Animal vs Plant Protein. Which One Is Better For Building Muscle?

Since animal protein is usually a staple for most bodybuilders and strength based athletes, does that make it better for building muscle?

Can the same be said about plant based protein?

Most people don’t associate vegans as being strong, although this isn’t necessarily the case.

Just take a look at our article on the Top Vegan Athletes. You’ll see a wide range of different athletes from different fields, who have elevated their game thanks to the vegan diet.

Today, more and more people are switching to veganism for ethical, environmental, and nutritional reasons.

Let’s take a look at how animal and proteins compare and find out…

Which is better at building muscle?


Popular Animal Proteins

A heavily meat based diet is very popular among Americans today.

Any restaurant you attend will almost always be filled with a menu full of meat based dishes.

Popular animal proteins include:

  • Chicken
  • Steak
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Fish and Shellfish

Not to mention a lot of meat protein is also complemented with dairy such as milk, cream, eggs, and cheese.

Dairy also makes a great base for baking.

It is also very easy to find animal protein wherever you shop. Nearly every single grocery store in the U.S. will have an entire section of frozen meat.


Popular Plant Based Proteins

A plant based diet is becoming ever more popular.

A plant based diet requires the need for nutrients just like any other diet.

Although many are misguided to believe that plants have no protein, I’m here to assure you that is simply not the case.

Here’s just a few of the plant based protein you can choose from.

  • Beans
  • Pasta
  • Soy – Tofu
  • Grains – Rice
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Lentils
  • Other Legumes
  • Vegetables – Spinach, Kale

There are a variety of plant based proteins that come straight from the earth. Many more than people are lead to believe.

These plant based proteins are super healthy and a great way to keep you full all day long.


Amino Acids

One of the biggest differences between animal and plant based proteins is the amino acid profiles.

Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of proteins. When you consume and digest protein, it’s the amino acids that are broken down from enzymes in your stomach, which are then turned into tissue.

Certain amino acids perform differently. Many build our bodily tissue, some of which are muscle.

Generally, the higher more diverse the amino acid profile, the better the protein.


Most Important Amino Acids For Muscle Building

The top 3 amino acids that are most important for muscle growth are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.

This is why you often see supplements promoting their high content of these 3 amino acids.

If you believe that you are not getting enough amino acids in your daily diet, I suggest you take a look at MusclePharm BCAA Essentials from Amazon.

Only $13, and provides all the amino acids you need.

And don’t worry, there’s no such thing as taking too much amino acid in a day. It can’t harm you.

Complete vs Incomplete Proteins

Now that we know that proteins are made of amino acids, let’s look at what proteins contain which.

A complete protein is one that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids.

An incomplete protein is one that lacks one or multiple of the 9 essential amino acids.

But does it really make that much of a difference? Or is this just a ploy to trick people into think that complete proteins are much better.

Most animal and meat based proteins are complete, containing all 9 of the essential amino acids.

This makes them great nutritional tools for building muscle, knowing you’re also getting enough calories, carbs, and proper training with your diet.

But let’s look at plants, which have been known to be incomplete proteins.

For this example, we’re going to take a look at the amino acid profile of 1 cup of black beans, a protein that is considered incomplete.



Black beans


Amino Acid


RDA for 70 kg person

1 cup

Tryptophan (mg)




Threonine (mg)




Isoleucine (mg)




Leucine (mg)




Lysine (mg)




Methionine (mg)




Phenylalanine (mg)




Valine (mg)




Histidine (mg)




It’s obvious that we can see that black beans contain every single of the 9 amino acids. It’s not that black beans and most other plant proteins are not complete, but rather lack a little more of one amino acid.

According to experts the sole amino acid that makes black beans ‘incomplete’ is methionine.

So how do you fix this?

By simply eating more of the protein… duh?

If you double the intake of black beans above, you double the intake of amino acids, and you will reach the recommended daily intake (RDI) needed.

And just by chance you still can’t get the correct amount of amino acids from beans, legumes, and grains, the other simple solution is to combine that protein with another more complete source.

As long as plant eaters get the correct amount of daily protein intake for their body, they will have no problem building muscle and reaching the correct level of amino acids.

No matter if a protein is complete or not, it still contributes to your body’s ability to build muscle.


Mix and Match

If you’re a vegan and have a hard time finding foods that complete each other, here is a great table I found courtesy of

Mixing beans and rice will give you a complete protein.

Whole grain bread and peanut butter is another.

Vegetables and pumpkin seeds are great as well.

The combinations are truly endless, so don’t be afraid to stack your plate up with a wide variety of foods.

It’s a lot of fun and will make your food taste a lot better too!


Limited Amino Acid




Grains, nuts, seeds


Lysine, threonine







Grains, nuts, seeds


Benefits of Plant Protein

Plant proteins are rich in nutrients and fiber, something that lacks greatly in the standard American diet.

A heavily plant based diet has been shown to lower blood pressure and put less stress on the cardiovascular system.

Just take a look at former heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson, who said that going vegan made him feel “less congested, got rid of my arthritis, and lowered my blood pressure.”

There’s also a reduced risk of heart disease and many forms of cancer.

Plants have been known to carry B-Vitamins like folate, which is known to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.


Benefits of Animal Protein

Although some people claim that meat is bad, there are benefits.

Studies show of people that consumed fish had a lower risk of heart disease than those who didn’t.

Other studies show that eating eggs can help lower your cholesterol.

Another is the abundance of Vitamin B12, which is found in found in meat and dairy products, something that some vegans may lack if they don’t complement it into their diet.



Although many people will argue which diet is better for building muscle, the reality is plant protein and animal protein can build muscle equally as well.

The quality of the diet is what matters the most.

If you eat meat, avoid processed and high sodium junk to prevent inhibiting your health.

And if you’re vegan, make sure to consume a wide variety of plant proteins to get all the amino acids.

Train hard and diet even harder and you will surely see the results follow. Happy lifting!