Can you be a vegetarian and a bodybuilder? Let’s find out! First, there are many age-old theories and methods. Not all of them are necessarily correct. For example, for years we have lived thinking that the food pyramid was the best way to maintain a healthy diet. For those that may not be overly familiar with the food pyramid here is a copy of it.
The first problem is that you are over-consuming carbohydrates. Second, the Food Pyramid was invented by the Farmers and Agricultural Association of Australia. This explains why they want you to have vast servings of what they produce and sell. Carbohydrate intake on a daily basis should be no more than three or four servings. The only thing that differs between each person is the size of the serving. Bodybuilders, vegetarian or otherwise, need carbs for training energy. Yet, as pointed out, you should eat them in moderation.
Vegetarian Bodybuilding – What About Dairy?
The Food Pyramid does not recommend large amounts of dairy. Most people will agree. Due to the high levels of heat involved in pasteurization the dairy loses virtually all of its calcium. Therefore, take a calcium supplement.
You might be wondering how this fits into vegetarian bodybuilding. I will get to that soon. First I just wanted to show you how some info can sit in the public domain for a long time. It can be totally out of date and incorrect. Yet, it never changes. That’s because governing bodies either can’t be bothered or it’s not a priority.
For years we have been led to believe that flesh is crucial to our diets. However, through traditional thinking and lack of research, we now know differently.
There are many variations of Vegetarianism. Some variations only eat some types of flesh. Others do not but the basic principle stays the same – they do not eat flesh.
Ovo Vegetarianism – Includes eggs but not dairy products
Lacto Vegetarianism – Includes dairy products but not eggs
Ovo-Lacto Vegetarianism (or Lacto-Ovo Vegetarianism) – Includes animal products such as milk, eggs or honey.This is probably the most common and accepted by society.
Veganism – Excludes all animal and flesh products including: Milk, honey, eggs. May also include any products tested on animals and clothing products made from animals.
Raw Veganism – Includes only fresh and uncooked fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature.
Fruitarianism – This allows only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
Buddhist Vegetarianism (also known as Su Vegetarianism) – Excludes all animal products as well as vegetables in the allium family. These have the characteristic aroma of onion and garlic: Onion, Garlic, Scallions, Leek, or Shallots.
Jain Vegetarianism – Includes dairy products but excludes eggs, honey as well as root vegetables.
Some of these you may not have even known existed. However, they are fast becoming a big part of our society. Now that you understand what it is we must next analyze why?
Why Be A Vegetarian?
Some people choose for religious reasons. Others make it for health benefits and some even make it for moral reasons. Let’s analyze these now.
Some religions prohibit the eating of flesh during certain times of the year. The Catholic Church and Christian Church are known for this, it is called Lent. Also Buddhism as well.
It is thought that most of our chronic illnesses, such as Coronary Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Cancer, can be prevented. Some might even say reversed. How? By living on a primarily plant-based diet. There is a documentary that was released in 2011 called “Forks over Knives”. It follows the 20-year study done by a group of doctors in China where they introduced a Western diet. This diet consisted of animal flesh and some processed foods. What did they find once they started introducing these foods? People began to experience poor teeth quality, bad skin, hair loss, and stomach conditions. Some also experienced arthritis and other complications.
However, once these changes were reversed so too were these chronic conditions. The results of that study are interesting, to say the least.
There are various moral reasons to be a vegetarian. For example, there are many great films out there that you should watch. These films expose the truth of the many ways animals are treated before they are slaughtered for human consumption. I could write an entire article on this but I will try my best not to get too carried away. Let’s use pigs as the best example. The pork industry has one of the cruelest methods of execution when it comes to killing the animal. First, as piglets, they are castrated without any anesthetic and tail docked (tails chopped off). The same equipment is used on each pig. It is not cleaned between procedures as this would take too long. The procedure is performed fast and without sanitary conditions. Therefore they are open to infection and many pigs just die.
