Building and exhibiting muscle mass was once considered a sport for meat eaters. Now there is a growing community using vegan diets for bodybuilding.
They are also competing with the meat eaters and winning contests against them.
As more and more people strive for a healthy lifestyle, the trend is extending into the athletic world. In areas where it was though that meat eating was absolutely necessary vegetarians and vegans have come along and debunked the idea.
However, there are still may people that are convinced that animal protein is the best way to increase muscle size and have that muscle rippling physique.
Protein – what it means to the body
Protein is referred to by some as the “building block of the body.
This is because it is used in building every part of our body. Our hair, bones, tissues, muscles, blood vessels, cartilage, skin and blood are all composed of protein. It is not the only component however, for our bones for example is also partly calcium.
Reading this may lead a person to think that he must eat lots of protein and the more that he eat, the bigger and stronger he would become.
This, however, is a myth to be dispelled.
The fact is that the body needs and uses only a relatively small amount of protein per day. Anything over the required amount is not stored like fat and carbohydrates are, but is discarded by the body via the kidney and urinary tract, primarily.
Considering our typical daily intake of protein, this would mean that the majority of us eat more protein than we need daily. It also implies that protein rich food is wasted daily by those who are deceived into thinking that the more they eat, the bigger and stronger would be their bodies.
Research shows that protein does not build muscles, exercise does that.
Instead, studies have shown that too much protein can lead to weakened bones as calcium is released from our bones to aid in neutralizing the acid that forms in the body as a result of the high intake of protein.
This is more evident in persons who are on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.
Since the body does not store protein, we need to replenish our supply daily.
Sources of protein
A dangerous human tendency is to find out that something is good for use and then over use that thing. In the process, the true benefits are lost and more harm is done than good.
That is why it is important to be temperate in all things.
True temperance has been defined as “a moderate use of that which is good and total abstinence from that which is harmful.
Over Overdoing has become a trend in the bodybuilding world, especially among those who do not take the time to inform themselves of what is armful and what is not.
We have already established that protein is good for the body and that it is needed daily as it is not stored in the body.
So what are the sources of protein available to us?
Many people would immediately respond that animal products such as meat in all its forms – beef, chicken, goat, turkey, etc – eggs and fish is the best source of protein.
You will hear that animal products contain complete protein that you will find no where else. This is completely true.
True too, is that animal protein is similar to the protein found in the human body. It is also easier to assimilate into the body when eaten.
Plant protein is not absorbed as easily as they come bound to complex fibers.
What you will seldom hear is that animal protein is second-hand protein and that the animals derived their protein from eating plants.
Those who promote animal protein as complete, identify the different plant food that can be consumed as a good source of protein and speaks about the different protein elements or amino acids that are absent in each one.
Since the animals consumed by man are basically vegetarians, the question must be asked; so where do the animals find plant food that contain the complete proteins which they consume?
Could it be that the completion of the protein in the animal takes place as a result of the accumulation of the different elements in the animal’s body?
Vegetarians and vegans, but especially vegans, push for the total plant based protein. They tout its complete benefits.
The fact is that all plant based foods contain protein and all protein comes from plants.
For those seeking to build muscle mass using plant protein, these are the foods that are high in protein that will be converted into amino acids for bodybuilding: seeds, nuts, beans, whole grains, tofu, soy, tempeh, oatmeal, almond butter, quinoa and brown rice.
These foods, properly combined and taken in the right proportions can give all the protein that the body requires daily. Remember, exercise builds muscles mass, not protein.
If you eat proteins and do no exercise consistently and targeted, you will see no muscle development.
There are vegan bodybuilders who are doing so and are winning competitions too.
Consider too, that they do not face all the complications that come with an animal protein diet.
Animal protein and the body
Let’s take a look at what animal based protein brings to the body as opposed to the protein found in plants.
Those who use animal products as their main source of protein for bodybuilding experience the following:
- They build muscle mass more quickly than the vegan
- They recuperate more slowly though
- Their main source of protein is meat, dairy products, fish and eggs. Protein shakes have also become very popular over the past 25 years or so.
- Their strength is based on their training regimen, not on the food that they eat.
When compared to the meat eater, this is what the vegan experiences:
- They build muscle mass more slowly than their meat eating counterparts but it is a leaner quality mass.
- They recuperate much more quickly than meat eaters.
- Sources of their protein are: tofu, beans, tempeh, nuts etc.
- Like the meat eater, their strength is based on their training regimen.
Users of animal protein however, have to contend with health issues that the vegan would not have to deal with if he correctly manages his diet.
Besides providing protein to the body, meat also brings to the table diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure as a result of increased cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease.
No matter how lean the meat, it also brings with it that needed fuel source which, if overdone, can lead to other health complications. It is known as fat.
Maybe you are aware that there is good fat and bad fat – unsaturated and saturated fat. Both are found in meat and dairy products. Therefore, the more animal food that is eaten, the higher the intake of fat.
Saturated fats have, over the years been linked to heart disease. There is a recent Harvard study however, that is casting doubt on the truth of this, but it is not conclusive.
Until there is conclusive evidence on this, my suggestion is that saturated fat continue to be left out of the diet. This would also hold for all animal derived fats.
In the scriptures, among the health laws that God give to the Israelite and therefore mankind, was this one: It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood. Leviticus 3:17
If you don’t trust the scientists – and many times they do not get it right – then just trust the one who created us and know what is best for us, God.
