Complete Proteins

Are all Protein’s created equal?


Protein. Just about every trainer will suggest you consume more of it but how do you know that the protein you consume is actually helping your body sufficiently recover from your workouts? And what if you’re vegan?

Western diets are loaded with animal proteins such a meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs and dairy. These sources are what are classed as “complete proteins” as they contain all 9 essential amino acids your cells cannot produce on their own but are essential for muscle growth. (They are called Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine). If you want to improve your workout recovery, you need to ensure you’re getting a complete set of these amino acids every time you consume protein in your diet. But what if you’re vegetarian, vegan or consume a less westernized diet?

Don’t worry, you’ve got options!

  1. You can add the missing amino acids into your existing (predominantly non-animal protein) diet with supplements (called BCAA’s and EAA’s)
  2. You can combine certain (non animal sourced) ingredients to get the full set of amino acids

Step 1 is popular among the bodybuilding community, for slowing the progress of ALS and also assisting treatment in certain forms of cancer. The two types of supplement differ in that BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) have only a selection of the 9 amino acids while EAA’s (essential amino acids) contain the full 9. Opinions and research vary slightly but the general consensus is that both these supplements will increase the rate of protein synthesis (converting the protein you eat into new muscle cells) and therefore give you more effective recovery and muscle building when taken in conjunction with all sources of protein.

Step 2 is a very common way for vegans to get complete proteins and also for those in poorer parts of the world where animal proteins are too expensive for daily consumption. You simply choose an ingredient on the left and combine it with one from the right and you create a source of protein with all 9 amino acids in sufficient quantities for protein synthesis!


So there you go, a quick guide to complete proteins and essential amino acids. If you’re looking for ways to implement these combinations into your own cooking, salads are an easy place to start or you can check out some great vegan recipe books. Have fun!