Thursday, August 09, 2007

How to Eat a Varied Vegetarian Diet

You’ve weighed your options carefully, studied the pros and the cons, and decided that the vegetarian lifestyle is right for you. But where do you start making the changes? Do you go ‘cold turkey?’ Do you adopt a more gradual approach to transitioning to vegetarianism? However you choose to make the change, you can begin to achieve the health benefits of vegetarianism by significantly cutting down on the amount of meats consumed, and making vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains the focus of your meals.

Choose whole-grain products like whole wheat bread and flour, instead of refined or white grains. Eat a wide variety of foods, and don’t be afraid to try vegetables, fruits, grains, breads, nuts, or seeds that you’ve never tried before. Experiment and explore! You may discover a new favorite or two, and learn fresh new ways to liven up more traditional vegetarian dishes. Many vegetarian foods can be found in any grocery store. Specialty food stores may carry some of the more uncommon items, as well as many vegetarian convenience foods. When shopping for food, plan ahead, shop with a list and read food labels. And if you decide to eat dairy products, choose non-fat or low-fat varieties, and limit your egg intake to 3-4 yolks per week.

Becoming a vegetarian can be as easy as you choose to make it. Whether you enjoy preparing delectable, delicious meals or choose quick and easy ones, vegetarian meals can be very satisfying. If you get in the habit of keeping the following on hand, meal preparation time will become a snap:

-Ready-to-eat, whole-grain breakfast cereals, and quick-cooking whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal, whole-grain breads and crackers, such as rye, whole wheat, and mixed grain and other grains such as barley and bulgur wheat

-Canned beans, such as pinto, black beans, and garbanzo beans

-Rice (including brown, wild, etc.) and pasta (now available in whole wheat, spinach, and other flavors) with tomato sauce and canned beans and/or chopped veggies

-Vegetarian soups like lentil, navy bean, or minestrone

-A wide variety of plain frozen vegetables, and canned and frozen fruit

-Fortified soymilks and soy cheeses, should you choose to not eat dairy

-A wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, which should be the core of any diet

As you learn to experiment with foods and learn that a meatless diet doesn’t have to lack variety, you’ll find your decision for vegetarianism was not only wise, but easy and fun come mealtime.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Vegetarian Body Builder

Yes, it is possible to be a body builder and a vegetarian. Read this article to find out how...

The Bodybuilding Vegetarian
By Gray Rollins

Surprisingly, being a vegetarian bodybuilder isn’t really as difficult as many people automatically assume it is. In some ways it may be easier because adhering to a real vegetarian diet takes a lot of focus and discipline, two things that will greatly help you in the gym.

First, we should define our terms because there are three basic groups of people who consider themselves “vegetarians.” I refer to these three groups as pseudo-vegetarians, meat vegetarians and vegetarians. The pseudo vegetarian avoids beef, chicken and poultry but will sometimes eat fish and has no problem with other animal products. A meat vegetarian avoids all meat. A vegetarian avoids any foods (or products in general) that contain any amount of animal product.

This article is aimed directly at the true vegetarians, who avoid all animal products. The meat-vegetarians and pseudo-vegetarians will gain useful information as well, but true vegetarians have very specialized needs during bodybuilding.

Since there is no difference in biological manner in which a vegetarian and a carnivore actually build muscles, we don’t need to go into any specific exercise differences. Instead, we’ll be focusing on dietary issues.

The first challenge goes back to the way muscles build in our bodies. We exercise our muscles, which does microscopic damage to the tissue and then our bodies repair the damage with bigger and stronger tissue while we recuperate. To effectively do this, our bodies need to use protein in massive amounts, which is why bodybuilders increase their protein intake.

Vegetarians face a challenge here because the most common source of protein is meat. Okay, so it’s not actually that much of a challenge. According to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score, soy is equal to whey and superior to beef in protein content. Soy provides all 8 essential amino acids required by your body for growing and repairing muscles. Vegetarians would be well-advised to consider soy as a primary protein source.

The really good news is that soy is also a fantastic source of glutamine which many bodybuilders already take in supplemental form. Soy is available in many different forms such as tofu, miso, soy powder and soy milk. Soy milk is definitely something to have on hand as it can be used to replace cow’s milk in recipes, which will help expand your basic food options.

Almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and pistachio nuts are all excellent sources of both protein and fat; the vegetarian needs to work on getting enough good fats as well, so with the above examples you can go nuts…was that a pun?

You can also add a tablespoon or so of flaxseed oil, as flax seed is one of the very best sources for the essential fatty acid alpha linolenic acid.

Finally, vegetarians need to ensure that they get enough vitamins and minerals. This can be done in multivitamin form although most of the meal-replacement shakes which are so popular among bodybuilders already contain vitamins and minerals galore. The only additional vitamin to look for is B12, which is generally an animal product based vitamin.

Like I said in the beginning, it isn’t nearly as hard to be a vegetarian bodybuilder as many people would think. You’ve got the discipline part down and, by following the guidelines listed above, you will be set up nutritionally to build massive amounts of muscle!

Gray Rollins is a featured writer for MuscleProgram.com - a site dedicated to helping people build muscle and get fit. If you're interested in reading more about vegetarian bodybuilding, and healthy ways to gain muscle mass, then visit us.