People say that you can’t burn fat or increase muscle mass or be a great athlete as a vegetarian. This is not true. If your diet isn’t clean, then it doesn’t matter if you eat meat, or you don’t eat meat, you won’t make any progress in your fitness endeavors.
This artice isn’t about which lifestlye is better. It’s about shedding some light on the whole vegetarian issue and providing our side of the equation.
Myth #1: It’s difficult for a Vegetarian to get protein
When I made the effort, I was able to take in about 170 grams of protein, which is close to the bodybuilding recommended intakes of protein (1 gram per pound of bodyweight). I’m still unsure if this is the optimal intake necessary. I personally think it depends on your activity level. Hence, if you’re just a guy who goes to the gym 3 days a week or if you don’t work out at all, your recommended dietary intake of protein will be much lower. But lets stick to this 1 gram per pound of bodyweight equation. How do vegetarians get protein?
There are numerous foods that have ample sources of protein. The following are my top ten sources of protein:
1. Peanut Butter
3. Veggie Burgers
4. Cottage Cheese
8. Kidney Beans
9. Protien Powders
10. Protien Bars
I usually consume some almonds after each meal. If you plan ahead, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it is to increase your protein intake.
After doing my own research I came across some other protein intake recommendations. The most common of which was .8 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight. For me, that’s an intake of 72 grams of protein. No wonder my strength shot up once I ate 170 grams.
Myth #2: Vegetarians don’t get enough calcium
This is as ridiculous as not being able to get enough protein. If you follow a varied diet with a good number of calories, you’ll be able to get almost every single vitamin and mineral and macronutrient you need out there. Like I said earlier, all it takes is a little bit of planning, experimentation, and research.
Some of the high-protien foods that you already consume such as tofu and soybeans have ample amounts of calcium to help meet your dietary needs. Tofu has about 683 miligrams of calcium per 100 gram with about 15 grams of protein.
The recommended level of calcium for adults is 1000 mg per day. A slightly higher intake is recommended for adults above the age of fifty. You see lots of cases of ostoperosis in this age category. This has nothing to do with vegetarianism. Simply stated, if you don’t meet the minimum requirements, you’ll see problems in the future.
Myth #3: Vegetarians are skinny. There’s no way you can get big and strong with a vegetarian diet.
Being skinny or weak has nothing to do with being a vegetarian. It has to do with caloric intake. If you have a positive caloric deficit (eat more than you burn), and increase your protein intake, you’ll be able to build lean muscle mass, get stronger, and have more energy throughout the day.
Robert Cheeke is a really good example of vegan bodybuilder who has been able to build up some nice lean muscle mass and maintain it. At 14 years old, he was only 89 pounds (my sister’s 13 and 114lbs). He began lifting immediately and bulked up to 133lbs at 17 years old. Using bodybuilding methods of meal frequency, and increased protein and carb intake, he packed on 19 lbs in 12 weeks through the Body-For-Life program. He’s been a competitive bodybuilder and fitness author ever since.
The point is that Robert Cheeke was a skinny kid who packed on close to 100 lbs of muscle in five years because he did things right and he was motivated. Putting on muscle has nothing to do with your lifestlye. It has to do with vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, caloric intake, and hard training.
I’m going to stop right here. Almost every other Vegetarian Myth out there can be summarized by what I’ve written above. Let’s forget about the argument about which lifestyle is better. Choose your own lifestlye, do your own research, and make your own rules.
To learn more about vegetarian protein, read this eye opening guest post by Kardena Pauza: The Truth about Vegetarian Protein