Myth #3: Only Protein From Animals Is Complete
The protein that is found in a hunk of steak is made up of a chain of amino acids, 12 of which can be manufactured by the human body. Another nine, called “essential amino acids,” must be obtained from food because the body is unable to make them from other substances. A complete protein is a protein source that contains all of the essential amino acids and does a better job at repairing and building muscle cells damaged through exercise than an incomplete protein source, which lacks one or more of the key amino acids.
Steak lovers like to trumpet protein from animal sources such as beef, chicken, eggs and milk as the only real way to get enough complete protein to meet muscular needs. But on top of providing serious nutritional firepower, the plant foods soy, quinoa, hemp, spirulina, chia, and amaranth do contain a full complement of amino acids, making them a worthy addition to any post-run repast.
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Plant foods that are incomplete and need a little help, such as brown rice, beans, nuts, and lentils, can be paired together at a meal to form complete proteins. Examples are beans and rice, lentils and corn, and nut butter on whole-grain bread. Whether you are a vegan or meatarian, as long as you consume a varied diet you should have no problem consuming enough high-quality protein to meet your training needs.