T Nation

Is Meat That Important?


#1

I’ve been watching some youtube videos recently of vegan bodybuilders. I think most people here would scoff at the idea. However, they seem to have good physiques and are able to meet their macro needs with their diet. I do notice a bit of a heavy reliance on protein powders, but at the end of the day it seems if you get your macros in then it works.

The one thing that surprised me the most was the high amount of carbs these people are eating. It seems super high, but they weren’t fat or anything. I’m not sure how to wrap my head around that. However, most of it was coming from clean sources such as beans, veggies, etc. I personally don’t feel like a meat diet suits me. I’m currently experimenting on 5/3/1. One cycle I’ll do with moderate (I say moderate in a relative sense for me) amount of meat. The next cycle I’ll go to a low amount of meat and then next cycle go back. The idea is to do this a few times to see if there’s any difference between the two. I’m going to keep my macros the same however whether I’m eating moderate or low meat.

I suspect it won’t make a difference as long as I’m reaching my macros on either diet. I’m curious to see though. Anyone else experimented like this? What results to did you have?


#2

Meat is a great source of protein, however it's not required for you to make progress. Protein is required for progress. So vegetarians can make progress because they are getting their protein from sources other than meat. So is meat important? Well, it's not required, if that's what you mean by "important," but it is going to make it easier.

You were saying that you were going to try changing the amount of meat you eat and see how you do. The big thing you want to do is make sure you are getting enough protein to support recovery. So as you eat less meat, you are going to need to eat more sources of plant protein. If you keep the same over-all diet and just eat less meat, you will notice a negative impact as eating less meat will effect your calorie intake, protein intake, and possibly fat intake (depending on the types of meat you normally eat). So to properly test if meat is important for you, you need to first control your calorie intake and your macro-nutrients as you change your food composition.

You mentioned about these other people eating a lot of carbs and it surprised you. Depending on your training, your goals, and your body size, sometimes you need a lot of carbs. Also, not all carb sources are calorie dense. Eating a cup of rice is not nutritionally the same as a cup of broccoli. So when you say they are eating a lot of carbs, it kind of depends on what the carb source is. And that "carb" may also be a source of plant protein, which is why they need to eat so much of it.

If you are looking around for information on nutrition, I wouldn't just go to vegetarian youtubers. They may be biased. Take a look into Renaissance Periodization. I really like Mike Israetel.


#3

I've been a vegetarian for about a year and I've only experienced positive effects of not eating meat.


#4

I personally think protein is overrated. If you are meeting your energy needs with either fat or carbs the amount of protein needed for muscle building and repair isn’t all that great. A pound of fairly dry muscle is like 80 grams of protein. An advanced natural lifter might put on 30 pounds of dry muscle. That’s 2400 grams of added protein for a lifetime of training. If it’s 10 years that’s 240 grams of protein added to your body per year. Now for sure there are protein needs for more than what is actually added, but the actual amount of protein needed to add muscle is very small and widely overblown.

However, I don't believe doing it as a vegan is as healthy.


#5

The genes you were born with were not evolutionarily selected from "vegan" ancestors. That's just the way it is. Of course that doesn't mean its not healthy, that's debatable, i tend to lean in the other direction, with the stipulation that the meat you eat is wild (why do you think fish are so "good" for you. Its the only meat in modern civilization that's actually wild). Mother nature selects genes based on selective pressure for species survival, not your individual longevity which is why cancer and alzheimers and all other hell breaks loose after 40. You've had your chance to reproduce now get the hell out of the way. Simple as that. There is no selective pressure on genes that enhance human life length past what is needed to get to the age of reproduction and offspring raising. Do the math its rather simple, 16-20 to reach reproduction age, another 16-20 years to teach your offspring how to survive. 20 plus 20 is????
Of course we are an extremely adaptive species so going "vegan" certainly can't cause much damage given the processed meat alternatives presented to current civilization. Besides, look at the cat and dog. Neither were genetically selected to eat anything other than other animals. We feed then corn and rice and alot of other crap and they hang in there pretty good.
Of course my question is, would you rather be a timber wolf, or a toy poodle?
A Sphynx cat, or an f'n siberian tiger?

LB


#6

"A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. A 200 pound human contains about 120 pounds of water, or about 15 gallons. If you grow for 15 years, that’s 1 gallon of water added to your body per year. Now for sure there are water needs for more than what is actually added, but the actual amount of water needed to grow is very small and widely overblown."


#7

And if we constantly breathed and peed out large quantities of muscle that analogy would make sense. But even with the comparison no one talks about force feeding abnormally large quantities of water to support growth. If you sweat you need to drink a little more to replace what you lost. Is there anyone out there drinking 10 times the normal intake of water to grow muscle? No, because beyon a couple extra glasses a day it isn't needed. Same with protein and there are plenty of studies on athletes that confirm it.


#8

What, do you suppose, is the mean "conversion rate" for ingested protein into muscle?

Do we not also lose protein to other sources besides "creation of dry muscle tissue" ?


#9

I can think of nothing worse than having a powder as a staple of my diet but if that doesnt bother you, go nuts.


#10

Very low. And why do you think that is? This is exactly my point. Most protein isn't needed for muscle building.

Absolutely we use it elsewhere, as I mentioned. At what rate do you think we use it up outside of burning it as calories when it is In excess?

