What type of protein is healthier and better for building muscle based on science? Does animal protein have more quality than plant protein?
Many vegans will tell you that plant protein is as good as animal protein, if not better.
And many bodybuilders will laugh at the idea that you can build muscle on a plant-based diet.
So, let’s see what does the science say about animal vs plant protein.
What Is Protein and Why Is It Important?
Protein is a biomolecule comprised of chains of smaller molecules known as amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of the body.
Protein serves as raw material for making muscles, ligaments, tendons, hair, organs, and skin, as well various hormones, enzymes, and other chemicals essential to life.
Our body needs 21 amino acids to function properly. However, there are 9 amino acids that our body can’t make on its own and we need to get these amino acids from our food. These 9 amino acids are called essential amino acids (EAA).
These 9 EAAs are:
There are complete sources of protein and incomplete sources. Complete sources contain all essential amino acids and incomplete sources do not. Animal proteins are usually a complete sources of protein while not all plant protein sources are complete sources of protein. However, there are complete plant sources of protein such as soy, corn and pea. 
Animal vs plant protein
One main difference between animal protein and plant protein is that both have higher and lower amounts of different essential nutrients and vitamins.
For example, animal protein may contain higher amounts of essential amino acids (e.g. leucine), iodine, EPA, DHA, vitamin B12 but lower amounts of fiber, PUFA, ALA, folate, vitamin E. 
However, plant protein contains higher amounts of fiber, PUFA, ALA, folate, vitamins E, B1, B6, C and lower amounts of essential amino acids, iodine, EPA, DHA and vitamin B12. 
One of the biggest concerns about animal and plant protein is that animal protein has higher quality and is a complete source of protein (meaning animal protein contains all essential amino acids) while plant protein is not.
A systematic review of 18 studies shows that animal protein does have a higher quality and is a complete source of EAA. 
That’s probably why many bodybuilders say that animal proteins are better than plant proteins for bodybuilding.
However, other study shows that plant protein such as soy, corn, pea are also complete sources of protein. 
Also, another study says that usual dietary combinations of plant protein can serve as a complete and well-balanced source of amino acids that effectively meet human physiological requirements. 
So, it looks like it’s more about which animal and plant protein sources you’re using. Both animal and plant protein are complete sources of protein and both animal and plant protein have some advantages and disadvantages meaning that each type has some nutrients and vitamins in higher doses than the other one.
For example, 100g of cooked eggs contains about 1.1 g of leucine and 0.7 g of phenylalanine whereas 100 g of peanuts contains about 1.5 g of leucine and 1.2 g of phenylalanine. However, 100g of beef contains about 2.4 g of leucine and 1.2 g of phenylalanine.
Protein and health
A prospective cohort study with 400000+ participants showed that higher plant protein intake was associated with reduced risk of overall mortality, with men and women experiencing (respectively) 12% and 14% lower mortality per 10 g/1000 kcal intake increment. 
Replacement of 3% energy from various animal protein sources with plant protein was associated with 10% decreased overall mortality in both sexes. 
A meta-analysis of cohort studies also shows that higher plant protein intake is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause and CVD-related mortality. Also, this meta-analysis suggests that persons should be encouraged to increase their plant protein intake to potentially decrease their risk of death. 
A systematic review of 32 cohort studies with 700000+ participants shows that intake of plant protein is associated with a lower risk of mortality from all causes and from cardiovascular diseases, and an additional 3% of energy from plant proteins a day is associated with a 5% lower risk of death from all causes. Replacement of foods high in animal protein with plant protein sources could be associated with longevity. 
Protein and muscle building
A systematic review of 18 studies shows that qualitative assessment showed that both animal protein and plant protein supported an increase in absolute and percent lean mass, although a more substantial gain was observed with animal protein.
However, protein source did not affect changes in strength outcomes. 
So, I think it’s safe to say that we can build muscle on a plant-based diet and it’s a myth that we can’t build muscle on a vegan diet.
For example, many bodybuilders and experts may say that it’s hard to have 3g of leucine on a plant-based diet. According to International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) protein doses should strive to contain 700–3000 mg of leucine. 
However, my daily leucine intake is on average 8.9 g on a vegan diet. And even if plant protein has lower quality and I will absorb only a part of 8.9 g of leucine then I will still get more than enough.
