The Vegetarian Physique

By Cyberquill 07/08/201313 Comments

1997 - 2013

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.

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  • Alysa

    Another myth is that we’re all anemic without meat. I’ve never once tested anemic or even low in iron in over 20 years of being a strict (albeit pale) vegan.

    • Cyberquill

      Hence the expression “pale as a Wall.”

  • Richard

    All good stuff.
    My wife and I read this last year and watched the lecture and lost 28 lbs each in less than six months and have never put them on again. We actually applied the recommendations, of course.

    I’d post a photograph of myself, but you’d only get jealous.

    • Cyberquill

      Thank you for not exacerbating my body dysmorphia by flaunting before me an unattainable standard of perfection. Besides, as an accomplished academic, you wouldn’t want to distract from your intellect.

      Lustig is German for funny.

      The only time I ever lost weight was when I was 15 years old via a method I had discovered by accident: spend one month in the UK. Of course, I had been warned about the British cuisine, but I must have caught some sort of bug on top of it, for when I returned, I did look like I’d been on a hunger strike. .

      The spend-time-in-the-UK weight loss method only worked the first time, though, for in the following years, I spent two more months in England without developing wasting-away-syndrome. My body had become immune to British food.

  • Richard

    I never actually regarded myself as an academic, let alone an accomplished one.

    Since it is you yourself, however, who, after due and discerning consideration, have elevated me towards the foothills of your alpine intellectual heights, I humbly and deferentially accept the promotion.

    My wife will be astonished at the effect on you of British food.

    • Cyberquill

      It was pretty astonishing indeed, as this has thus far been the only time in my life I ever suffered an adverse physical reaction to food. Even for several months after my return to Austria I suffered occasional bouts of stomach pain so severe that it had me curl up in a fetal position, and every time this happened the pain only went away after I ate a piece of plain pound cake. The doctors I saw couldn’t figure it out, either.

      As to being an accomplished academic, it’s all relative. I, for one, regard everybody with a higher education who holds—or has ever held—a white-collar job as an accomplished academic.

  • Richard

    What’s pound cake?

    • Cyberquill

      It’s like a Guglhupf or something in that style. Hope this helps.

      • Richard

        Not really. I’ll have to Gugl it.

        • Cyberquill

          If you binged instead of gugled it, you’d be reënacting a key scene from American Pie. Sort of.

  • testazyk

    Are those the pics you used to get into Beautiful People? Did you hear they now have a service for potential employers to post jobs so they can hire only the BP?

    • Cyberquill

      I’ve heard they teamed up with British Petroleum.

      • testazyk

        No doubt to explore fracking!

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