Forgive me for posting these somewhat obnoxious-looking topless selfies, but here’s my point:
I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years, and it really steams my beam whenever I hear some clueless ultracrepidarian dingbat hold forth on how one must feast on steak & potatoes to avoid looking like Gandhi on a hunger strike, and that consuming non-trivial amounts of animal protein on a regular basis is key to building and maintaining muscle mass.
Of course, such views are utter nonsense, and I have the body to prove it, if I may say so myself with all due humility.
Although I do alternate months or years of full-scale veganism with periods where I can’t afford supplements to furnish me with those nutrients “commonly lacking in a vegetarian diet” (such as Vitamin B12), wherefore I intermittently resort to supplementing my diet with small quantities (“side dishes of side dishes”) of animal products (eggs, yogurt, or fish), these foods never comprise more than 2-3% of my total intake, if that.
So since I’m 100% vegan most of the time but not all of the time, you can call me a vegetarian, an pesco-vegetarian, a ovo-vegan, or whatever.
Fact is, I remain at least 97% vegan even during my most non-vegan phases, and I certainly never ever touch meat or chicken. (Truth be told, while in a particularly goofy mood, I ordered and, yes, chowed down one cheeseburger in 1994 as a practical joke to embarrass my then-girlfriend after she had proudly proclaimed to the folks we were with that I was a strict vegetarian, but that was the last time I had animal flesh save the occasional can of sardines or a piece of salmon.)
Other than that, I’ve also never taken steroids or any products from the body-building aisle, and I pump iron no more than 2-3 hours a week—not a day but a week—a regimen I’ve maintained, with minor fluctuations in the form of extended workout sabbaticals, since my teenage years.
About four years ago, financial considerations compelled me to abandon my longstanding habit of consuming 2-3 scoops of vegan soy or rice protein a day. Given that this had been my only source protein besides beans, nuts, and avocados, I’d regarded this habit as crucial for keeping my pecs from wilting away.
Apparently, I was wrong, for since quitting the protein powder around 2009, my musculature has shown no signs of wilting whatsoever.
Frankly, I have no idea whence my vegetarian/vegan muscles derive enough protein to not only not atrophy, but to actually display a slight tendency to grow with age in spite of my having decreased rather than increased my overall protein intake.
I once read that the human body manufactures its own protein from the various amino acids contained in a wide variety of foods (including fruits and vegetables) other than those generally viewed as good sources of protein per se.
Based on personal experience, I conclude that this must be how it works. We don’t need to consume ready-made protein at all—let alone animal protein—but the body makes it from protein’s raw materials collected from different sources.
Point being, next time you see some brawny bloke chewing on a sirloin, and he explains to you that a steady diet of animal flesh is what keeps his biceps from shrinking, just nod and smile, then say a prayer for his poor misguided soul.