Debunking The Vegetarian Diet

Posted on Feb 01, 2019

In the crazy worlds of fitness and dieting, people are always after the latest quick fix or hack to take their physique to the next level.

We know that diet is absolutely critical for that, and while it might not be “80% diet, 20% training” as many people like to chirp, if your diet isn’t on point, it doesn’t matter how hard you train – you’ll never get optimal results.

While most will choose a diet more geared generally weight loss or muscle gain to improve their bodies, some also turn to a vegetarian diet, in the belief that doing so will automatically help them lose fat and get leaner.

The majority of vegetarians follow this way of eating for ethical reasons, but we’re still having the vegetarian lifestyle pushed on us by the media, with the false message that a vegetarian diet is healthier than an omnivorous one.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of going veggie:

What is Vegetarianism & What Does it Involve?

This probably needs little explanation.

A vegetarian doesn’t eat any animals.

Most vegetarians will eat some animal products, such as dairy, eggs and honey, whereas vegans shun all things where an animal has been used in the manufacturing process.

Some types of vegetarians (known as pescatarians) do eat fish, but for this article we’ll concentrate on vegetarian diets that also omit fish and shellfish.

What Can You Eat?

Fruits and veggies are fine … obviously!

You’re also okay with grains, cereals, beans, dairy products like cottage cheese, milk and yoghurt, and meat replacements such as tofu and soy.

Red meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish are clearly a no go.

What Might a Typical Day Look Like?


  • Oats made with milk, mixed with peanut butter and a vegetarian-friendly protein powder.


  • Tub of cottage cheese with chives, served with a huge mixed salad with 4-6 different vegetables or salad items, followed by a couple of pieces of fruit.


  • A stir fry made with more mixed veggies, brown rice or noodles, and a meat replacement, such as tofu.


  • Crackers with low-fat cheese
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Protein shakes
  • Protein bars
  • Boiled eggs
  • Fruit


In studies, vegetarians do often show as being healthier and living longer than meat eaters, due to the fact that most veggies tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and more fibre, along with a lot less saturated and trans fats and junk foods than your typical meat eater.

This however, is more to do with overall lifestyle than specifically not eating meat.

Seeing as vegetarians often don’t have the luxury of stopping off at a burger joint for a quick bite too, most are forced to find interesting ways to make plain foods tasty, meaning your cooking repertoire may be far better as a veggie.


The big one here, which isn’t a forgone conclusion, but is highly common is a lack of protein.

By cutting out all meat and fish, you’re severely limiting your protein sources, particularly when it comes to eating out.

Sure, you can get protein from soy, tofu, tempeh and “fake meats” but the proteins in these are usually incomplete (meaning they don’t contain all the essential amino acids) so you don’t absorb them as well, and need a much greater range of protein sources to optimise muscle protein synthesis.

Unfortunately, many foods that your average vegetarian goes to for their protein are high in fat and/or carbs.

Think about it – a higher-protein vegetarian dish may well revolve around lentils, chickpeas or quinoa. There’s nothing wrong with these foods, but along with containing protein, they also contain carbs. (Almost as many carbs as protein in some cases.)

This makes it much harder to hit your macros, especially in a cutting phase, when protein is usually higher and carbs lower.

Other sources like cheese and eggs are virtually carb-free, but contain fat. Again – nothing wrong with this, but getting lean proteins on a vegetarian plan can get difficult, frustrating and monotonous.

Finally, vegetarians are at a higher risk of deficiencies, the three main ones being iron (due to a lack of red meat,) vitamin D (due to a lack of shellfish) and B12, which is only contained in high amounts in animal products.

Should You Go Vegetarian?

If your ethical beliefs favour vegetarianism, that trumps everything, and there’s no need to eat meat to get the body you want.

That said; if you’re perfectly happy eating meat, keep doing so. It makes it much easier to hit your macros.

By far and away the most important factor is that you meet your total daily calorie and macro intake.

Vegetarian diets can fit well with flexible dieting and IIFYM, provided you bear a few key aspects in mind, and make some tweaks to your diet –

  • Aim for a wide variety of protein sources
  • Get most of your protein from animal products (eggs, egg whites and dairy) rather than fake meats.
  • Keep your carb count from grains and sugars down, as many of your protein sources will also contain carbs.
  • Get yourself a good vegetarian-friendly protein supplement, as well as protein bars.
  • Learn to use herbs and spices to jazz up your meals so you don’t end up just grabbing a calorie-laden veggie ready meal, or snacking on things like chips and sandwiches.

Above all, hit your macros, eat a wide range of foods, and just don’t fall for the media message that by going veggie, you’re automatically getting healthier.

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