Proteins are of two types: animal and plant sourced. The former is known as a complete protein whereas it is not the case with the latter; it may or may not always be complete in protein.
You may wonder what a complete protein comprises of. Well, complete protein is the one that contains an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acids that are necessary for dietary needs of humans.
What is Protein?
Our body needs three macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Proteins are important as they help in tissue growth and repair and also necessary for digestion, metabolism and then the production of antibodies to fight infection.
Protein comprises 10% of our brain and 20% of heart, liver and skeletal muscles. Obviously, protein is the key in maintaining a strong and healthy body. Protein, when digested breaks down into its component amino acids. These broken components form the building blocks of our brain’s neural network.
Protein: Complete vs. Incomplete
Any food which contains all 9 amino acids is termed as a complete protein source. Anything less and it is labelled as incomplete protein source.
Human body can synthesize 13 of the known amino acids (known as non-essential amino acids) but the rest must be obtained from food (termed as essential amino acids). All animal foods do contain the essential amino acids in adequate quantity. Most plant based foods are deficient in one or more of the 9 essential amino acids.
Complete Protein Sources
Like animal based proteins, which are labelled as complete proteins, some plant sources are also considered complete. Some examples would help.
Animal Based Plant Based
Dairy Products e.g. Whey Hemp and Chia Seed
Eggs Spirulina (algae family)
List of Complete Proteins Preferred by Bodybuilders
For the benefit of our readers we present some of the most liked and preferred ways for eating complete protein.
1. Soy Protein (Soya Paneer)
Protein content: 20 grams per cup
Soy (or Soya) beans are low in amino acid methionine, Soy is a complete protein and qualifies as substitute for meat.
(Note: Paneer or Cottage Cheese available in India has around 40% of Soy milk. In fact, it is part soya and part milk cheese giving you the best of both worlds!)
2. Beans and Rice (Rajma/Chole with Brown Rice)
Protein content: 7 grams per cup
One of the tastiest and almost staple foods of North Indians, the Rajma Chawal & Chole Chawal are the best sources of protein around. These two dishes are a great way to load protein and carbs after an intense workout.
3. Peanut Butter Sandwich
Protein content: 15 grams per 2 slices, 2 tablespoons Peanut Butter
Peanut butter when combined with wheat & rice, creates a complete protein. This meal has high calories, essential amino acids and healthy fats too.
4. Whey Protein Shake
Protein content: 20-30 grams per glass of shake.
1-2 scoops of whey protein, 1 small cup of vanilla ice cream, 1 glass of low-fat milk, one handful of ice. Blend for a few seconds.
5. Quinoa (now available in India)
Protein content: 8 grams per cup
Quinoa is an excellent source of protein and a boon for diabetics. It is full of fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese and a proper substitute for rice. It can be eaten as Poha, or with a dish like Rajma.
Our age old food combinations usually take care of protein imbalances. It does not really matter whether you eat animal or plant sourced protein as long as it serves the purpose. Alternating between different sources will ensure your body gets every single nutrient and that too in sufficient quantity.