Exercise enthusiasts have long presumed animal protein to be superior to plant-derived options for muscle protein synthesis due to its essential amino acid profile. While many plant proteins are deficient in one or more essential amino acids necessary for optimal muscle growth and repair, a new randomized controlled study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that plant-derived proteins can still induce strong anabolic responses. Researchers at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, found that consuming 30 grams of potato-derived protein concentrate following resistance exercise strongly increased muscle protein synthesis rates to levels that did not differ from the response following the ingestion of an equivalent amount of milk protein concentrate.
“The anabolic response to exercise depends on the exercise stimulus and the postprandial increases in circulating amino acids,” said lead study investigator Luc J.C. van Loon, PhD, a professor of physiology of exercise and nutrition at Maastricht University Medical Centre. “In general, plant-derived proteins are considered to have lesser anabolic properties, due to their lower digestibility and incomplete amino acid profile. Our results show that ingestion of 30 g potato-derived protein will support muscle growth and repair at rest and during recovery from exercise.”
The findings from van Loon’s research group demonstrate that potato-derived protein concentrate powder can be used to increase muscle protein synthesis rates both at rest and during post-exercise recovery in healthy, young men, at rates that do not differ from the ingestion of an equivalent amount of milk protein.
“The potato’s amino acid profile has no apparent deficiencies and ingestion of 30 g protein was shown to strongly stimulate muscle protein synthesis during recovery from exercise,” explained van Loon.
These study results are part of a growing body of literature that demonstrate the benefits of potatoes in physical activity and exercise recovery.1-3 As van Loon explained, “Although further dose-response studies in broader populations are undoubtedly necessary, these data seem to support the use of potato-derived protein concentrate as an effective means to support muscle conditioning.”
Study Design, Strengths, and Limitations
Twenty-four young, healthy males between the ages of 20-28 years volunteered to participate in this randomized, double blind, parallel group study.
- Participants completed resistance exercise on a seated knee-extension machine (randomized to complete with either their dominant or non-dominant leg) following a warm-up on a supine leg press machine.
- Participants rested for 10 minutes following their exercise session. Blood samples were drawn, and muscle biopsies were taken from each leg.
- Immediately after the biopsies, 12 participants ingested 30 grams potato-derived protein while the other 12 ingested an equivalent amount of milk-derived protein.
- Blood samples were collected over a 5-hour period following ingestion to determine blood amino acid, glucose, and insulin concentrations.
- Second and third muscle biopsies were taken to determine muscle protein synthesis rates at rest and during recovery from exercise.
The strategic use of a randomized double-blind study design with a unilateral exercise protocol allowed for assessment of postprandial muscle protein synthesis in both exercised and non-exercised muscle. Further studies will need to assess dose-response relationships between smaller and larger doses of protein on muscle protein synthesis. Future studies will also benefit from assessing the effects of plant-derived protein concentrates on muscle conditioning after repeated bouts of exercise in larger and more diverse populations.
Nonetheless, the current data show “there is ample room for high quality plant-derived proteins in sports nutrition, such as protein from nutrient-dense sources like potatoes,” stated van Loon.
This research was supported by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE). APRE had no influence on the study design, conduct, execution, or data analysis after approving the initial proposal for funding.
The article “Potato Protein Ingestion Increases Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates at Rest and during Recovery from Exercise in Humans” is published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (10.1249/MSS.0000000000002937).
- Oikawa SY, Bahniwal R, Holloway TM, Lim C, McLeod JC, McGlory C, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Potato Protein Isolate Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis at Rest and with Resistance Exercise in Young Women. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 27;12(5):1235. doi: 10.3390/nu12051235.
- Flynn S, Rosales A, Hailes W, Ruby B. Males and Females Exhibit Similar Muscle Glycogen Recovery with Varied Recovery Food Sources. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2020. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04352-2
- Salvador AF, McKenna CF, Alamilla RA, et al. Potato Ingestion is as Effective as Carbohydrate Gels to Support Prolonged Cycling Performance. J Appl Physiol. 2019;127(6):1651-1659. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00567.2019
Method of Research
Randomized controlled/clinical trial
Subject of Research