Hypertrophy, or in layman’s terms, muscle building requires very specific conditions in order to take place. Especially true if you're aiming for an optimized physique or aesthetic transformation. One of the most prominent requirements is a high protein intake. When considering sources of protein, we often rely on meat and animal products as our go-to.
While sourcing complete protein from meat and animal products such as milk and eggs is an effective way to get your protein, it is false to assume that plants are lacking in this department.
As attitudes towards the standard western diet begin to shift towards more wholesome and eco friendly eating habits, one of the frontier movements is the switch to a 100% plant based diet. Commonly referred to as a vegan diet or veganism, it posits that one must source their food solely from plant and non animal sources. The main incentive is to uphold the ethics of animal rights and to maintain the health of the ecosystem, two things that are patently violated by the livestock industry.
With this shift, science has begun to unearth the efficacy of a plant based diet towards achieving more specialized health goals such as athletic performance and bodybuilding. Plant protein is now being show to have a higher complete protein yield than meat, eggs or dairy in some cases. But with all this evidence, why are we still more for meat?
Why We Eat Meat
Ecosystem Hierarchy and its Symbolism.
In order to understand why modern man has such a heavy tilt towards eating meat, we have to look back through the history of man and his relationship with the ecosystem. In prehistoric times, the odds were stacked against us and survival was a game of kill or be killed. We had to contend with large, ferocious animals for dominance of our local environments. Our edge was always our superior intelligence. This allowed us to hunt in a complex manner that incorporated technology and strategy.
Our ability to not only design a plan for the hunt, but also build tools that made it easier soon placed us at the top of the food chain. The symbolism that emerging human culture placed on “the hunt” and the bounty of meat that resulted became an identifier of pride, success and dominance. This sense of pride would further be enshrined through massive feasts andmeat eating festivals. Eating meat soon became aspirational, and was an identifier of class and good social standing.
Fast forward to the neolithic age, the dawn of modern agriculture and farming, and we see a boom in meat and animal product consumption. This is largely due to the large scale rearing of livestock. Livestock farming was also seen as more noble and time-honored than simply growing things from the ground.
This attitude has evolved with human culture. Today we wrongfully consume an excess amount of meat and also assume that protein from plants leads to weak, ineffective muscle gains.
The Vegan Diet and Essential Amino Acids
To be fair, there is a good argument for animal sources for protein. Firstly, animal sources such as meat, eggs and dairy will contain all 9 essential amino acids from a single source. Meaning, for example, one chicken breast, one cup of yogurt or one egg will contain all the basic amino acids you need to maintain health at the least. Plant sources are a bit different. Your typical fresh produce shopping list won't have all you need in terms of essential amino acids. You will often have to mix and match different veggies in order to get the right balance of essential amino acids.
That being said, there are in fact some single source plant proteins out there if you're looking. Soy, quinoa, and hemp seed are just a few of the popular ones. If we look further, we have spirulina and chlorella. These algae plants are packed to the brim with protein and in fact, have a higher protein yield than any other meat or animal product.
Taste Buds Don't Lie
Ask most vegans, and they’ll tell you that the only real hard part is weaning of the taste of meat.
Most food we eat today is in some way associated with meat. Whether it's the predominance of meat based dishes on a restaurant menu or the prevalence of meat and animal product in our processed food. This is because meat is super delicious. It's easy to enjoy due to the combination of fat and tissue acids. When meat is cooked, it undergoes what is known as the maillard reaction. This is a process where cooked protein combines with sugars present, giving meat its distinct savoriness.
This is also why a lot of plant based processed foods are meat imitations. Plant protein doesn’t naturally have the chemical constitution to produce the rich savoriness of cooked meat.
All that said, there are many good and delicious sources for vegan and vegetarian food for muscle building.
Read More :- Four Myths About Protein Based Nutrition
High Protein Vegetarian Diet for Bodybuilding
Quinoa is a popular substitute for those looking to maintain protein gains on a purely animal free diet. It contains all 9 essential amino acids and is a versatile meal item. You can use it in salads or main dishes.
Quinoa isn’t just there with the protein, it also contains many other healthy compounds such as dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Hemp seed comes packed with all 9 essential amino acids making it a great substitute for animal based protein. It is also an abundant source of the essential omega 3 fatty acid, ALA. ALA is important for maintaining a health circulatory system and nervous function.
Hemp seed powder is a common substitute for milk based protein supplements such as whey protein or casein.
Spirulina is not a superfood, it’s an ultra food. This species of green algae is the most protein dense whole food available to man. With 67 grams of protein per 100 grams of spirulina, its protein quotient rivals that of some artificially formulated protein foods.
Spirulina doesn’t stop there, it is also rich in antioxidants, mineral and vitamins. It is an abundant source of essential omega fatty acids as well.
Quorn is the trade name for a range of fungi based meat imitation foods. The fungi, known as mycoprotein, are cultured in large vats after which it is processed, seasoned and packaged in a way similar to many typical meats. Products resembling mince meat or chicken nuggets are flavoured to match the look.
Quorn has its origins in relief aid, developed as a solution for the global food crisis. Today it enjoys a spot in the specialist food market due to the popularity of the vegan lifestyle. It is a complete protein source suitable for a vegetarian muscle building diet plan.
Building muscle on a plant based or vegetarian diet is absolutely within reach. When dealing specifically with protein, there are even some plants that trump meat. Plants also come packed with essential micronutrients for a healthy and sustained lifestyle.
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