One of my New Year’s resolutions, especially now that my back injury is healed, is to get fit. My ongoing joke is that I want to be like Janet Jackson back in the day when you could bounce a quarter off her abs fit. In between sessions with a personal trainer to build strength and lower my body fat percentage, I am staying limber and releasing toxins regularly by slowly but surely easing my way back into a regular hot yoga practice and getting a dance class in here and there. If you can’t tell, I love working out! The only thing I don’t love is not being able to move my limbs normally after an intense workout. The question that always arises when people discover that I am vegan and interested in building muscle: where do you get your protein?
I am a big proponent of everyone figuring out what works for their body. My body in particular, cannot handle animal protein sources at all. So I get all my protein from plant sources. People assume that because you are raw or vegan that you cannot build muscle. I have actually seen a lot of evidence to the contrary. Time and time again, I have noticed that my diet actually makes my body even more receptive to exercise. Within my first week of strength training, only one day in that week, and eating my regular highly raw diet, my body fat percentage decreased by about 5%. I have been training for a month now, and my body fat percentage has decreased from 33% (unhealthy for my age) to 26%! I am now aiming for the optimal body fat percentage of 22-25%, and I am sure I will get there very soon with more training sessions.
It is assumed that by default, plant protein is inferior to animal protein, but actually, raw plant protein is the highest quality, most digestible protein for humans. When we eat cooked meat or animal protein the body tries to break it down in to amino acids. If the body gets enough of its required amino acids, our protein requirement is fulfilled. The point that many raw foodists make in this argument is that HEAT damages amino acids making it harder for the body to utilize. In an interview Stephen Arlin, raw body builder and author of “Raw Power!” said that raw food eaters building muscle have “an immeasurable advantage” over cooked food eaters because: “Building a body with cooked-food nutrition is similar to blowing up a balloon; sooner or later the balloon will deflate. Muscles blown up with cooked food and other unnatural substances will eventually atrophy and deflate. Most fitness experts and body-builders atrophy and wear down pre-maturely. Muscles built on raw-food nutrition last much longer, because they are naturally built. I compare building your body with cooked food to building a brick wall without any mortar. There’s no foundation there.”
Now that I am focusing on strength training, I am taking care to add in adequate amounts of protein in my diet and want to share a long list of great non-animal protein sources for anyone worried about getting enough to build muscle. Our culture tends to be a bit protein crazed, probably to an extreme, so make sure you are listening to your body and not overloading. Most times, people who overload on excessive amounts of animal protein, whey, etc. are not actually healthy, and cannot sustain optimal health longterm. We need not just large amounts of protein but high quality nutrients and minerals to achieve optimal wellness.
As I continue to workout, I am doing more research on what raw body builders and vegan athletes are saying about building muscle and achieving optimal workouts. From several sources I heard that fruit is a great pre-workout meal that gives the body fuel, and that blended smoothies with vegan protein sources are good ways to recover (which I was already doing). The more I sweat, the more I will learn and share. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to get your veggie loving but in the gym as well. Happy sweating! – XoXo Raw Girl
Heres a partial list from one of my favorite books, David Wolfe’s “Eating for Beauty” of what he calls the “Best Protein Foods”:
- Bee Pollen
- Brewer’s Yeast
- E3 Live (algae)
- Goji Berries
- Grass Powders
- Green leafy vegetables
- Hemp Protein (30 grams of protein per tablespoon!)
- Hemp Seeds
- Maca (can buy in powder blends or by itself)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sprouts (of all types)
- Sprouted grains
- Sprouted wild rice
- Vegetable powders (dehydrated and powdered greens)