T Nation

Grass, Cows and Horses?


and this goes for all grass eating animals, eat grass all day, every day and yet manage to grow to the sizes that they do? How do they grow the hundreds of lbs of muscle (beef) on their frames eating a diet consisting of just about zero protein and fiber. The current dictate tells us protein is paramount to muscle gaining. But looking at nature it seems like BS.

Basically we're being told that if you want muscle you have to eat muscle. The muscle you eat can be in the form of food or a supplement. but the bottom line is to get muscle you have to eat muscle.

Well, to me this line of thinking is as absurd as the notion of eating someone's brain to gain their knowledge, LOL!


I don't know if the front of your message was cut off but you have an interesting line of reasoning. I'm no scientist but I'm pretty sure that meat has the amino chains that we can convert into muscle. From what I understand you can get the essential aminos by combineing rice and beans. I guess I was just wondering what your point is concerning meat vrs plants?


My point is the supplement industy pushing protein powders as essencial to sucess. Also the 1.5 grams per lb of bodyweight for "optimal" muscle gains BS.


A study on human muscle/strength results on a low protein diet would be an interesting read.

I'm a little hesitant in speculating on the comparison, though, because we're not cows or horses. Our digestive systems are a little different.


OK first are you a cow or a horse or closely related. I mean whales are Frigging HUGE and many of the largest live on Plankton yet you dont see us swimming for those little buggers which are almost All protein.

Second this statement just makes no sense.

OK protein, sure a bit low but its in there and and the quantity they eat every day they are getting a LOT of it. NO FIBER. WHAT THE HELLL!!! What is grass and grains if not fiber. Look at a big ole pile of cow Poo its a big lump of FIBER.

This just doesnt work man. like apple and oranges.


Uh oh sorry, i meant to write:

Zero protein, and fiber. In terms of it having no protein but having fiber.

Also i know we're not too closely related but the idea of being able to synthesize a protein from a fiber of a carb is completly denied by the supplment industry. We're constantly bombarded with how we'll waste our time in the gym without a can of powder.


No, most people on here actually espouse the benefits of protein from "real food", and powder should be use as a supplement, if needed.


why do you go around and pick one sentence out of a paragraph and quote it as to imply that, that was the meaning of the whole message? Are you retarded?

The idea is can we synthesize muscle tissue (protein) from non protein sources, and if so what quantities. Personally anything over .8grams per Kilogram is plenty. The rest of the caloric requirement can come from the other 2 sources.


You can gain muscle without meat or protein powder but it is much harder.

Cows don't even lift weights yet put on hundreds of pounds of muscle mass so perhaps it is not a good comparison.

Remember humans have been genetically bred to carry fat to get us through the lean times along with the minimal amount of muscle so we do not waste too much energy.

By trying to gain muscle and lose fat we are fighting tens of thousands of years of genetic programing.

Cows on the other hand have been domesticated for ~ 8000 years (I believe) and selected by humans to gain as much meat as possible, especially in recent years.

So a cows genes program it to turn grass into mostly meat. Our genes program us to turn food into fat more than muscle.

To gain muscle and lose fat we have to work our asses off and/or eat a diet that allows us to do this.

That diet seems to be one high in protein and moderate in carbohydrates and fats.


This is not correct. Cattle and goats and sheep are ruminants. They have a 4-chambered stomach. they don't digest the grass like humans. They have little bugs (bacteria) that eat the grass and multiply over and again. The cows digest these bacteria living in their rumen and that is how they utilize the grass to grow massive amounts of muscle.

Horses are not ruminants, but they utilze their appendix to convert grass to digestable nutrients.

You notion that you can synthysize muscle from non-protein sources needs some more work. You can't look at cows and then think we can do the same thing they can. We'd need 3 more stomachs and a crapload of microflora to pull that off.


Point 1: "they eat grass all day, every day" - this is what you have to do to get sufficient nutrition from a low nutrient food source such as grass.

Point 2: what is just fibre to us (ie cellulose - indigestible carbohydrate) is prime nutrition to animals with the right digestive apparatus. Ruminants, as pointed out earlier, have multiple stomachs. Other vegetarians, eg horses or indeed gorillas, have a large appendix which is used as a fermentation chamber to break down the cellulose. (BTW, for all you IDers out there, our vestigial and useless appendixes are reminders of our vegetarian ancestry).

