Are all Protein Sources Equal?

Recently, it seems the nutrition world is like a big battlefield. Advocates for different eating styles are strongly defending their methods. Whether you think carbs, breakfasts, or animal products are the enemy, no one seems to get along.

Plant-based eaters and people with more meat-heavy diets are two of the groups usually at war. One topic often debated is the effectiveness of protein sources in their diets. In this blog post, we’ll look at this clinical trial, comparing protein source’s effects on training adaptations.

Note: we’ll only be looking at the source’s effect on training, not other health-related subjects


The objective of Hevia-Larrain et al.’s research was to investigate how plant-based and mixed protein sources affect changes in muscle mass and strength.

38 men with an average age of around 26 years old took part in the clinical trial. Protein intake was adjusted to 1.6g per kg of body weight each day, with half of them habitual vegans, and the other half, omnivores. They participated in a 12-week training program.


Both groups showed increases in leg lean mass, as well as an increase of different cross-sectional areas of the leg, after the study. In essence, this means that they increased their leg muscle mass. Participants also increased their strength, tested using the leg press.

According to these results, “A high-protein, exclusively plant-based diet is not different than a protein-matched mixed diet in supporting muscle strength and mass accrual.” Therefore, protein source doesn’t affect adaptations to training in untrained young men.

What it Means

At a glance, the results of this study are promising for all eating styles. However, the small sample size consisting only of men means that we can’t jump to conclusions too quickly.

This definitely needs to be tested with bigger sample sizes and differences in age, sex, nationality and other characteristics.

Nevertheless, this study didn’t find differences between protein sources when it comes to building muscle. Protein source suggestions will only be accurate after more testing, where different results could be found.

Originally published at

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