The word “protein” comes from the Greek protean, meaning “of primary importance”. Throughout history, meat-based meals have tended to reflect affluent lifestyles, relegating “lower quality” plant-based diets to the lower class. As fitness / health professionals we can help dispel the myth that meals made from plant protein sources do not adequately support the body’s myriad of processes. On the contrary, we are seeing more evidence that the consumption of plants serves our body in the best possible way, including strength building.
The body and muscles adapt
In recent years, the inclusion of plant protein sources in the American diet has grown and evidence continues to accumulate on the integrity of plant protein sources with respect to stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. (MPS), physical training adaptations and post-workout recovery. A multitude of studies agree that vegetable proteins consumed for 8 to 12 weeks (taking into account alone these sources providing adequate amounts of essential amino acids, especially leucine) can stimulate training results comparable to those seen when consuming animal protein sources.
Popularity of vegetable proteins
Many proponents of plant protein point to a higher level of economic sustainability than what we see with diets high in animal protein. Interesting data shows that about 60% of the dietary protein consumed in the world comes from plant sources; In reality, an estimated four billion people worldwide live on predominantly plant-based meal plans. Since plant-based diets are regularly linked to a reduction in the occurrence of many types of cancer as well as type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease, we can understand why this food culture deserves attention.
Many factors contribute to the anabolic potential of a protein source, including its total number / type of amino acids, essential amino acids, and branched chain amino acids it contains. The level of digestibility of a protein also figures prominently. Biological values for common plant sources range from 56 to 74 out of 100 possible, while most animal protein sources range from 77 to 100. A similar dichotomy exists for net protein. use values; plant sources range from 53 to 67 while animal sources range from 73 to 94, again on a 100 point scale. Although not as high as foods of animal origin, plant-based protein foods can be an important source of protein; eating more plants is never a bad thing!
The leucine content of a protein source works as a reliable predictor of MPS levels. By comparing different sources of protein, most trainers already know that whey protein has the highest percentage of leucine (~ 12-14%), which corresponds to its superior ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Additionally, animal protein sources generally contain higher amounts of leucine (8-9% for non-dairy animal sources,> 10% for dairy protein sources) while plant sources typically only contain 6-8%. % leucine.
Several strategies exist to facilitate the anabolic potential of various protein sources:
- co-ingestion of plant protein with additional amino acids or other protein sources
- supplement plant sources with amino acids deemed weak or limiting
- increase the serving size of protein.
- some preliminary research shows that consuming omega-3 fatty acids with an infusion of amino acids after resistance training can boost anabolic muscle activity.
“Complete” versus “total” protein
Although not all plant-based foods provide “complete” protein, consuming a wide variety of plant sources ensures adequate intake of essential amino acids. The human body can inherently use the total amino acids ingested in a day to provide the fuel needed for muscle building.
Research has shown that all plants contain protein, and at least 14% of each plant’s total calories are from protein. If an individual consumes 2000 calories per day from plant sources containing a minimum of 14% protein, the total number of calories ingested from protein is 280. Since one gram of protein provides 4 calories, dividing 280 calories by 4 reveals that such a meal plan can deliver. 70 grams of protein. An average female body requires a minimum of 30 to 50 grams of protein per day, while men generally need 50 to 70 grams. So, it seems that if a person meets the caloric needs with plant-based nutrition, the protein needs are met. However, athletes who are building muscle may need more.
For a nutrition-conscious personal trainer with vegetarian / vegan clients, it’s no surprise to learn that beans (27% protein), lentils (36%), chickpeas (33%), peas (30%) and kale (22%) offer the greatest culinary opportunity to acquire sufficient protein. However, beans and lentils on their own are not quality sources of plant protein, but when combined with grains like rice, they meet the needs of all essential amino acids.
Nature’s Bounty offers many other tasty, plant-based choices that do the trick as a supplement to a complete protein.
A cup of cooked quinoa provides about 8 grams of protein, in addition to more magnesium, iron and zinc than most other grains. A 3-ounce serving of Tofu provides about 8 grams of protein; the same amount of tempeh contains 11 grams of protein. Similar to quinoa, these two sources are high in fiber and iron, as well as potassium and calcium.
In addition to being a source of complete proteins, hemp offers a healthy dose of linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3), both considered essential fatty acids. Three tablespoons of raw, shelled hemp seeds contain 10 grams of protein as well as iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc. chia seeds, too, provide 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber, along with the added benefits of iron, calcium, selenium and magnesium.
Seitan, derived from the main protein in wheat, may not feature prominently in a plant-based gluten-free diet; but at 25 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving, seitan reigns as the richest of all vegetable protein sources. When cooked, this unique compound actually resembles the appearance of meat, a quality highly desirable among the most discerning vegetarian / vegan chefs.
Other sources of complete plant protein include amaranth, spirulina, buckwheat, sprouted grain bread, and nutritional yeast (which makes a great addition to a vegan diet due to its high vitamin B content).
Powdered vegetable protein supplementation
Personal trainers often direct clients who are passionate about bodybuilding to use protein powders, an easy way to increase intake after a strenuous workout. Unfortunately, the majority of popular brands come from animal sources such as whey or casein.
Some high-quality protein powders on today’s shelves cater to vegan / vegetarian athletes and make excellent use of plant-based protein sources. Here we highlight some of the best to choose from ~
- Sprouted beans marinated / garbanzo / lentils
- Linseed / pumpkin / chia seeds
By combining various sources of plant-based protein into a single supplement powder, manufacturers increase the chances of providing a very diverse array of amino acids with as much muscle protein synthesis power as you can get. found in protein powders of animal origin.
Whether you or your clients are taking a completely plant-based approach to nutrition right now, more and more people have jumped on the bandwagon. Smart, durable, healthy, and more potent than we might think, garden-derived protein can go a long way in helping athletes achieve the lean muscle mass they desire.
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