Animal vs Plant Protein: just the facts

By Ricky Parcell

My mum always did her best with the information that was passed to her by her parents around diet.

When we did not have “proper food” around in the house growing up, there was always a few choices left….salad cream/jam sandwiches on white bread or maybe a bowl of cereal available. At school, lunch was usually two packets of crisps (or chips in USA) a can of coke and two bars of chocolate. Basically I had no idea about what my body needed – because I had no education on food when i was young. Things changed after I began working in the Navy and at her in Ibiza.

At Bodycamp I realised and have seen for myself over 600 guests in the past two years lose body fat, reduce blood pressure, come off medication and feel alive again after switching to an 80% plant-based diet for a week and sometimes longer. It’s clear that the human body (in many cases I believe, not all) works best consuming a variety of plants – this produces higher energy levels and by reducing meat intake, sugar, simple carbs and fish to more moderate levels, a healthier lifestyle can be created and mindset improved for future behaviors in daily life.


On myself: The results have been astounding after switching to a plant based diet – I lost 11klbs of fat and my energy levels have gone through the roof….but what if one of my meals doesn’t contain animal protein? How does one get protein?


In todays blog we will look at this in more detail.

  1. Is plant protein the same as animal protein? How does the body use protein?  Your body uses protein, which it breaks down into a more useable form called amino acids, for nearly every metabolic process in the body – especially after workouts for periods of rest.


  1. Do all proteins contain the same amino acids? The body uses 20 different amino acids, which are designated as either essential or non-essential proteins.


  1. What are the most important Amino acids? There are nine essential amino acids that you want to make sure you get from the food you eat. These essential amino acids are needed for the body to function at its best.

Animal proteins (chicken, fish, meat, dairy products, eggs and seafood) typically contain a good mix of the body’s essential amino acids, while plant proteins (e.g., pulses, nuts and seeds) are known as “incomplete protein” and tend to be low in some essential amino acids such as tryptophan, lycine, methionine and isoleucine.

   4: If plant proteins are low in some essential amino acids, how do people who eat a plant based diet get adequate protein to prevent muscle breakdown (and even to build it)? Simply by eating a wide variety of foods that contain plant protein throughout the day – this can  provide a range of the necessary essential amino acids required for the body.

For best results try to include foods daily from each of the following categories:

Pulses (beans and legumes), grains, nuts and seeds, bee pollen and various “super foods”.

  1. Are plant and animal proteins the same for your overall health? Animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids – however plant proteins seem to have an advantage when it comes to health benefits. Just as some plant proteins lack certain essential amino acids, some animal protein foods, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy foods (e.g. burgers/dairy milkshakes, chips or fries) are high in saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease when eaten in excess.
  2. So is a plant based diet plan better for health? By contrast, diets that are high in plant protein sources are associated with lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity. People who get most of their protein from plant-based sources are likely eating less cholesterol and artery-clogging saturated fat, while also being more likely to be living healthier lifestyles, both of which may attribute a good deal to the link with better health.

In addition to fiber, some of the winning nutrients in plant-based proteins are antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are not only critical in muscle recovery after a workout, they also protect cells from damage due to aging and help guard cells from disease. Animal proteins do not contain these added benefits.

  1. Is eating more animal protein the way ahead? Animal proteins do have some advantages, however, including vitamin B12, (which you can’t find in plants), heme iron (which is found mainly in meat and is much better absorbed than the non-heme iron found in plants) and often zinc and vitamin D (which are more difficult to get in plant protein foods). All of these nutrients are critical for optimal health.


The bottom line is simply this – because vegetarian diets are associated with added health benefits and a lower risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, most people could benefit by consuming a few more plant-based meals and cut back a little on animal protein when possible.


Rick Parcell

Strategic Intervention Health Coach