Getting a sufficient amount of protein is necessary for optimal metabolic, tissue, and muscle health. Learn what separates one protein from another, and how you go about incorporating them into your diet.

The biggest thing separating incomplete proteins from complete ones is the essential amino acid quantity they contain.

To determine the distinction between the two types of proteins, you must understand how an amino acid works.

Amino acids are building blocks of a molecular nature that come together in the form of a protein gram, which is consumed by you. Whenever you consume foods rich in protein, your body will break those proteins down into various amino acids once again.

These amino acids are then used by your body to repair tissues, build muscle, support your metabolism, and facilitate other processes inside your body.

There are approximately twenty different amino acids, nine of which are essential. That means your body does not have the ability to make them.

These amino acids include threonine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, lysine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, and histidine. The sole way of getting essential amino acids will be by way of food.

Complete proteins can be described as food that contains all of these amino acids. The amounts that they contain are the specific quantity needed by your body.

Protein Foods

All foods that are animal-based, including eggs, meat, and dairy, are complete protein sources. Most protein sources that are plant-based (like mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains) are incomplete.

With that said, several foods that are plant-based, including algae, buckwheat, quinoa, and soy, are complete. Many incomplete sources of protein have a little bit of each essential amino acid, but not in quantities that are sufficient for protein to do the things it needs to do.

Leucine, a main muscle building driver, has a fairly low amount in comparison to a majority of incomplete protein sources.

Getting Amino Acids That You Require

If you are a regular consumer of meat, then you’re already getting the essential amino acids that you need. In fact, a recent Harvard University study revealed that most American carnivores do not have to worry about insufficient amino acid quantities.

The current daily protein allowance recommended is 0.8 g per kg of an individual’s body mass. Another study suggested that as much as twice that amount will be required to optimize muscle health, particularly for older adults, as well as others who are trying to build muscle or lose weight.

What if animal products are something you don’t consume, though? What if you are attempting to cut back on the amount of meat? What if you are transitioning over to a diet that is plant-based? Consuming sources of plant protein has proven to be beneficial for longevity and health. Plants high in protein also contain antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

Fortunately, by consuming a vast array of different protein sources that are plant-based, you’ll be able to get each amino acid that you need, even if you are a vegan or vegetarian. The complexity involved with doing so is debatable, though.

For instance, a study that was conducted in early 2017 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that no differences were found in strength or muscle mass for the overall general population as per the types of food people consumed as protein sources.

However, other studies suggest that vegans and vegetarians – particularly older ones – might need higher levels of protein each day in comparison to meat eaters getting the same benefits. This could be attributed to the human body being better able to absorb, digest, and utilize incomplete proteins.

Other experts believe that – to transition an incomplete protein to a complete one – you will need to eat several side proteins with your meal.

Figuring out which foods that are plant-based to eat – and the specific quantities to consume – might be a challenge. How much of a difference can this make? The answer is contingent on a number of different factors.

For those on a diet that is plant-based, retrieving protein from several sources each day will be enough, but perhaps not ideal.

Thankfully, if you want to pair up protein during your meals, memorizing the amount of the amino acids to take it is not something you’ll need to concern yourself with.

Just concentrate on variety. Make sure you’re getting plenty of vegetables, legumes, or whole grains rich in protein. Add-in some nuts or seeds, and you should get sufficient quantities each day.