Vegetarian Bodybuilding: Is It Possible?
Vegetarianism is in the roots of our Indian Culture and many people continue to be vegetarian out of religion, family tradition <or even ethics as is my case>. Seeing a lot of strong non-vegetarians around, one wonders if meat is what we needed to build muscle. People are often questioning to themselves, “I don’t eat meat, am I doomed? Can’t I build muscle? Should I break my religious morals just to look better?”
Good Reasons to Eat Meat
It is said that meats have some benefits which cannot be obtained from vegetarian foods. How much truth is to that, I will come to that later. But here are some actual benefits which meat eaters enjoy over vegetarians:
1. Protein: Protein is the most abundant substance in our body after water. Our all organs, muscles and blood vessels are made of protein. We need protein to build and repair tissues. Protein is a matrix of 22 amino acids out of which 8 are called “Essentail Amino Acids” which our body cannot manufacture. Meat has all those 8 aminos and is thus a complete protein. Not only complete protein, meat is rich in protein compared to common vegetarian foods.
2. Micronutrients: Meat is rich in vitamins and minerals such as B-Vitamins, Iron, Zinc, etc which are necessary for production of energy from food, building blood cells, strengthening immune system, making hormones such as testosterone, etc. These nutrients are low in amount in most vegetarian foods.
3. Creatine: Creatine is a compound which gives your muscles the energy while doing heavy lifts. Meat also contains creatine, which is not found in any vegetarian foods.
4. Saturated Fats: Saturated Fats and Cholestrol are necessary to produce “Testosterone”, which is your main muscle building hormone inside your body. Meat is also rich in saturated fats.
Some Good Reasons NOT to Eat Meat
Enough said about benefits of eating meat. But this is life and there are pros and cons to everything, and meat is not an exception. I think that harms of eating meat may far outweigh the benefits because of the kind of meat that is available today. But this is my personal thought. Read on to decide:
1. Communicable Diseases and Possible Carcinogens
Meat is full of diseases of the animals they are derived from. The animals are kept in a filthy diseased environment and their bodies are full of toxins. They are ingested with synthetic hormones and steroids are mixed with their feeds to make them give more eggs/milk.
What happens when you eat that meat? Right. You ingest all that filth.
Meat eaters are hence more likely to have sick days and are prone to diseases such as bird flu, infections, stones, etc , just to name a few. Fish eaters are exposed to industrial wastes and heavy metals such as lead and mercury which are often ingested by the fish accidently due to human dumping of industrial wastes into water bodies.
Note: Go for organic meat if you must eat meat.
Okay, people may think at first when they read the heading, “wow, meat is the best food for nutrition; it has so much of protein”. Well, protein is important, but it’s not the only thing important.
Meat eaters are reported to have a diet very much deficient in fiber: fiber is required to maintain healthy bowel movement and an unclean bowel is where most of the diseases start. No animal source has fiber and it must be obtained from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Next, meat eaters are very much deficient in overall vitamins and minerals as they neglect eating veggies and fruit. Fruit and veggies provide a much wider spectrum of vitamins and minerals than meat does. All vitamins have their own importance and the few vitamins and minerals of meat won’t suffice the ones for meat.
Note: Include a balanced diet if you must eat meat.
3. Heart Diseases
I could have included it in the #1 but this is just so big of a reason that it deserved a separate paragraph and separate attention. Meats are very much high in saturated fats which clog your arteries and inhibit blood flow. This gives rise to problems such as high blood pressure. Vegetarians are much less at a risk for developing such problems.
Note: Not being an anti-meat Nazi here, I would suggest you to opt for leaner cuts of meat to avoid this. Avoid salamis, bacon and fried stuff. Choose chicken breasts and lean cuts of beef, barbecued or grilled, not deep fried.
4. Obesity and Weight Management
Non vegetarians tend to eat a lot more calories than their vegetarian counterparts. Not getting into what causes fat gain, the basic is simply calories in versus calories out: if you eat more calories than you burn in a given day, you will get fat: this is a no-brainer and there is no two ways around it. Cutting on non vegetarian foods and substituting with a balanced whole grain and vegetable meal, you can significantly cut down your calorie intake.
Note: Dear Ketogenic Diet Nazis, before you tell me about how meats help you on Ketogenic Diets, let me tell you that you can get fat on a Ketogenic Diet if you eat too many calories.
