Just 5 years ago, if you couldn't tolerate whey protein, the number of allergy-friendly protein options were extremely limited. Sports nutrition has come a long way to make sure you get clean sources of protein, but the new variations have added a new problem: it's harder to know which plant-based, non-dairy sources of protein are best for your goals.

Brown rice and pea protein are two popular plant-based protein sources that are vegan, soy-free alternatives to popular protein powders like whey and casein. Both proteins are marketed as equally effective as dairy proteins, but that is far from the truth.

The effectiveness of a protein for muscle gain or fat loss depends on its amino acid structure. If a protein is "incomplete," then it does not have all of the amino acids your body needs. If it is complete, then your body can put all of the amino acids to fuel benefits such as muscle growth or recovery.

Before you use a plant-based protein, here's what you need to know when deciding between brown rice and pea protein.

Is Brown Rice Protein a Complete Protein?

Rice protein (whether from brown or white rice) is an incomplete protein that does not provide all the essential amino acids your body requires. It must be combined with another protein source to form a complete protein and deliver optimum nutritional benefits.

While many protein powders will combine rice and pea protein together (because pea is a good compliment), it’s somewhat of a misleading process. That’s because pea protein — on its own — is a complete protein and contains all of the essential amino acids, including the BCAAs.

If you compare pea protein to whey (the gold standard protein powder), it becomes very clear that pea protein can standalone and does not need brown rice.

25 Grams Pea Protein 25 Grams Whey
Calories 162.5 157.4
Carbs 8.8 8.7
Protein 25 25
Fat 2.6 2.1
BCAAs 5.9 7.8

Brown Rice Protein: Risks or Side Effects?

So why do so many plant proteins use rice proteins? It’s a matter of prioritizing margins over nutritional benefits. Rice is much cheaper and can be used to spike the total protein of a product without having the same quality.

Remember, it's the amino acids in a protein are what make it so effective. Your body uses those amino acids to fuel recovery, fat loss, muscle building, and even maintain the youthful appearance of your hair, skin, and nails.

Instead of just thinking about the total amount of protein you eat (which is important), it's best to understand that you need complete proteins. If you’re eating animal sources like dairy protein, meat, chicken, fish, or eggs, those contain all of the amino acids you need.

But, if you eat plant-based proteins, then your best option is to eat pea protein instead of brown rice.

You can combine the two, but — unless the powder is transparent and shows exactly how much protein you come from each source — then you’re likely getting a lot of rice protein and not enough pea. The result: your body is not getting enough amino acids.

Not to mention, rice can also cause digestive and gastrointestinal (GI) issues, and it grows in standing water and is more likely to possess high levels of toxins and metals, such as arsenic.

From a taste standpoint, rice is a bland-tasting protein that gives most plant protein its weird salve.

Benefits of Pea Protein

On the other hand, pea (as we already mentioned) is a complete protein and is high in BCAAs. It also has gel-forming properties similar to casein and helps add a smooth thickness to protein shakes. It’s also why pea protein has as much versatility as casein protein when it comes to cooking due to these gel-forming properties.

What's more, pea protein performs really well in research. It’s comparable to whey protein in terms of its leucine content. And there are studies where people perform have the same body transformation results (ratio of muscle to body fat) when they eat pea protein after a workout compared to whey.

If you’re looking for great tasting plant protein that is high in protein and all the amino acids you need, then Ladder Plant Protein is your best bet. Not only does it have more than 20 grams of pea protein, but it also is loaded with digestive enzymes to help with protein bioavailability and includes 2 billion CFU of multi-strain probiotics.