Let’s talk about what it means to be a vegetarian, and to compete in physique sports. I know a lot of times it can be looked down upon, because especially in old body building lore, you have to eat a lot of protein, you have to eat a lot of red meat and chicken to put on a lot of muscle. While a lot of that is true, because it does require a lot of protein to actually build muscle and maintain muscle, especially during a contest prep, you can reach those goals using a vegetarian approach.
Why Is It Frowned Upon?
In my opinion the reason that being a vegetarian is most frowned upon, is because most of the protein sources either are not complete sources, so you need to use supplementation to hit your leucine goals, or you have to have so many calories to hit your protein goals, with those sources that it can be tough to get into a caloric deficit as a vegetarian. However, if you’re not super strict on your vegetarian, or vegan rules, there are lots of ways to get supplementation. Things like pea protein or even whey protein if you’re not opposed to it, I have a client who is a pescatarian. If you can eat fish it changes the game because fish is very high in protein, and very low in fat and carbohydrates. Some fish is just basically pure protein. If you can be a pescatarian vegetarian, that’s going to help the process quite a bit.
I feel like some people that are vegetarians, just want the attention for being a vegetarian, but in some cases there actually is a reason, digestive issues. If it’s an ethical issue, if that’s why you want to be a vegetarian, no judgment here, I want you to do what you want to do, I’m all for that, but I don’t like it when people specifically vegetarians, or vegans go out of their way to pass judgment on those of us who consume lots of meat, like myself or the average fitness enthusiast.
Get Clever, Get Creative
What are my recommendations if you’re going to be a vegetarian and get into a physique competition? I would definitely try to find some clever foods. There are some very unique opportunities now because we live in a time and era where there’s basically a product for everything. Hell, there’s vegan cheese now. There’s all these products that are made to be similar in taste, and in texture to the regular products that we would be eating even though they are now vegetarian.
You can actually be a vegetarian, and have a diet very similar to a carnivore, but you don’t actually have to eat the products that are animal based. My recommendation is to just look around and look at the macro nutrient ingredients. Go to places big grocery stores (in the USA this would be Whole Foods). The problem is the prices are going to be a lot higher because they’re specialty items. Being a vegetarian is going to cost you a little bit more most likely, if you’re going to hit a high amount of protein, and you’re going to use these niche items that are made specifically for vegetarians, because the market for them is not as big, they’re not produced in such quantities, the prices are a little bit higher. That is going to be one reason why competing as a vegetarian might be difficult.
Other than that, just be creative, be open minded, look at what you can eat as a vegetarian, and if you’re open to using some supplementation like whey protein, there are pea proteins, things I mentioned earlier, that is going to really help your case in this process to getting into stage condition while being a vegetarian. If that’s what it takes for you to have fun and compete, then do it, don’t worry about what other people think.
Do What You Enjoy
A lot of times what we hear about cross fit, when we hear about vegetarians, it can come across as boastful, as passing judgement, like my lifestyle is better than yours, it’s not. If you’re a flexible dieter, if you’re a clean eater, if you’re vegetarian, if you’re a cross fitter, it really doesn’t matter. Are you enjoying what you do? That’s what it comes down to and if that’s the case, then I’m happy for you. We’re all happy for you. Don’t pass judgment on others.
Food should not have ethical or moral values, it’s nutrition, it’s meant to be consumed. I’m sorry, but I have canines, and I’m meant to eat meat, and I’m going to continue to consume vast quantities of bacon, as long as it fits my daily goals. If you want to eat a vegetarian diet, I’m very happy for you, that is a personal choice to be a vegetarian, and so I have no judgment on it. Just keep in mind that it might be difficult to hit your macros, sometimes I find fat needs to be a little bit higher to hit your protein goals, because some of the protein sources that are vegetarian based are also high in fat.
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