I've heard that vegetable proteins are not as good for bodybuilders as meat proteins. Is this true, and should I reduce vegetable proteins in my
diet and up the meat?
First things first. The most crucial aspect of protein consumption is that you get enough of it, regardless of the source. As long as you ingest one gram per pound of your bodyweight every day, then you've taken care of your protein needs. Meats are generally more protein- dense than vegetables, but vegetables provide nutrients and phytochemicals that meats do not. The ideal bodybuilding diet is rich in both meats and vegetables - in other words, there's more to bodybuilding nutrition than adequate protein consumption.
Bodybuilders often choose animal protein sources (meat, milk and eggs) over plant sources (vegetables, nuts and seeds) because they are considered to be more "complete." Proteins are composed of numerous amino acids; some must be supplied through diet (essential amino acids), and others are manufactured by the body (nonessential amino acids).
Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. Amino acids that are "nonessential" but necessary for metabolic processes can be generated from other amino acids found in animal proteins. Since animal sources contain complete amino acid profile, bodybuilders typically choose them as the cornerstone of their diets.
In that respect, vegetables may not be the optimal protein source, but you should not reduce the amount of them in your diet. If anything, bodybuilders consume too few vegetables because they stay so focused on protein consumption. In addition to providing valuable micronutrients, vegetables are also primary source of dietary fiber - something else that bodybuilders give short shrift to - and dietary fiber is a crucial component in helping the body process all the protein and other nutrients that come with a bodybuilding diet.
Many types of plants (and foods derived from plants) can provide tasty effective protein alternatives. In addition to animal proteins, such as eggs, chicken breast, skim milk and fish, there are abundant choices from the plant kingdom. Roasted unsalted almonds, peanuts and cashews are tasty, easy to pack around and full of protein. Many companies are now using soy and other vegetables to make meat substitutes that are low in fat but not in taste. There are vegetarian deli slices, Canadian bacon, burgers, hot dogs and corn dogs that look and taste like the real thing (but be sure to read the labels - some of these products are high in salt or other additives). Also, don't forget that amino acids can be found in fruits such as pears, peaches, pineapples and oranges.
So mix it up. Make sure your diet includes a variety of foods, then rest assured you will not lack either for taste or the building blocks for muscular gains.