All of the food featured in this post is at the least vegetarian.
Today’s post is something that I wasn’t sure was possible, and if you asked me even this time last year, I would have said may not. What is it you ask? Today, in honor of my mainly plant based and lactose intolerant mother, we’re discussing body building, and making progress in general, while following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. A plant based lifestyle can lower blood pressure and risk of heart disease (if done correctly) and it is 1000% possible to live a fully sustainable lifestyle as either a vegan or vegetarian. It is also 10000% possible to still make progress towards your goals, even if your goal is to gain muscle mass, while eating less animal products. Lately, I personally have been following a more plant based lifestyle (I’m not labeling myself as anything, so please no comments pointing out things I’ve eaten lately), and being sure to monitor how my body responds. My training has been the same, my protein intake the same, but how has reducing the amount of meat in my intake affected me?
Track your food.
I always track my food anyways, but now, I especially track my food to ensure I am hitting my protein levels. It has been more difficult to hit my protein levels than when I was eating meat at every meal, but it has not been impossible by any means. The one thing I have to look out for is my carbohydrate count, as many veggie protein sources tend to be high in carbs. These sources include beans, lentils, and chickpeas, which give you a great boost of protein (between 10 and 18g per serving), but tend to be high in carbs, being up in the 30-40g range. Tracking your food, especially as you start this lifestyle, can be incredibly helpful in making sure you’re still making progress towards your goals.
It is easier to do.
Going veg is much easier now than it was even five years ago. There’s now plenty of research in plant based protein sources, showing the world that you won’t be protein deficient if you decide to go veg, as long you do it correctly. Just as with any other lifestyle, you still need to do your research. There are a few key nutrients that are more abundant in animal products than plant products, such as iron, omegas, and the B complex, so make sure you have a plan to get the right amount in your daily intake. A good quality multi vitamin, so not anything gummy, will help make sure you fill in all of the holes in your nutrition.
Soy is not always your friend.
We just talked about how easy it is to be veg now. And it is, with all of the new meat like products on the market, easier than ever to go veg. However, you need to watch your soy intake. Soy is usually the main ingredient in the fake chicken and meat products and has been linked to elevated estrogen levels in the body. Anytime you have hormone levels out of whack, it can be a problem. Other hormones in your body will then increase to compensate for the increase in estrogen. This can lead to a variety of problems, so just like with any other ingredient, make sure soy is in moderation. There are more and more products out daily that mimic meat without soy though (looking at you Beyond Burger below – so good!), just make sure to read the nutrition labels and ingredient list.
The only other problem with a vegan lifestyle is specifically towards building muscle. There are specific amino acids that we must consume in order to build muscle, and one of the main anabolic (muscle growth) ones is mainly in animal products. Leucine needs to be consumed in order for your muscles to get the signal to grow, and that needs to be supplemented. A good quality BCAA supplement, which is usually a powder you add to water and drink during your workout, will give you the leucine your body needs to grow. As well, many protein powders contain leucine in the needed amount, so be sure the check if yours does.
Going veg doesn’t mean that you’re going to waste away to nothing. Yes, I’ve lost weight transitioning to a plant based lifestyle, but it hasn’t been muscle. I’ve kept my lean mass the same, because I continue to train hard and hit my macros, just not with meat so much. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I haven’t fully cut out animal products. I still eat meat occasionally, and I eat Greek yogurt and eggs daily, but I have significantly cut down on the amount I consume. I don’t label myself as anything, I just eat what feels good to me. I also just wanted to see what would happen to my body if I went more plant based, and it’s been a really great and educating experience. If you have any questions about eating more plant based, feel free to reach out.