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What is the Best Protein?

Plant protein has been getting a great deal of attention lately, but which protein is the best for performance gains, and why?

Protein plays a major role in the repair process after exercise. The process that repairs damaged muscle proteins, muscle protein synthesis, is key to get the exercise-specific adaptations that we want to get with our training. The result for the athlete? Better adaptation and performance gains, all of which can be affected by the type of protein consumed.


What is the Best Protein Infographic


What makes a protein effective?

There are three critical factors that dictate the effectiveness of a protein:

  • Digestibility
  • Essential amino acid profile, and
  • The amount of protein provided

Digestibility is important because the protein contained in food needs to be absorbed into the bloodstream in order to be used by muscles. Protein composition is also extremely important: of the 20 amino acids needed to build muscle, only 11 can be made in the human body, while the other 9 must be ingested from food. Finally, the amount of protein consumed is also critical as it provides the optimal environment to repair and build new muscle proteins.


So, what about Leucine?

Leucine is an especially important amino acid and muscle cells can sense its presence. When leucine concentrations rise above a certain level, it communicates to the muscle to start creating new proteins. Some proteins like Neversecond's P30 Recovery Drink Mix have a relatively high concentration of leucine so it is easier to achieve the amount of 3 grams of leucine per meal which is thought to “trigger” protein synthesis.


Is animal or plant protein better for athletes?

Plant protein has been getting a great deal of attention lately as consumers pursue plant-based diets in greater numbers. But how does plant protein stack up when compared to animal (whey) protein?



Many studies show that plant-based proteins have a lower digestibility (45-80%) when compared with animal-based proteins (around 90%). The infographic below summarises different food sources and their digestibility.


Amino Acid Composition

Research also demonstrates that animal proteins have a higher essential amino acid content (45-50%) compared to plant-based sources (30-40%).


Leucine Content

Master regulator leucine is found in higher concentrations in animal sources (8-13%) when compared to plant sources (6-8%).



When considering digestibility, essential amino acid profile and leucine content, animal protein (specifically whey protein) such as Neversecond's P30 Recovery Drink Mix is most effective. Athletes consuming mixed diets should prioritise lean animal-based proteins, but also include plant-based protein sources as they contain other compounds such as antioxidants that may benefit recovery and overall health.


Related Articles

What is Protein?

How Much Protein do Athletes Need?



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