Yes, fat is also needed for bodybuilding and maintenance. They help in the production of hormones including testosterone which also help in muscle building.
Too much of it though, brings serious health complications to the person who consume it.
It is one of the main sources of weight gain and though it is easy to pack it into the body, it is much more difficult to get rid of an excess of it.
It is believed by some that a high protein, high fat diet, retards the muscle’s ability to absorb glucose.
All needed fat can be found in plant food so there should be no fear that if you stay away from animal products you will not get and adequate amount of fat in your diet.
There are some serious health concerns that should be considered when choosing a strict vegetarian or vegan diet though, so let’s examine them.
Plant protein and you
Plant protein is safe protein. We may not eat the same plants that ruminants eat but we receive the same benefits from those that we eat.
As was earlier stated, good sources of plant protein are: soy, beans, nuts, tofu, tempeh, brown rice, grains, peanuts, oatmeal, almond butter and quinoa.
It has been discovered though that there are certain vitamins and nutrients that are absent from a strictly plant based diet.
The one that is most often emphasized is the absence of vitamin B12. A deficiency of this vitamin can cause anemia, damage to the nervous system, neuro-cognitive changes and if left untreated, may result in paralysis.
These are issues to be concerned about and to take steps to avoid.
It is true that vitamin B12 is not found in plant foods. This is because this vitamin is made by micro-organisms that are found in the soil.
You may then wonder, how do the animals get it?
The theory is that as the animals eat the plants, the organisms are taking into the body with the plants. It is digested with the food eaten and absorbed into the body of the animal and when that animal is eaten by humans, the organism is passed on.
Since we thoroughly sanitize our food, it is almost impossible to gain the micro-organisms this way and therefore, for those who are vegan, the alternative is to find it in other sources.
Recommended sources of vitamin B12 are: certain fortified cereals, fortified soy milk, nutritional yeast, oral supplements, both in liquid and capsule form. Because the recommended daily dose is not high -some recommend 2 – 3 micro grams while others go as high as 250 micro grams – any excess may be stored in the liver.
So if you have chosen the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, please remember to pay close attention to your intake of this all important vitamin.
Keep in mind that old saying; ” an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Vitamin D is also absent from plant foods. However, there is a very natural source of that helps the body to produce Vitamin D. It is the sun.
It is believed that exposure of the skin to sunlight from between 5 – 30 minutes twice per week would provide that which the body needs to boost our vitamin D production.
The following plant foods are also a good source of vitamin D:
- Maitake and Portobello mushrooms
- Almond milk fortified with vitamin D
- Soy milk fortified with vitamin D
- Chantrelle mushroom
- Orange juice fortified with vitamin D
- Soy yogurt fortified with vitamin D
- Cereal, fortified with vitamin D
Like Vitamin B12, much ado is made about the absence of vitamin D from the plant diet. As soon as an interest is shown in what many have come to accept as the healthier diet, obstacles like there are presented to show why one should remain on the animal food diet.
Don’t be deterred. Do the research and continue along the good path.
In addition to the above mentioned vitamins, a plant based diet may also be deficient in zinc, heme-iron and omega 3. These are all found is high protein animal products.
Sources of Omega 3 are:
- Brussels sprout
- Chia seeds
- Algal oil
- Hemp seeds
- Perilla Oil
Zinc can be found in:
- Whole grains
Heme-iron can also be found in the foods listed above.
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet will ensure that the body receives all the nourishment that it needs and not be deficient in any way.
Choosing to be healthy
Being healthy is a choice that all of us can choose to make.
The human body was not designed to consume and or digest animals as food.
Those who have a scriptural background may argue that God gave man meat to eat as food after the flood. This is true. The reason; there was no available vegetation. All had been destroyed by the flood.
Note what happened to their life span as a result. They went from living for 900+ years before the flood to barely 200 by the generation of Abraham.
Today, the average life span of the human is 70+ years. Of course there are additional factors that go with this to reduce the lifespan of an individual.
In spite of this, it can be seen all around us and from this article, that the advantages of an animal and dairy free diet far over weighs the disadvantages.
Consider the diseases that are know to come with a high meat diet and compare that to the meatless diet. As long as one properly nourishes his body – most if not all the unhealthy experiences of the meat eater will be minimized if not totally eradicated.
The choice is yours.
Think, then act
Your visiting this post is an indication that you are investigating. You want a strong body. Some may want a body that they can exhibit on stage in competitions.
After all that you have read its time to take action. Think carefully about what you have learned here. Weigh the information carefully. I have left links here to other sources since this post has not and cannot exhaust the information on the topic.
I hope that you have taken some time to follow and read them. If you did not, then I suggest that you do, for your decision could well determine the type of life you live from here on in.
Do not treat it frivolously for it is always more difficult to cure than to prevent.
There is an old saying that I grew up hearing my parents repeat; “prevention is better than cure”.
Make you choice based on the weight of the evidence and the wisdom of it. Some may provide you with compelling evidence but deep down you know that something is missing.
Consider this well. It may be an indicator that you need to do some further searching. Whatever the outcome, know that the decision is yours and that it will affect you and your loved ones the most.
From all that you have gathered here, ask yourself the question; is there truly a vegan diet for bodybuilding?
Think, then act.
Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question at the end.