Here's the Truth About Complete Protein

Something awesome is happening. It’s in the world of macronutrients, but still.

Let’s back up a second: In the 1980s and ’90s, nutrition researchers labeled anything that didn’t once have hooves, feet, or fins as an “incomplete” protein that didn’t have high levels of the essential amino acids you’d find in the so-called “complete” protein from meat and fish sources.

These were your beans and your grains and—brace yourself, fellas—your favorite legumes, and dietitians were all but certain they didn’t do much in the way of muscle building or maintenance.

But now, much like the thinking on eggs, coffee, and George Clooney as a good Batman, that thinking has been thoroughly debunked.

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The latest dietary science shows that these incomplete proteins actually do a pretty good job of helping you build and maintain muscle.

Researchers now understand that your body can pull amino acids from its reserves to make incomplete protein complete. It’s the total amount of protein you eat over a day, not the specific type of protein you eat, that matters.

Research has repeatedly shown that consuming about 30 grams of protein at mealtime can induce both satisfaction and satiety. (Bonus: the same amount is beneficial for muscle growth and maintenance.)

New science says plant proteins can not only fuel your gym gains but also drop your blood pressure and reduce your disease risk. Just look at superhuman vegetarians like Nate Diaz, Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler, C. C. Sabathia, Aaron Rodgers, and both Williams sisters.

And stars are just like us. About 52 percent of Americans have made changes to their diet within the past three years to include more plant-based foods and beverages, according to a study late last year by the research firm Innova Market Insights.

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No, a vegan uprising has not taken control. (And let’s be honest here—“plant-based” is just a fancy new marketing term for vegetables, fruits, legumes, and anything else that might sprout in a field.) It’s just that more people are realizing the mighty powers of produce—powers that go beyond the health benefits and extend to worlds of new and exciting flavors.

Do your diet a favor: Start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your every meal. Then, after a month, assess how you feel. Have more energy? Weigh less? Putting on some muscle?

If so, then maybe, just maybe, you’re becoming more complete, too.

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