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Being a vegetarian will not reduce your ability to add muscle, I’m one and it hasn’t hurt me. Those who think vegetarians cant be successful bodybuilders either don’t understand the different kinds of vegetarians or don’t understand bodybuilding nutrition. Arnold fostered the incorrect view that you have to eat muscle to gain muscle. The trouble with the word “vegetarian” is that so many people have used it in so many different ways that it has basically become useless so it has been replaced by more specific and meaningful words.
The useless word “vegetarian” has been replaced by the following two more specific and useful words:
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: A vegetarian whose diet includes dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts
Vegan: A strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products
When people today say “Vegetarian” what they are really talking about is a lacto-ovo vegetarian. In other words, a diet that does not include the parts of an animal that were not given up freely. Animals happily give up their eggs and milk so vegetarians can eat those. One reason people mistakenly believe that vegetarians cant be bodybuilders is that they mistake vegans for vegetarians. The ability to consume eggs and dairy products makes an incredible difference. Vegans (those who consume no animal products whatsoever) are at a big disadvantage when it comes to adding muscle but vegetarians are not hindered at all — lets look at why this is true.
Many bodybuilders rely on skinless chicken breast for their protein and that has a quality of 136. You will note that both nonfat milk and egg whites have a higher protein quality than chicken does! Since vegetarians can eat milk and eggs, the quality of the protein they can consume is just as good as better as most meat eating bodybuilders! Vegetarians are at no disadvantage at all when it comes to adding muscle.
Now lets look at the problem that vegans face. The highest quality protein available to them is soy and it only has a quality of 117, nowhere near as good as chicken or eggs. They need to be experts on the amino acid profiles of everything they eat so they can combine food through out the day to get the all the essential amino acids they need. The second major obstacle vegans face is in getting enough protein without exceeding their daily caloric budget. All the proteins available to vegans also come with a healthy dose of carbohydrates so vegans need to be very, very strict about their nutrition in order to get sufficient protein with the amount of calories they have available.
By the way folks, I’m not a vegetarian for political, religious, or ethical reasons. I’m a vegetarian because I belive it to be healthier. Can I *prove* that a vegetarian diet is healther? No, but I can’t prove global warming either. Everyone has to decide for themselves what level of proof is required before they change their behaviour.