As I write this, it is still somewhat cold outside this spring in New York City. If you follow my advice to the letter in this post, and I’m going to try to include as few letters as possible for your benefit, you can have killer abdominals in time for summer. What’s more, this advice will guarantee that you will keep your sexy midline throughout the winter months so that you don’t have to battle your belly fat over and over again. A trim waist is a sign of good health and tells others that you are strong and healthy. Whether you could stand to lose 6 inches off your gut to get into better health or you want to resemble an ancient Greek statue, what I tell you will get you there.

First, I must state that you won’t be able to do it by yoga alone. As a matter of fact, most people who succeed tend to get it done without yoga at all. But, by incorporating specific aspects of yoga that focus on this goal, you will naturally coax your body into a state of constant metabolic health that will be one of the many key angles of attack on your excess body fat to get it done to keep it off permanently.

Diet is the most important element in lowering your body fat percentage which will make or break your efforts here. If you get this wrong, you will have a trim waist, and you will never have six-pack abs no matter how hard you try to do everything else right.  Do yourself a favor and re-learn what you think you know about food if you have a gut right now; what you know is probably completely wrong, or you know what you’re doing wrong and just don’t do anything right. I’m not going to dwell on the subject of diet, because this should be made the simplest part of this multi-faceted confrontation with your fat cells. You know what you’re doing wrong, so stop it. And if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian and you’re fat, I’m sorry but you lose — it will be imperative that you figure out how to get enough protein in your diet so you may want to read my blog entry The Argument for Vegetarianism, Part 2, while focusing on getting all your carbohydrates from vegetables which is what a vegan or vegetarian should be doing; step up to the plate and delete all pastas, breads, grains, cereals, sugars, anything that is a processed simple carbohydrate, or if you gorge on these, start by cutting them down to 1/3 or less of your overall intake. If you’re anything like me, these are the reasons you don’t have abs, so come to terms with that fact and make the change.

The last thing I will say generally about diet is that when the human body has grown fat, many things come together in a sneaky, underhanded way to make it so, and in this entry I will attempt to explain how to unravel those multiple tight bonds that choke the life out of us. A fat, even slightly fat, person is one who can be seen as an otherwise healthy person who is being tied down independently at each limb and is unable to move as freely as possible. As we loosen these reigns and eventually free our tied down wrists and ankles and bound torsos, only then can we create the natural snowballing effect, or exponentially accelerating runaway train of vibrant energy that is a high metabolism that keeps us hungry in true hunger for true foods, those that your subconscious animal mind knows you need, not the foods that your thinking, habitually dependent, corrupted behavioral mind seems to want. This will be accomplished by understanding what your daily caloric intake is, and what percentage of that intake is comprised of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and most importantly what kinds of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. So, as you may be starting to understand, the more complicated you make this, the higher the chances of failure; the simpler you make it, the simpler it will be to eat the right proportions of the right foods and make no mistakes whatsoever. I recommend this, unless you have over a year’s time to make this your goal.

Burn calories. Choose your weapon. Typical failing dieters think that just by eating less, they will start to lose weight. If you stick with it, and basically eat a lot less, a lot healthier, and consume solid, nutritious meals, you will. End of story. This is the Law of Thermodynamics, which in this case states that the only way one will lose weight or body fat is if one consumes less calories (food and drink) than one expends (activity, movement combined with breath). Keep in mind that if you have a slow metabolism and while eating a lot less you consume over 40% of your calories in the form of carbohydrates and don’t burn those calories every day as you eat them, you’ll stay fat. If you didn’t know this, now you know. This is why you see so many skinny-fat vegetarians around. They eat very little, and they eat healthy in general, but they consume too many carbohydrates and don’t burn them off day to day, and that gets stored as fat under the skin. Fat under the skin is exactly what you need to get rid of to have a trim waist, so you must do the opposite of this carb-heavy intake, and you must choose a method of activity that will be ruthless. In choosing your weapon, you have either cardiorespiratory exercise (heart and lungs is what this means), or anaerobic activity that pushes you to a level of constant fat burn, or both. Constant fat burn sounds like the right choice if you ask me, and this means strength training, which is where I come in.

