T Nation

Veganism, Protein, Hypertrophy

It’s pretty widely accepted here and in the bodybuilding world that it’s difficult (impossible?) to get really huge/shredded on a vegan diet. The girl I’m dating is a vegan and pre-med and we have an ongoing argument that vegans can get shredded/built.

Her argument is that soy is a very complete protein with a high biological value (good argument). My argument is based soley on what I’ve seen and a very “primitive” feel that not eating meat means you can’t get huge.

Can anyone point me to some articles that are well cited and by reputable sources that I could research and put an end to this or at least learn something from?

Thanks!


This is a ginormous can of worms. But it is very possible (probably not ideal, but it is possible) to get large, lean, and strong on a vegetarian diet. The primary hurdle is that it’s very contrary to the current accepted practice.

Above is Roy Hilligenn, lifelong vegetarian, 1951 Mr. America. He also had a 375 clean and jerk at 173 pounds.

Mike Mahler is another great example. A strict vegan for well-over a decade. I can’t find his exact stats, but when I met him, I’d put him at just over six feet tall, over 200 pounds. His recent blog entry has him pressing 70 pound kettlebells for 5x5, strong indeed. Coach Dos Remedios is another longtime vegan who doesn’t suffer in the strength or size departments.

So, the examples are definitely there, it’s just that there are so many examples to the contrary. But I’d chalk that up to, as I mentioned above, the common accepted practice. Nothing wrong with that at all. It definitely works, but the point is, the alternative (vegetarianism) also works.

I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the next “fad” was a switch from uber-high protein diets to a more moderate intake. But that could just be me yammering on.

As for articles, I’d refer to “Vegetarian Diet for Athletes”:
http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/vn/vn_athletes.htm

P.S. - I’m not a vegetarian myself, but over the last few months I’ve been reducing the meat in my diet. No negative effects here, but it’s a work in progress.


Just to throw another pro bodybuilder out there for reference… Andreas Cahling, 1980 Mr. International. From what I read, he was vegetarian (possibly vegan, conflicting stories) for most of his competitive career.

Bill Pearl is a very popular “vegetarian bodybuilder” example, but as some folks do point out, he was only vegetarian for the last one or two years of his competitive career. Still though, he shows that size can also be maintained on that type of diet.


Last one, so as not to overwhelm the thread in veggie pics. Albert Beckles is reported to have been vegetarian for his entire career, which I believe is one of the longest competitive careers of a pro bodybuilder, ever.

Also, I was re-reading your post and noticed this:

You should mention to her, not that it helps your case at all, that soy certainly isn’t the only protein source available. Legumes, beans, grains, etc., all contribute to the daily protein intake. Fun fact - soy is also very high in glutamine, which can be essential for muscle recovery, especially on a lower carb diet.

And your “primitive feel,” well, that isn’t the most solid arguing point you could have, I’m sure. But your first point, based on what you’ve seen, isn’t necessarily invalid. It’s just, again, the examples from the majority.

It’s kinda like saying “Cars are better vehicles than motorcycles,” because cars are much more common than motorcycles. But motorcycles still serve a similar purpose, with its own particular positives and negatives. So yeah. You’re talking about cars, and she’s talking about motorcycles. Right? Right.

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
Coach Dos Remedios is another longtime vegan who doesn’t suffer in the strength or size departments.[/quote]

1: I also think that it’s possible, but it doesn’t seem to be the case that many vegans place much emphasis on getting big.

2: There’s a huge difference between vegan and vegetarian in terms of bodybuilding. In vegetarianism eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy items are permissible.

3: I don’t know much about Coach Dos, but I do know of everything I’ve read of his concerning nutrition he seems to be extremely careful in stating that he doesn’t have any problems “maintaining” his strength/size on a vegan diet. I don’t believe I’ve ever read him state that he build his strength/size on a vegan diet.

Right, but cars are better than motorcycles.

HA - OK so your examples are good, but I’m curious… with less ohhhhh AAS - would there still be the same level of muscular development on vegan/vegetarian diets as there are in carnivores?

