Protein is a macronutrient like carbohydrates and fats. The human body requires it to maintain muscle mass, bone density and support several other body functions. As protein makes up around 20 percent of our bodies and is not stored, it becomes critical to include it in our daily diet.
A variety of foods contain protein; however, we can broadly classify protein into two categories- ‘plant-based protein and ‘animal-based protein. Many believe that regardless of the source, what matters is how much your daily protein intake is. Then others claim the superiority of one source over the other, and vice versa.
This article attempts to settle this debate: Plant protein vs. Animal protein; and which one is superior and why.
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The Difference Between Plant Protein And Animal Protein
Both the types of proteins are different in their amino acid profiles and the organic compounds, which are the main building blocks of protein. These are of 20 different types. We can further differentiate them into:
- Non-essential Amino Acids – which the human body produces naturally; and,
- Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) – these are not produced naturally by the body, thus necessitating the need to consume them from EAA-rich food sources.
There are 9 EAAs that we all must include in our daily diet. The main difference between plant and animal proteins lies in that most animal proteins are ‘complete’ proteins. By this, we mean that they contain all of these 9 essential amino acids. On the other hand, plant proteins are not ‘complete’ proteins as they lack either one or more of such EAAs. However, compensating these EAAs with other plant-based proteins can complete the need for wholesome proteins through all-plant sources. So, it can be challenging for a vegetarian person to get all the EAAs in sufficient quantities from single plant proteins.
Another difference between these two protein groups is that animal proteins are also a rich source of various other essential vitamins and minerals which plant proteins lack. These are vitamin B12, D, DHA, Heme-iron, and zinc –which support several crucial organic and blood functions in the body.
Which Protein Is Better For Health?
From the above discussion, it may seem that animal protein is the outright winner. While it is true it is a complete protein source, several research pieces have shown that diets high in plant protein have several major health benefits over those high in animal protein.
Vegetarian diets substantially cut down the risk of stroke, heart ailments, and cancer compared to diets high in non-vegetarian foods. Moreover, most vegetarians also manage to stick to ideal body weight, low cholesterol levels, and appropriate blood pressure. A veg diet also prevents chances of getting type-2 diabetes.
Also, you get a good amount of dietary fiber from plant protein, which animal protein sources can lack. Another big plus point of plant protein is that several close-intolerant people cannot effectively digest animal proteins like dairy or other similar supplements. There is no such issue with plant proteins.
However, this doesn’t imply that non-vegetarian diets are bad for your health. We can say that a vegetarian diet doesn’t tax the body as much as a non-veg diet does in processing and absorbing the fuller proteins.
Diets vary from person to person, depending upon the individual health condition. Thus, the bottom line is to stick to a holistic, healthy lifestyle rather than focusing on the diet alone.
Which Protein Is Better For Bodybuilders?
As we mentioned earlier, the majority of animal proteins are complete proteins. That means you would need to consume fewer meat and poultry portions in your daily non-vegetarian diet to get the required daily protein. Whereas in the vegetarian diet, you would not need to worry much about the plant protein portion.
Foods rich in complete animal protein include white meat such as fish, chicken, turkey, quail, eggs, dairy products, and red meats like beef, bison, and venison.
Then again, unless you have the time or resources, eating animal proteins daily can be tough for many.
Although there is a lesser range of complete plant protein sources, these include rice, soy, buckwheat, hempseed, chia, and quinoa. Even if you consume plant protein sources that are not complete, you can combine them with other plants to get a complete range of BCAA and make your protein complete.
Vegetarian bodybuilders must include various plant proteins in their diet. If required, they must also include plant-based protein supplement powders in their daily diet.
The good thing with plant protein supplements like pea protein, for instance, is that these too contain the full range of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Moreover, these supplements are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, contributing to muscle building and maintaining overall health.
Additionally, those looking to build lean muscle mass are better off with plant protein sources. As we mentioned earlier, these contain substantially low calories and have ‘good fats’ – the essential fatty acids suitable for the body and heart.
Studies have shown that vegetarian bodybuilders manage to achieve a more lean muscle mass compared to non-vegetarians.
So, if you are looking for a ripped, muscular physique, plant proteins in their natural and supplement form have a load of benefits.
Also See: Protein-rich Vegetables in India
Is Switching To Plant-Based Protein A Good Decision?
