Plant proteins or animal proteins, which should you be consuming?
We can all agree that protein is an important part of any diet but as I search the internet one night I kept seeing vegetarian dieters posting memes about getting their protein from vegetable sources instead of meat and hoping for muscle growth. Curiosity struck me as I sat there reading these somewhat sarcastic statements about protein and muscle gain.
Do plants really provide the same amount of protein as animals? If so, which one helps the body grow muscle at a higher rate? I set out to find the answer and here is what I came up with.
Studies show that animal proteins are more digestible than plant proteins which means that more of the essential amino acids (EAA) provided by the protein reach your small intestine when you eat animal proteins like whey vs. soy protein or another plant-based protein. When more EAA’s reach your small intestine they are readily available to your muscle for muscle building that if they were excreted by the gut or lost in the liver.
Not only do animal-based protein reach the muscles at a higher rate they also contain more EAA’s than plant-based proteins. One of the most essential to muscle growth is Leucine. Animal protein contains up to 13% Leucine compared to plant protein which contains up to 8% Leucine. As with most nutrition based studies, more evidence is needed to completely give animal proteins the victory but they have a significant lead at this point.
Is all hope lost for plant eaters?
No, not at all. Some people choose to be vegetarians for many different physical and social reasons and they can see results in muscle growth as well. For instance, maize and quinoa contain 12% leucine but the effectiveness of these two plants remains unknown in regards to overall muscle growth.
Whey, milk, casein, beef, egg, and fish all contain more leucine that any plant-based protein source.
As always, do your research and figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle when deciding on dietary needs and personal goals.