Animal Protein vs. Plant Protein

All proteins are not created equally. The concept that all proteins are of comparable nutritional value is flawed and should be rejected by anyone interested in planning healthful diets. No matter what the guru told you, protein with a face, a mother, and soul is the way to go if you want to reach optimal health and performance. The number of amino acids and digestibility of animal protein compared to plant protein make it the prime choice for anyone aiming to Empower Performance.

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Eat meat, fowl, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, bulbs, herbs and spices as well as animal fats, olives and olive oil, avocados, coconut (meat, oil, flour), and dairy. This diet allows you to take advantage of the best sources of each macronutrient and ensures you are getting plenty of high quality protein in the form of dead animals.

While some would argue, calorie for calorie broccoli does in fact have more protein than steak, this information is misleading. For instance, to get roughly 40 grams of protein from sirloin steak you’ll need 6 ounces, while getting the same protein from broccoli would require choking down 16 cups! Gastrointestinal issues anyone?  

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Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle and play a role in nearly all biological processes. The primary difference between animal and plant proteins lies in the profiles of essential amino acids (EAA). The “amino acid profile” of a protein is a detailed account of how much of each amino acid the protein contains. As you can see in the chart above comparing broccoli with steak, the green stuff doesn’t come close.

Research has found the branched chain amino acid (BCAA) leucine to be most beneficial in the regulation of protein synthesis and the development of new muscle. In fact, studies have shown leucine alone to have the same impact on protein synthesis as a consuming a protein containing all of the amino acids! If you want to take advantage of this powerful BCAA, grab a 4 ounce steak or 18 cups of broccoli. The choice is yours.

It’s important that a protein can be digested and absorbed properly to get the most out of its amino acids. The better a protein is digested, the better it can be used for muscle growth and performance. Studies have shown that across the board, plant proteins have a 10% lower digestibility score than animal proteins. So, not only does it take much larger amounts of plant proteins to equal that of animal proteins, but your body can’t digest and utilize it as well either. There is a reason research has shown omnivorous women have more muscle than their vegetarian peers.

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I’m not saying you should avoid plant proteins. In fact, I am a huge proponent of eating a variety of colorful plants for their micronutrient and phytochemical content. A diet that omits plants is not a healthy one and can lead to a host of issues. In terms of protein though, in particular it’s benefits to muscle growth and performance, animal protein is king of the jungle. Non essential amino acids are crucial if you want to build new muscle and the amino acid profiles of plant proteins simply cannot compare to that of animal proteins. Digestibility is important if you want to get the most out of the protein you’re eating and the digestibility score of virtually all plant proteins is significantly lower than that of animal proteins.  

If you’re trying to increase muscle mass and performance, a proper nutrition coach will serve you up a diet high in animal protein. While plants are definitely an important part of any healthy diet, all proteins are not created equally and a diet prioritizing plant protein over animal protein is flawed.  

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Tyler Minton

Nutrition Coach at Power Athlete
Professional mixed martial artist, gym owner and Power Athlete Nutrition Coach. An avid follower of CrossFit Football since its inception, Tyler has implemented Power Athlete methodology with thousands of athletes in his own gym and abroad. A student of Robb Wolf's for 7 years, Tyler uses the principles of ancestral health to help athletes empower their performance. One of the worlds leading weight cut experts, Tyler works with some of the UFC's top athletes, preparing them for peak performance when they step into the cage. Tyler utilizes his own personal and coaching experience, combined with the very best in nutritional education to help athletes fuel the fire!
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2 Responses to Animal Protein vs. Plant Protein

  1. Harlan

    Great article. What sources are you referencing? I’d be interesting to look at the sources.

  2. Adam Bowman

    Hi Tyler, I did enjoy this. I do believe the bio availability of plant protein is more limited than those contained in animal products. However, and it may be a specific individual or group of plant based gurus you are addressing, I can’t think of any reasonable person who would advise someone to get the majority of their protein from broccoli. Wouldn’t a comparison of steak and legumes be a more adequate way to address the issue? This would help people meet their leucine requirements, as well as being a more generally protein-rich food. Of course factoring in legumes into a person’s macronutrient setup is a separate issue, but as this article seems mostly focused on protein, steak vs. legumes seems a winner ☺

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