How men are dispelling the myth that meat equals muscles

Women are 60 percent more likely than men to call themselves vegan or vegetarian. But to be jacked, you don’t need steak. You might even be better without it!

Of meat and men

Switching to a vegetarian diet or going vegan is one of the fastest-growing trends right now. Yet, there’s a startling gender divide. Across North America, it’s predominantly women who go plant-based.

The complex reasons reach deep into the psyche of men. Back in the ’90s, scholar Carol J. Adams argued that veganism is linked with traits such as empathy and compassion. Western culture associates these traits with femininity, while masculinity is tied with domination and eating animals.

But some guys are finding the opposite is true: going plant-based helps them be healthier, more powerful, and more virile than ever.

Harder, better, faster, stronger

One study following nearly 61,000 adults found that plant-based eating is one of the best ways to stay fit and lean.

Staying lean doesn’t just help you attain the much-vaunted six pack. It may also boost your levels of testosterone—the male sex hormone responsible for your sexual health and your muscle growth and strength.

Some other benefits? Plant-based guys live an average of seven years longer than their meat-guzzling friends. Vegan diets reduce prostate cancer risks and increase your odds of surviving it. Plus, less meat is associated with improved moods and feeling happier.

What about protein?

Protein is the building block of muscle, both in terms of growth and post-workout recovery. There’s just one issue for vegans.

“Most plant-based proteins are incomplete proteins,” says registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller. “That means they don’t offer all the essential amino acids that you need.”

While a common worry, it’s thankfully unfounded. If you eat a variety of foods throughout your day, you’ll supply your body with all the essential amino acids you require.

“Men can still get all the essential amino acids from plant-based proteins,” says Kostro Miller. “Simply diversify your plant-based protein intake. For example, peanut butter with whole-grain bread creates a well-rounded amino acid profile.”

What about soy?

“Soy protein is [one of] the only plant-based proteins that is complete like an animal-based protein,” points out Kostro Miller. Others include quinoa, hempseeds, and chia seeds. Yet soy is often vilified by guys for containing estrogen.

While soy does contain a type of plant estrogen (called phytoestrogens), more recent research shows that soy is beneficial and, at worst, neutral.

What about supplements?

Always chat with your health care practitioner before trying a new supplement. Some common supplements for men include:

  • vegan protein powder, such as pea or rice
  • branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)
  • creatine
  • omega-3s, such as flax oil or seaweed extracts

How to start?

Going fully plant-based can feel daunting. Start small with Meatless Mondays or just switching out a couple of meals. For specialized advice, check with your health care practitioner, a dietician, or a nutritionist.