I don’t do cardio. Ever. Here’s why: I don’t need to. I perform strength training movements with a level of intensity (constant elevated heart rate) within a specific amount of time (40-60 min.) to complete a specific range of sets (15-25) in a gym environment three times a week. If I were to perform cardio exercises during that same time frame, my body would begin a cycle of overtraining which leads to exhaustion and injury. This is also how I do yoga, which can be cardio if vinyasa, and as I just stated, I don’t do cardio.

There is a very little known fact called Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, which can be explained as the elevation of the body’s metabolism after exercise. Your goal will be to maximize this. Built into the variability and your possible maximization of EPOC is the genetic construct that your body has its own objective to expend as little energy as possible. In order to do this, the human body is a highly adaptable organism that readily adapts to the demands placed on it. By maximizing the oxygen consumption needed for the duration of a training session as well as for the recovery from the training session, the body can continue to adapt to greater demands and continue a high metabolic rate during and after exercise to burn more calories at all times, even though the body will adapt to specific demands over time and begin to use minimal energy to perform them. What this translates to is the higher the intensity of the training session, the greater the magnitude of EPOC. Furthermore, splitting the training session into multiple sessions (usually two) of equal time has the greatest effect on EPOC, and therefore the greatest effect on burning calories and body fat reduction.

If you’ve followed me so far, this next paragraph will blow your mind. Fat and glucose are your major sources of fuel for exercise. A fire cannot burn without oxygen, and so for these fuels to be used more efficiently, the body must be able to receive enough oxygen, allowing fat and glucose to be “burned” as fuel. The waste products of this fuel burning are carbon dioxide and water. This is where the importance of your lungs as accessory fat burners comes into play. The amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged in the lungs normally equals that used and released by body tissues, allowing us to use these respiratory gasses to estimate caloric expenditure, a method called indirect calorimetry, measured with a metabolic analyzer to detect an individual’s respiratory exchange ratio, or RER. This ratio is the ratio of carbon dioxide produced to the volume of oxygen consumed. It is a known fact that the human body uses the highest percent of its fuel from fat when the body has an RER of 0.71, indicating at first blush that whatever exercises you do, just make sure you’re at an RER of 0.71; this is exactly what I do and therefore suggest for you to do as well. The only problem with all this scientific data analysis is that in the real world the only time the body can be at 0.71 RER is when it is completely at rest.

Mind blown? This means you can’t burn the most fat by doing cardiorespiratory exercise. This means the people that only go to the gym to use cardio equipment to lose fat are doing it wrong. They should say they are just going to the gym to burn a few calories in the hope of burning and losing fat. Getting back to EPOC, you may have already figured it out, but if you haven’t I’ll spell it out for you. If you train three times a week doing weight training at a high intensity for your fitness level, you will maximize the caloric expenditure (oxygen consumption) during your training session by keeping your heart rate elevated for the entire duration of 40-60 minutes, and you will maximize the oxygen consumption (caloric expenditure) needed for the recovery from the training session. This means as you rest throughout the day and during your sleep until you are ready for another 40-60 minutes of exercise, you will attain an RER of 0.71 and therefore burn fat most efficiently. This also means that without lots of rest, you won’t burn as much fat, and with less rest, you will get fatter. Of course, you just have to give yourself a good reason to deserve the rest, and the two aspects of intensity followed by rest neatly sum up yoga in action. Cardiorespiratory training typically stops being effective as soon as you stop performing the cardio exercise, meaning it only works as you are doing it. This is great news for constantly counting your calories burned on the treadmill, but takes greater time management and greater discipline leading to higher possibility of failure, not to mention loss of major muscle tissue (if it’s not in the fat burning RER, it has to burn something) when done for over 20 minutes at a time.

