Even though top-notch athletes are evidence that plant-based diets are sufficient for building insanely strong bodies, the sports nutrition community has long held whey protein as the highest standard for producing muscle #gainz. But here’s some food for thought: Brown rice protein may be just as efficient as animal-based whey protein for building and maintaining muscle, according to a new study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
The researchers—dietitian Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., and dietitian and sports nutritionist Alison Escalante from Florida International University—assigned 11 healthy MMA athletes to supplement with three scoops per day of either Growing Naturals’ Rice Protein or NutraBio’s Whey Protein, with at least one scoop being ingested after the first training session of the day for a total of six weeks. The athletes continued to train (intensely) under the supervision of their coaches: two MMA sessions per day for five days a week and one session per weekend, plus two strength and conditioning sessions per week. They were asked to maintain their typical diet outside of the added protein supplementation. Read: 5 EASILY AVAILABLE PROTEIN JACKPOTS
The researchers measured the athletes’ body composition (lean vs. fat mass) before and after the test. They found that both the whey and rice protein resulted in statistically similar changes—meaning, the rice protein did just as good a job at maintaining and building muscle mass as the whey protein.One of the reasons vegan or plant-based protein sources have been deemed inferior is because not all plant-based sources contain all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein that you need to get from food). Read: PLANT-BASED PROTEINS THAT WORK WONDERS
“In the fitness world, there has been a misconception that you can’t build muscle with plant protein because plant proteins are typically incomplete proteins (low in one or more essential amino acid),” says Scarlett Full, R.D.N., in a release. But, she continues, you can combine protein sources within a 24-hour period to “complete each other.” For example: When you eat two incomplete proteins with complementary amino acids (like rice and beans), they combine to create a complete protein.