As plant-based diets become increasingly popular, many people choose plant protein as their primary protein source. You may have heard that animal protein is healthier than plant protein, but what does the research say? Which protein type should you choose? This article covers the difference between animal and plant protein.
The main difference between animal and plant proteins involves their amino acid contents. While the body produces some amino acids, essential amino acids must be consumed through food.
Animal protein is known as a complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for functions throughout your body, including protein synthesis, tissue repair, and nutrient absorption.
Some sources of plant protein, such as pea protein and soybeans, are also complete proteins. However, many plant protein sources are incomplete proteins. For example, plant foods, including beans and nuts, are nutritious and high in protein but lack one or more of the nine essential amino acids.
You can combine these incomplete protein sources to ensure you get all nine essential amino acids in your meal. For example, a peanut butter sandwich combines wheat, which is low in the amino acid lysine, and peanuts, which is rich in lysine, making it a complete protein meal.
Suppose you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. In that case, it is vital to consume a wide range of plant protein sources to ensure that you get all the necessary amino acids your body needs.
Those looking to build muscle often pay close attention to their protein intake and aim to consume more protein, as protein helps to repair and build muscles after a workout. Whey protein, an animal protein, is a popular choice among bodybuilders as it is convenient, low-cost, and easy for the body to digest and absorb. Plant-based alternatives for protein powders include rice protein isolate and soy protein.
Studies have shown that animal protein is more effective for building lean mass than plant protein. Although it is possible to consume strictly plant protein and experience similar results, animal protein is more anabolic, meaning it has higher concentrations of essential amino acids. A higher concentration of essential amino acids leads to increased protein synthesis and muscle-building.
Overall, both plant and animal protein sources are nutritious, and the type you choose depends on your dietary restrictions, budget, lifestyle and preferences. If you don’t have dietary restrictions, incorporating plant and animal proteins is a healthy choice to ensure a well-balanced diet.
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