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Do You Really Need Animal Protein To Build Muscle & Lose Fat?

By Rob Poulos...

Well, it’s happened again.  I’ve been taken to task by one of my readers…called out, as it were, for recommending that you shouldn’t focus solely on animal products as your main source of protein-

-not only that, but he actually called me an ‘idiot’ on several popular health and fitness forums!

Hey, Kalen  has called me an idiot several times, but mostly for not taking out the trash or doing the dishes…

So here’s this guy’s ‘complaint’ …check it out…


“…Rob, that is BS. Animal proteins are known to have the MOST satiating effect on a person, and you’re gonna say other wise? Are you actually gonna tell people to consume most of their protein from incomplete plant sources with LOW bioavailability? Wow. I loved what you have always written about, until now.

And only 0.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight? Maybe that’s a good amount just for survival, but if you’re trying to gain muscle, then you’ll need at least 1g per pound of bodyweight.

Sorry, it’s a time-tested truth among bodybuilders, and I can’t believe it you are not only telling them they only need 0.5g but you’re telling them to go incomplete plant protein style on top of that! You should read a little about bodybuilding nutrition, before you go and give advice.

Here’s a guy with a STRONG opinion, eh?  Well, let’s see if we can calm him down and help him burn off that thick layer of bodyfat that he might still be trying to lose…

…First off, I am well aware of bodybuilding nutrition. Successful bodybuilders are more often the result of possessing out of this world genetics for building muscle (long muscle bellies, etc.) and/or the use of various performance enhancing drugs-

-If you don’t understand this, you haven’t been around bodybuilders enough.

I had followed a so called “bodybuilder’s diet” (for about 10 years) with loads of animal protein and most of what I got was a bigger and fatter body. No one could even tell I worked out at all…

…I was just another ‘fat guy’!

But the point of my message here is not how to become a successful bodybuilder…as most people are simply not interested slipping into a speedo, spraying their body with bronzers, and parading around on stage hoping their pecs look more shapely to a group of judges.

In addition, nowhere do I recommend to not eat any animal protein…that is just unrealistic.

Hey, I like eating a great tasting chicken breast or grass fed buffalo burger just like the next guy…but-

-I AM making the recommendation that you need to understand that too much animal protein, from a nutrient standpoint, often causes you to take in more calories overall as you body will continue to seek out required nutrients that can’t be found in a slice of turkey.

This is an empowering principle that has helped many of my readers to lose more fat faster.

Most people do not understand the real importance of plant based foods in fueling the body (and all the nutrients that come along with that).

Most people are hung up on animal proteins as the focal point of every meal they eat. In order to get people to understand that there is more to eating healthy than eating chicken breasts, it is often required to over-emphasize the importance of plant proteins…

..It was discovered almost 20 years ago that amino acids obtained from food combine with amino acids naturally made in the body.

Adequate amounts of amino acids can be obtained if eating low amounts of animal products combined with plant proteins from unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and vegetables eaten on a daily basis.

Regarding building muscle…

…do I look like I had trouble building muscle on a diet lower in animal proteins while working out just twice a week for about 15 minutes per workout?

Take a look at my before photo below and you’ll see the result of my heavy reliance on large amounts of animal proteins and 5-6 days a week of misguided workouts in the gym.

I don’t get any of those “fat guy” comments anymore…

If you are still particularly concerned with getting the right amino acid profile for optimum muscle growth, I suggest keeping a more plant based diet and supplementing with something like Prograde’s BCAA’s here

Yeah, the total absence of animal proteins may inhibit muscle growth slightly, but as I said, I am not recommending no or very little animal protein.

I am leaner and stronger than I’ve ever been in my life, versus the 10 or so years when I used to eat a “bodybuilder’s diet” at 252 pounds full of blubber…

Here’s to getting lean, strong, and healthy for life,

About Rob Poulos

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. It’s a myth that animal protein is needed to build muscle. What you need is amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Luckily these come in plant based foods as well. Though they’re not as densely compacted as in animal products, they’re easier on your body to digest… that’s good news since you won’t over tax your system digesting meat.

    Does meat make you fat? No. It’s a combination of things that make you fat… lack of minerals and vitamins, combined with too much meat, combined with lack of exercise and a negative self attitude will get you there pretty fast.

    I have to admit, since I changed my diet to a primarily raw, vegan diet I’ve lost muscle, but this is only because I decided I wanted to start running marathons instead of hitting the gym :-)

    Live Awesome!
    For tips on the vegan and raw food diet visit RenegadeHealth.com

    • Matt Stone

      Good post Rob and thanks for your work Kevin. You do a great job.

      Actually, what matters most when it comes to building muscle is driving amino acids into cells. And starch is the most effective substance for driving protein into cells. Of course, most starchy foods like potatoes, buckwheat, quinoa, wheat, and so forth are also rich in protein. Buckwheat is even a complete protein.

      In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that to gain the largest proportion of muscle to fat, overfeeding with maximizing the starch to fat ratio in the diet is the most efficient route. Kind of like your Q’ero buddies Kevin!

      But note, you can get plenty lean on a high-meat diet. I’ve achieved etched 6-pack leanness on a meat-based diet. However, I felt like hell! Looks aren’t everything.

  2. Mys Mara Benson

    I am a raw green food enthusiast, and since being on a diet of 70% leafy greens, I have more lean mass than I ever had, and my form of exercise is yoga. I know of complege vegans as well as vegetarians who are bodybuilders and have great big muscles. So anyone who thinks you must have meat has faulty education, lack of information, or a blind spot on the subject. Any can check the internet for vegan or vegetarian bodybuilders and see what I am talking about. Sincerely, rawgreenprincess.

  3. Marilyn R Williams

    Great article. I’ve always wondered – if it takes meat to make muscle – then why are the largest animals on the planet (and the ones humans eat), all vegetarian? Cows, elephants, horses and some whales for example all seem to get plenty of protein to build up their bulk.

    I am a vegetarian and have no trouble gaining muscle, even though I am female, too! I just need to stay away from cookies…:)

    Thanks for the thought provoking article.

  4. Pierre

    Think about gorillas. They don’t eat loads of animal protien, yet they are powerful and big. Cows eat grass. Where do they get protein-from the grass.

    Greens are the basis of a super food diet that fuels all your cells, especially your immune system. If you want to add some animal protein, enjoy some wild Alaskan Salmon, espcially due to its Omega3 content. I’m not against animal protein, but you;re right, muscle and fitness doesn’t DEPEND on massive amounts of steak and chicken.

  5. L Bowen

    Consumption of too much animal protein inhibits the absorption of calcium and contributes to bone loss in women as they age. Thanks for the great information you always provide.

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