Animal v. Plant Protein
Protein is one of the 3 vital macronutrients that a person needs in order to live a healthy lifestyle. However, the question is, are all proteins created equal? Let's dive in and take a closer look at what the research has to say.
The human body uses 20 amino acids to build proteins. There are two classifications of amino acids, essential amino acids and non essential amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids and these are amino acids that our bodies can't produce and therefore need to be obtained from one's diet. There are 11 non essential amino acids and these can be produced by our bodies which makes them as the name suggests non essential.
Protein sources such as eggs, dairy, meats and fish are considered complete proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. Plant sources such as lentils, beans and nuts lack many of the essential amino acids and therefore are considered incomplete sources. From a muscle building perspective, animal proteins tend to be the gold standard as they are rich in the essential amino acid leucine which has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis in multiple studies. Leucine content is a good way to evaluate the quality of a protein when it comes to a muscle building viewpoint. Also, animal sources of protein tend to be more nutritionally dense when it comes to vitamin and mineral content. However, there are also nutrients found in plant sources that aren't found in animal sources, so it's good to mix in both in your diet.
In conclusion, if you are vegetarian or vegan, make sure to look at the amino acid profiles of the protein sources you are consuming to make sure that you are getting the complete spectrum of essential amino acids. This takes a lot more effort, but it is important when it comes to maintaining a healthy body composition and just overall health. For meat eaters, this is not a free pass to not eating vegetable sources of protein because many vegetable sources have vitamins and minerals you won't be getting from your normal animal based sources. So, include a balance of both animal and plant sources in your diet to ensure that you're hitting you're micronutrient goals.