While whey protein is currently the darling of sports nutrition in Europe, the French ingredients firm is promoting the use of vegetable-derived proteins as well. It points out that the amino acid profile of different protein sources varies considerably, and combinations can help reach an essential amino acid pattern close to the reference of the FAO/WHO.
In particular pea protein is said to be the highest source of arginine, a conditionally-essential amino acid that is involved in the metabolism of nitrogen and is a precursor of creatine. Arginine is of interest to athletes as it may not be synthesised by the body in sufficient quantities during times of intense exercise.
Pea protein is also a good source of branched-chain amino acids, including leucine, and glutamine and glutamic acid, which supplies energy to muscles.
Audrey Taffin, market development manager for Nutralys, told NutraIngredients that a lack of the right amino acids can mean muscle recovery after exercise is not as efficient as it should be.
The new AminoFuel concept – which is being presented to manufacturers and is not sold by Roquette as a consumer product – makes use of Nutralys, which has 8.7 per cent arginine, and is over 80 per cent protein altogether. It also boasts very high digestibility due to a low level of anti-nutritional factors like complex sugars (98 per cent, comparable to that of casein), the company says.
The digestion pattern is intermediate-fast, which is similar to that of whey and soy and makes it suitable for particular diets, such as those followed by sportspeople and the elderly.
Taffin pointed out that the European sports nutrition market lags behind the US.
Indeed, Nutralys has been used in PureGreen Protein product that launched in late 2009 and focuses on amino acid profile in its marketing. Europe is expected to be more reserved, however, with Germany leading the way, which is why the concept combines whey and pea protein.
“Most products are based on whey. The aim is not to suggest ‘out with whey’, but to combine for added value,” she said.
Taffin added that use of pea protein can also make products attractive to people with lactose intolerance or allergies to soy or meat. Pea is not a major allergen.
This is key for many types of manufacturer – although she admits it does not tend to be such a big priority for sports nutrition because it is a very niche market already.
Manufacturers may be tempted by the price difference, however, as pea protein tends to be 2 or 3 times less expensive than milk proteins, which fluctuate wildly.