Betting you know the number one concern for anyone on—or considering—a vegetarian diet…? Right! Protein, of course! Some are certain that for proper muscle development you also need meat-based protein. Others would say, it depends, or that it’s doable without animal protein, but harder.
So, Who’s Right?
They all are! Bottom line? It depends on the individual body type, metabolism and even philosophical and psychological make-up. There are ancient nutrition systems such as Ayurveda, that assign nutrition by body/metabolic type as well as some newer systems taking this further.
So, what works for you? If you’ve determined what works for you, super! Please share it! We’d love to see you over on our Facebook Page. What you share may help someone who’s struggling. If you’re still trying to figure it out, keep reading!
Which “arian” or “ism” Fits You?
- Ovo vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy products.
- Lacto vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarianism includes dairy products such as eggs, milk and cheese.
- Veganism excludes all animal flesh and animal products, so excludes milk, cheese and eggs. Vegan purists exclude honey because it is a by-product of bees.
- Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Some allow the cooking of vegetables only up to a certain low temperature. Raw foods purist cook nothing.
Semi-vegetarian Diets Include:
- pescetarianism, which includes fish and sometimes other seafood.
- pollotarianism, which includes poultry.
- “pollo-pescatarian”, which includes poultry and fish, or “white meat” only.
- Flexitarian – primarily vegetarian, but will eat meat if easier by social circumstance
Carnivores and Paleotarians:
The more “purist carnivores” we’re dubbing Paleotarians for their focus on eating as did our hunter-gatherer ancestors, a diet of organic meats and healthy doses of fruits, vegetables, roots, nuts and seeds, with minimal grains, legumes, starches and sugars. This is the most popular diet amongst avid fitness enthusiasts.
Some meat-eaters disdain vegetarianism and vice versa. Some vegans disdain vegetarianism and carnivorism, and some raw vegans dis them all!
Our philosophy is that what works for us may not work for you.
What works for you may not work for your spouse or best friend, so education and informed experimentation with yourself, is key. “What?” You may be thinking. “There’s no one answer and I have to figure this out?!?“ Well, while it would be easier and simpler to have THE right answer once and for all, it’s actually really cool to realize that as with so many other things in life what works best for one, may not work best for all. Even scientific studies are limited by virtue of test groups and conditions that may be applicable to most but not conclusive for all.
The plant and animal kingdoms thrive on differentiation.
While there are general commonalities, such as all need water, nutrition and sunlight, the quantity and kind varies. The soil and lighting that’s best for one plant species may not be best for another, or the diet and habitation of one animal group is not best for another, so why assume it is different for people?
We are all a part of the human race, but with different geographic locations, genetics, traditions, constitutions and consciousness. What works for you make not work for your best friend and yet you could both be right.
The Pro of Protein, the Building Blocks of Life
Sometimes called the building blocks of life, every living thing is made up of proteins and it is protein that sustains health, repairs and replenishes. This also means that all food has some protein. We suspect that the great debate amongst health and fitness enthusiasts as to the amount of protein needed will rage and range for some time.
Whenever it comes to studies and research, we are working with what has been studied and proven to date. This is why we often hear of new research that contradicts previous research. We, friends, are very much a work-in-progress as is the degree of knowledge and research achieved to date. With that qualifier, known variables for protein recommendations include age, weight, sex, stress and activity levels in addition to metabolic or nutritional typing, but the current general protein guidelines range between 40-70 grams a day.
A friend visiting from abroad marveled at how concerned Americans tend to be with protein consumption, It’s estimated that Americans eat about 50% more protein than the recommended daily amount (RDA)!
Increasing your protein intake may not help.
If your goal is to build more muscle it’s natural to think you need to add more protein to your diet. Not necessarily true. Doubling your intake may not help.
In one study, experts evaluated three groups of weightlifters:
- a low protein group
- a moderate protein group
- a high protein group
They made a surprising discovery. There were no effects in muscle mass from varying the protein intake.1)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1474076?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Study indicates: “There were no effects of varying protein intake on indexes of lean body mass.”
On the surface, this seems outrageously wrong. It just doesn’t make sense. However, stepping back from our assumptions, we can consider the miracle of alchemy at work.
