Meatless Meatheads

Become a vegetarian monster in the gym without sacrificing muscle.

Make the move and become a vegetarian monster in the gym without sacrificing muscle or missing meat.

There was a time not so long ago when any man dedicated to moving big iron and sculpting dense muscle would have been called a grasschewing wimp or even (gasp!) a hippie, for turning down a fat, juicy rib-eye steak and instead tucking into a plate of beans and rice with a side salad. But starting in the ’50s, as modern bodybuilding began to take shape, a few dedicated muscleheads brushed off the insults and committed themselves to building an impressive physique all through a diet based on plants.

Bill Pearl, now 85, is probably the most famous vegetarian bodybuilder, though he is technically a lacto-ovo vegetarian, or someone who eats mostly plants and some dairy and eggs. He won numerous contests throughout the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s while on a plant-based diet, including the Mr. Universe pro four times. His protégé, Jim Morris, took the plant diet even further and became a vegan—he went on to compete for more than 30 years and won contests like Mr. USA and Mr. Olympia Masters until retiring in 1985.

And the Oak himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, proclaimed that he would start adhering to a meatless Monday schedule for better health and to do his part to cut down on the greenhouse gases emitted in the production, slaughter, and distribution of livestock. In a 2006 report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that the way we get meat on our plates is one of the biggest strains on the global ecosystem, with the whole process being one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases, a leading cause of loss of habitat biodiversity and a major reason our waterways are polluted.

Besides the saving-the-planet angle and concern for the welfare of animals, study after study has shown that vegetarian or vegan diets lower cholesterol, reduce the risk for heart disease, regulate blood pressure levels, and help prevent prostate cancer and colon cancer. People who follow a plant-based diet may also have lower body-mass index, better skin, more energy, and live longer. That said, we challenge you to try out the veggie life by taking the following steps to live a healthier life, and maybe even help save the planet—and still pack on muscle.


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