The best types of protein for building muscle are those that are both digested and absorbed well by the body and that provide an abundance of essential amino acids, and of leucine in particular.

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This last point is important essential amino acids are the key building blocks of muscle, and leucine is the one that directly stimulates muscle growth. This is why studies show that the leucine content of a meal directly affects the amount of protein synthesis that occurs as a result. In other words, high-leucine meals have a higher muscle-building potential than low-leucine meals.

So, the foods that best meet these criteria are lean meats (beef, pork, chicken, and turkey), dairy, fish, eggs, soy, tempeh, tofu, rice, quinoa, almonds, and beans, and more or less in that order.

As you can guess, that’s a lot of animal products, but you can build plenty of muscle as a vegetarian or even vegan if you make good protein choices. Many people think that plant proteins are “incomplete” and thus incapable of building muscle, but research shows otherwise. Plant proteins are not incomplete, but some aren’t digested and absorbed very well, and some are too low in essential amino acids, and in leucine in particular, to make them viable options for muscle building.

For example, 275 calories of broccoli–which is about 18 cups, I might add–will provide you with just 1 gram of leucine, whereas the same amount of calories of steak will provide you with about 2.5 grams.

We also know that plant proteins generally aren’t absorbed as well as animal proteins, but again, if you’re smart in your meal planning, you can do just fine with little or no meat or animal products.

As far as protein supplements go, your best bets are egg, whey, casein, pea, and rice, and my personal favorite for general muscle-building purposes is whey isolate, because it’s almost pure protein, it’s digested and absorbed incredibly well, and it’s rich in essential amino acids and leucine in particular.

That’s why I created a 100% whey isolate protein that’s naturally sweetened and flavored, and sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland that produce exceptionally high-quality milk.

It’s called WHEY+, and you can learn more about it here.

What’s your take on the best protein for building muscle? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!