Strategies to Augment the Anabolic Properties of Plant-Based Proteins

Strategies to Augment the Anabolic Properties of Plant-Based Proteins

Plant Protein has a different effect on muscle protein synthesis (repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise) than for example animal-based protein. This has to do with among other:
- Digestion and absorption of the protein (for example due to its fiber content);
- Composition of the essential amino acids (especially leucine);
- How much and how quickly it becomes available in the body.

If it's your goal to find the most efficient ways to build muscle or if you're looking for ways to improve recovery, it's important to know smart strategies to Augment the Anabolic Properties of Plant-Based Proteins. So, what to do?

Strategies to Augment the Anabolic Properties of Plant-Based Proteins (1)

1. Increase your daily total protein intake

If you overall eat more protein per meal, you’ll probably achieve higher amounts of EAA’s per meal.
So, prioritizing your protein intake and eating enough throughout your day might do the trick. Theoretically we are looking are at meals of 30-50g protein with about 3g of leucine. We would recommend a total protein intake of about 2.0-2,2g protein per kg body weight to be a good guideline. However, if you are in a caloric restriction it might be more difficult to get to those amounts without significantly increasing your calories. A high-quality plant-based protein blend could be a smart strategy to use to increase your total protein + essential amino acid intake without increasing too much in calories.

Did you know?

Protein Isolates (protein powder) have a better digestibility and absorption. This is why using a high-quality protein powder can be very valuable to athletes. 


2. Use protein blends

Blending various plant protein sources creates a more complete and optimal AA profile. The consumption of a well-balanced combination of multiple plant-based protein sources, allows a more ‘‘complete’’ EAA profile. Combining plant proteins, for example wheat, rice, hemp or corn with black beans, oats, soy, lentil, potato or peas, may augment the anabolic properties of plant-based protein intake.

Did you know?

Leucine content in corn  is high! Higher than a lot of animal-based protein sources like milk, beef, casein, beef, egg and fish! Adding corn will boost your meals with some extra leucine! 


3.Add limiting essential amino acids

As mentioned, plant-based proteins typically contain lower doses of essential amino acids. The leucine content of a meal appears to be of fundamental importance to stimulate Muscle protein synthesis. In the case of lower dietary protein intake (for example due to practical difficulties or a caloric restriction) adding an essential amino acid blend (supplement) high in leucine like BCAAs, EAAs or free leucine to plant-based protein formulas/meals could be a smart and easy strategy to enhance the anabolic properties of plant-based protein sources. Next to leucine, research also show that amino acids lysine and methionine are typically lower in plant-based protein sources. Thus, similar to leucine fortification, it may be hypothesized that adding lysine and/or methionine to plant-based proteins is a useful strategy to improve their anabolic properties. However, studies that show us this possible theory are unavailable at the moment, but it could be a strategy to try out.


Did you know?

Our BCAA PLUS will give you 4g leucine, 2g isoleucine and 2g valine. Next to that it will give you your daily recommended intake of vegan omega 3, vegan D3 and vegan vitamin B12. All in one scoop.


Main Take-aways

Only a few studies have compared the muscle protein synthesis respons of plant-protein vs. Animal-protein. Overall, we need more research to tell us more about the anabolic proterties of specific plant-based protein sources. However, is seems that for now: increasing overall protein, blending plant-protein sources and supplementing with essential amino acids might improve the anabolic properties of plant-protein.


  1. van Vliet, Stephan & Burd, Nicholas & Loon, Luc. (2015). The Skeletal Muscle Anabolic Response to Plant- versus Animal-Based Protein Consumption. The Journal of nutrition. 145. 10.3945/jn.114.204305.
Sports Dietitian Angela Oosterling