Vegetarians have long argued that the strongest mammals on earth are vegetarians and that cows convert green grass into lean muscle. Trees convert carbon dioxide (CO2) to oxygen (O). Perhaps some of the conflict on this topic relates to the science of conversion, which is an organic and variable process.
Stepping back from our assumptions, we can consider the miracle of alchemy at work.
So it just makes sense that our bodies are capable of a biological alchemy, where we consume one thing and convert it into what we need. I mean… isn’t that was we do every single time we eat…? I.e., we do not eat food and produce food. Rather, we eat food and our body converts that food into energy. So perhaps a better question over getting enough protein is, are you getting a well balanced diet of nutrient dense foods?
Are you getting a well-balanced diet of nutrient dense foods?
Meanwhile, back to known tangibles, here’s a simple way to calculate your general protein needs:
1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = your recommended protein in grams-per-day.
But that’s a BASIC and GENERAL guideline. Everybody is different and has different needs. The Indian Ayurvedic system addresses three basic body types called doshas. However, within these, most people have some influence from each, and the degree of influence determines the optimal diet for you. What works best for your gym buddy—or your personal trainer—may not be what’s best for you.2)https://bayesianbodybuilding.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders/
Best Protein Sources for Vegetarians and Vegans
Raw nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, free-range eggs and some dairy products are the favorites of a vegetarian diet. Dairy such as milk, cheese and yogurt, with the lighter, cleaner white and goat cheeses considered as better, such as cottage cheese, feta and mozzarella cheeses.
For supplementation, a good protein powder is also a nice staple to have on hand if you feel you’re lacking in the protein department and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options exist, such as whey based powders for vegetarians or peanut or pea based for vegans.
Soy stimulates estrogen, the feminine hormone, so it’s really bizarre that it’s in so many of the protein bars and powders. Best to stick with natural whey (not whey isolate), (although the opinions on this are mixed, as you can read more about in this article.
We wondered what well known athletes might be vegetarian or vegan to see if it is indeed possible to build strong muscles on a non-meat diet, so here’s a list to scan (we threw in a few celebrities for seasoning:
Vegan or Vegetarian Celebrities and Athletes
It’s more common to see in the media that celebrities and athletes are now turning to a meat-free diet. Vegan, vegetarian or a variation. So if you’re skeptical about non-meat diets and high intensity demands, the list below is just a small representation of some familiar names that have chosen an alternative diet.
If you know of any to add to these list, please hop on over to our Facebook Page and let us know.
- Mike Tyson (Heavyweight Champion)
- Brendan Brazier (Ironman Triathlete)
- Carl Lewis (Olympic Track Star)
- Mac Danzig (UFC)
If you know of any to add to this list, please hop on over to our Facebook Page and let us know.
- Russell Simmons (Hip Hop Mogul)
- Lea Michele (Glee)
- Bob Harper (Biggest Loser)
- Pamela Anderson (Actor/Model)
- Ellen Degeneres (Comedian/Talk Show Host)
- Anne Hathaway (Actor)
- Robin Williams (Actor)
- Martina Navratilova (Tennis Player)
- Tony La Russa (Baseball Player)
- Tony Gonzales (Flexitarian) (NFL player)
- Olivia Wilde (Actor)
- Carrie Underwood (Singer)
- Steve Wynn (Casino Mogul)
- Biz Stone (Twitter Co-founder)
- Bill Clinton (Former President)
Bottom Line? Don’t Stress
For the most part the worry that you will consume too many carbs over protein is just that; a worry. A balanced and healthy diet rich in whole foods is optimal without an extreme approach.
If your weight and health are optimal…if you are healthy, energized and feel good with good muscle tone and moderate body fat, your diet is probably working for you. If not, then start experimenting with healthier replacements and variations.
NAKED WHEY, which you can read about in this article – #1 Undenatured 100% Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder from California Farms. We get the 5lb Bulk size. Naked Whey is:
- Gluten Free
- Soy Free
- Preservative Free
- Stimulates Muscle Growth
- Enhances Recovery
- 76 Servings, by NAKED nutrition, on Amazon
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