Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Plant Based Muscle Building?

Interesting to have this article pop up in my feeds today. The other night I was reading a recent issue of Scientific American Mind - on the diverse intelligence of other animals - and had a hit that I need to stop eating meat, as a morality thing.

Weird that - I have been a militant omnivore most of my life.

The next day I am reading the winter issue of Buddhadharma and there is a Q&A with the teachers about eating meat as a Buddhist. It felt like synchronicity to read this the next day after having that thought about not eating meat.

So then today, an article on building muscle with a plant-based diet, by none other than my nutritional guru, John Berardi, shows up in my feeds. I trust his information more than any other expert in the field, so if he says it can be done, I believe it.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

I haven't decided for sure if I want to go meatless, or if so, how I will do it. I know I will still eat eggs and use dairy products, but I won't go back to most grains, so it'll have to be veggies and fruit and nuts.

Anyway, here is JB's article.

JB Goes Vegetarian?

Big Ideas From PN
Plant Based Muscle Building?

To celebrate the launch of Precision Nutrition V3, over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing with you some important “big ideas” from V3, the most complete version of the Precision Nutrition System we’ve ever offered.

Today’s “big idea”: Taking plant-based diets for a test drive

Sounds Like A Challenge To Me

A few weeks back, my good buddy Damian was in town and we were at the gym in the middle of a back workout. In between sets, another friend, Nate, came up to say hi. And with him was his new training partner, a thin-ish guy in his mid 20’s, named Lou.

After introducing himself, Lou told me that he was new to the gym but was struggling with building muscle because he’s a vegetarian. Knowing nutrition is my game, he asked the inevitable question - “what can a vegetarian do to build muscle?”

Not missing a beat, my friend Damian responded with: “eat meat.”

Now, we all had a good laugh at that. But clearly that response wasn’t solving any of Lou’s muscle-building problems. No, Lou needed some strategies for getting enough calories, enough protein, and enough vitamins and minerals - without including meat in his diet. That’s a challenge for any plant-based eater, regardless of their goals, let alone someone wanting to build muscle. So Lou and I scheduled a time to sit down and plan out a plant-based muscle building diet for him.

When Lou and I met up, I brought with me a copy of Precision Nutrition V3. Why? Well, since this latest version of PN actually has a brand-new guidebook called “The Plant-Based Diet Guide,” I figured he’d benefit from reading all about how to optimize his nutrition - even while avoiding meat.

New As Part of PN V3

New As Part of PN V3

He did. And at the end of our meeting, Lou had in front of him, an awesome meat-free muscle building plan.

Funny enough, after my meeting with Lou, I told a few friends about the plan. Needless to say, the carnivores among them were skeptical. One of them commented: “vegetarian bodybuilding is stupid.” The other one told me, and I quote, “it’s impossible to build muscle without eating meat.”

Impossible? That sounds an awful lot like a challenge to me!

You see, I’m a tireless experimenter with my body. I’m always trying new things that could help in my quest to look better, feel better, and improve my health. So this little push, along with the fact that Lou’s diet was one that I could actually see myself enjoying, was all I needed to put the PN Plant-Based Diet Guide to the test.

And what a test. You see, the fact that a smart, well-designed PN-style plant-based eating plan can help folks improve their health and drop some unwanted body fat is a no brainer. However, using such a diet to build muscle while staying lean. Now that’s a PN-sized challenge. A challenge that I kicked off on Monday. A challenge that I’ll be exploring for the next 30 days or so. A challenge that I’ll report on right here in the PN Blog.

A Little Background
What’s A Plant Based DIet?

Taken directly from pages 1-3 of the PN Plant-Based Diet Guide; plant-based diets are basically vegetarian meal plans. So why not use the term “vegetarian diets”? Well, the concept of “vegetarianism” has taken on a life of its own and implies certain moral and/or philosophical decisions that not every person trying to eat more plants and less meat believes in. Including myself.

Simply put, not every person avoiding meat has a deep philosophical reason for doing so. Some believe avoiding meat is simply healthier. Others believe it’s better for the environment. And, of course, still others make this choice as a result of religious or animal rights belief. It’s for these reasons I call it a plant-based diet and not vegetarianism. The term “plant based diet” doesn’t carry all the biases and prejudices that “vegetarianism” does.

It simply means eating more plants and less meat. It’s a diet thing.

More importantly, in using “plant-based diet”, I’m calling vegetarianism what it should have always been called. In other words, a proper vegetarian meal plan is based on eating mostly/only foods that come from plants. Not meat-free processed junk foods, which is something many vegetarians do.

Of course, there are several types of plant based diets. Some plant based eaters do still eat meat; they just eat much less than average. Other plant-based eaters avoid meat; however do eat fish, dairy products, and eggs. Other plant-based eaters avoid all meat and fish; eating only dairy and eggs from animals. And finally, vegans eat only foods from the plant kingdom, avoiding all animal products, including dairy and/or eggs.

What Kind of Plant-Based Eater Am I Pretending To Be?

In this month’s experiment, I’m actually going to be following a plan that’s as close to vegan (no animal products at all) as possible. What can I say? I like a challenge.

However, I do love eggs. So I’ll be eating 3 whole eggs each morning with 1 slice of cheese on top. That’s the only animal based food I’ll be including in my plan. Technically that makes me a lacto-ovo plant based eater. But I could care less about the labeling here.

As you may have guessed by now, I’m not about to sign up for omnivore’s anonymous and repent my meat-eating ways. Nor is this experiment designed to say anything about the nutritional superiority of a smart plant-based diet vs a smart mixed diet. Nor am I making any moral, environmental, or animal-rights statements here. Rather, this is a personal experiment I’m doing to “see what happens.” I really want to know what’ll happen if I drop the meat and eat mostly plants while trying to gain muscle.

Read the rest of the post to see how JB is going to build muscle without eating meat.


Anonymous said...

Maybe wait and see how this month goes for JB. Have you been following Ferrugia's blog?

He has several interesting entries (including the current) about his vegan body-building.

Keep us posted on developments in your thinking--a fascinating topic to me as well.

Kai in NYC

Anonymous said...

I will be very interested to see how you grapple with this. I've been wrangling with the same dilemma and it's not easy! The deeper you look into it, the more shadings there are as to what the most ethical diet really is -- not to mention how you reconcile that with performance.

Another person to check out would be Mike Mahler, a strength coach who has long maintained a great physique and a hardcore iron lifestyle on a vegan diet. It can be done, from what I have seen, but probably not a seamless transition.

Kris said...

Great post. As a Buddhist, a vegetarian, and someone who lifts, I just had to say this post made me smile.