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Muscle building: animal or vegetable protein?

Everyone knows that you need protein to build muscle! But one question comes up again and again: Which protein is better? Animal or plant-based? Whey or soy? You can find the answer in today's blog post 

Protein: Whey vs. soy 

A recent study investigated the effect of soy protein and animal protein (including whey) on training strength and muscle mass. The researchers compared data from a total of 266 test subjects from nine different studies. The result: supplementation with soy or whey protein showed faster and increased muscle growth as well as more strength during training. However, no difference was found between the two protein sources: Both had an equal effect on muscle growth and training strength. In 2017, a study also came to the conclusion that the protein source does not play a significant role in the effect of protein on muscle growth. But this is actually nothing new: a study by Kalman et al. showed similar results back in 2007.
Despite clear study findings, the misconception that animal proteins lead to more muscle mass persists. This is probably partly due to cultural and social gender stereotypes. After all, eating meat is considered masculine and stands for both strength and vitality. Even young boys learn that meat and milk "make you big and strong". On the other hand, the high biological value of whey protein is often equated with high muscle growth. What is often forgotten is that the combination of different protein sources increases the biological value, as the amino acid patterns complement each other. Therefore, two different protein sources, which alone have a lower biological value than whey protein (e.g. soy and rice), can even achieve a higher biological value together 

The future eats plant-based 

 Even if no differences can be found between animal and plant-based protein in terms of muscle growth, plant-based protein is the better choice. It benefits animals, the environment and your health.

Animal protein promotes the development of cancer 

More and more studies are now pointing to the dangers of high consumption of animal proteins. One large study showed that the consumption of animal proteins increases the risk of dying prematurely. The scientists made the following observation: if the consumption of animal proteins increased, the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases or cancer also increased. The opposite was true for the plant-based alternative: if the proportion of plant-based proteins in the diet increased, the risk of illness and therefore death decreased. In addition, another study suggests that high consumption of animal proteins in middle age in particular is associated with a higher risk of death 

Animal protein pollutes the environment 

Climate change, species extinction and the waste of valuable resources: the effects of high meat consumption are devastating. Only around 37% of our protein comes from animal products. However, 83% of agricultural land is used for their production. Therefore, for the sake of our environment, we should prefer plant-based proteins instead of converting them into animal protein, which requires enormous amounts of water and energy. 
  • M. Messina et al. No Difference Between the Effects of Supplementing With Soy Protein Versus Animal Protein on Gains in Muscle Mass and Strength in Response to Resistance Exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2018; 3:1-36. 
  • E. Levine et al. Low Protein intake is associated with a major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older Population. Cell Metab 2014; 19(3):407-17. 
  • M. Song et al. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med 2016; 176(10):1453-63. 
  • M. Pasiakos et al. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. 
  • J. Poore, T. Nemecek. Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science 2018; 360(6392):987-92 
  • M. Mangano K.M. Dietary protein is associated with musculoskeletal health independently of dietary pattern: the Framingham Third Generation Study. Am J Clin Nutr.2017;105(3):714-22. 
  • D. Kalmann et al. Effect of protein source and resistance training on body composition and sex hormones. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2007; 4:4.