Plant protein can be just as effective to build muscles as animal protein if planned wisely. Plus, you get the added benefit of low saturated fats, cholesterol, and high fiber, which assists speedy metabolism.
So, switching to plant proteins could be a smart choice for those who tend to suffer from high cholesterol levels and digestive issues.
Likewise, if you have been a fan of red meat for years, perhaps it would be best if you now switch to plant-based protein sources in the higher interests of your overall health. It would then be also much easier for you to stick to your desired body weight.
Which Is The Best Plant Protein Powder In India?
There is a piece of good news for vegetarian bodybuilders in India. These days it is possible to get some very good natural plant-based protein powders at reasonable rates right within the country. This is a big relief for those who have had to buy heavily priced imported plant protein powders till recently.
The best plant protein powders are those which contain all the 9 essential amino acids. Now, such powders can include more than a single plant-based protein mix besides using just a single source. Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, such powders also contain essential antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber – all of which also improve your overall health.
So, whenever you buy any plant protein powder, do read the labels very carefully to ensure that it is a ‘complete’ protein – i.e., it contains all the EAAs. Do also see what all vitamins and minerals are naturally present in it.
Both plant and animal proteins are great for building muscles and improve overall body health. What matters is that the protein you consume must contain all the 9 essential amino acids.
However, it is easier for vegetarians to maintain low body weight, get more fiber, and have lean muscle mass compared to those who heavily depend on animal protein sources. Further, vegetarians find it easier to manage their cholesterol levels and healthy cardiovascular activity.
Since it can be tough to get all your protein requirements from natural plant sources, it is viable to take up some authentic plant protein supplements. This way, you will be assured that you get ‘complete protein,’ essential to build muscles. Along with this, you also get the benefits of several crucial vitamins and minerals.
Those who have digestive issues or are lactose-intolerant can switch to plant protein supplements effectively.
Do read the labels carefully to decide on your choice of protein supplements.
1. It is tough to find and consume enough plant-based proteins in India. So how can I still get bigger muscles with bodybuilding?
It is not impossible to be a good bodybuilder if you are a vegetarian. You must include different plant protein sources after careful analysis of your options. It is easily achievable by supplementing your diet with plant protein powders containing all 9 EAAs.
2. I have a lactose-intolerance. So how can I consume protein powders effectively?
It is not at all essential to take your protein shakes in whole milk. You can use double-toned milk and even use pure drinking water in your protein powder. Or you can choose a lactose-free protein supplement like UTSAHA Plant protein.
3. Are all protein powders safe for everyone?
Generally, yes. But if you have health issues like bloating, allergies, etc., please check with a health expert/doctor before starting taking protein powders. Also, read the complete minute print on the labels to get as much information as possible about the powder you are contemplating taking. If you have any allergies, read them.
4. I am a non-vegetarian and eat meat and poultry daily. Do I still need to take protein powder?
Generally, no. However, it depends on what types of meat you are eating. Suppose you are taking lean white meat like fish and chicken, without including heavy, rich gravy, in ideal portions, then you may not take protein powders. But if your non-veg meals tend to be high in saturated fats and cholesterol and you also take red meat, it is better to tone it down and supplement your protein requirement with powders – and preferably, plant protein supplements.
5. I am not into weight training. Do I still need to eat a lot of protein daily?
Protein is not simply about building muscles. It is required for several other bodily and nervous system functions; and in the health of skin, bones, and hair. So, getting enough complete protein is an absolute must for everyone. If you find it tough to get all your protein from foods, include a complete protein powder in your diet as a supplement. An average person needs 1 gram of protein per kilo of bodyweight – which for many Indians who are vegetarians is tough to get. So plant protein supplements can be very effective for such people.
6. I get bloating from the protein powder I use. What can I do to ensure I get my full protein requirement daily?
Don’t lose heart! These days you can easily find several high-quality protein powders in India – even those which are plant-based. Also, many people get lactose-intolerant after age 30 and complain of bloating if they consume even animal protein supplements like Whey protein powders – such people can take up plant protein supplements instead of animal protein supplements. UTSAHA plant protein is one such healthiest and finest plant-based protein that is easy to digest and is loaded with essential minerals, omega3 fatty acids, fibers, and vitamins.