5 Muscle Nutrients Found Only in Animal Foods
Muscles are important. The more you have, the greater your quality of life. Muscles carry out many vital functions, such as breathing, walking, talking and lifting boxes. They burn calories, allowing you to eat a little bit more without getting fat.
Plus… having a respectable amount of muscle mass can help you look great naked. If you want to build and maintain muscle, you somehow need to ingest the building blocks that they are made of. Makes sense, right? Well… the best way to ingest the building blocks of muscle is to eat muscle. In other words, eat meat.
Here are 5 nutrients in animal foods that are important for muscle mass, that can’t be obtained from plants.
Creatine is the most popular muscle building supplement in the world. A plethora of scientific studies show that it can improve strength and increase muscle mass. The way creatine works, is that it forms an energy reserve in the muscles.
The energy currency of every cell on the planet is called ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate. I don’t want to get into the complex biochemistry, but ATP produces energy by donating a phosphate molecule. When it does that, energy is released. The problem is that cells only have a finite amount of ATP in them and it doesn’t last very long if you’re doing tough exercises like squats.
That’s where creatine steps in. Creatine carries phosphate in the muscle cells and donates them to ATP so the cell can continue to produce energy. This is particularly important during high intensity anaerobic work like lifting weights or sprinting.
The body can produce its own creatine, but this process is inefficient. About 95% of the creatine in the body is stored in muscle cells and the only good dietary sources of creatine are animal products.
Studies show that vegetarians are deficient in creatine. This group can see dramatic improvements in physical performance by supplementing.
Creatine is also concentrated in the brain. Studies show that vegetarians, but not meat eaters, see improvements in brain function with creatine supplementation. This is another indicator of creatine deficiency in vegetarians.
Muscles are made largely of proteins, which are long strings of amino acids, folded into complex shapes.
There are 21 amino acids that the body uses to synthesize proteins. The body can produce some of them, while it must get others from the diet. The ones the body cannot produce are termed essential amino acids (EAAs).
To make full use of the protein in the diet, we need to get all the essential amino acids in the right ratios.
The proteins in animal foods like meat, eggs, fish and dairy contain all the essential amino acids and can easily be incorporated into body proteins. The same cannot be said for plant proteins, which do not have an optimal amino acid profile.
Studies show that consumption of animal protein is positively associated with muscle mass and that an omnivorous diet causes greater muscle gain during resistance training than a vegetarian diet.
The RDA for protein in the diet is very low, set at 0.8 grams protein for each kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 gram per pound.
Studies show that this amount is insufficient for optimal body composition, especially in individuals who are physically active.
This makes it difficult to satisfy the body’s protein needs on a plant-based diet, because most plants are very low in protein.