Plant-based food patterns to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and support muscle mass in humans: a narrative review

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 Jul 1;47(7):700-710. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2021-0806. Epub 2022 May 4.


The interest in a diet with a higher proportion of plant-based foods to animal-based foods is a global food pattern trend. However, there are concerns regarding adopting plants as the main dietary protein source to support muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle mass. These concerns are centered on three issues: lower protein bioavailability due to antinutritional compounds in plants, lower per-serve scores of protein at similar energy intake, and amino acid scores of plants being lower than optimal. We aimed here to synthesize and discuss evidence around plant protein in human nutrition focusing on the capacity of these proteins to stimulate MPS as a key part of gaining or maintaining muscle mass. In this review, we addressed the issues of plant protein quality and provided evidence for how plant proteins can be made more effective to stimulate MPS and support muscle mass in partial or total replacement of consumption of products of animal origin. Novelty: Plant proteins are known, in general, to have lower protein quality scores than animal proteins, and this may have important implications, especially for those aiming to increase their skeletal muscle mass through exercise. A plant-based diet has been postulated to have lower protein quality limiting MPS responses and potentially compromising exercise-induced gains in muscle mass. Current evidence shows that plant proteins can stimulate MPS, as can whole foods, especially when combining food groups, increasing portion sizes, and optimizing amino acid bioavailability through processing or common preparation methods.

Keywords: biodisponibilité des protéines; plant protein; protein bioavailability; protéines végétales; veganism; vegetarianism; véganisme; végétarisme.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Dietary Proteins* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Muscle Proteins* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Plant Proteins