Adequate dietary protein is important for many aspects of health with current evidence suggesting that exercising individuals need greater amounts of protein. When assessing protein quality, animal sources of protein routinely rank amongst the highest in quality, largely due to the higher levels of essential amino acids they possess in addition to exhibiting more favorable levels of digestibility and absorption patterns of the amino acids. In recent years, the inclusion of plant protein sources in the diet has grown and evidence continues to accumulate on the comparison of various plant protein sources and animal protein sources in their ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), heighten exercise training adaptations, and facilitate recovery from exercise. Without question, the most robust changes in MPS come from efficacious doses of a whey protein isolate, but several studies have highlighted the successful ability of different plant sources to significantly elevate resting rates of MPS. In terms of facilitating prolonged adaptations to exercise training, multiple studies have indicated that a dose of plant protein that offers enough essential amino acids, especially leucine, consumed over 8-12 weeks can stimulate similar adaptations as seen with animal protein sources. More research is needed to see if longer supplementation periods maintain equivalence between the protein sources. Several practices exist whereby the anabolic potential of a plant protein source can be improved and generally, more research is needed to best understand which practice (if any) offers notable advantages. In conclusion, as one considers the favorable health implications of increasing plant intake as well as environmental sustainability, the interest in consuming more plant proteins will continue to be present. The evidence base for plant proteins in exercising individuals has seen impressive growth with many of these findings now indicating that consumption of a plant protein source in an efficacious dose (typically larger than an animal protein) can instigate similar and favorable changes in amino acid update, MPS rates, and exercise training adaptations such as strength and body composition as well as recovery.
Keywords: complete; exercise; fat-free mass; incomplete; performance; plants; protein; recovery; training adaptations.