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I've been experimenting with different sources of protein for the past few weeks. I've tried lentils, almonds, split peas, tuna, chicken, ground beef, and eggs.

I carefully portion things out so that I eat around 30 g of protein a day. That's 1cup of lentils, or almonds, or split peas, or 1/2 cup of lean meat.

But I still notice that I recover faster when I get my protein from meat or nuts than when I get it from lentils or split peas. Is it in my head or is there a real difference?

  • What exactly do you mean by recovery? Less tiredness or muscle soreness after physical exercise? – Jan Sep 6 '16 at 15:37
  • I mean I'm excessively sore the morning after lifting, which only happens when I get my protein through food rather than protein shakes. – x0a Sep 6 '16 at 17:42
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The requirements for amino acids are given here. The relative ratio between the amino acids is also important here, it's no good getting a lot of one type if you miss out on another one, you need to get all of them in the right proportions and quantities. If you are into body building, you may need more than the RDA. To see if you're getting the right amount of the various essential amino acids from the foods you eat, you can use this website. E.g. for 100 grams split peas, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt we find:

  • Tryptophan 93.0 mg

  • Threonine 296 mg

  • Isoleucine 344 mg

  • Leucine 598 mg

  • Lysine 602 mg

  • Methionine 85.0 mg

  • Cystine 127 mg

  • Phenylalanine 384 mg

  • Tyrosine 242 mg

  • Valine 394 mg

  • Arginine 744 mg

  • Histidine 203 mg

  • Alanine 367 mg

  • Aspartic acid 984 mg

  • Glutamic acid 1426 mg

  • Glycine 371 mg

  • Proline 344 mg

  • Serine 367 mg

Note that not all of these are the essential amino acids you really need, typical foods contain a lot more of the non-essential amino acid than the essential amino acids.

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  • Nice find, I wasn't aware that the website also provided amino acid information. – x0a Sep 6 '16 at 17:43
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You're not using protein as it is to maintain your body. It's first broken down to the individual amino acids, which your body can then use to build new stuff.

If you're lacking one of the essential amino acids, you can only build as much new protein until that runs out, and all the other amino acids are just excess. A protein that contains all the necessary amino acids is called a complete protein, and you could calculate the differences in the so-called quality of the protein.

A perfect protein (i.e. from egg/milk/soy) will contain amino acids in exactly the ratio you need, some protein contains so little of a certain amino acid that you'd need to eat twice as much of that protein (for example rice or peanuts).

In your case, if beef is making you recover fastest, you'd need to eat 30*0.92/0.70 = 39g of peas for the same effect.

You could get around this by combining different sources of protein. For example grains are limited in lysine, while beans are limited in cysteine/methionine.

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  • Nice answer. Legumes (e.g. peas, beans) have a lot going for them. Perhaps you could combine a serving of legumes with a serving of meat, eggs or tofu, so you're getting the best of both worlds. – aparente001 Sep 10 '16 at 4:25

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