CAN YOU BUILD MUSCLE ON A VEGETARIAN DIET?
With so many people talking about high protein (often extremely high!) diets, people tend to think that you need to eat pounds of meat daily along with other forms of animal-based protein. I've hear ridiculous numbers like 300 grams daily for people who weigh barely more than half that much in pounds. First of all, people do not need this amount of protein. Not only do they not need it, but it can be very harmful to eat this much. A few of the negative health effects of too much protein, particularly animal-based, are:
-Increased risk of heart disease
-Ketosis (and chronic bad breath!)
-Digestive issues (irregularity)
So how much protein is needed? If we're talking about people who engage in regular intense exercise, they do need more than sedentary people. That is true, but what is NOT true is how much people think it is. It is nowhere near the amounts that many people believe. According to numerous sources including The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dieticians of Canada, and The American College Of Sports Medicine, that amount is 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Far less than these people who believe that you need 300 grams or more daily. I once was in a health food store and I heard the idiot cashier tell this customer (couldn't have weighed more than 140 lbs) that he needed 300 grams of protein a day! Stupid and dangerous advice!
So now that we've gotten that out of the way, is it possible to get the required protein intake through a vegetarian diet? Absolutely! One only has to look at history to see examples of this. Shaolin monks in ancient China were vegetarians and were known for their tough training and almost superhuman abilities in the martial arts. As a side note, the Shaolin monks you see now are more actors and performers. In ancient times when it was a real temple and not a tourist trap, things were a lot different. And how about Roman Gladiators? Often seen as the epitome of TOUGH. They were also vegetarian with their diet consisting mostly of barley, wheat, and beans. In modern times, there have also been numerous vegetarian bodybuilders and athletes. The Godfather Of Fitness himself. Jack LaLanne was a vegetarian. And so is Andreas Cahling who was a competitive bodybuilder back in the Arnold Schwarzenegger era.
So before we get into it, there are two types of vegetarian diets. Ovo-Lacto and Vegan. In this post, I'll only be covering Ovo-Lacto since I don't have the knowledge or experience to discuss Vegan. Ovo-Lacto vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products along with other vegan protein sources. Vegans take in no animal products at all. Eggs are an extremely high quality protein source (not to mention tasty!) and so is dairy. Goat products are easier to digest than conventional cow products. In many countries, goat dairy products are the standard actually. Actually eating a vegetarian diet is quite simple really. There are so many choices available. Omelettes, grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt dishes, nuts, beans, whole grain pastas, delicious vegetable and fruit dishes, etc. One other benefit of a vegetarian diet will be your wallet! Eating meat is expensive. However a carton of eggs is only a few dollars. And for fruits and veggies, I love going to Farmers Markets for those. They're obviously very fresh, well priced, and I like supporting local farmers.
So here's a recipe that I like making that we all enjoy at home. It's my Tasty Egg Bake! Here are the ingredients you need.
1 Tablespoon Butter
3 Slices of Whole Grain Bread
1 Large Stalk of Broccoli
4 to 5 Ounces of Shredded Cheese
2 Cups of Milk
1 Teaspoon of Salt (optional)
Sprinkle of Pepper or other seasoning for taste
1. Grease a baking pan with the butter
2. Tear the bread into small pieces and spread it out in the baking pan
3. Cut the broccoli and spread out on top of the bread pieces
4. Sprinkle the cheese over the broccoli
5. In a large bowl, crack the eggs and whisk until it's mixed well.
6. Add the milk, salt, and pepper and mix.
7. Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli, bread, and cheese in the baking pan.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 to 40 minutes.
This is a hit with all of us, but it is just one example of some of the delicious foods you can make. It provides plenty of quality protein and it's delicious. Now I'm not necessarily telling everyone to go on a vegetarian diet. If you want to, that's great. I myself am not actually a vegetarian, but I do have days where I am. It's not a hard and fast rule, but generally I try to follow more or less a vegetarian during the weekdays and then I may have more meats on the weekend. It's up to you, but I would definitely say that it would be a good idea to have at least a couple of days a week that are vegetarian. Start with that and go from there.