At Lavida we like to keep up to date with the newest nutrition research and news. We are always reading studies to bring you evidence based advice and to influence our product development. Especially when they are about plant protein sources.
The Top Line
Taking a probiotic with your plant protein shake may increase the amount of protein you absorb.
A lot of focus is given to the amount of protein we eat per day. However, often overlooked is how much of this protein is absorbed and available for the body to use.
Most plant proteins (except soy) are lower in certain amino acids than animal sources. This includes branch chained amino acids (BCAA) which are important for muscle health and growth.
As more people move to plant based eating it is important to research how plant protein sources can be optimised.
A new study published in May has shown that pea protein is better absorbed alongside a probiotic supplement.
The study sample consisted of 15 physically active men aged 18-35 years old, of a healthy weight. The researchers gave them 20g of pea protein with a high dose multi strain probiotic containing strains of Lactobacillus paracasei or a placebo (an inactive supplement) for 2 weeks.
They tested participants blood amino acid concentration (amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins) at periods up to 3 hours after eating the protein supplement.
What they found out
They found significantly higher blood levels of amino acids, including the BCAA when the pea protein was taken with a probiotic. This increase was as much as 26%.
Why do probiotics make a difference?
It seems the friendly bacteria support the body break down the proteins from food into amino acids. They do this by increasing the amount of digestive enzymes.
Was it a reliable study?
This randomised controlled trial was very well designed. However, it had a small number of participants who were all male, which limits the findings. We need further, larger studies which include other demographics too. Also, some of the researchers were employees of the probiotic manufacturer which increases risk of bias.
More evidence is certainly needed, however, it is a very interesting area of research to keep an eye on!
Take home message
While the research is in early stages these findings are relevant for vegetarians and vegans who rely on plant protein. This is especially important if you are someone who frequently works out or are trying to build muscle mass.
- Plant protein: protein not from animal sources but found in plants, for example soy, beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils & nuts.
- Amino acid: the building blocks that make proteins, both in food and in our body.
- BCAA: Branch chained amino acids – special amino acids which are especially important for maintaining and building our body muscle.
- Probiotic: friendly live bacteria which can be supplemented in the diet, for example in probiotic drinks, powders and pills.
- Microbiome: the living organisms that reside in and on our body, most of these are our gut bacteria that live in the large intestine.
- Randomised controlled trial: a very good quality designed clinical study – the highest level of evidence for a single study.
Read the full study here.
Jäger, R., Zaragoza, J., Purpura, M., et al. 2020. Probiotic Administration Increases Amino Acid Absorption from Plant Protein: a Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Double-Blind, Multicenter, Crossover Study. Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins.
To read about the probiotics added to our pea protein shakes click here.