Okay, this does not concern you but don’t be a douche bag and say “Why should I give a damn”. Global warming is on the rise and meat is a big contributor. UN reports suggest that greenhouse emission by all the livestock kept for dairy and poultry exceeds 40% of all the emission by all the motor vehicles in the world. These livestock also require a lot of fresh water <which we are already short of> and require cutting down of forest cover to make grasslands. These will only bring us bigger problems such as melting glaciers and more deserts. You can do your bit to avoid this by saying no to meat, just like me. Here you can see a video by ASAP Science, which is less than 5 minutes long where they demonstrate how could turning vegetarian could actually reverse climate change and global warming more effectively than any other method. And yes, they made it in Animated Format so it is not at all boring and very easy to understand.
6. Personal Moral Ethics
Well, every meat eater would pay a deaf ear to this, but a personal plea: Just think about it. Do you think it is ethical to raise living beings in inhuman circumstances denying them of their basic necessities such as open space, sunlight, exercise, natural diet, etc, and on top that subjecting them to inhuman behavior just to make them lay eggs/give milk for you all life and then kill them brutally when they can no longer do that? Maybe you just never thought about it. It is said that, “If slaughterhouse walls were made of glass, whole world would be vegetarian”. I request you personally to give me five minutes of your time and se the video below:
The Final Solution
Now what if I told you that you can build the body of your dreams in spite of the limitations of a vegetarian diet just by a little manipulation? There are some studies that have even said that people on vegetarian diets could perhaps be stronger and more muscular.
Now I don’t know if it is true or not, but quoting my own experience, I and a few of my vegetarian friends are much stronger than many of our non vegetarian fellow bodybuilders. We have filled the gaps in our diets and lifestyles with the things I am going to share with you here. One reason of us being stronger is that our carbohydrate intakes are higher at same caloric levels: You do not make glycogen from the fat in your foods; even if it helps you complete the calories. The fat in your foods simply gets stored in the body as additional fat, and it is the carbohydrates which fuel your workout. Getting my point here? Well read again if you didn’t.
Here is how you can successfully bodybuild as a vegetarian:
1. Eat Protein Rich Foods
Now first challenge is getting enough protein. You can get plenty of protein by just drinking a litre of low fat milk, eating a serving of low fat paneer, some almonds, and a serving of daal or rajma or chholay <Lentils and Legumes> everyday. Supplement with a scoop of protein powder and you hit about 150 grams of protein everyday which is enough for building muscle.
Note: People would argue about complete/incomplete proteins. Let me explain a bit. All aminos eaten from foods will go towards amino pool inside the body: where all aminos are stored and used as per need. Foods like Rice and Lentils complement each other as eaten together they will give you all aminos you are looking for. Plus, as you will also be using dairy and maybe some poultry as well, so you don’t need to be worried about missing on some aminos such as methionine and lysine. Once a specific amino is in the amino pool, your body cannot differentiate whether that specific amino came from meat or from plants.
2. Workout Less Frequently
Less damage you do to your muscles, better will be the recovery and lesser would be protein requirements. Do not lift weights for more than four days a week and lift with good intensity. Do not keep your workouts very long.
3. Consider eating eggs/egg powder
I was brought up as a strict Jain with not even onions allowed to eat in my early years. I no longer give a damn to religion but I follow my heart and science. I find eating eggs as much as sinful or sin-free as drinking milk. Egg has nothing but a single celled life incapable of thinking, social belonging, etc. We kill millions of such lives throughout the day for our survival in form of breathing, drinking water, walking, eating vegetables, and even masturbating/sex! Your sperms are also living organisms and you kill billions of them in one single ejaculation. So, choice is yours.
This is the most important part. This is where you actually fill all the gaps in your diet. Supplementing with a good multivitamin containing iron as well and some Vitamin-B complex capsules like Becosule-Z by Pfizer, you don’t need to worry about lacking in micronutrients from meat. Supplement with creatine as well for about 3 grams a day and you can have it for lifetime without cycling off, and thus having complete benefits of meat, without any guilt or risk of diseases.
Tip: Since your carbohydrate intake is much higher on a vegetarian diet, I would recommend adding Chromium Picolinate to your stack to help improve Insulin Function: this will ensure maximum carbohydrate uptake and also prevent fat gain to some extent.
5. Keep Trust in Yourself
People may put you down by saying stuff like, <and believe me, it happens to me when I participate in discussions on forums>, “why are you vegetarian”, “eat real food”, “real men eat meat”, “vegetarian foods are for men with a v***na”, and stuff. But once they see my pic, they find it hard to believe I am a vegetarian. <Plus I am also drug free>
So, if I have done it, remember that you can do it too. Just keep in mind the simple things I told you.