The Cruelty Of North Korea
Recently in North Korea, 3 million pigs were infected with foot and mouth disease. The Korean government found it too expensive to bother immunizing them. So once the pigs were infected they had to be put down. The most cost-effective way was to bury them alive. If you Google that you can see the footage which lasts about seven minutes which is one of the saddest, cruelest things I’ve ever seen.
Needless to say that once you’ve done enough research on how animals are treated during their final hours is enough to make anyone sick. It’s a strong motivator when it comes to Vegetarianism; also one of the most common.
Some films to watch are: Food Inc, Earthlings are all available to watch for free online.
Is Being A Vegetarian Unhealthy?
I guess it could be. However, the only way it can be is if you do not follow a balanced diet. Or, if you do not know which foods to eat to get the nutrients you need. It used to be commonly believed that you needed to combine vegetarian proteins to get a complete protein. This has since then been proven a fallacy.
Let’s look at the main nutrients you get from meat that you need in your diet. You may be at risk of losing if you cut out meat. It has been suggested that it is unhealthy to cut out meat because you will miss out on these Vitamins.
1) Vitamin B12
Your body creates stores of Vitamin B12 from the age you are born. Science has shown that it takes a maximum of ten years for your levels to deplete. Also, this means you need to every single day for ten years straight not reach your recommended daily intake of B12. This is very hard to do. This risk is easily overcome. All it takes is to consume a vitamin B12 supplement. Also, eat foods high in B12.
Vitamin B12 is in Dairy products. If someone is a Vegan they risk becoming B12 deficient. However, as I previously mentioned this takes a long time. It’s very rare UNLESS someone is already prone to this deficiency. It’s almost worth getting a blood test done if you are considering turning vegetarian to ensure you are okay, to begin with.
The top five vegetarian sources of B12 are:
- Cheese: The amount of vitamin B12 in cheese depends on type and variety, Swiss cheese provides the most with 3.34μg per 100g serving (56% RDA), followed by Gjetost(40% RDA), Mozzarella(39% RDA), Parmesan(38% RDA), Tilsit(35% RDA), and Feta(28% RDA).
- Eggs: When it comes to chicken eggs the raw yellow has most of the vitamin B-12 with 1.95μg per 100g serving (33% RDA), however, this equates to 0.33μg per yolk or just 6% of the RDA. The eggs of other animals are higher with a goose egg providing 7.34μg (122% RDA) of vitamin B-12 per 100g serving, and a duck egg providing 3.78μg (63% RDA).
- Whey Protein Powder: Once thought the sole domain of bodybuilders, whey powder is now entering the mainstream as more people are going vegetarian. Whey powder is a common addition to bread and Protein Shakes. 100 grams will provide 2.5 μg of vitamin B12 or 42% of the RDA.
- Milk and Yogurt: 100 grams of non-fat yogurt provides 0.53μg (10% RDA) of vitamin B12 and 15%RDA per cup. 100 grams of reduced-fat milk provides 0.46μg (8% RDA) and 19% RDA per cup.
- Yeast Extract: Yeast extract spreads are popular in Britain and Europe, and have started to gain popularity in the U.S. A good vegetarian source of protein, the spread also packs a lot of vitamin B12. One hundred grams provides 0.5μg (8% RDA) of vitamin B12, that is 0.03μg (1% RDA) per teaspoon. Just be aware that Yeast extract has a lot of sodium in it.
It is not that much of a concern to men because men do not menstruate. They are not constantly losing blood so they will not have lower iron levels. However, it’s still smart to ensure you are reaching your RDI of iron. Take a good Iron supplement. It’s also good to know what foods are high in Iron.
