Although vegetarian diets are considered generally protective against chronic disease, nutrient deficiencies, including protein, are possible due to low bioavailability from plant-based sources. The consequences of inadequate dietary protein include reduced lean body mass (LBM) and muscle weakness. This study examined relationships between protein intake, strength, and LBM in 37 underactive vegetarians and recorded the impact of protein supplementation (18 g/day mung bean protein) on these indices utilizing an eight-week, randomized, controlled, feeding trial. Both handgrip and knee flexor and extensor strength were measured at baseline and week eight. At baseline, LBM was significantly related to grams of protein consumed daily. LBM was also correlated to grip strength (r
= 0.569, p
< 0.001) and lower body strength (r
= 0.763 to 0.784; p
< 0.001). Twenty-five vegetarians completed the feeding trial, including 11 in the protein supplementation group (PRO) and 14 in the control group (CON). At the end of the trial, LBM and strength did not differ significantly between groups. However, the average percent change for grip, flexor, and extensor strength did differ between PRO and CON participants (+2.9 ± 7.2% and −2.6 ± 7.3% respectively, p
= 0.05). Thus, there were strong associations between dietary protein, LBM, and strength in vegetarians and an indication that supplementary vegetarian protein increased strength in the absence of exercise and independent of LBM.
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