To be clear, I'm not denouncing eating extra protein. It isn't like it's going to hurt you. And it is critical and necessary, but it's also the focus of way too much attention and hype.


#11

Show a vegetarian who is really jacked and I might consider it. Must rep with at least 400/500/650 and be natural. I don't care about scrawny guys with 2 years of training experience, soft guys or anyone else who claims being vegetarian is not detrimental to training .


#12

meat has a complete amino acid profile / eat meat get all amino acids
plant protein does not have a complete amino acid profile / you have to know what sources to combine to get complete amino acid profile
lack of animal fats has been linked to increased depression in most people{not all}
protien requirements for sedentary people is quite low
protein is used for muscle repair and muscle growth /damage your muscles during training more protein required


#13

How many natural guys can do this? Not many.

Just for reference, Hafthór Björnsson weighs 400 lbs, uses performance enhancing drugs, and placed 3rd in World's Strongest Man has the following PRs:

Squat – 795 lbs raw
Bench press –510 lbs raw
Deadlift – 990 lbs raw with straps


#14

A lot of good thoughts in here, glad to see this didn't degenerate to nonsense by the 3rd post.

1st. Everything depends on goals and standards. You will not step on the Olympia stage, for instance, or get ANYWHERE close to it, without eating meat. I think we can all agree on this. It would have been done by now by a vegan with phenomenal genetics if it were possible.

2nd. I agree with what has been said about protein being overrated by many. I consume much less protein than most other people with goals similar to mine. People go nuts with protein intake. It's not necessary. I know many smaller/weaker folks than me who don't lift weights in the same ballpark as me.

3rd. When we talk about these guys with great physiques who are vegan, we're not always talking about lifetime vegans. sometimes yes, but generally no. Apart from that, YOU NEVER KNOW if someone is lying about PED's. Also something to consider. We're all aware that many famous athletes have sworn up and down that they don't use PED's, in order to preserve their image. Vegan bodybuilders have a built in incentive to 'show the world' that you can do incredible things without eating meat. They have every reason to cover up PED usage if that's something they have done.

4th. Depending on your personal mentality, drinking a ton of shakes ain't so bad. I rely heavily on shakes. It works for me. I stay very lean, and I have considerable muscularity. I get more than 50% of my protein from shakes. I get another 30-40 % of my protein from milk. I don't even eat meat every day. That being said, shakes and milk are obviously animal products. But I feel like this discussion has gone beyond simply the vegan/not vegan point, so I figured it was worth mentioning.


#15

i have found many interviews and articles of people who have done pretty good on lower protien than most people recommend, and also many that say you need alot of protein
i found a study awhile back said the human body can only use 4 to 5 grams of protien per hour
found another that said the body breaks the protien down and floats around in the blood stream alot longer than carbs giving more time for use before being converted to body fat
so until some one can prove one way or the other
there will be controversy
{I still love my burgers}


#16

His bench press isn't too good, not even considering his weight. His squat is ok and his deadlift is great. He might be great at his strongman stuff though.

I really don't think the numbers I wrote are that crazy. It should be attainable for anyone who his dedicated and serious enough. I think you should even try to get stronger than that. Let me explain.

Plenty of bros on a lot of juice who don't even know how to train beside the bench press rep out with 365-385. I am talking about the worst degenerate monkeys there is out there. I am not even sure they do train anything else but the bench press.

Just 1 or 2 weeks ago a 300-350lbs, 6'7 and 20 years old big and soft guy I go to gym with benched 455lbs for 1 rep. I have seen this guy squatting, he can't even squat 275 for reps.

Some 25-30 years old iron hobbit at my gym is a squat specialist and can do 5-6 reps with 510lbs.

Plenty of skinny guys with long levers can deadlift alot.

So to consider yourself good you have to be at least as good as these weirdos in their best lifts,for every lift. Thus 400/500/650 for reps. Right now I lift let's say 50 pound less than these numbers for 1 rep. I have very normal genetics, I wasn't athetic when I was a teen. It's realist to think I can add 50 pounds on each of my lifts and do a few rep with it over the next years.

About the vegan thing, I would really consider it if I really thought it would be as good for training. I even tried it for a while when I was younger. It's convenient to eat less meat, it's more ethical, etc. I just really doubt it would be as good for training and that's my main concern.


#17

Just looked Hafthor Bjornsson on google and I see he's the guy that's on tv. For some reason I don't really see him as someone who is that good and I never was really impressed by that mountain guy. I guess he is one of the best if he placed 3rd.


Cringiest Youtube Lifter I Have Ever Seen
#18

I disagree with it necessarily being more ethical. It can be, but an omnivorous diet can be more ethical than a vegan one too.


#19

I've met him and seen him in competition. He's a monster. Grant it, that was before he got lean for the show. There are few people on earth that carry as much muscle as he does.


#20

Hafthor is literally one of the absolute strongest humans who has ever walked the Earth, period. If you're 'not that impressed by him', that's a YOU problem. Come on man. There are zero natural athletes who can total what he can between the big 3 lifts, and the guy doesn't even compete in powerlifting. I guarantee he'd have a much better bench press if he trained it as much as he does the OHP. He, Brian Shaw, and Big Z are pretty much inarguably the 3 strongest living men.