Building and maintaining lean muscle mass is an essential piece of the puzzle for anyone looking to optimize their health. Studies show that muscle mass is a reliable predictor of longevity in older adults. As you age, the more muscle you have on your body, the better. It is that simple.
But even if you have zero interest in thinking that far ahead, building and maintaining lean muscle mass today is hugely beneficial. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn, even when resting.
This is something a lot of people dieting for fat loss don’t realize. People tend to focus so much on restricting their diet to shed those extra pounds while failing to recognize that some resistance training combined with more quality food, not less, would get them to their goal body composition sooner.
And no, you will not get too bulky if you pick up a weight at the gym and eat more protein. It takes a lot of hard work to build the necessary muscle to acquire a “bulky” physique. For most people, the occasional strength training combined with a higher protein diet will simply help them build and maintain the amount of muscle conducive to a healthy and optimally functioning body. Building and maintaining muscle is especially important for women since they will lose muscle mass faster than men as they age.
This brings us to the question we are trying to answer today. Can plant-based protein sources stack up against animal sources when it comes to building muscle? First, it is important to note that whole food sources of protein are always preferable to all types of protein powder, shakes, and supplements. You should get most of your protein from foods served on your plate as part of a balanced meal.
Some specific types of plant-based protein powder might function similarly to whey
However, there is an undeniable convenience to supplementing your total protein intake with a protein powder or a shake. When it comes to these protein supplements, animal protein sources like whey are great because they have a complete amino acid profile and a high amount of leucine, which is the essential amino acid most important when building muscle.
Plant sources of protein tend to have less leucine and usually do not contain the complete list of essential amino acids we need from a protein source. They are also less bioavailable, meaning that our bodies have a more challenging time breaking them down and absorbing them so that we can use those building blocks.
However, a new study demonstrated that by using a specific blend of wheat, pea, and corn protein isolates, a plant-based protein blend could be just as effective at promoting muscle development as an animal protein. Researchers pointed out that the key was finding a combination of plants that filled all the gaps to create a complete amino acid profile and a high enough amount of leucine per serving. Apparently, a blend of corn, wheat, and pea protein accomplished just that.
The key takeaway? Building and maintaining muscle is essential for everyone, and to do that, you need to get plenty of protein. Regarding protein supplementation, animal sources like whey are superior to most plant-based options. But according to recent research, it is possible to cover all your bases with plant protein sources if you carefully choose a blend that creates a complete amino acid profile with plenty of leucine.
A plant-based approach to optimizing your health is possible. It just takes more work and careful planning to ensure you are avoiding deficiencies and giving your body everything it needs to thrive.
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