Vegetarian Muscle Building Nutrition 101
People really try to give vegetarian muscle building a bad name and they make themselves sound a little dumb while doing it.
I’ll tell you how.
People say that it’s almost impossible to make build lean and sexy muscle tone while being a vegetarian. WROOONG, wrooooong!
Being a vegetarian won’t reduce your capacity to build lean muscle, there are tons of women building great physiques while munching on healthy & delicious vegetarian dishes for the bulk of their diet.
Those who have their mind set that vegetarians can’t be build great muscle-rippled bodies simply don’t know what the heck they are talking about, they have no clue about all the different types of vegetarians there are or they just don’t understand nutrition for building muscle.
First Things First: What IS a Vegetarian?
You might be shocked when I tell you this, but being a vegetarian is not someone who ONLY munches on veggies from sun up til sun down. The legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger fed into the mistaken viewpoint that it’s absolutely mandatory to eat muscle in order to build lean muscle.
The biggest problem for a “vegetarian” is the stigma that is often attached to the lifestyle. The word itself has unfortunately become an emotionally charged word that many people give ethical, spiritual and political importance. It has been used by many individuals in so many misleading ways that it’s true meaning has become virtually unknown. Just to show you what I mean, check out this whacked out dictionary definition:
Vegetarianism: is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat – red meat, poultry, seafood and the flesh of any other animal, and sometimes animal products (as milk and cheese).
What the what? What does that even mean??? Can we be a bit more specific please?
“… and sometimes animal products (as milk and cheese)”, ummmmm, yeah, alot of help that is guys! That definition doesn’t even talk about eggs. It’s way too vague.
So screw that lame definition, I’m gonna give you my own clear and accurate definition of a vegetarian from a vegetarian muscle building point of view:
- Omnivore: A person who eats meats and anything they desire. Like myself most bodybuilders are omnivores and eat this way to build muscle.
- Vegetarian: A person who doesn’t get dietary protein from eating the flesh or meat of animals but they do eat products that naturally come from animals like milk and eggs. These people are sometimes called lacto-ovo vegetarians.
- Vegan: A person who only eats foods that come from plants and nothing more (get vegan recipes here).
I’m only describing these types of vegetarians because this article is focusing on vegetarian muscle building and these apply to the conversation. There are folks called pescatarians who don’t eat meat from any animals besides fish, these people are also omnivores.
The other sub-categorizations of vegetarians like “macrobiotic vegetarians” and “raw vegetarians” don’t fit into the conversation of vegetarian muscle building as these people cannot consume enough of the essential amino acids/full protein profiles to build great amounts of muscle.
But your basic vegetarian certainly can build a lean and toned physique.
One reason so many folks wrongly think that vegetarians can’t build lean muscle is that they confuse vegetarians for vegans, the two are not the same (even still, both can build muscle to differing degrees of difficulty).
To get the full spectrum of proteins & amino acids for building muscle a bodybuilder needs to ask himself:
- Does my diet contain meat (beef, chicken, fish, pork, etc)?
- Does the diet contain eggs and milk?
- Can I piece together the proper amino acid profile without animal food products?
The ability to consume dairy products and eggs (point number 2 above) makes an incredible difference in building toned muscles. Although they live a very healthy lifestyle, vegans (those who eat zero animal products whatsoever) are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to getting toned muscle, but vegetarians are not hindered at all – lets look at why this is true.
A protein’s quality is quantified by its mixture of essential amino acids. The following protein quality numbers come from nutritiondata.com, the higher the number, the higher the quality of the protein source:
Meat Protein Sources:
- 148 canned white tuna in water
- 144 broiled pork chop
- 136 skinless chicken breast
- 84 lean ground beef
Vegetarian Protein Sources (Dairy and Eggs):
- 145 egg whites
- 137 nonfat milk
- 137 whole poached egg
Vegan Protein Sources (Plant Sources):
- 117 soy protein concentrate
- 106 quinoa
- 101 amaranth
- 70 peanuts
- 79 tempeh
The Proof Is In The Milk & Egg Pudding!
Many people who are looking to build lean muscle rely primarily on skinless chicken breast to fulfill their protein needs because it has such an impressive amino acid/protein profile of 136.
Where am I going with all of this?
Well it’s simple, since vegetarians can eat milk and eggs, the quality of the protein they can consume is just as great as meat eating bodybuilders! Vegetarians are at no disadvantage whatsoever when it comes to adding muscle, shoot, I myself love to have protein shakes after workouts and most of those are from milk by-products.
Vegan Bodybuilding Nutrition Isn’t As Easy, But…
Now for my vegan friends, bodybuilding nutrition is a tough tofu cookie. Lets look at the difficulty that vegans run into. The highest quality protein available to vegans is soy and it only has a protein quality of 117, nowhere near as good as chicken or eggs.
A vegan would need to be dang-near a nutrition specialists, knowing the exact amino acid profiles of every food available to them so that they can combine the right foods throughout the day to get the all the essential amino acids they would need to be a bodybuilder.
The second important barrier a vegan bodybuilder would face is getting all of the protein in through these different foods without chomping down too many calories in the day.
All the proteins accessible to vegans usually include a healthy dose of carbohydrates so vegans need to be very, very careful about their nutrition so as to get adequate protein with the amount of calories they have available.
But hey, just like vegetarian bodybuilders, vegan bodybuilders do exist. So never be discouraged, if you want something bad enough, simply do the research on how to get it done and DO IT. No matter how difficult it may seem. Vegetarian muscle building and vegan muscle building can be done and there are tons of people out there proving it every day. Will you be the next?