Good and Bad Proteins: Do they Exist?
“Is there such a thing as good and bad protein, or does it not matter where you get it from, as long as you hit your goal?”
In short, yes there is. But what determines which are the best sources of protein?
Certain proteins are higher quality because they are more bio-available. Bioavailability (biological availability) is the proportion of a nutrient in food that is utilised for normal body functions (Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition, 2003).
For example, egg whites and dairy are classed as more bioavailable because they have a big amino acid profile, and are therefore higher quality proteins.
But really, the main thing you need to consider is the total number of protein you consume by the end of the day, and whether you’re eating over 1 gram of protein per lbs of body fat. If you’re eating this much protein, then all your bases really are covered, because you’re kind of eating more than you need.
Saying this, studies have shown that animal sources of protein are generally considered a superior source when compared to plant proteins. But if you are on a plant based diet, you will be more than fine by hitting your target intake, as well as getting your proteins from a wide variety of sources.
In general, animal-based foods are recognised as a superior source of protein because they have a complete composition of essential amino acids, with high digestibility (>90%) and bioavailability. Animal proteins have higher PDCAA scores than plants, suggesting greater efficiency in muscle anabolic processes. For example, proteins found in milk, whey, egg, casein and beef have the highest score (1.0), while scores for plant-based proteins are as follows: soy (0.91), pea (0.67), oat (0.57) and whole wheat (0.45).
‘Protein – Which is Best?’, Hoffman et al. 2004
A widespread intake of protein will ensure you consume all the amino acids you need to.
Eating legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and other plant-based sources of protein is a win for your health and the health of the planet. If most of your protein comes from plants, make sure that you mix up your sources so no “essential” components of protein are missing.
The Nutrition Source, 2019
Rice Protein Isolate (RPI) has got to be one the best vegan protein sources. This study showed that RPI has similar benefits Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) when it comes to protein synthesis, where ‘on an individual amino acid basis, WPI and RPI showed bioequivalency’.
So again protein quality is, of course, a real thing. However, if you’re eating enough protein overall, that’s what’s really gonna matter.
So again, vegans.. go easy on me. I’m with you guys! As long as you’re hitting your macros, it’s all good.
Caballero, B., Trugo, L. and Finglas, P. (2003). Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Academic Press.
Jay R. Hoffman, M. (2004). Protein – Which is Best?. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2020].
Sciencedirect.com. (2019). Bioavailability – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/bioavailability [Accessed 31 Jan. 2020].
The Nutrition Source. (2019). Protein. [online] Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2020].