Can Plant Protein Aid in Building Muscle?
Written by Hannah Martinez

When protein comes up, people usually think of meat: beef, pork, chicken, and sometimes fish. Rarely do people realize that protein power is packed inside of plants. Although plants like beans, legumes, and nuts may be packed with protein, fitness gurus and trainees are hesitant to replace animal-based proteins with plants when it comes to building muscle. 

Do plant-based protein sources aid muscle building as much as animal-based alternatives?

The short answer? Yes! Plant-based proteins are just as effective in building muscle growth as animal-based proteins. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that muscle mass and strength in participants was improved regardless of the source of protein. A director of the study, Dr. Kelsey Mangano, said the study gave significant evidence that “higher protein intake from any food source will benefit muscle mass and strength in adults."

However, not all plant-based proteins are equal. Some plants contain high amounts of fiber and essential micronutrients, but have a lower efficiency rate in building and sustaining muscle mass than traditional animal-based proteins. There are multiple strategies that have been clinically proven to close this gap between plant and animal proteins.

One of the strategies is supplementing your plant protein intake with limiting amino acids or branched-chain amino acids. Studies have shown that linking soy proteins with branched-chain amino acids like leucine, isoleucine, and valine increase the body’s protein synthesis and muscle development. These amino acids are rich in plant-based foods, such as soy, pumpkin seeds, and seitan. 

Another way to boost your muscle development through plant proteins is by blending your protein intake. The most effective and popular blend is cereal and legume proteins. Cereal proteins are notoriously deficient in the amino acid lysine, while legumes have a poor sulfur amino acid supply. However, they have a complementary amino acid profile, which makes them incredibly powerful when it comes to furthering your strength and muscle growth. 

Finally, know your proteins! Selectively bred proteins have a higher chance of developing your muscles. For example, quality protein maize, or QPM, is a non-GMO selectively bred strain of maize which offers an astounding amount of lysine, nearly twice the amount of regular maize. If you can find high-quality plant-based proteins, you will be able to strengthen your muscles without needing to use animal products.

Talk about a fitness victory!