The next entry will focus primarily on yoga poses and related movements that will target your abdominals to strengthen them, shape them, and thereby making your spine happier about not overcompensating for weak abs. Other poses will be suggested solely for metabolic quickening through thyroid activation. Until then, start burning fat, rev up your metabolism, and start feeling healthier and stronger on a cellular level through proper nutrition.

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In Parts I & II, the experience of being young no matter what your chronological age is broken down to two initial fundamentals: attitude and assessment. I made the point early on that you don’t have to be practicing yoga to benefit from including these basic order-inducing concepts and actions that solidify your health and vivacity. The catch is that these are based in yoga philosophy, the underpinning of growth and transformation. Your attitude will propel you through objective assessments to administer proper action and obtain life changing life purpose.

Have you ever heard others say that yoga makes you look 10 to 20 years younger than most people your age? I’ve met many people that practice yoga regularly, attending classes, even teaching classes, and they’ve all pretty much looked exactly their age. Some of them definitely looked good, vibrant, and some even very good for their age, but they looked their age. My point is that just doing yoga isn’t going to bring comprehensive feelings, experiences, and outward results akin to a magical fountain of youth. What will keep you as strong and healthy as you can be without fail are proper nutrition, proper sleep and rest, proper amounts of physical activity, and mental stability. This is yoga, and you never have to roll out a sticky mat and flow through a vinyasa to experience this.

You can research what is proper for you in each of the above categories on your own and I don’t intend to give strict opinions here on what works for me. I can give nondiscriminatory advice, however, that will benefit most people, and this advice can be compared to your current personal assessment to coerce a decision to take action.

Be very specific about what you will and will not eat. Even if you are healthy and fit, attempt to limit or diminish the amount of sugar you allow to enter your body. For most of human existence on earth sugar has been present in very controlled and limited amounts compared to the sugar explosion of the last century in modern civilization. Sugar and sugar-related compounds have spawned, through overuse, many illnesses, and you must show great restraint from what you may have gotten used to. To keep this simple and realistic, don’t worry too much about honey, agave nectar, and naturally occurring sugars in fruits. Exclude all other sugars, which would include “added sugars” in products, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, processed sugar, evaporated cane juice (a fancy phrase that means sugar), and especially products that have high sugar quantity measured in grams per serving. Sugar is a carbohydrate, and although we need carbohydrates for our bodies to function properly and perform well under stress, also be very aware of how many carbohydrates you consume throughout the day and during each meal. If your daily intake of protein and carbohydrates meets a general proportion weighted more toward proteins, you have a better chance of not ingesting more carbohydrates than your body needs to create energy, thereby avoiding high blood sugar levels and the possibility of storing fat subcutaneously. For a more detailed explanation of typical protein requirements and food sources for obtaining favorable amounts of proteins to proportion your diet, see my January 27, 2011 entry entitled The Argument for Vegetarianism, Part 2.

Drink water instead of sweetened beverages, vigilantly. Don’t sweeten your tea or coffee. If you drink natural juices, water them down 4:1. These simple steps are often the most difficult for people looking for a way to either get healthier, become more athletic, get more energy, and simply lose unwanted weight, size, and body fat. Remember that calories burned should equal calories ingested. Whatever your fitness level, if there is an imbalance between calories burned and calories ingested, your body will immediately begin to change by either thinning out or bulking up. It is up to your choice of nutrition whether that thin or bulk refers to fat or muscle.

Combining discerning yet nourishing nutrition with challenging frequent physical activity will keep your body looking its best. The individuals successfully embracing youthfulness as the attitude that instinctually begins life, while repeating objective assessment to maintain a level of actualization of youth through care of the physical body are the people living the fountain of youth, looking, feeling and acting years and decades younger as they age with the rest of the world. It’s a personal choice for most people, and if you aren’t experiencing it, you may be solely to blame.

