The topic of whether plant-based protein is as good as animal-based protein has been the subject of many debates and research studies over recent years.
Here’s a few reasons why we think plant-based is superior:
It’s commonly accepted that not all protein is created equal. Each protein molecule is made up of small building blocks called amino acids. We can make some amino acids ourselves but there are nine that the body cannot make, so they must be obtained from the diet. These are called essential amino acids. A varied plant-based diet (and good quality protein supplements) provides more than enough protein and all the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts (1, 2, 3, 4).
Contrary to some reports, all plant-based wholefoods contain all nine essential amino acids. However, some plant-based foods contain less than perfect amounts of one or more amino acids – they do not lack them altogether, they simply contain less than the ideal amount.
Because of that, it is often suggested that we should always combine certain plant foods to ensure the optimal amino acid intake at every meal. This theory has long been rebutted – science has proven that protein combining is absolutely unnecessary, provided you eat a varied diet with enough calories and not just one plant type all day every day (1, 5).
Meat contains all the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts, which is why some people believe it’s a better protein source, but there’s no denying that meat certainly isn’t good for your health. Excess animal protein has been linked to some cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney damage.
It’s actually really easy to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. In fact, many of us may get too much protein – that’s how easy it is.
Excellent sources of protein include soya products (edamame beans, tofu, tempeh, soya milk, soy yogurt), black beans, kidney beans, baked beans, lentils, chickpeas, whole grains and products made from them (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, wholemeal bread, oats, quinoa, buckwheat), nuts and seeds of all types. Plant protein powders or bars are also really useful if you’re busy, prefer liquid meals or want to increase protein content of your meals. Bodyhero protein powder also contains a great amino acid profile which includes all 9 essential amino acids and naturally occurring BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids), with 2g of Leucine, which is well established to be the rock star of amino acids when it comes to building muscle!
Plant protein also usually comes together with fibre, antioxidants, complex carbs, beneficial phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals – a health-promoting package. Animal protein usually comes with some vitamins and minerals, but is devoid of fibre, and has plenty of unhealthy saturated fats and a diverse mixture of toxic and cancer-causing compounds (6, 7).
So, which is better for building muscle?
Well, a recent study published in February 2021 set out to answer the question. A team of researchers investigated the effects of dietary protein source [exclusively plant-based vs. mixed diet] on changes in muscle mass and strength in healthy young men undertaking resistance training.
Nineteen young men who were habitual vegans and nineteen young men who were omnivores undertook a 12-week, twice weekly, supervised resistance training program.
Habitual protein intake was assessed at baseline and adjusted to 1.6g per kg body weight per day via supplemental protein. Dietary intake was monitored every four weeks during the intervention. Leg lean mass, whole muscle, and muscle fibre cross-sectional area, as well as leg-press 1Rep Max were assessed before and after the intervention.
The bottom line
The study found both groups gained lean muscle mass and strength, with no differences between the groups for any of the variables. Therefore, the researchers concluded that a high-protein, exclusively plant-based diet (plant-based whole foods + plant protein isolate supplementation) is not different than a protein-matched mixed diet (mixed whole foods + whey protein supplementation) in supporting muscle strength and mass accrual, suggesting that protein source does not affect resistance training-induced adaptations in untrained young men consuming adequate amounts of protein.
So, you can rest assured that switching to a plant-based diet won’t affect the gains!
All Bodyhero products provide a consistent 20g of high-quality complete plant protein from Yellow split peas, containing all 9 essential amino acids and are rich in naturally occurring BCAA’s.
Not only that but they are loaded with satiating chicory fibre that keeps you fuller for longer too and promotes gut health.
So, if you were worried about the effectiveness of plant-based protein – you’ve no need to be!
1. Marsh KA, Munn EA, Baines SK. Protein and vegetarian diets. Med J Aust. 2013;199(S4):S7?S10.
2. Clarys P, Deliens T, Huybrechts I, et al. Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients. 2014;6(3):1318?1332.
3. Karlsen MC, Rogers G, Miki A, et al. Theoretical Food and Nutrient Composition of Whole-Food Plant-Based and Vegan Diets Compared to Current Dietary Recommendations. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):625.
4. Mariotti F, Gardner CD. Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets-A Review. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2661.
5. Hever J, Cronise RJ. Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5):355?368.
6. Abid Z, Cross AJ, Sinha R. Meat, dairy, and cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100 Suppl 1(1):386S?93S.
7. Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JHY, et al. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association [published correction appears in Circulation. 2017 Sep 5;136(10 ):e195]. Circulation. 2017;136(3):e1?e23.
8. Hevia-Larraín, V., Gualano, B., Longobardi, I. et al. High-Protein Plant-Based Diet Versus a Protein-Matched Omnivorous Diet to Support Resistance Training Adaptations: A Comparison Between Habitual Vegans and Omnivores. Sports Med (2021).