If you’re searching for the best ways to build muscle, you’ve probably come across comments made on complete and incomplete proteins. So whats the deal with complete and incomplete proteins?
Basically, proteins are made up of amino acids. Some of the amino acids can be produced in our bodies but 8 of them cannot. That means that we need to obtain 8 of these essential amino acids from our diet. Most animal foods such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy and complete proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids in their correct quantities. There are some plant based foods that also are considered complete proteins such as soy, hemp and quinoa.
What about foods such as beans, nuts, and whole grains. These also can contain decent amounts of proteins but in themselves are considered incomplete proteins because they lack adequate quantities of at least one or more of the essential amino acids.
Why Does This Concern You?
At first you might think that you shouldn’t waste your time eating beans, nuts, etc. because you can’t use their protein to build muscle. That is all wrong. Not all plant based foods lack the same essential amino acids. That means that when you combine them in a meal or throughout the course of a day, what one lacks, the other makes up for and vice versa.
Plant based foods are generally divided into three groups; grains, legumes and nuts/seeds. Combine your proteins from any 2 of these 3 groups and you will have made a complete protein. Almost instinctively some countries and cultures have common food combinations that do just that. For example many Latin cultures eat rice and beans. There you are combining a whole grain with a legume. Two cups of cooked rice with one cup of cooked beans has approximately 660 calories and 24 grams of protein. Because you combined those two foods that complement each other, those 24g of protein have all the essential amino acids. Another classic combination is beans and tortillas. One cup of cooked beans and two whole wheat flour tortillas contains 470 calories and 23g of protein. You could also try no meat chili with corn bread. Two servings of vegetarian chili with beans and two pieces of cornbread have 780 calories and 33g of protein.
Here are some other food combinations you might try.
Rice with bean curry
Hummus on whole wheat bread (or tortilla/ pita)
Peanut butter on whole wheat bread
Bean soup and a roll
Vegetarian Chili with bread
Rice cakes with peanut butter
Corn tortillas with refried beans and rice
You can also try adding a small amount of animal protein to any of the legumes, grains or nuts/seeds groups. Doing this will also compensate for their lack of some of the essential amino acids and create complete proteins.
For example: Oatmeal with milk. 1cup instant oats contains 13g protein. Add milk and it’s complete. Pasta with cheese. 6oz. of dry pasta when cooked has 22g of protein and by adding some cheese or even a milk based sauce you can make it a complete protein.
Try combining you food in these ways and it will be easier for you to meet your daily protein requirements without breaking the bank on expensive powders and supplements.
Check out other great muscle building and nutrition tips right here.