Vegan protein helps develop muscle just as well as animal protein

According to recent research from the University of Exeter, fungi-derived mycoprotein is just as efficient as animal protein in promoting muscle growth during resistance training.

This is the first study, which was published in Journal of Nutrition, to examine whether a vegan diet high in mycoprotein, naturally high-fiber fungi best known as Quorn, could promote muscle building during resistance training to the same extent as an omnivorous diet.

It occurs at a time when an increasing proportion of people are consuming less meat, with the most recent statistics indicating that about 7.2 million individuals currently consume no meat.

The randomized study was divided into two phases: in the first phase, 16 healthy young people had a three-day diet in which their protein came from either omnivorous or solely vegan sources (mostly Quorn’s mycoprotein), while precise measurements of metabolism were recorded.

In the second phase, 22 healthy young people underwent a 10-week high-volume progressive resistance training program while adhering to either a mycoprotein-rich vegan diet or a high-protein omnivorous diet.

In response to both diets, the results showed equivalent gains in muscle mass and strength, with no appreciable variations between the two. Whole-body lean mass increased by 2.6 kg for the high-protein omnivorous diet group and 3.1 kg for the vegan diet group. Throughout the experiment, both groups also had a similar 8.3% growth in thigh muscle size.

Based on these findings, the study team hypothesized that a high-mycoprotein vegan diet could be just as good in promoting muscle growth during resistance training as an omnivorous diet high in protein.

This is the most recent study to show the potency of mycoprotein in muscle building, with research published by the University of Exeter in 2023 finding that mycoprotein builds muscle more effectively than milk protein, and a 2021 study finalizing that a mycoprotein-rich vegan diet supports muscle tissue maintenance in older adults.

The latest study, however, is the first to compare mycoprotein directly to an omnivorous diet, which includes meat, and to do so over a lengthy “free living” period of 10 weeks of the participant’s everyday lives.

It is well established that muscle building can be augmented by adhering to a high protein diet. However, it was previously unclear as to whether non-animal derived diets and non-animal derived protein sources, such as Quorn’s mycoprotein, could support muscle building during resistance training to the same extent as omnivorous diets and animal-derived protein sources.

Dr Alistair Monteyne, Researcher, University of Exeter

Dr Monteyne added, “We now have a strong body of evidence, perhaps more than is available for any other alternative protein source, to show that mycoprotein is an effective protein food to support muscle maintenance and growth.

The study comes in the wake of a study by researchers at the University of Exeter that suggested that regular mass intake of plant-based proteins would be one of three “super leverage points” that could provide hope for a breakthrough in climate change by lowering emissions from livestock farming.

At a time when a growing number of people are following official dietary advice to consume less meat for the sake of their health and the planet, it is positive that a high-quality meat-free protein that is scientifically proven to build muscle mass at a rate comparable to any animal-derived protein is available.

Tim Finnigan, Scientific Advisor, Quorn Foods

Finnigan further stated, “This study builds on a growing body of independently conducted research, thought to be the largest to exist for any alternative protein, that clearly demonstrates mycoprotein’s nutritional excellence as a complete protein with a proven ability to protect against a range of diseases and health conditions.

Journal references:
  1. Monteyne, A. J., et al. (2023). Vegan and Omnivorous High Protein Diets Support Comparable Daily Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Rates and Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy in Young Adults. Journal of Nutrition.
  2. Stewart, C., et al. (2021). Trends in UK meat consumption: analysis of data from years 1–11 (2008–09 to 2018–19) of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme. The Lancet Planetary Health.
  3. Monteyne, A. J., et al. (2020). Mycoprotein ingestion stimulates protein synthesis rates to a greater extent than milk protein in rested and exercised skeletal muscle of healthy young men: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  4. Monteyne, A. J., et al. (2021). A mycoprotein based high-protein vegan diet supports equivalent daily myofibrillar protein synthesis rates compared with an isonitrogenous omnivorous diet in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition.


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