Most muscle guys will tell you that you have to eat meat –and lots of it– to build big and strong muscles. Bodybuilders are skeptical that vegetarians can ever get enough protein to be truly buff. Wrong! Bodybuilding and a vegetarian lifestyle are not contradictions in terms. You can get buff and maintain a meat-free diet at the same time.
I have been a vegetarian for three years. I am 46 years old. During the same time, I have been weightlifting to build bigger muscles. Most of my buddies laughed when I started bodybuilding while maintaining a vegetarian diet. Now the joke is on them. I have gained a great deal of muscle and have eliminated body fat by working out hard and eschewing meat.
I am not a vegan. I do eat eggs and some dairy products. However, I believe that even vegans can successfully do bodybuilding.
Most bodybuilders will tell you that you need to eat 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight in order to build big muscle. They subsist on diets of steak and chicken and tuna, with few carbohydrates. I dispute that you need to eat that much protein, and it is my experience that eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with adequate protein, can get you the physique you want.
Make no mistake, you do need adequate protein to build muscles. But most people eat too much protein and the fat that comes with it. You can get enough protein by eating egg whites, drinking non-fat milk, eating low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt, eating beans, and eating natural peanut butter. You can also eat soy products, like soy burgers and soy milk to supplement your protein intake.
I have gained 5 inches in my chest (it’s 43 inches now) and 4 inches to my biceps (now 15 1/2 inches) by working out hard and eating right. My waist size has gone from 34 inches to 30 inches. I am 5 feet 7 inches tall and weight 153 pounds. My body-fat percentage is only 9 per cent. Here is a typical daily diet for me:
For breakfast, I have a bowl of Go-Lean cereal and 3/4 cup of low-fat Soy Milk along with some blueberries. For lunch, I often have a salad (with a simple vinaigrette) and a couple of boiled eggs with a piece of fruit. For dinner, I may have a South Beach Diet cheese pizza (31 grams of protein), some black beans and rice, or a couple of soy burgers with a salad and some more fruit. Before I go to bed, I may have a couple of tablespoons of natural peanut butter and a glass of soy milk. Depending on your metabolism, you could easily follow a similar diet and still build muscle. If you felt you needed additional protein, you could always use a whey protein supplement.
My workout routine is rigorous, but reasonable. I emphasize large muscle groups such as the chest, back and legs. I bench press, squat, and deadlift. I “connect the dots” with bicep curls, calf raises, tricep push-downs, and push ups. I work my abs every day. My bench press is now up to 275 pounds, and my deadlift is up to 365 pounds. I squat about 290 pounds. I swim about one-half miles 4 times per week, and walk my Great Danes about 1 1/2 miles per day. I feel great and my physique looks more like a 27 year old’s than a 46 year old’s. I get compliments all the time and am proud to go around shirtless.
My other bodybuilding and powerlifting friends are amazed that I have built so much muscle on a vegetarian diet. Don’t let your desire to build muscle keep you from going meat free