Bottom line - we cannot thrive on grass, because we can't digest it. We can survive on vegetarian diet because there are sufficient digestible nutrients in some vegetable foods for us to survive. But because we have become adapted to a more meat-based diet, vegetarianism means sub-optimal nutrition.


It is worthy to point out that many (if not most) of the amino acids consumed by humans are not used for any sort of muscle function. Our nervous system, particularly the brain, uses amino acids for fuel, and because our brains are much more complex than that of a cow they therefore require more fuel. Many of the internal organs also require amino acids in their functioning.

More importantly related to your post, however, is the fact that amino acids contain nitrogen, some have sulfur, and others have even more obscure trace elements that can not be obtained from the consumption of carbohydrates and fats alone. While the recommendation of 1 g/lb. of body weight is an overestimate, that is the point, so that there is always enough amino acids in the blood. To this, someone may argue "Well then why do some eat up to 2-4 g/lb. when dieting?" This is because they are consuming the extra protein simply for the calories which causes the body to oxidize fatty acids because it is easier to do so than it is to break down amino acids and reassemble them as carbohydrates.

The reason we eat meat for protein is because it contains a much higher concentration, if you will, of amino acids than other natural sources and usually has a much more complete/balanced/preferable amino acid profile. Can you grow muscle with non-meat sources? Of course. But, without the addition of the nitrogen, sulfur, etc. that the body gets from eating protein it will only break down proteins/amino acids in the body (i.e. catabolism).

Perhaps if humans ate ~100 lbs. of grass a day (and maybe had an extra stomach or two) it would be possible to grow muscle on that diet, but personally, I'll stick with my steaks.


My question is more along the lines of how does a living organism of sufficient complexity take something like a carbhydrate and convert it into an amino acid.

To my knowlegde this is impossible.

Theoretically those animals should not be able to gain lean tissue at the rate that they do with teir diets being as devoid of portein as they are according to the fact that currently we believe that only the protein molecule can be converted into a fat or carbohydrate via gluceogenesis sp? But never can a carb become an aminoacid. But looking at the animals and people in Prison it seems like the body will respond like it's programmed to respond to any stimulus given the minnium nutritional requirements. No overabundance is needed.


Try this link and see if it helps:



Firstly, there are amino acids in grass, just not a lot, so herbivorous animals do consume aminos, and in the quantity of food they consume (litteraly hundreds of pounds for many species) they take in enough aminos for growth.

As for people growing on prison food, it is required that they are given nutritious meals, which include meat, and though it is usually of very low quality to keep costs down, it is still meat. Also, many of the guys that are getting rather large in prison are usually involved in some sort of work program where they do get paid and are allowed to keep the job as long as they behave themselves, and they use this money (I know it happens like this in some prisons, but not all even allow weight lifting) to buy things like beef jerkey, smoked mackerel (very popular), and even creatine with the wages they have earned. I would also not find it hard to believe that there are steroids in prisons, as just about any other drug can be smuggled in (there was an article in FLEX about prison bodybuilding sans the steroids part, which is my specualtion).

And no, aminos can not be made from carbohydrates, but they can be synthesized from other, more abundant, aminos (as long as EAA's are present, which can't be synthesized). This can not happen though, unles the elements that make up the functional group (which is specific to every amino, and what differentiates them) are available, which usually come from other aminos.



Don't equal


Another example can be taken from the silverback gorilla. Primarily a vegetarian but strong and huge as hell.


There is protein in the diet cows, horses, sheep, etc eat. More so in a modern ration that in nature. Ruminant nutrition is an entirely different animal than non ruminant nutrition.

Also, read Dr. Mike's "Biochemistry Primer for Exercise Science" Dave Barr reccomended it and it was one of the best reads I found all summer. Cue you into some basic human biochem.


Woah is that true?! Is the grass just to feed the bacteria which the cows then digest?


That is part of it. Someone else mentioned other nutrients that are bio-available to everyone in certain plants. Certain grasses (really legumes such as alfalfa hay) contain up to 25% Crude Protein.

But if it weren't for the microflora that lives off the cellulose found in plant matter - Cattle would not be able to utilize grasses the way they do.

If you notice - cattle eat plant material/grasses that contain cellulose - not lignin(wood). Nothing can utilize lignin for nutritional purposes except termites.


An interesting side note is that it's much the same story in termites. They have a protist in their gut that digests the "indigestibles" from the wood.

Cool huh?