If you’re trying to eat enough protein to help you build muscle or to help you get leaner, that’s already fairly challenging for many people. Trying to hit your optimal protein goals while eating a plant-based diet will bring another level of difficulty.
The reason why is:
- The top high-protein foods are all animal-based and plant-based foods naturally have less protein in them.
- Plant-based proteins suffer from having a low “protein quality” score. This is a term researchers use to see how much protein our bodies can actually extract from the foods.
Plant-based Protein Quality Scores & Why It Matters
As you see in the chart, cooked oatmeal, chickpeas and pea protein powder are the easiest types of plant-based protein for your body to digest.
When it comes to protein per gram of total weight, the winner would be pea protein powder.
Just keep in mind that when trying to reach your daily protein goals, you may need to have even more plant-based protein to match animal or dairy-based protein because of the lower quality score.
For example, 30g of whey, let’s say has a score of 1. You might need to have around 38g of pea protein for your body to get the same amount of usable protein.
What about non-powdered foods?
In this article, we have our top 100 high-protein foods guide as determined by the Government of Canada Nutrient list.
The top foods that are plant-based are:
- Roasted soy beans
- Roasted pumpkin, squash seeds, and peanuts
- Black beans
- Roasted almonds and almond butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Quaker Puffed Wheat
Eating a wide variety of protein sources is critical
The reason why is because plant-based proteins don’t have a complete protein amino acid profile. So it’s important to eat many types of plant-based foods to even out your amino acids. And if you’re using plant-based protein powder, it’s best to get a blend.
Eating exclusively plant-based? Be sure to consider other missing nutrients—not just protein
Getting enough protein is just one important part of eating well. Those eating a plant-based diet will need to do lots of research to find other solutions for getting enough creatine, carnitine, DHA/EPA, taurine, vitamin b12, and other important nutrients necessary for health and strength.
The Outlive take:
It’s more challenging to get enough protein from a plant-based diet. Not only are all the highest protein foods animal-based, but plant-based proteins suffer from a lower protein quality score, so you’ll need to eat a lot more of them.
As for next steps, the first thing is to thing to focus on is getting enough daily protein. A good way to work on that is to fix up your lowest protein meal first. For most people, that’s usually breakfast. So making a smoothie with a plant-based protein powder could be an easy way of starting the day off well.
Next, you should try and spread your protein throughout the day for optimum muscle protein synthesis. In this study, researchers compared eating protein spaced out throughout the day to mainly eating protein at dinner. So the first group would have 30g for breakfast, 30g for lunch, and 30g for dinner. The second group had 10g for breakfast, 15g for lunch, and 65g of protein for dinner. The group that split up protein throughout the day had 25% better muscle protein synthesis! When trying to build muscle and stay lean, every little bit helps. The study authors say having even more protein could be better, thinking 40g at breakfast, lunch, and dinner could be even better for muscle protein synthesis.
What do you think? What are your favourite sources of plant-based protein?