I’d like to start by writing that I’m not in the habit of writing long, winding, fragmented posts, and this one will be long, but still to the point, and it will end with a workout routine that is beneficial to anyone who wants to get in shape no matter what your personal beliefs are and what you choose to eat. However, if you want to shed the most fat in the shortest time and you are at a hight body fat percentage, or even can’t figure out how to lose that last five pounds of fat, this will do it. And, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with yoga, because yoga is not exercise, but yoga will enrich this undertaking just as it has mine.

The Rules: No sugar, no white bread, no juices unless watered down significantly, no soda, no sweetened iced teas, no pasta, no white rice, and small, dense meals that contained a combination of proteins, carbohydrates, and grains or vegetables. I’m not a person with a large frame, and even though there are and have been fatter people than I was, I definitely reached critical mass. I looked and felt like a swollen pickle. I went from a 210 pound fat guy to a 150 pound stick in no time. I was losing weight so fast people couldn’t keep up with recognizing me each time they saw me. I did it by exercising intensely in my home and keeping to a strict diet, and it had nothing to do with yoga. Well, almost, except for the fact that coincidentally I discovered yoga at the time that I decided to get in shape the real way, by putting my muscles under great stress and burning calories. I practiced yoga every morning soon after the sun rose, but only for under 30 minutes, which was enough. I wasn’t interested in hanging around and lollygagging, and that meant with my diet, with my exercise protocol, and my yoga experience.

If for some reason I didn’t exercise intensely with weights and my own bodyweight but instead just dieted and did yoga, the results wouldn’t be nearly as quick or dramatic. I lost over 25 pounds in the first month, and in the second month I had to buy a new wardrobe.

I ate only three meals a day, of a certain proportional composition, and drank only water or green tea, unsweetened. I would lift weights at least three times a week in my apartment and work intensely (little or no rest between sets). These simple rules put my body into a fat burning state in which I was burning more calories than I was taking in, and the fat I had stored all over my body was being used as fuel for my workouts. Ironically, I started this because I felt I had no energy. Changing these behavioral aspects actually accessed my fat energy stores and allowed me to break that lethargy barrier. In retrospect, I suspect I was becoming insulin resistant, also called metabolic syndrome, in my overweight and under active state because I felt like I was on the verge of a diabetic coma if I ate any simple carbohydrates as a meal.

To follow what I did exactly, it helps if you are not overly sensitive to caffeine because that allows you to get a sustained alertness and energy boost when you feel you need it, especially if you also suffer from metabolic syndrome. My caffeine intake was limited to the green tea I was drinking, which was subtle to me, and doubles of espresso that worked like magic as soon as I limited my diet and began losing weight. It helped having a home espresso machine, and two shots in the morning and another two in the afternoon did the trick.

The routine: upon waking, the first thing to do was yoga, before eating, even drinking in the morning. This would raise the metabolism and leave me in a very hungry state, ready for breakfast. If on a rare occasion I didn’t break a sweat doing yoga, I would do another 20-30 minute session so that I did.

The meals: this part is easy because it didn’t change. Do you like pizza? Well, if you do, you’re in luck , because this is the pizza diet. There is a pizza place that may be in your area that delivers to your home and you can even order online so they never screw it up. Let’s call it Father Jonathan’s Pizza. I would order the extra-large size because they cut that pie into 12 slices, not 8, so you’re also eating less pizza, which is good. No deep dish or similar crusts, just a regular amount of dough. My special variety of pizza was a veggie pie with cheese, sweet peppers, tomato slices, and black olives. A whole pie would last 4 days since you only ate three slices per day, one per meal(this diet turns out to be economical). But that’s not even close to done. You can’t eat pizza all day. On each slice, I put crushed red pepper(I like spicy foods), something called Hot Pepper Ketchup(to add moistness to the whole affair) and one can of 365 brand Albacore Tuna in spring water and no salt (this is the cheapest highest quality tuna I could find–Bumble Bee and the like are atrocious). That’s it. Slice of pizza, one butter knife’s worth of Hot Pepper Ketchup, crushed red pepper (maybe some dried garlic powder), and one can of high quality tuna. I would have either water or brewed green tea on hand to drink. The meals eventually changed by removing the pizza and switching to wild and brown rice varieties in small quantities to replace the same amount of carbohydrate bulk to balance out the tuna. To prepare the rice I would simply boil one bag for about 50 minutes and it would last me a week. Before eating I would pour a little organic cold-pressed flax oil onto the rice, then crushed red pepper, then a spicy tomato pasta sauce that contained no sugar. Consequently, when I made this change, I was also eating the breakfast meal more as a real breakfast by changing it to two eggs, a 4 oz. cut of wild caught Alaskan salmon, and a piece of whole grain bread with 2% milk fat cottage cheese. If I was hungry between these meals, I’d eat some baby cut carrots, about 5 raw almonds, and a small can of V8 juice.

