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Top 6 Protein Myths Busted

By Jenn Randazzo, MS RD on October 4, 2017, categorized in Strength + Conditioning

Top 6 Protein Myths Busted

Plant-based proteins aren’t really effective, are they? Let’s get real about protein—especially protein that comes from plants. Because yes, you can get protein from plants, and still make gains. I’m 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, I got you. Protein needs are very individualized, and are based upon a couple of different factors: weight and activity level.

1. 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.Burke. L, Deakn V. (2009) Clinical Sports Nutrition. 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, Australia

Identify your activity level, and multiply your weight (in kilograms) by your protein needs.Burke. L, Deakn V. (2009) Clinical Sports Nutrition. 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, Australia

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

The number you get equals the number of grams of protein you need in a day. So focus on getting just enough, without consuming protein that won’t do your body any good.

For example: My 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.

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.Paddon-Jons D, Rasmussen BB. (2009) Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 12(1): 86–90.T. 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/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/PMC3650697Instead of eating all of your protein at dinner, work on eating even portions throughout the day.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/. So if my friend Chris was 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.

What might even portions look like? I broke Chris’s needs into 5 meals (and mini-meals):

Meal/Snack and Time Meal Idea Grams of protein
Pre-Workout Snack (7AM) 2 pieces sprouted, whole-grain toast with 2 Tbsp nut butter each 22 grams
Post-Workout Snack (9AM) Vega Sport® Protein+ water or non-dairy milk 30 grams
Lunch (12PM) Black bean burger + salad with 1 cup quinoa 20 grams
Snack (3PM) Nacho Roasted Chickpeas 19 grams
Dinner (6PM) Vegan “meatballs” + Vegan Mug Cake 25 grams

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 pepsin, hydrochloric acid and pepsinogen in the stomach, and then they enter the small intestines as amino acids and become available for absorption.SchlenkerE, Roth, S. (2006). Williams’ Essentials of Nutrition & Diet Therapy, 9e.

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.

Many 100% whey proteins weigh about 31 grams/scoop providing about 24 grams protein,  and 5.5 grams BCAAs. 1 scoop of Vega Sport® Protein weighs 41 grams, provides 30 grams of protein, and 6 grams of BCAAs. Let’s compare scoops of protein powder with 25 gram of protein between Vega Sport® Protein and a leading 100% whey:

Amino Acid

Vega Sport Protein

(mg)

100% Whey (grams)

Alanine: 1400 1450
Arginine 2900 800
Aspartic Acid 3800 3130
Cystine 300 650
Glutamine 5900 3130
Glycine 1400 560
Histidine 800 480
Isoleucine 1600 1780
Leucine 2700 2910
Lysine 2200 2640
Methionine 400 600
Phenylalanine 1800 940
Proline 1500 1680
Serine 1700 1420
Threonine 1300 1910
Tryptophan 400 570
Tyrosine 1200 870
Valine 1700 1610
Total grams per serving: 30 26

 

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 of the essential amino acids in the required amounts to support muscle. SchlenkerE, Roth, S. (2006). Williams’ Essentials of Nutrition & Diet Therapy, 9e. 

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 carbohydrates.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 Reach for a trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit after your next workout.

Now that we’ve busted some protein myths, I’m challenging you, right now, to add more plants and plant-based proteins in your diet. How do you plan on starting?

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