[quote]Wimpy wrote:
1: I also think that it’s possible, but it doesn’t seem to be the case that many vegans place much emphasis on getting big.[/quote]

Personal preference really, so I don’t think it’s a significant factor. For example, veganbodybuilding.com has 9,000+ members.

True, in it’s widest definition, lacto-ovo vegetarians will have many more nutritional options.

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1587252
On page two, he says he’s been a vegan for over 18 years. In that time, I’d imagine he’s gained some strength and size. But as for his “foundational years”, I haven’t seen him talk about that, no.

I hope I’m not coming off as too hardcore “pro-veggie” in this thread. I just find it to be an interesting topic.

[quote]cain06 wrote:
Right, but cars are better than motorcycles.

HA - OK so your examples are good, but I’m curious… with less ohhhhh AAS - would there still be the same level of muscular development on vegan/vegetarian diets as there are in carnivores?[/quote]

Fair call, although steroids wouldn’t be a major player in the first example I posted, Roy Hilligenn.

But anyway, size will come from smart training, plenty of calories, and adequate protein, carbs, and fat, which are all possible with a vegan diet. Especially if you factor in protein supplements derived from things like rice, peas, and hemp (no joke, it’s a common and effective protein powder source. Insert Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey joke here.)

The only thing I don’t understand is how someone can still argue soy is a good protein.

In the last vegan thread I posted the many articles by many authors here on T-Nation that debunk that myth so I wont go into it again.

Hey Crew - big fan of your training thread btw - can you link to that article for me. Thanks!

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
cain06 wrote:
Right, but cars are better than motorcycles.

HA - OK so your examples are good, but I’m curious… with less ohhhhh AAS - would there still be the same level of muscular development on vegan/vegetarian diets as there are in carnivores?

Fair call, although steroids wouldn’t be a major player in the first example I posted, Roy Hilligenn.

But anyway, size will come from smart training, plenty of calories, and adequate protein, carbs, and fat, which are all possible with a vegan diet. Especially if you factor in protein supplements derived from things like rice, peas, and hemp (no joke, it’s a common and effective protein powder source. Insert Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey joke here.)[/quote]

Fair enough,

I guess my real question is given the same level of training and the same level of caloric intake - equal ratios of everything. Would the exact same person stand the same chance becoming say Mr. Olympia on either diet? I can understand if the answer is yes, but am more likely to believe the answer is no.

[quote]CrewPierce wrote:
The only thing I don’t understand is how someone can still argue soy is a good protein.

In the last vegan thread I posted the many articles by many authors here on T-Nation that debunk that myth so I wont go into it again.[/quote]

“Good” is a relative term. I’m not saying it’s ideal, but in moderation, it can definitely be used to supplement a vegan/vegetarian diet.

Even in the “Poison Protein” article ( http://www.T-Nation.com/findArticle.do?article=302poison2 ), the doctor says:

[quote]Old fashioned soy products such as miso, tempeh, natto and shoyu or tamari soy sauce are fine when eaten occasionally. My two children and I enjoy them in our house.

I�??d say that people who are healthy can safely eat several small servings of soy foods per week, preferably the old-fashioned foods such as miso, tempeh and natto. They can also safely use shoyu or tamari soy sauce as a condiment. Those are found at health food stores and are far superior to the soy sauces sold at supermarkets. I wouldn’t exceed an average of 36 grams per day…[/quote]

That’s all I’m saying. That it can be incorporated, in addition to other foods. I’m by no means saying it should be a staple or the predominant protein source.

[quote]cain06 wrote:
Fair enough,

I guess my real question is given the same level of training and the same level of caloric intake - equal ratios of everything. Would the exact same person stand the same chance becoming say Mr. Olympia on either diet? I can understand if the answer is yes, but am more likely to believe the answer is no.[/quote]

Mr. Olympia? Now we’re back on the AAS topic. :wink:

All things being “equal,” assuming smart training, sufficient nutrition, and the right supplementation (to account for naturally occurring dietary discrepancies), the potential is there, yep.

