Let’s get real about protein—especially protein that comes from plants. Because yes, you can get protein from plants, and still make gains. We’re about to bust 6 myths about plant-based proteins, so prepare to have your mind blown.
Myth 1: There’s no such thing as too much protein.
When it comes to protein, more is not always better. More is often, just more. Eating more protein than your body needs to repair and rebuild muscles, does not mean that you’ll build more muscles. Excess protein that your body doesn’t need is simply used as energy (from calories).
However, if you’re interested in calculating your unique protein needs, we’ve got you. Protein needs are very individualized and are based upon a couple of different factors: weight and activity level.
Start with your weight in kilograms (used to reading your weight in pounds? Divide that number by 2.2).
Identify your activity level and multiply your weight (in kilograms) by your protein needs.1
|Activity Level||Protein Needs
for Adults (g/kg)
|Recreational (4-5× a week, 30 minutes each time)||0.8-1.0|
|Moderate Endurance Athlete||1.1-1.2|
|Football, Power Sports||1.1-1.5|
|Resistance, Strength and Conditioning Athletes||1.2-1.5
For example: Our friend Chris is 185 pounds (86kg), 5’8″. He lifts five days a week, which is a high activity level. 86×1.2 is 103. If Chris eats 103 grams of protein a day, then he’ll have the protein he needs to repair and rebuild muscles at his activity level, and to help him keep making gains. Eating over 125 grams of protein may not help him get any stronger. The number you get equals the number of grams of protein you need in a day so focus on getting enough, without consuming protein that won’t do your body any good.
Myth 2: As long I get my recommended amount of protein each day, the timing of it doesn’t matter. Bring on the morning cereal and the protein-rich evening.
Typically, carbohydrates dominate the morning meal while protein reigns king in the evenings. And it would be understandable to believe that, as long as you were consuming your required amount of protein during the day, it doesn’t matter when it’s consumed. Just get it in, right?
Wrong. In order to help maintain muscle mass and stimulate muscle protein synthesis, it’s best to evenly distribute protein throughout the day.234
Instead of eating all of your protein at dinner, work on eating even portions throughout the day.5 If Chris is eating 103 total grams of protein a day, in 3 meals and 2 snacks, that’d be a little more than 20 grams of protein each time he eats.
Myth 3: Plant based protein is not complete protein
Not all plant-based proteins are incomplete despite what you hear from the latest celebrity-turned-health expert. Whey protein powders are celebrated because they contain all of the essential amino acids in the appropriate amounts needed to stimulate protein synthesis. However, multisource plant-based protein powders, like Vega Sport® Protein also contain all the essential amino acids, including branched chain amino acids that support protein synthesis. And whether it’s a whey or plant-based protein, all proteins begin the digestive process the same way: your body mixes them with hydrochloric acid and pepsinogen in the stomach, and then they enter the small intestines as peptides for further breakdown into amino acids so that they can become available for absorption.6
Myth 4: Whey protein powders have the best amino acid profile for building lean muscle.
Not so fast. When you compare a multisource, plant-based protein to whey protein, you may find that their amino acid profile is quite similar. Looking for the typical amino acid profile for your favorite Vega Sport® Protein Powder? Good news, you can find it right on the tub!
Myth 5: You can’t build muscle with plant-based proteins.
Possibly one of the biggest protein blunders of all time. Yes, each protein (animal- and plant-based) does have a unique amino acid profile. By eating a variety of plant-based proteins throughout the day, you can easily get all essential amino acids.
Myth 6: Immediately after that last rep, reach for that protein shake.
“What!? That’s what I’ve been doing for years.” You and everyone else.
Although most reach straight for their protein shake after any workout, the body sometimes benefits more from a different macronutrient: simple carbohydrates. Whether you’ve been strength training in the gym, hiking, or competing in a soccer match, combining carbs and protein will help to replenish your muscle glycogen stores faster than reaching straight for protein.7
Now that we’ve busted some protein myths, we’re challenging you to add more plants and plant-based proteins in your diet. How do you plan on starting?
- 1. L, Deakn V. (2009) Clinical Sports Nutrition. 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, Australia
- 2. Paddon-Jons D, Rasmussen BB. (2009) Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 12(1): 86–90.4
- 3. Brock Symons, et al. (2009). Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly. Journal of the American Dietetics Association. 109(9): 1582–1586. Accessed on 2/23/16 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3197704/
- 4. Areta J et al. (2013). Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of Physiology. 591(9): 2319-2331. Accessed from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3650697
- 5. Mamerow M. (2014). Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-H Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 144(6): 867-880. Accessed from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4018950/.
- 6. SchlenkerE, Roth, S. (2006). Williams’ Essentials of Nutrition & Diet Therapy, 9e.
- 7. Kerksick et al. (2008) International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient Timing.Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 5:17. Accessed 7/15/13 from http://www.jissn.com/content/5/1/17