Protein helps to repair and strengthen muscles, which is why you can recover from strenuous exercise with a smoothie, an energy bar, or a high-protein snack. But so far, researchers aren’t sure whether vegetable proteins can help your tired muscles. A new study published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is good news for both vegetarians and meat eaters: plant and animal proteins seem to be equally beneficial for muscle health.
The researchers looked at the health records of nearly 3,000 men and women aged 19 to 72, as well as food questionnaires filled out by participants. The researchers estimated participants’total protein intake and the percentage of protein they consumed from specific sources (such as fast food, whole or low-fat dairy products, red meat, fish, chicken and beans). They also studied participants’lean muscle mass, bone mineral density and quadriceps femoris strength, which are important for fitness, health and better functioning, especially as we age.
When the researchers compared these data, they found that people who consumed the least protein in general also measured the lowest muscle mass and strength. But the type of protein people eat doesn’t seem to matter: after researchers adjusted for other factors, they found that differences in protein sources had no effect on muscle and bone health, men or women.