“If only I’d been given a buck every time someone had told me it’s impossible to get big and strong on a vegetarian or vegan diet,” says Mahler (pictured). “I used to hear this all the time from my meat-eating friends and it’s just plain untrue. Just because you’ve seen a dope-smoking, daydreaming hippie who looks as if he hasn’t eaten in a month doesn’t mean that everyone who eats a vegan diet is weak and puny.” Here, Mahler counters the most common arguments against ditching meat – and tells how to pack on power.
How will I get enough protein?
“Meat doesn’t have the monopoly on protein, despite what many people think – and you don’t need to live off shakes, either,” says Mahler. “Lentils, beans, nuts and seeds are packed with muscle-building protein. As a bonus, they contain a good balance of slow-release carbs and healthy fats, unlike most red meat.”
Won’t a diet high in fat make me fat?
“A diet high in most things will make you fat, but the main culprit for high body fat is excess calories, typically in the form of too many carbs. You’ll find your overall consumption is less when you load up on fats because they provide a steady flow of energy and reduce hunger tremendously.”
I don’t want to eat fake meat
“Avoid fake meat products, which are often full of sugar and salt. There is evidence that soya can increase your levels of oestrogen, which can inhibit testosterone production and reduce muscle mass. Get your nutrients from fresh, natural food sources, including nuts, beans, fruit, vegetables, quinoa and oats.”
I don’t want to waste away
“Vegetarian and vegan diets don’t have to be low in calories. Unsaturated fats are extremely important for optimal health and are calorie-rich, with 9 in every gram (compared to around 4 in each gram of protein and carbs). Fat is a great source of energy, especially if you work out a lot. If I don’t eat a lot of fats, I’m lethargic, moody and always hungry. I feel best on a diet that’s around 40 percent fat – from almonds, walnuts, pecans, leafy greens, olives and avocado – and around 30 percent from both carbs and proteins.”
Mike Mahler (mikemahler.com) is a strength coach and kettlebell instructor based in Las Vegas in the US. He has trained many mixed martial arts fighters, including former UFC light-heavyweight champion Frank Shamrock.
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