Beef can stimulate muscle protein synthesis more effectively than plant-based proteins, says study

As our food system adapts to the demands imposed upon it by climate change, the amount of protein consumed from plant-based sources is likely to increase relative to those from animal-based ones.

While there are many benefits to be gained from plant-based proteins, there are also certain nutritional negatives. For example, plant-based whole foods usually, according to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition​, contain antinutritional factors that lower protein digestibility, such as dietary fibre, trypsin inhibitors, and phytates. Beef, on the other hand, shows ‘rapid and complete digestibility upon ingestion.’

One of the key differences between plant-based and animal-based proteins are their ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is essential to skeletal muscle health. The study aimed to assess what these differences are, and how consequential they might be.

It should be noted that the study is funded by meat industry consumer organisation The Beef Checkoff and meat producer Vion Food Group.

Amino acids and muscle protein synthesis

To know why a certain food stimulates or does not stimulate significant levels of muscle protein synthesis, we must first understand the link between this muscle protein synthesis and the amino acid content of a food.

“Our muscles are composed of proteins, and these are continuously being broken down (old/damaged/unnecessary proteins) and synthesized. Every two to three months the proteins in our muscles are being renewed. In order to maintain and build up muscle proteins, our body needs proteins from our diets. When we ingest proteins, the proteins are being broken down into their building blocks – amino acids,” Philippe Pinckaers, one of the authors of the study, told FoodNavigator.