T Nation

Building on a Vegetarian Diet

Hello my friends,

A little bit of my background: I am a college student graduating this year and I am very interested in exercise science in nutrition. Unfortunately those is not my majors and I’m often frustrated about it(this can be discussed another time).
One year and a half ago I fractured my tibia and due to not being able to exercise and also being very sad and unmotivated I have lost around 20 pounds. Now I am weighing ridiculous 140 pounds.

I’ll be taking this summer to get back into the gym and realize some gains. The program of my choice will be starting strength, and although I have never been a vegetarian I am going to attempt gaining strength and muscle on a vegetarian diet all due to my interest in exercise and nutrition.
I’d like to be able to prove two things: that yes, muscle gains are possible by using starting strength, and that it is possible to achieve that while on a vegetarian diet, or mostly vegetarian at least.

But I would like to ask your opinion, do you guys really believe it is possible to achieve good results, as in gaining weight and strength, on a vegetarian diet?
What are your thoughts? Any vegetarian bodybuilders or athletes here?

Thank you

of course its possible, eat eggs, and take whey protein. Now vegan, thats another story, its possible too but probably ridiculously hard. of course starting strength works. shit loads of people have done it and gained muscle, is it optimal? i don’t know, but of course it works.

i don’t really know what your trying to prove though… why would you do a diet and a program just to ‘prove’ that it works… i mean why not do what is optimal, rather than what is sub optimal just so you can say ‘i told you so’?

anyways, assuming your not a troll, then best of luck to you and your goals.

Hey man, thanks for the reply. You’re right, perhaps I used the wrong wording when I said I wanted to “prove” it works. Rather, I would like to use this an experiment for myself and see if it will really be a ‘sub-optimal’ approach. From all I’ve ever read it seems like it is…but what if this idea of meat and animal protein being the best way to build muscle is just a plan from the meat and dairy industry to make us eat more meat and milk?

And don’t take me wrong, I am from Brazil and I have been eating meat for my three meals of the day and also we probably have the best steakhouses in the world hahaha. But I like to ask myself "what if"
If I find it is really sub-optimal, I will resume my normal diet. I just want to hear people’s opinions and if there are vegetarian bodybuilders/athletes that could give me some input. Thank you again

Vegetarian diets can work fine…

Not sure what you mean by “build muscle” on starting strength? It’s great to build a base and will get you in the game, but don’t expect it to turn you into a tank.

[quote]blanka wrote:
From all I’ve ever read it seems like it is…but what if this idea of meat and animal protein being the best way to build muscle is just a plan from the meat and dairy industry to make us eat more meat and milk?
[/quote]

Do whatever you feel is necessary, but you seem to be blatantly uneducated about basic physiology. Reasonable estimates about minimal as well as “optimal” protein requirements per day do exists. Where you get them from matters (amino acid profiles) but not that much. Nothing to do with any conspiracy bullshit.

ps: What happened to that predator diet idiot?

[quote]infinite_shore wrote:

ps: What happened to that predator diet idiot?
[/quote]

Predators don’t use computers. He’s currently in a loin cloth feasting on raw offal that he got from his butcher.

…you don’t get credit for re-building the twenty pounds you’ve lost, that’s just a rebound. The clock starts on vegetarian building once your back to 160.

[quote]infinite_shore wrote:

[quote]blanka wrote:
From all I’ve ever read it seems like it is…but what if this idea of meat and animal protein being the best way to build muscle is just a plan from the meat and dairy industry to make us eat more meat and milk?
[/quote]

Do whatever you feel is necessary, but you seem to be blatantly uneducated about basic physiology. Reasonable estimates about minimal as well as “optimal” protein requirements per day do exists. Where you get them from matters (amino acid profiles) but not that much. Nothing to do with any conspiracy bullshit.

[/quote]
I would like to add that our intestinal tract much more closely resembles that of an obligate carnivore than that of an herbivore.

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
…you don’t get credit for re-building the twenty pounds you’ve lost, that’s just a rebound. The clock starts on vegetarian building once your back to 160.[/quote]
Very valid point that shouldn’t be overlooked. After 18 months of no training, almost anything done consistently will bring initial results. Maybe consider a couple of months to establish a kind of “baseline”, and then try the experiment? Just a thought.

[quote]blanka wrote:
I’d like to be able to prove two things: that yes, muscle gains are possible by using starting strength[/quote]
This isn’t something that needs to be proven. It already has been, plenty of times.

This has also been proven a bunch of times. If does, however, require super-intent focus on what you’re eating. It’s very common for vegetarians to overestimate their daily nutrition (protein and total calories especially).

[quote]But I would like to ask your opinion, do you guys really believe it is possible to achieve good results, as in gaining weight and strength, on a vegetarian diet?
What are your thoughts? Any vegetarian bodybuilders or athletes here?[/quote]
There have been a few articles and threads discussing it. It’s definitely be done, but it takes a lot of effort and planning. There were a handful of guys on the forum who were vegetarian or vegan. Not many of them post for whatever reason. It is pretty much “against the grain” here and they tend to get grief.