The fat-burning workout: let’s face it, if you’re serious about getting healthy you have to do the work. If you’re not a wuss, you’ll be able to do this. If you are a wuss, you won’t. Did you hear me? If you try this and decide you can’t do it with that little voice inside your head, then you are a wuss and should probably take a less aggressive and longer route to getting healthy and losing weight. It’s all up to you. Why do I write it like that? Because the things that I do now, five years later, are way more intense and more difficult than this fat burning workout. But if you’re out of shape, it’s what you need and it won’t be easy. These exercises are compound movements. This is your cardio and your anaerobic weight training all at once. It is like putting your body under 2-3 times more
stress than doing one movement focused on one muscle group. This will shred you and sculpt your body like you wouldn’t believe.

Movement 1: Forward Lunge with biceps curl and shoulder shrug.

Grab a pair of dumbbells that you are comfortable with. You will be doing two sets of this exercise. On the second set, I would increase the weight slightly. To start, I grabbed 15-pound dumbbells.

Stand straight up with your feet hip-width apart, looking forward, with the weights hanging at your sides with your arms straight. Lunge forward with your right foot, not too far, and after making contact with the ground, lower into the lunge straight down while curling the weights up toward your chest, ending the motion just above your forward thigh. Reverse the motion of the lunge and the biceps curl until you are back to starting position, then shrug your shoulders with the weight. Repeat all of the above with the left foot lunging forward. Congratulations, you have just performed one rep. Do this 15 times. Breathe, drink water, take a minute or two. This is intense. Then either grab a heavier weight (I used 20-pound dumbbells) or use the same weight and do another set. You’re done with the first exercise.

Movement 2: Shoulder press with triceps extension.

Grab the same dumbbells you started the first set with and stand with your feet hip or shoulder width apart. Lift the weight from your sides into a shoulder press. This is a light weight but you will be doing compound movements and lots of reps, so it will feel difficult later; concentrate on the movement of the weight, don’t rush through it. Immediately at the top of the press, come back down to the tops of your shoulders and position the weights in front of your chest as you bend at the waist only, keeping your back straight. Once your torso is parallel with the ground, extend your hands with the weights behind you by straightening your elbows and contracting your triceps. Bend back up at the waist while positioning the weight back to your shoulders and prepare to repeat the exercise. This is one rep. Do it 15 times. Grab the heavier weight when you’re ready and do another set. Congratulations, you’ve just done the first four sets of the fat-burning workout. The rest is easy, trust me. On all movements, inhale as you prepare for the movement, and exhale as you push the weight through the movement.

Movement 3: Close-grip or shoulder-width chin-ups.

When I was about 210 pounds, I couldn’t even do one chin-up. Remember, this workout was at home, so I had no cable lat-pulldown machines to set at 90 pounds to do these. Instead, I put my 5-foot bar across the top of my stairway so that when I stepped down a few steps the bar was above me and I could grab it and hang on it. I would give myself a slight jump up to assist me with the chin-up, and I would use my weight to come down slowly back to hanging position. I only helped myself enough for my muscles to be able to get my heavy body up there. Do something like this if you have to. If you go to a gym, use the assisted chin-up machine or a cable lat pulldown machine. Do 15 chin-ups and don’t rest in between. Eventually I was able to do 15 on my own, then 20, then 25, and more. Do two sets of 15 chin-ups.