So, it looks like we can build muscle using both animal protein and plant protein. The important thing here is that our diet should be well-balanced.
How much protein do you need?
If you’re not an experienced athlete then the recommended daily protein intake for men and women is 0.8 g protein/kg body weight per day corresponding to a recommended daily protein intake of 55-57 g protein for men and 47-48 g protein for women, respectively. 
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) for Mass Gain recommends 1.4 – 2.0 g of protein per 1 kg of weight per day for most people involved in sports. 
In other words, if your body weight is 80 kg, then you need about 112-160 g of protein per day. 
Also, these protein doses should ideally be evenly distributed, every 3–4 h, across the day. 
So, is plant protein better than animal protein based on science? What type of protein is healthier and better for building muscle based on science?
Well, scientific research shows that plant protein is better for our health because it’s associated with a lower risk of mortality from all causes compared to animal protein.
It’s hard to say which type of protein is better for building muscle though. Each type has some advantages and disadvantages. For example, animal protein has higher quality and doses of some essential amino acids, vitamin B12 and some other nutrients. However, plant protein has also some benefits such as higher amounts of fiber, PUFA, ALA, folate.
Although animal protein does have a higher quality but it probably won’t be a big issue for you if you eat a little more of plant protein than the recommended daily intake is and if your diet is a well-balanced one. However, your diet should be a well-balanced one if you eat animal protein.
So, it’s a myth that you can’t build muscle on a plant-based diet.
P.S. If you want to learn more about other vitamins, what are their recommended dosages based on science, get healthy meal plan examples, my top science-based recipes that can be cooked in less than 30 minutes each and find out how science-based nutrition can prevent the most common diseases, improve your overall health and help you live longer then you can click here to learn more.
If you don’t want to miss my other articles then click here to subscribe to my Telegram Channel or use the form below to subscribe to my email newsletter.
You can read some of my other latest articles as well:
- Is having 6 pack abs healthy based on science?
- Does listening to music help with stress based on science?
- Why go vegan and 5 easy steps how to go vegan for beginners
- Is soy healthy based on science or does soy cause cancer?
- 5 healthy vegan salad recipes (oil-free)
- Animal vs plant protein. Which protein is best for health and strength based on science?
- 4 easy vegan pie recipes (+1 bonus recipe)
- Vitamin B12 recommendations based on science
- What is a superset and should you do supersets based on science?
- Top 10 vegan burger recipes
- Can music improve athletic performance based on science?
- How many sets should I do to build muscle based on science?
- Science-based iodine recommendations
- Should you train to failure based on science?
- How much protein can your body absorb in one meal based on science?
- Top 10 motivational quotes
- Omega-3 fatty acids recommendations
- What is the best training frequency for building muscle based on science?
- Best plant-based protein foods
- Happy New Year 2023!
- Does meditation help with stress and aging based on science?
- Is salt healthy based on science?
- Foods to improve performance in sports
- Healthy foods that last for a long time without a fridge
- Science-based macronutrient recommendations for athletes
- Top 7 healthy nuts to eat based on science
- Vitamin D recommendations, dosage, its impact on health
- How to live longer by increasing telomere length
- Healthy beverages based on science
- Recipe: whole wheat no-yeast vegan pizza dough
- What is NEAT? How to lose weight with NEAT?
- Are calcium supplements safe based on science?
- Are nuts good for weight loss and health
- 4 simple steps how I gained 1.5 kg (3+ lbs) per week healthily and how you can too
- Top 5 foods to avoid for weight loss and health
- Is fasting safe for weight loss and health?
- Top 10 healthiest berries
- Does healthy mindset really help improve our results (science-based)?
- Are potatoes healthy for you based on science?
- Is HIIT better than cardio based on science?
- What’s the best nutrition tracker app in 2023?
- How to build good habits in 4 simple science-based steps
- What are the scientific benefits of exercise?
- Are eggs healthy for us based on science?
- How to lose weight in 4 easy steps (science-based)
- Is keto diet safe and effective way to lose weight?
- Cardiovascular disease risk factors and treatment
- Is coffee healthy or does it increase the risk of diseases?
- Is laughter the best medicine?
- Can diet prevent and treat diabetes?