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Beyond Completeness: Exploring Almond Protein's Muscle-Building Potential

Sponsored article by Naked Nutrition, written by Kristen Carli, MS, RD

almonds, almond milk

It may come as no surprise that protein is an essential nutrient for the body, playing an important role in building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and supporting overall health. However, not all proteins are created equal.


When considering a source of protein, it's important to look at its total package. After all, when you consume food for its protein, you're not only getting protein — you're getting everything that comes with that protein. For example, meat protein comes with saturated fat, plus inflammatory chemicals stored in that saturated fat that are released when your body breaks down the meat components. You may also get antibiotics and hormones from meat-based protein. When you consume plant-based protein, like beans, nuts, or seeds, you're getting the protein plus healthy fats, fiber, and phytonutrients that act like antioxidants, fighting inflammation in the body.


However, there is a common question that arises with plant-based protein — is the quality as good as animal-based protein? In short, absolutely! In this article we will uncover one particular protein-packed plant that many of you know and love — almonds. We will discuss almond's amino acid profile and, in particular, its potential for supporting muscle growth.

almonds, nuts
photo credit: Dhanya Purohit

Protein and amino acids — the basics

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are often referred to as the "building blocks" of protein. There are 20 different amino acids, many of which your body can make on its own. There are nine amino acids that cannot be made in the body, but instead must be consumed from food. These are known as essential amino acids.


What are Essential Amino Acids?

The nine essential amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Consuming foods throughout the day that contain all nine essential amino acids is important to maintaining a healthy diet. A protein source that provides adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids is often referred to as a "complete protein." Complete proteins are typically found in animal-based sources such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Some plant-based foods are also adequate in all nine essential amino acids, like tofu, tempeh, hemp seeds, and pistachios.


Other plant-based sources like legumes, grains, and certain nuts contain ALL essential amino acids, but they may have low amounts of one or two essential acids. For example, beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, but some of them may have lower levels of methionine compared to other plant-based foods, like rice, which is a good source of methionine. Rice is low in lysine, but beans are a good source of lysine. So, as you can see, they complement each other nicely. The way you make up for the "low" amino acid in one food is simply by consuming a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day.


How do almonds rank as a good protein source?

almonds
photo credit: Tetiana Bykovets

Almond protein (like this clean almond powder from Naked Nutrition) is an excellent plant-based protein source. Whole almonds are relatively high in protein with 6 grams per ounce (about a handful). While almonds are a good source of protein and contain all essential amino acids, some studies report that some varieties may be low in lysine, an essential amino acid needed for proper growth, fat metabolism, and carnitine production (important for brain health and energy production). Lysine has also been shown to mitigate anxiety, prevent cold sores, and promote wound healing. Needless to say, like all essential amino acids, lysine is important!


So, if almonds are a bit low in lysine, what is one to do? Glad you asked! Again, by simply consuming a variety of foods throughout the day you can get all the important protein (and essential amino acids) you need. Basically, no need to worry! Consider mixing Naked Nutrition's almond protein powder with soy milk to make a yummy almond-y shake while getting all the amino acids your body needs.

Other ways to get enough lysine include consuming other lysine-rich plant foods, like lentils, beans, peas, pumpkin seeds, tofu, and quinoa. Consuming a variety of plant-based protein throughout the day helps fill in the amino acid gaps, creating a balanced and nutritious diet.


Also, you don’t have to consume a variety of proteins in the same meal. Your body does a wonderful job at maintaining an amino acid pool and pairing amino acids when needed. The only work you need to do is include a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day and let your body do the rest of the work.


Including various plant-based foods in your diet is an effective way to ensure that you're getting all the essential amino acids your body needs, as well as essential nutrients you need to thrive.


Does Almond Protein Have All the BCAAs?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which include leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are known for their significant role in muscle protein synthesis and overall muscle health. These amino acids are essential for those looking to support muscle growth and recovery. Almond protein contains all three BCAAs. Almonds are an especially great source of leucine, an amino acid that's known to stimulate muscle synthesis. (Plus one for almonds!🙌🏼) Almond protein can contribute to muscle health and growth, especially when combined with other protein sources to provide a well-rounded amino acid profile.


Is Almond Protein Good for Muscle Growth?

exercise, working out

When consumed as part of a balanced diet with a variety of other protein sources, almond protein can absolutely contribute to muscle growth due to its amino acids, especially its BCAA content, supporting muscle protein synthesis and recovery. Almond protein is an excellent choice for anyone, especially those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, as it offers a plant-based alternative to animal-based protein sources. It can be added to smoothies, baked goods, or chia pudding to boost your protein intake.


In a nutshell

Almonds and almond protein can be a valuable addition to your diet as it's a good source of protein and contains all three BCAAs, making it beneficial for muscle growth and recovery when consumed as part of a well-rounded, plant-based diet. If you're exploring plant-based protein options, almond protein can be a nutritious choice to support your nutrition and fitness goals.


This article has been sponsored by Naked Nutrition who offers a variety of vegan protein powders.

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