Saying that a 200-pound guy who’s lifting heavy, eating 4,000 calories, 200 grams of protein, 600 grams of carbs, and 100 grams of fat won’t get big is like saying there won’t be a Cloverfield part 2 because there just wasn’t enough audience interest.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong. [/Dennis Miller impersonation]

you can, but you have to be smart about it. there are better proteins than soy which must be fermented and a study was done showing that if your not asian, it might not be for you( mentioned here http://www.T-Nation.com/readArticle.do?id=1431471 ). there is pea, rice, hemp and mixes of that would do more for recovery than soy.

there is also an issue with amino acids being incomplete in what is needed for optimal absorption of the protein, so combinations of food sources are recommended/needed and have other benefits in the nutrient dept. this is why beans alone can cause epic gas, but beans and rice are fine, the two have aa’s the others need for their protein to be better digested and absorbed with.

i am not vegan/vegetarian myself, but i do cycle a vegan protein and vegetarian diet in seasonally just to get something different for my digestion so its not the same things all the time and to take advantage of some of the great produce, grass fed dairy, and fresh eggs and fish that can be had.

search Dr. Berardi’s precision nutrition site for an article he posted on 2.28.08 - entitled Soy - What’s The Big Deal? written by ryan andrews. i’ve since revised my thinking on soy products.

excerpts:

"Another expert many of you may know, Cassandra Forsythe, PhD©, author of the Perfect Body Diet, recently shared her thoughts as well.

Although she used to have the belief that soy, and all soy-related products, were detrimental to health and the achievement of an ideal body composition, she’s revised her position.

She now feels that occasional soy protein consumption may not have such effects. Forsythe has also indicated that manufactured soy protein may have different effects than traditional soy foods, such as whole bean edamame."

"Finally, a Romanian study using Olympic athletes supplemented participants with soy protein (1.5 g/kg) for 8 weeks. In the end, the authors found that the soy protein supplementation led to increased body mass (~ 3 kg, mostly from lean body mass) and strength indexes.

Significant decreases of fatigue were found after training sessions. No negative side effects or abnormal changes to metabolism were noticed and the product was well tolerated.

Now, before we move on, we want to be clear about one major, important thing. This section isn’t designed to promote soy protein supplementation. Not in the least.

However, it is here to demonstrate that when used as part of a sensible training program and varied, calorie sufficient diet, soy protein supplementation acts much in the same way that other protein supplements might act - with increases in lean body mass, decreases in stress hormone responses to training, and improvements in performance."

"So let’s get real here…it’s unlikely that testosterone problems would occur if someone were to eat a moderate amount of whole food soy products.

Indeed, a more traditional daily intake of soy for someone may look more like this:

8 ounces of tofu = 53 mg
½ cup soy milk = 15 mg
½ cup edamame = 12 mg

Total = 80 mg of PEs"

"The point?

Well, it’s odd that soy is getting hammered for hormonal implications when, indeed, many of our dietary staples (alcohol, milk, and meat) all might also have an impact on our hormonal levels if we’re not conscientious about ensuring adequate exercise and a varied diet."

"…we do caution against excessive soy intake. When consumption of soy foods is excessive, there might be some negative effects going on.

To this end, it seems best to avoid isolated and highly refined forms of soy on a regular basis. In other words, things like soy isolates, soy concentrates, textured soy protein, etc should be minimized in the diet.

Whole soybeans, soy milks, tofu, tempeh, and miso, on the other hand, are better options.

In terms of total intake, we’d say 1-2 servings of soy per day seems to be a safe and potentially healthy intake, but exceeding three servings per day on a regular basis may not be a good idea.

(A serving is 1 cup of soy milk and 4 ounces of tofu/tempeh/soybeans.)

Now, it�??s easy to understand how some individuals can consume excessive amounts of soy. Soy milk on the morning cereal, a soy protein smoothie for a snack, a soy burger at lunch, soy pretzels as a snack, and soy ice cream for dessert. Even a soy novice would recognize that to be soy overload.

