Protein makes up a large portion of your body, about 20%, most of this being in the form of muscle fibres. Each time you exercise or use your muscles in an exerting way, you are stressing or damaging these muscle fibres so that they need to be repaired or replaced.
In order for your body to repair your muscle fibers to be stronger and more resilient than before, you need to ensure that you have adequate materials for building. This means getting enough protein in your diet, with all 9 of the essential amino acids needed. Your body cannot store protein, which makes it important that you get your balanced 9 essential amino acids on a daily basis.
Yet not all protein sources are the same. What sets them apart is their amino acid profiles. The human body requires 20 different amino acids, 11 of which it can synthesise itself, and 9 of which we need to gain from our diet. This is why they are called the 9 essential amino acids.
Some protein sources contain all 9 essential amino acids and are referred to as ‘complete protein sources’, whilst others only contain some, and are referred to as ‘incomplete protein sources’.
Many people believe that the only complete sources of protein available are those that come from animals, however, this is simply not true. Even though meats and most animal products are complete protein sources, there are also numerous plant based complete protein sources to choose from.
Examples of complete protein sources, available for vegetarians and vegans include:
- Hemp seeds
- Soy beans
Others include processed meat replacement foods such as Ezekiel bread, seitan and mycoprotein (also know as Quorn).
It is important to note, however, that just because a protein source isn’t complete, that doesn’t mean it is not beneficial. In fact, by mixing different incomplete protein sources together you can ensure you are getting all the 9 essential amino acids you need. You don’t even have to eat them together in the same meal, just as long as you eat them in the same day!
The basic rule is to combine grains with legumes, or seeds with legumes, or grains with dairy products. This is really handy because it means that many great food combos come together to provide you with all 9 essential amino acids needed.
So it doesn't matter if you are a meat eater or a vegan, as long as you make sure you are getting all the 9 essential amino acids you need each day, your body will have all the materials needed to keep you fit, strong and healthy!