Robbie Halewex: Meatless muscle
Body-building isn't just for hunks who consume hunks of steak. Vegan and vegetarian body-builders prove a meatless diet can make matchless form.
Hardly a week goes by without research coming up with more evidence of the health benefits of a meatless lifestyle. No wonder more people have become vegetarian and vegan in the last year than ever before.
But it's amazing how many people still subscribe to the age old myth that vegetarians don't get enough protein. And nowhere is this misconception more apparent than in the world of body-building.
The vast majority of body-builders believe they must consume large amounts of animal protein daily to get results. Wrongly, they assume vegetarian or vegan diets can't achieve the same ends.
Many body builders take up to 45% of their calories as protein, believing this leads to large muscle gain. In fact, most of it passes straight through the body unused.
Anybody, male or female, will get maximum muscle growth from just 16-20% of calories from Protein. This places less strain on many of the body's systems and functions. Excess protein - in particular animal protein - is linked to accelerated ageing.
Vegetarians and vegans are capable of muscle gains equal to those of meat eaters. Until very recently, hardly any specialised products existed for the vegan body-builder and only a very limited range for vegetarians. Now that's changed. But while certain people require extra protein - pregnant woman, growing children and body-builders included - according to the World Health Organisation, a vegan on a well planned diet has no trouble exceeding their protein requirement.
This is certainly true of many body-builders who achieve first class gains without protein supplementation.
And although their muscle gains can't be compared with those of body-builders driven to using growth enhancing drugs such as steroids, they're on a par with gains made by meat eating body-builders who will have no truck with drug abuse. Lots of people have heard of Bill Pearl, who won the Mr Universe title four times, lastly at the age of 41. But most don't know that Bill, a vegetarian, was a perfect example for meatless muscle back in the days before steroid abuse.
Just as body-building is not the exclusive territory of the carnivore, nor is it predominantly male territory. More women are pumping iron than ever before. Far from wanting to develop the physique of the incredible hulk, most seek to improve total health and fitness. And since women have led the way in the change over to a meatfree diet, it shouldn't be surprising that they make up nearly half the members of the Vegetarian and Vegan Body-building group (VVBB).
Pat Reeves is female, vegan and a champion. Now 52, she's won the British Powerlifting Championship eight years running. Although she had qualified for this year's March event, she sad, 'I might take a little time off from competing but my gut feeling is not to retire.' Injuries that have made her pause are nothing to do with weight - Pat came off her motorbike. As a master lifter Pat has represented Great Britain twice, winning in world events at Bratislava and European titles in Valencia. The holder of many Commonwealth and master records , she's lifted in excess of 247,5 kilos in the best of three lifts, though not, necessarily in competition. That's the equivalent weigh of four nine and a half stone adults.
Her most recent win was the West Midlands Powerlifting Championships last November. A former marathon runner and dancer, now a personal trainer, coach and fitness consultant Pat Reeves is also a nutritionist. By applying nutritional therapy she is reversing her own brittle bone condition, osteoporosis, mainly by removing antagonists - such as coffee and alcohol that affect the laying down of calcium in the bone- from her diet.
'I'm also working with minerals a lot, particularly boron,' she says.
A vegan for ten year before beginning her career in powerlifting in the late 1980s Pat has proved that, far from being a handicap, her diet has been a valuable asset for the formidable strength she needed to develop.
So if you feel like pumping a little iron to demolish the myth surrounding plant protein, take this quick route , and see box) to a toned body.
Gaining muscle isn't simply a matter of what we eat but the way we eat it. Three meals a day of breakfast, lunch and dinner add up to a no-no - the body needs a constant supply of quality nutrients to achieve its best. That means we should eat twice as often but our meals should be much smaller. This is difficult to fit into the average working lifestyle, but when you can, such as on weekdays, holidays etc., try to adopt this way of eating. Simply improving your eating pattern will bring results.
In training you can consume a lot of calories without storing excess as fat. If for whatever reason you stop training, reduce your calorie intake accordingly.
The bulk of your foods should be rich in carbohydrates. The rules of healthy eating still apply in every sense as we are looking at total health and not simply maximum muscle growth. It's important, however, to ensure that the protein you consume combines to become quality protein.
Most vegans understand the principle of protein balancing but this should not be a major concern. Providing that a good variety of foods are eaten on a regular basis, this balancing will occur naturally.
To find out more about diet and training for meat-free muscles and supplements for the vegetarian and vegan body-builder, send a large SAE, to VVBB, 17 Inglewood Road, Rainford, St. Helens, Lancs WA11 7QL. There is no membership fee and services to be offered include contacts discount and advice.
David Fairclough is a nutritional therapist. He set up Vegetarian and Vegan Body-Building (VVBB) to prove that vegetarians and vegans receive ample protein from diets to develop on a par with their meat eating counterparts.
David has developed a course " Vegetarian and Vegan Consultant" with Stonebridge associated Colleges. It is intended to be of interest to anyone in the areas of holistic or orthodox health , sports and nutrition, food and catering etc. The course is over eight months and students keep in touch with tutor support via e-mail, phone or mail. Diploma is awarded to students who pass the final paper. The college is involved with international correspondence courses in a wide range of subjects. It has many professional associations both national and international, including the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA). The college offers practical hands on training where needed, and the qualification gained con open the door to membership of many accredited bodies.
17 Inglewood Road, Rainford,
St Helen,Lancs, WA11 7QL,
Tel: ++44 (0)1744 454495,