So don’t make the mistake of eating tons of soy - even if you’re on a plant based diet.

Watch out for food pushers
While excessive soy consumption gets a bad rap, we often think about the excessive consumption of any one food and the potential negative effects.
As we presented in this article, what about the high intake of alcohol? Or factory farmed dairy and meat?

Soy is a chief ingredient in the feed of factory farmed animals. Does this indirectly influence the nutrition of meat-eaters? Should they only purchase grass-fed animals?

We hesitate to think that any �??mono-food�?? excess is a good idea on a regular basis.

And, of course, the soy industry does it’s part (just like the dairy, egg and beef food pushing industries) to create just that - a mono-food culture. They push soy by overstating the benefits and undermining the concerns. "

"This rule of thumb is also true with soy. Whole, unprocessed soy, is just a food. It’s not a political agenda. It’s not a public health crisis. It’s not a way of life. It’s not a medicine. And it’s not a panacea.

It’s ONE food - one of a few thousand foods people can include in their diets…or not. It’s nothing more.

So, as the title of this article hints at, we want people to re-freakin’-lax when it comes to soy. Moderate doses of whole-food soy proteins really are no big deal."

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
Personal preference really, so I don’t think it’s a significant factor. For example, veganbodybuilding.com has 9,000+ members.[/quote]

I found it kind of interesting that the featured person with the best physique is a powerlifter:

www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=bio_avi

I did find it kind of curious, however, that he claims to have a 836 lbs rack pull below the knee but only a 528 lbs full deadlift.

[quote]Wimpy wrote:
Chris Colucci wrote:
Personal preference really, so I don’t think it’s a significant factor. For example, veganbodybuilding.com has 9,000+ members.

I found it kind of interesting that the featured person with the best physique is a powerlifter:

www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=bio_avi

I did find it kind of curious, however, that he claims to have a 836 lbs rack pull below the knee but only a 528 lbs full deadlift. [/quote]

Who cares about him? T-Nation’s very own Sea Siren is featured.

www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=article_arnold_2008

I saw an interview with Tony Gonzales of the Kansas City Chiefs recently and he is a vegan, he said initially he lost some strength and size but after doing some diet research he was able to find vegan alternatives for protein and he regained his size and strength. Big dude, if you google his name you’ll find some good info.

[quote]mtjmtj wrote:
I saw an interview with Tony Gonzales of the Kansas City Chiefs recently and he is a vegan, he said initially he lost some strength and size but after doing some diet research he was able to find vegan alternatives for protein and he regained his size and strength. Big dude, if you google his name you’ll find some good info.[/quote]

I was just going to mention this. He said he lost 10 pounds nad lost strength in the beginning b/c he wasn’t getting enough protein. Now that he’s getting the protein in his diet, he actually says he recovers faster now that he’s a vegan than he did before.

I don’t think I could ever fully give up meat, but I’m with Chris in that I am trying to cycle down my servings of meat and trying to incorporate other food items into my diet.

[quote]Djwlfpack wrote:
I was just going to mention this. He said he lost 10 pounds nad lost strength in the beginning b/c he wasn’t getting enough protein. Now that he’s getting the protein in his diet, he actually says he recovers faster now that he’s a vegan than he did before.

I don’t think I could ever fully give up meat, but I’m with Chris in that I am trying to cycle down my servings of meat and trying to incorporate other food items into my diet.[/quote]

First off, DJwlfpack, every post I see of yours, I hear you talking with the Iceman’s whispery-raspy voice. Kinda freaks me out. Anyway…

I recently finished reading “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan. Lots of interesting info about eating a more vegetable-based diet. In fact, he summarizes his suggestions in a rather Dan John-esuqe way. His seven word summary: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

It’s actually the reason I’ll be joining a local CSA farm (community supported agriculture) this season. I’ll be getting weekly deliveries of organic fruits and vegetables that are grown an hour away from my house, and shaking the hands of the guys and gals that plant and tend to them. Can’t beat that kind of nutrition with a stick.