There has been an ongoing war of words about the necessity of protein in athletes’ diets. And a recent discovery from 2013 shines a different light on supplementation. Researchers from the US and Brazil have discovered that a regular supplementation of rice protein has the same positive effects on muscle growth (hypertrophy), maximal strength, and the regeneration rate as does classic whey protein.
The study went like this:
24 young and men in good shape were divided into two groups.
Group 1 supplemented with 48 g of rice protein on training days, group 2 took the same amount of protein in the form of whey protein. The proteins were taken immediately after the training. The surveyed training period lasted for 8 weeks and 3 days of the week were training days.
The researchers measured the length of the regeneration phase, the strength of the muscle soreness, and the length until the athletes were ready to train again before and after each training session.
Additionally, they examined the muscle strength with ultrasonic sound and a maximal strength test (bench press & leg press). A double x-ray photon absorptiometry delivered the necessary data concerning the body composition.
The researchers came to the conclusion that there were no significant differences between the two research groups.
Especially vegetarians and vegans should scream with exultation. Rice protein indeed has the complete amino acid profile and all the essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are all those amino acids that our body can’t produce by itself and has to ingest with the food. The individual amounts, however, differ more or less from the animal protein.
In the end though, rice protein can’t compete with the amount of protein of whey isolate or hydro isolate (85% or up to 90-100%). Additionally, it can only achieve the biological value of animal proteins in combination with other proteins. This, however, doesn’t seem to have any effects on the aforementioned benefits.
You can allegedly achieve similar effects with soy, pea, or hemp protein. These seem to be a good alternative for your strength training because they the same amount of branched chained amino acids (BCAAs, which are very important for muscle building) as does whey protein.
Out of all the vegetable alternatives hemp protein seems to be the highest grade. It contains only 30% of protein but in an optimal constellation and biological value. It also delivers the optimal fatty acid profile and a lot of fiber.
It still remains to be tested whether the different proteins have different effects on general health. Not only our muscles need protein. The immune system and every cell of the body depends on it. Whether the constellations in animal or vegetable protein are better suited still remains unclear. Tolerance and biological availability can, as mentioned before, differ greatly.
Conclusion: If you don’t have to use supplements a balanced diet with natural foods makes the most sense. If you eat a lot of vegetables (yes, even vegetables contain protein), fruit, eggs from free-range chicken (contain all amino acids), fresh meat, and fish you generally don’t have to worry about supplementation. Even vegetarians and vegans can ingest enough amino acids with a balanced diet. For everyone else, for which ever reason, supplementing with vegetable protein, especially hemp protein, seems to be a very good alternative.