Muscle mass and plant-based proteins: science confirms that it is possible! But how?

Updated: Jan 5, 2020

Here we are again, talking about one of the most controversial topics in the fitness-nutrition sector: it is hard to put on muscle mass when following a vegan diet (or there are also those who say that it is even impossible!), due to the lack of essential amino acids found, instead, in products of animal origin.

And so whey, queen protein in the fitness industry, followed by casein and egg protein, becomes an integral part of your athletic routine, and the idea of starting to supplement your diet using plant-based protein doesn't even cross your mind. I mean, why would anyone ever use plant-based protein sources, famous for having an incomplete amino acid profile, if you can get the amount of protein required to repair and grow muscles in a whey protein shake?

However, the great flaw of these proteins of animal origin is that unfortunately, they are common allergens. And so those unlucky people allergic to whey, casein and/or egg protein, in addition to those who by choice do not include these kinds of protein sources in their diet, find themselves with their muscles deflated and unable to go on stage to compete for Mr and Miss Olympia . Yeah, because if you don't integrate these essential foods into your diet, how can you consume the amount of protein needed for muscle development and repair?

Luckily, science has been busy working on food science and nutrition researches, and the findings are anything but negative: it has long been known that by combining cereals and legumes it is possible to obtain a complete protein profile. However, every legume and cereal is deficient in some amino acids, whilst contains one or more of other essential ones, and therefore the combination of the two foods could be a little tricky when trying to obtain a good protein bio-availability that satisfies the amino nutritional profile for muscle synthesis and repair.

Two proteins in particular have attracted the attention of researchers: brown rice protein and pea protein. Brown rice protein has a very good amino acid profile, rich in methionine, leucine and glutamine. However, it has very low levels of lysine, which is one of the essential amino acids shown to be linked to muscle protein synthesis enhancement and is therefore required to build and maintain muscle mass. On the other hand, pea protein seems to provide good amounts of lysine. Additionally, pea protein contains the BCAAs isoleucine and valine, very important for recovery. This protein combination allows to obtain a PDCAA score of 1.0 (the highest score), and is equal to the one of whey protein. Sounds great, right? But this is not all. Both brown rice and pea protein are hypoallergenic, meaning that they are very unlikely to trigger allergic reactions.

It sounds that there's no more worries about the protein intake of those who by choice, or due to allergies and intolerances, cannot consume animal proteins.

Would you try swapping your proteins for some plant-based alternatives? Do you already do so? We would love to hear your thoughts and point of view, so leave us a comment and don't forget to like our social medias like Facebook and Instagram to keep updated with our new products!:)


Millward, D.J., 1999. The nutritional value of plant-based diets in relation to human amino acid and protein requirements. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58(2), pp.249-260.

Young, V.R. and Pellett, P.L., 1994. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 59(5), pp.1203S-1212S.

Kalman, D., 2014. Amino acid composition of an organic brown rice protein concentrate and isolate compared to soy and whey concentrates and isolates. Foods, 3(3), pp.394-402.

Marsh, K.A., Munn, E.A. and Baines, S.K., 2013. Protein and vegetarian diets. The Medical Journal of Australia, 199(4), pp.S7-S10

Steen, S., Igelosa Nutrition Science AB, 2011. Nutritional supplement with specific amino acid profile. U.S. Patent Application 13/139,944.

Friedman, M., 1996. Nutritional value of proteins from different food sources. A review. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 44(1), pp.6-29.

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