Can You Get Ripped on Plants?

Here’s a great article on whether or not plant-based protein is as effective as animal-based proteins. I have long been a proponent of animal-based products for years do to their having a more “complete” amino acid profile. But as new research continues to emerge the debate continues. For most of us, it comes down to creating a healthy diet that we will stick to. If that means lean meats and fish vs plants, beans, and other sources of protein it up to your preference

This is a topic that inspires strong feelings, to put it mildly. There have long been studies showing that some protein sources are better than others, at least in isolation. Protein sources that contain high levels of an amino acid called leucine seem to be particularly effective at stimulating the synthesis of new muscle, which explains why dairy protein outperforms soy protein in head-to-head, gram-for-gram matchups.

But no one lives on soy (or dairy) alone. Do those subtle differences matter if you’re eating a broad diet with many different sources of protein? Another Brazilian study, this one from a group led by Victoria Hevia-Larraín of the University of São Paulo, explored this question by enrolling 19 vegans and 19 omnivorous young men in a 12-week, twice-a-week strength training program. Both groups were given protein supplements (either soy or dairy) to equalize their protein intake at a goal level of 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, which is twice the recommended minimum for sedentary adults but a relatively typical level for athletes.

The results in brief: no differences between the two groups, which each increased muscle mass by about 6 percent and strength by 38 to 49 percent. So, the subtle differences in protein “quality” (e.g. leucine content) seemed to matter less than simply getting a sufficient amount of protein. You could argue, of course, that getting enough protein is trickier if you’re avoiding meat and dairy. But that really a different question. It’s certainly possible to eat like crap no matter what dietary tribe you belong to; what this data suggests is that it’s possible to get the protein you need, even as an athlete, on a plant-based diet.

My Take:

Eat what you like! If you’re not in the “meat” crowd eat vegetable sourced protein-like, pea, brown rice, and chickpea, as opposed to soy. If you’re a carnivore like me stick to a diet of organic, grass-fed meats with some wild cold-water fish like arctic char andor cod. Either way, just eat more protein to keep building that metabolism-boosting lean muscle

Stay Strong,
Coach Joe

Check the previous post: Flex Friday #7 – What outdoor activities burn the most calories?