Bodybuilding is a sport where the goal is to increase muscle mass. For purely cosmetic purposes as is the case in bodybuilding, or to improve a physical capacity such as strength or endurance. The role of diet is decisive when trying to increase muscle mass and stimulate hypertrophy, with protein being the center of attention. It is available in various forms, from meat to eggs, from fish to powdered food supplements, of animal or vegetable origin. Lesser known in the world of fitness and bodybuilding, vegetable protein has many advantages and would seem to be a form of supplementation as effective as protein of animal and dairy origin. Vegetable protein and bodybuilding: how effective is it?
How do muscles grow?
training and recovery
To trigger muscle hypertrophy, the tissue must be stressed. In bodybuilding, where the goal is to make the muscles grow, the training is intended to mistreat these fibers, to damage them, in order to cause an overcompensation phenomenon :
Training damages and destroys muscle fibers
The body makes every effort to repair them
It uses proteins to replace those that have been degraded
In response, the muscle recomposes itself according to the constraints it has undergone: it produces more fibers and stores more substrates to make them stronger and more resistant. They thus become more voluminous.
food for bodybuilding
The role of food for muscle repair is decisive. Indeed, the body uses proteins to build muscle tissue, as well as carbohydrates and lipids to find energy. Without a high protein diet and correctly dosed in carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, hypertrophy becomes impossible, since the body then uses its own reserves to supply itself with energy and amino acids. A person who does weight training and does not eat properly can at most let off steam in training and get injured, but will not be able to gain volume.
The role of protein in muscle mass
Proteins make up our muscles and are a priority in the diet for bodybuilding. How do they promote muscle development?
Increase in protein synthesis
Leucine, the priority amino acid
Leucine is an essential amino acid that the body cannot synthesize on its own. Its presence in the aminogram of a protein is essential, because it is leucine that triggers protein synthesis, which protects the fibers and thus allows the muscles to be able to strengthen themselves. But that’s not all. Leucine creates a favorable hormonal environment for muscle development, in addition to promoting fat burning (to provide more energy to the body). This amino acid is found in all animal proteins, like isoleucine and valine, the famous BCAAs. But, what we have ignored for decades is that some vegetable protein sources also contain large amounts!
Animal or vegetable proteins?
What the scientific research says
So, what about vegetable proteins?
A study published in February 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and carried out on 3000 volunteers aged 19 to 72 revealed that all people who had increased their protein intake beyond the usual recommendations had gained muscle mass, whether the proteins were of animal or vegetable origin. It’s a big deal for all the detractors of the vegan trend, who insist that you can’t build muscle without animal protein. That said, consuming only vegetable proteins is a way of eating that should remain reserved for vegetarians, for several reasons.
Vegetable protein and bodybuilding
It is quite possible to build a nice muscle mass by consuming only vegetable proteins, especially if you consume additional protein powder containing various sources such as peas or rice. Both of these foods are rich in essential amino acids and enjoy high digestibility, largely because they don’t contain lactose or gluten. Supplementary intakes of BCAAs and EAAs are however recommended to optimize protein synthesis and recovery.
In contrast, it is more difficult to embark on a cutting phase by consuming only vegetable foods. The intakes must indeed be higher than their animal equivalents, which implies an overconsumption of calories which can prevent good muscle definition from being achieved. It is enough to inquire about the few vegan bodybuilders to make the observation: they are less dry and their muscles, although very dense, are not as visible as an athlete who consumes animal proteins. This is due to the amount of calories consumed in order to reach one’s daily protein quota.far too high to hope to burn enough fat.
If you are neither vegetarian nor vegan but want to vary your protein sources, feel free to eat more plant foods. They are rich in fiber, micronutrients and are an undeniable health and longevity asset. However, it will be difficult for you to rely only on vegetable proteins to reach a good level, even more so if you are looking to build yourself a defined physique with a nice detached muscle.
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