Plant-based proteins and muscle growth

Do you remember some posts ago when I was talking about this new milk-beverage-type product based on potato proteins?

While I was very pleased to see an increase in offer, I was still confused about why we should mimic milk at all costs instead of creating brand new product concepts. While I still am of that idea,  I am open to changing opinions.

In my recent reading, I have found that potato proteins might be a very effective alternative to animal-derived milk proteins, especially regarding building muscles.

Ok, this is not my goal as I do not strength train, but I think it might interest some of you looking for a switch to a vegan diet.

Researchers from Maastricht University (Netherland) published a paper where they hypothesise that, because potato protein and animal milk protein share a similar amino acid composition, they might have a similar effect not only on emulsified foods, but also on muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

The researchers conducted a double-blind study (where information which may influence the participants of the experiment is withheld until after the experiment is complete) with 24 healthy male volunteers between 18 and 35. All of the people who participated to the study were assigned to exercise on a leg press,  then randomly chosen to either consume 30 grams of milk or potato protein. The researchers then measured how each protein source affected MPS and found both comparable.

The study reports that, when ingesting 30g of potato protein concentrate, there is an increase in muscle protein synthesis rate both at rest and during recovery.

The authors then follow: “Muscle protein synthesis rates following the ingestion of 30 grams of potato protein do not differ from rates observed after ingesting an equivalent amount of milk protein.”

Of course, as with many studies, there were some limitations attributed to:

  • the small study size;
  • no participant older than 35 years old;
  • only male participants were recruited.

Not only in the Netherlands but also in Brazil, a research led by Dr Hevia-Larrain (2021) has observed plant-based proteins vs. animal-based proteins. The attention, here, is once again given to muscle mass strength in healthy young men that usually strength train.

Research outcomes observe that a plant-based diet made of whole foods and soy protein supplementation can be as good as an omnivorous diet where whey protein is used as protein supplementation.

Another study published in 2017 in the scientific journal American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dietary protein derived from plant sources is no different from meat. Among 3,000 participants with varied dietary habits, a higher protein intake led to better overall musculoskeletal health, and the source of dietary protein—plant or animal—was not really relevant.

Given these results, people might be encouraged to use plant-based protein supplements instead of animal-based ones.

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