessions per week in addition to consuming 24-grams of either whey or pea protein before and after each session, and in-between meals on non-training days.  The HIFT sessions consisted of a range of different CrossFit WODs and were led by a CrossFit certified instructor. Following the 8-week training period the researchers reported similar improvements in muscle thickness (measured via ultrasound), body composition (measured via bioelectrical impedance), strength (isometric mid-thigh pull) and WOD performance in the pea protein group.

These results suggest that whey and pea protein may be equally effective at stimulating muscle anabolism and improving performance measures such strength and WOD performance. This is good news for individuals with intolerances to dairy food for example, who may need to supplement with plant based proteins. Functional training instructors should inform their clients of the elevated protein requirements when engaging in regular, physical training. Finally, as there has only been one other study that have investigated the anabolic effect of pea protein the results of this study should be viewed with caution.


Babault, N.; Païzis, C.; Deley, G.; Guérin-Deremaux, L.; Saniez, M.-H.; Lefranc-Millot, C.; Allaert, F.A. Pea

proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: A double-blind,

randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2015, 12, 3.

Banaszek, A., Townsend, J., Bender, D., Vantrease, W., Marshall, A., & Johnson, K. (2019). The Effects of Whey vs. Pea Protein on Physical Adaptations Following 8-Weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): A Pilot Study. Sports, 7(1), 12.

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