Plant-based gains: Quorn’s mycoprotein builds muscle better than milk protein, study finds
Protein content, fiber and micro and macronutrients in mycoprotein may be key to building muscle
04 Jul 2019 --- Mycoprotein – the funghi-derived and protein-rich food source that is unique to Quorn products – stimulates post-exercise muscle building to a greater extent than milk protein. This is according to a study from the University of Exeter, that evaluated the digestion of protein which allows amino acids – protein’s building blocks – to increase in the bloodstream and then become available for muscle protein building. The study followed 20 healthy, fit young men at rest and after strenuous resistance exercise. The researchers note that further study is warranted to include other populations, as this one included only men. Moreover, the results may present a solution for muscle building for those who opt for plant-based diets.
“Mycoprotein being an anabolic source of dietary protein provides an option for athletes and exercisers wishing to stimulate muscle repair, growth and reconditioning when training, but who also do not want to consume animal-derived protein sources,” Dr. Benjamin Wall, Associate Professor of Nutritional Physiology, University of Exeter, tells NutritionInsight.
“Furthermore, it opens the conversation of animal versus plant-based protein sources, where typically it has been thought that animal is more anabolic. However, this is based on only a few comparisons, since soy and wheat are the only plant-based sources actually measured for their anabolic capacity. It is therefore important that this work extends to other non-animal derived sources of protein,” he adds.
Wall explains that there are advantages around the specific amino acid content of mycoprotein when compared to plant-based sources as it possesses a high essential amino acid content. He also notes that there is a possibility that there are other anabolic properties of mycoprotein beyond its protein content since it also contains fiber and other macro and micronutrients that would be unique to fungal-derived protein, but this requires further investigation.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the adverse health effects of meat consumption, therefore boosting the alternatives and hybrid meats space. Innova Market Insights reports that meat substitutes accounted for 14 percent of global meat launches in the first nine months of 2018, up from six percent in 2013.
Sports nutrition is another major industry trend that is heavily depended on animal-derived products. This space is increasingly looking at both animal-derived and plant-based proteins. Innova Market Insights reports strong growth in sports-related positionings within mainstream food and beverage NPD, with a 188 percent growth reported in new products with a high/source of protein positioning.
In the study, the young men performed an exercise and were then given either milk protein or mycoprotein. Their muscle building rates were then measured using stable isotopes labeled “tracers” in the hours following protein consumption. Animal proteins like milk are an excellent source for muscle growth, so they provide a useful comparison for testing other protein sources.
“This is a completely new source of protein for athletes to consider, with advantages not only for muscle tissue reconditioning and adaptation but also surrounding sustainability and lifestyle choices. This is of relevance since athletes typically increase their protein intake to support adaptations, and therefore need to consider where this increased protein provision should come from,” Walls notes.
The results showed that while those who ingested milk protein increased their muscle growth rates (MGR) by up to 60 percent, those who had mycoprotein increased their MGR by more than double. The findings show that mycoprotein, the main ingredient in all Quorn products, is a more effective source of protein to promote muscle growth.
“Our data show that mycoprotein can stimulate muscles to grow faster in the hours following exercise compared with a typical animal comparator protein (milk protein) – we look forward to seeing whether these mechanistic findings translate to longer-term training studies in various populations,” says Wall
“In a world where many people are trying to cut back on their meat consumption, either for environmental or health reasons, we are now able to offer an alternative protein that can provide both nutrition and muscle growth, all while being meat-free,” says Tim Finnigan, Chief Scientific Adviser for Quorn Foods.
Recent research has suggested that current recommendations for protein intake are too low. Some scientists have calculated that minimum protein requirements could have been underestimated by as much as 30-50 percent in some populations.
In addition, the British Nutrition Foundation already recommends mycoprotein as a good source of dietary protein, both for everyday life and for sport and exercise. However, in the UK, roughly a third of total protein consumption comes from meat products and increasing meat intake may have serious consequences for public health and for the environment.
“We are now investigating whether diets high and supplemented with mycoprotein can support long term adaptations during prolonged training (for example muscle growth and function,) and comparing it with animal protein-rich diets. These data will likely be available at the beginning of 2020,” Wall concludes.
Last year, however, a Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) report claimed that Quorn’s mycoprotein ingredient has been linked to severe allergic reactions and gastrointestinal symptoms.
By Kristiana Lalou
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