Friday, November 16, 2012

Building Muscle: Herbivore-Style!

In order to build muscle, you need protein. This is the basic building-block of muscle.

You also need to make sure you are eating enough of the right kinds of carbohydrates to keep up with your energy demands. Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source of the body. At least 50% of everybody's daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, while avoiding added sugar.  Endurance athletes may demand something closer to 70%.  If you aren't eating enough "Slow-burning" complex carbohydrates (starches), your body will convert protein into carbohydrates, which is undesirable. Good sources of complex carbohydrates are whole grain bread, brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and any other whole grain.


Remember: You've got to eat a significantly higher volume of food as a vegetarian to get an adequate caloric intake.  If you're bodybuilding on top of that, you're looking at bringing that figure up even further.



Back to protein:         


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You need 0.5g Protein/lb. Bodyweight, Daily.

Eggs and dairy products are protein rich. Qinoa (a grain), amaranth (another grain) and hemp seed are all complete protein sources. Other plant foods have some of the amino acids that can be assembled to form complete proteins in your body but need to be complemented by other plant foods that have the missing amino acids, hence the term, "Complementary proteins".  A good, general rule-of-thumb is: Grain + Legume = Complete Protein

I generally shy away from recommending soy products like soymilk, tofu, and fake meat products that are popular right now because a) 90% of all soy in the united states is genetically modified, b) soy contains phytin, which leaches minerals from the body, c) it is a high-allergen food, and d) it contains phytoestrogens which are potentially carcinogenic and are counter-productive for those trying to build muscle mass.  Even in the Asian countries who we exported tofu from, people generally only eat the stuff infrequently and in small amounts. 

That having been said, fermented soy products have traditionally been used more liberally in Asian countries without any adverse side-effects, at least not that anybody has been able to identify yet.  One fermented soy product that is high in protein, is super-versatile, and is totally tasty is tempeh.  At 20g protein/serving, tempeh is a staple for me.  Natto is another fermented soy product that is traditionally used in Japan.  It is high in protein, considered healthy, and consumed in high volumes.  Due to a slimy texture and a smell that some don't care for, Natto is something of an acquired taste.

Get around GMOs by going Organic


Another staple for me is a protein shake.  When I'm training hard, it is way easier for me to fall short of my body's protein requirement than it is to exceed it, especially being vegetarian who only eats eggs and dairy in very limited amounts.  The one egg protein shake I've had mixed easily, tasted great, and was very high in protein without any sugar.  On the other hand, it made me fart like no other.  Sometimes I do whey protein, which is the cheapest route.  As one who takes issue with the meat and dairy industry for the sake of not wanting to consume unnecessary antibiotics and hormones, I generally shy away from whey protein.  Then there are the vegan protein shakes.  Some of these are just awful.  One that warrants my accolades however, is the VegaOne brand.  That stuff is delicious, mixes easily, and is full of vitamins and minerals that vegetarians and vegans could potentially be lacking.  The downside is that this option contains the least amount of protein per serving (15 or 16g) and is the most expensive by a landslide.


Vitamins & Minerals


This is an entry for another day but there are a few points I would like to make on the matter before calling it a day.  It should go without saying that a person needs to make a point of getting all of their essential vitamins and minerals but, just in case, I've just said it.  Vegetarians and vegans are potentially at risk of developing deficiencies in Vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12.  They are also at risk of becoming deficient in certain minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.  All of these, with the exception of Vitamin B12, can be adequately supplied by a varied diet high in fruits, nuts, leafy green vegetables, and orange/yellow vegetables.  There are no sources of vitamin B12 that are not animal-derived.  For that, a vegetarian can eat dairy, eggs, and/or nutritional yeast/marmite spread.  A vegetarian would have to rely solely on an appropriate multivitamin or foods fortified with vitamin B12.  Also, a vegetarian/vegan is normally capable of synthesizing Vitamin D from sunlight.  People who don't eat animal products and who live far from the equator, where there is relatively little sunlight, need to supplement Vitamin D.  This particularly applies to people in these areas who have dark skin.  Eskimos accomplished this by eating whale blubber.  Today we have the luxury of multivitamins that are readily available.

There you have it.  That's everything you should need to start muscling up without eating meat or animal products.

Good luck & happy grazing!



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