Movement 4: Dumbbell squats.

Grab dumbbells that you can handle holding at your sides while standing, and inhale, drop your hips down behind you while bending at the knees as if you were sitting back into a chair that isn’t there. Exhale while coming back up, keeping the weight at your sides without bending your arms or swinging them forward or back. Do this 15 times. At home, I did this with 40-pound dumbbells to start, then I would put together the weight-adjustable dumbbells with a higher weight. Do what you think you can handle. These days I might try this with 65 to 85 pound dumbbells. Do two sets. Congratulations, you’ve just done 8 sets of the fat-burning workout.

Movement 5: Bench press.

You need a bench and a barbell to do this. Luckily, I had this at home, nothing fancy, and not as heavy-duty as the ones in the gyms. I would do one set with 135 pounds, and another set with 155 pounds. Do however much you think you can do 15 reps of and do it twice. Increase the weight of the second set by 10-20 pounds if you’d like. Congratulations, you’ve just done 10 sets of the fat-burning workout.

Movement 6: Bicycle crunches.

Lie on your back, and do stomach crunches while holding your legs up in front of you and rotating your feet as if you were spinning an imaginary bicycle crankset. Keep your arms up behind your head and rotate your spine slightly with each crunch so you alternate reaching your elbows toward your knees. Do 15 or more crunches, preferably to failure. Do two sets.

Movement 7: The Superman.

I didn’t understand this exercise for a while but did it anyway. I understood eventually that it helps with your posture. Lie on your stomach looking forward with your hands in front of you the same way Superman would fly in the comics and movies. Lift one arm off the ground as well as the opposite leg and hold for five seconds. Then lift the other arm and opposite leg and hold for 5 seconds. Do that 15 times. Do two sets. Congratulations, you just completed the fat-burning workout.

This workout can take anywhere from 40 minutes to one hour. If you’re able to do it quicker, that means you are using lighter weights. Your body will be in delicious pain for at least two days if you did it right. Do yoga on the pain days. Do the workout again on the non-pain days. Watch the fat disappear and the body become a hard, chiseled figure.

I went down to 150 pounds, which I felt was too light for me. Since then, I’ve somehow managed to get back up to 180 pounds and not gain any fat in the process. That means this is not a fad diet, but a lifestyle diet that works in the short run and continues to work in the long run. There it is. You now have the knowledge. Do something with it.

Vegetarianism can be argued infinitely on many points, but one point cannot be argued: it is a personal choice based on compassion for all of life, sympathy for animals that are our food, psychology, allergies and physical ailments, and religion (or a personal belief system). Once this personal choice is made based on any or all of the above reasons, it is up to the individual to be hyper-aware in order to sustain life for oneself of what does and does not enter the body, and in some cases, what is near and around the body. With a lifestyle of extreme restrictions, can one be and stay healthy, and continue to enjoy life just as well or better than someone who has not made the decision to stop eating meat? Everywhere I dig for the answer, it seems to always be a resounding “Yes!”.

Man can survive living on a totally vegetarian diet because humans can adapt to their environment. Furthermore, in modern society he(or she) can do a lot better than that. Before the last century, there were no such things as vitamin supplements like B12, and food was more difficult to come by in the varied abundance that is available to us now in large supermarkets. To see just how possible this is, we can look to those who exemplify great strength and health while staying on a strictly VEGAN diet.

There is a lot of stress put on proteins in the diet and whether or not you can eat enough of it being a vegetarian or vegan. Although this is correct reasoning, I’d like to take some of that stress off the subject. Our bodies are made up mostly of water, and we need to hydrate sufficiently to ensure health and vitality, with all bodily processes functioning at their potential. This nobody would argue. Second to water in terms of body composition is protein which makes up everything from our genes themselves to our hair, so it makes sense to make sure you get enough of it in your diet.