A few years ago, I did a version of what you’re doing. I went vegetarian for a month and vegan for a month. I was trying to maintain, but I ended up losing 12 pounds total. Berardi also did a vegetarian experiment and gained 5 pounds or muscle and 2 pounds of fat in one month. (Berardi is and was quite a bit smarter than me.)

Quality protein intake will be key. As was said, this is tons easier for a lacto-ovo vegetarian (with dairy and eggs), but things like rice or pea protein supplements are used by vegans. Read up on food combining, regarding complete proteins. Soy protein powders should be avoided, but whole food sources of soy are fine in moderation.

Carbs and healthy fats are also easy enough to get. Sometimes too easy. That’s one reason why it’s relatively-harder to cut on a vegan diet than it is to bulk. But, just to repeat, it can certainly be done. Vegan and vegetarian bodybuilders get into contest shape all the time.

You are a tiny guy. A vegetarian diet is not ideal for gaining muscle, and Starting Strength is not ideal for bodybuilding. So you are starting off at a disadvantage and using poor tools to accomplish your goals.

If you are serious about wanting to make a change to your body, it will be hard enough to so with the best methods, so why hamper your progress with sub-optimal methods?

Thank you for all the replies they were very enriching. I read Berardi’s article on his website Precision Nutrition and I found it very interesting. After reading all the comments I may go for a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet…and maybe eat animal protein once a week?

I am also trying to also observe the changes in my diet for health reasons since I have high cholesterol levels.

Do any of you believe that a diet with high meat consumption can lead to high levels of lipids and cholesterol in the blood? Because I have read otherwise in several websites

[quote]blanka wrote:
Do any of you believe that a diet with high meat consumption can lead to high levels of lipids and cholesterol in the blood? Because I have read otherwise in several websites
[/quote]

Yes, a diet with high meat consumption CAN lead to “high levels of lipids and cholesterol in the blood” but:

  1. that does not mean that the high meat consumption is the culprit.

  2. it’s also debatable whether high cholesterol is actually a bad thing.

You can get stronger and bigger eating anything as long as essential nutrients are available in the diet. Is a vegetarian diet best? No, not really, but t’s up to you what you eat.

Writing my thesis on comparing the Mediterranean & Vegetarian diets on CVD right now and the first thing i can say is watch out your omega-6

intake if you wish to follow a veg. diet

Good Luck

[quote]blanka wrote:
Thank you for all the replies they were very enriching. I read Berardi’s article on his website Precision Nutrition and I found it very interesting. After reading all the comments I may go for a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet…and maybe eat animal protein once a week?

I am also trying to also observe the changes in my diet for health reasons since I have high cholesterol levels.

Do any of you believe that a diet with high meat consumption can lead to high levels of lipids and cholesterol in the blood? Because I have read otherwise in several websites
[/quote]

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but if you are espousing a vegetarian diet for health reasons, you obviously don’t look at raw studies and instead surf newspaper clippings for distilled and distorted pseudo-science.

If you are vegetarian because feed lots horrify you (as they should), then maybe I could recommend occasional meat from better (and understandably more expensive - hence the occasional) sources? Pastured pork and chicken (including eggs), grass fed cow and sheep? Wild caught fish? The animals live much better that way. Shit, go hunting and put it in a freezer. Healthy and not immoral either.

If you have found religion and are vegetarian because of that I have nothing to contribute except for a “bon chance”.

–Me

i went from 150lbs to 230lbs in two years, ON A VEGETARIAN DIET.

people would ridicule the idea when i first started, but two years down the line, these same ppl were chewing their words.

My main protein source was whey. 300 grams a day through whey.

[quote]bobMartial wrote:
My main protein source was whey. 300 grams a day through whey.
[/quote]

O_O Jezzus what’s that like 30 shakes?

[quote]bobMartial wrote:
i went from 150lbs to 230lbs in two years, ON A VEGETARIAN DIET.

people would ridicule the idea when i first started, but two years down the line, these same ppl were chewing their words.

My main protein source was whey. 300 grams a day through whey.
[/quote]
So you consumed 300 g of ANIMAL PROTEIN daily on a vegetarian diet and gained mass? And you seem surprised?

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:

[quote]bobMartial wrote:
My main protein source was whey. 300 grams a day through whey.
[/quote]

O_O Jezzus what’s that like 30 shakes?[/quote]

haha… something like that =P

on a more serious note… had 6 shakes a day, each consisting of 2 scoops (50g)

wasn’t too bad… it surely kept things simple

[quote]Ecchastang wrote:

[quote]bobMartial wrote:
i went from 150lbs to 230lbs in two years, ON A VEGETARIAN DIET.

people would ridicule the idea when i first started, but two years down the line, these same ppl were chewing their words.

My main protein source was whey. 300 grams a day through whey.
[/quote]
So you consumed 300 g of ANIMAL PROTEIN daily on a vegetarian diet and gained mass? And you seem surprised?[/quote]

huh? animal protein? whey is dairy.

and i certainly wasn’t surprised… as long as i was getting all the amino acids and absorbing all of them, i expected results