12 Top Non-Animal Sources of Iron in no particular order are:
- Spirulina (1 tsp): 5 mg
- Cooked soybeans (1/2 cup): 4.4 mg
- Pumpkin seeds (1 ounce): 4.2 mg
- Quinoa (4 ounces): 4 mg
- Blackstrap Molasses (1 tbsp): 4 mg
- Tomato paste (4 ounces): 3.9 mg
- White beans (1/2 cup) 3.9 mg
- Cooked spinach (1/2 cup): 3.2 mg
- Dried peaches (6 halves): 3.1 mg
- Prune juice (8 ounces): 3 mg
- Lentils (4 ounces): 3 mg
As you can see there are no excuses. There’s no reason you need flesh in your diet to get the vitamins and minerals you need.
A Vegetarian Cannot Get Enough Protein!
I love it when people say this. It’s always coming from a place of ignorance without using real research. People are very assumptive.
The truth is that vegetarian protein is easier digested than flesh protein. Most people would like to tell you otherwise. Yet the evidence is there to support it.
It’s how an animal is raised. It’s how it is fed, how it is slaughtered, prepared, and cooked. All of this affects the quality of the protein within the animal. Did you also know when an animal is killed, the blood supply is cut off to the flesh? The meat turns grey which means that they inject meats with food dye to keep it red. This has an ill effect on health. Also on the protein quality. This should make you think twice about what you are eating.
Here is a list of vegetarian proteins. You can see that there are more than enough options for vegetarians.
Beans, Nuts, Seeds
1 cup of:
- Garbanzo beans = 14.5 grams
- Pinto beans = 12 grams
- Refried beans = 15.5 grams
- Soybeans = 28 grams
- Cashews = 4.4 grams
- Peanuts = 6.5 grams
- Sesame seeds = 6.5 grams
- Pistachios = 5.8 grams
- Tofu = 22 grams
- Lentils = 18 grams
- 1 cup yogurt = 13 grams
- 1oz. cheddar cheese = 7.1 grams
- A large egg = 6 grams
- 1 cup cottage cheese = 10 grams
Fruits and Vegetables
- 1 Avocado = 10 grams
- Medium Artichoke = 4 grams
1 cup of:
- Broccoli = 5 grams
- Spinach = 5 grams
- Peas = 9 grams
- Medium Artichoke = 4 grams
- Asparagus = 5 grams
- Beet Greens = 3 grams
The things to deal with as far as being a vegetarian varies. You feel like you’re accomplishing something and doing something different or high than the normal person.
It can be difficult to eat out as a vegetarian. Especially if it’s an impromptu meal. So it always helps to plan ahead. If you are an Ovo-Lacto vegetarian, use protein shakes and bars.
Notable Vegetarian Bodybuilder Bill Pearl
Bill Pearl is a former American bodybuilder who was born in 1930 out of Prineville, Oregon. During his career, he placed in 13 competitions. Of these, 12 were first place. He was 41 in 1971. That same year, he won the Mr. Universe in London, England. He was a Vegetarian and claimed to have not used Anabolic Steroids for over ten years.
He has also since retiring in 1975 won over 19 awards related to bodybuilding and health and fitness.
Notable Vegetarian Bodybuilder Albert Beckles
Albert Beckles is a former American Bodybuilder who was a three-time New York Night of Champions winner. Born in 1930 in Barbados he migrated to London in the mid-1960s. He won over seven British titles in 1969 and 1970. He eventually won the IFBB Mr. Universe.
Over his career, he was in over 100 contests. This earned him the title of being one of the most active bodybuilders in bodybuilding history. In 1991 at age 61 he won the Niagara Falls Pro Invitational.
Notable Vegan Bodybuilder Raechelle Chase
Raechelle is an IFBB Pro Figure Competitor, International Fitness & cover Model, and Fitness Writer. She hails from Auckland, New Zealand, and has competed in numerous competitions. She is a mother of three.
I hope that this article helps you to have a better understanding of being a vegetarian. I hope it helps you understand its related diets. There are many, and hopefully, you will be less critical and better informed about it. It is something that I am very passionate about. I hope you will give it a second look.
Written by Adrian Ambrose