The approximate RDA of protein is only 54 grams for men and 47 grams for men. If you are a vegan bodybuilder, you’d laugh at those figures, and rightly so because people whose goals are muscular hypertrophy require that much more protein just to do what they want to do above and beyond just being alive and healthy. A typical protein sports drink these days contains 25-50 grams of protein alone for building muscle, so it’s important not to confuse these two concepts and pit them against each other.

Proteins also come in two forms in our foods, which are called complete and incomplete. All animal protein sources are complete proteins, and rightly so because you would be consuming the end of the protein chain when it has been created into the final product, with regard to creating the animal’s body just like our bodies use proteins to synthesize our muscles, glands, and organs. There are plenty of vegetarian complete proteins as well, and although they may not contain as much protein as some animal sources, they are sources nonetheless.

On this list are nutritional yeast, quinoa sprouts, amaranth sprouts, buckwheat sprouts, chia seeds, soy, hemp hearts, ramon nuts, tocotrienols(rice bran polishings), edible seaweeds, wheatgrass juice, leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and lettuce, green sprouts, algae like chlorella and spirulina, marine phytoplankton, tempeh or natto(fermented soy), olives, acai berries, goji berries, white turkish mulberries, golden inca berries, and avocado. Sources that don’t fall into typical food categories are bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis, cauliflower, some mushrooms like shiitake, and pine tree pollen.

Aside from all of these complete proteins, we have available to us a wide array of incomplete protein foods that when eaten together in the right combinations, the body will synthesize complete proteins from the amino acids present. Examples of typical healthy complete protein combinations are hummus on pita bread, nut butter on whole grain bread, beans on pasta, toast, or corn, rice and beans, peas, or lentils, split pea soup with whole grain or seeded crackers or bread, tortillas with refried beans, and veggie burgers on bread. To be absolutely certain that you are getting enough protein, eat legumes(beans, lentils, peas, peanuts) in combination with seeds, nuts, or grains.

With this foundation, it is easy to build muscle and strength, even on a vegan diet. What’s important is knowing how active you are. Understand that the endorsed RDA for protein are .5 to .8g/lb, from the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. This translates to 90-144g of protein daily for a 180 lb. athlete. Eat within this range while on the exercise program or lifestyle of your choosing and adjust to what feels right for you.

It is important to spot false and confusing statistics, like those comparing vague percentages of protein content against daily caloric intake percentages just to make a simple point that doesn’t need convoluted reasoning or convincing. Also keep in mind that for decades there have been vegetarian bodybuilders like Bill Pearl who have competed and won titles against meat eaters, but only through the use of anabolic steroids. Incidentally, the meat-eating bodybuilders were also on steroids, to be fair. It’s pretty easy to spot the natural vegan bodybuilders just by their normal muscular hypertrophy. Bodybuilding is an art form that is comprised of building muscle and tailoring the diet to create the proper display case for those muscular gains that lasts for only the small window during a competition, and too often this extreme subculture is mistaken for the norm in terms of what strength, health, and muscularity is. It is not for everyone, and it shouldn’t be used to define everyone in terms of health, as it is often not a level playing field.

Whether your diet is vegetarian or not, it is important to be honest with yourself about your health. Question your body fat percentage, your waistline, your joint health, your energy levels, and the health of your skin, eyes, and teeth. Do you have fat clothes that you reserve for being out of shape, or do you have to buy fat clothes? Do you look your age or younger, or do you look 10-15 years older than you are? Do you have stress? Are you a generally unpleasant person at home or in the workplace? When was the last time you had blood work done? Do you have restful sleep, or sleep enough? It is easy in a morally conscious work ethic society to beat yourself up into an early grave lined with self-imposed guilt while spending the last years or months of your life wondering what went wrong. What’s more important is representing your choices inspirationally and being a model for others for longer happier life, and vegetarianism is no exception.