Algae has proteins that are really good for your muscles

Spirulina and chlorella are the two most commercially available algae. They contain high doses of micronutrients and are rich in protein. But not all proteins are the same some proteins are better for your muscles than others. A team of researchers investigated how good algae protein is for your muscles. Spoiler alert: it’s good.

Spirulina is commonly used as a powder in smoothies or other foods. Photo credits: Marco Verch.

The study of ethics began. More and more people are trying to reduce their intake of animal protein it’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for animals, and it’s bad for global warming too. In fact, reducing your meat consumption is one of the most eco-friendly things most people can do. But if you cut meat out of your diet, you have to replace it with something.

Plant-based proteins have been presented as a healthy alternative, but we need as many protein sources as possible especially since sometimes plant-based proteins differ from animal proteins.

This is where algae comes in. Recently, algae has emerged as a “superfood” a food rich in fiber, nutrients, and protein, without any major downsides. As always, you should treat any “superfood” claim with skepticism, but several studies have shown that algae can be a very healthy source of nutrients.

But how good is algae for your muscles? A team of researchers from the University of Exeter set out to investigate.

The green is beautiful

The study involved 36 healthy young people who participated in a randomized, double-blind trial. Participants engaged in resistance leg exercises and then drank a drink containing 25 grams of protein from mycoprotein, spirulina, or fungal-derived chlorella. Blood and skeletal muscle samples were collected to assess amino acid concentrations and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates. Interestingly, spirulina showed the fastest and highest peak in blood amino acid concentrations after consumption.

In general, algae’s ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis is more similar to high-quality non-animal-derived proteins such as mycoprotein. Mycoprotein is a high quality protein source and one of the best meat alternatives out there so it bodes well for the future of algae as a protein source.

chlorella powder
One tablespoon of Chlorella powder. Photo credits: Flickr.

This parity in effectiveness, along with its environmental benefits, makes algae an attractive option for those committed to reducing meat consumption for ethical and environmental reasons, explained the Study author Ino Van Der Heijden:

Our work has shown that algae can be part of a safe and sustainable food future. As more and more people try to eat less meat for ethical and environmental reasons, interest in protein that is not derived from animals and is sustainably produced is growing. We believe it is important and necessary to start looking at these alternatives and we have identified algae as a promising novel source of protein.

Take it with a grain of salt

However, the study has some limitations. It focuses on young adults, which means the finding may not generalize to a more diverse population. For the future, the researchers want to investigate the effects of algae protein consumption in different populations, including the elderly. Such research will further establish the potential of algae in the context of various dietary needs and health situations.

However, algae seems to stand out as an excellent source of protein, and one that is also environmentally friendly. Although more work must be done to confirm the findings, it seems that algae stands as a viable alternative to animal proteins. Many studies have shown that animal protein takes up more land, uses more water, and produces more greenhouse gas emissions than other common alternatives.

This research not only highlights algae’s potential in supporting muscle health but also its role in shaping a more sustainable and ethical future in nutrition. As the world grapples with the environmental impact of traditional protein sources, algae is emerging as a beacon of hope, offering a path to a more sustainable and health-conscious future.

The paper was published in The Journal of Nutrition.

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