Bodybuilding and acting legend Arnold Schwarzenegger has revealed his go-to protein sources after going 80 percent vegan.
The former California governor, 75, who weighs 250 pounds and consumes 250 grams of protein daily, has long been considered the peak of physical fitness and performance.
In recent years, he has cut out the vast majority of meat from his diet, swapping it with plant-based proteins like lentils, salad and veggie burgers.
In an April episode of Arnold’s Pump Club podcast, he said, ‘For protein, my staples are eggs, salmon and chicken.’
‘But I have more and more veggie burgers with lentils and beans.’
Meat options make up just 20 percent of what he consumes.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, 75, has gone 80 percent vegan, replacing many meat options with foods like lentils and veggie burgers. When he does eat meat, he sticks to lean proteins like salmon and chicken
‘In the morning after my workout, I usually have oatmeal with Greek yogurt or granola,’ Schwarzenegger said.
‘For lunch, I always have a salad, sometimes with a plant-based burger or maybe salmon or chicken. Other times, it’s with a scramble or omelet.’
‘For dinner, I always have soup. I like to eat light for my last meal.’
A 2022 survey of 2,000 participants showed that 10 to 15 percent have identified as vegetarian or vegan since 2020.
The findings, conducted by researchers at Kansas State University, found that 8 percent of participants were vegan, six percent vegetarian, and 12 percent were mostly vegetarian, also known as flexitarian.
Global market research company Ispos estimates there are currently 9.7 million vegans in the US.
In the United Kingdom, about 2 million Britons, three percent of the nation, identify as vegan, according to a survey from animal rights charity Viva! The survey suggested that half of the UK’s population has been cutting down on meat.
The biggest difference between animal- and plant-based protein sources is the presence of ‘complete’ proteins. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, whereas incomplete proteins only contain some.
They include milk, pork, beef, eggs, poultry and fish. While the majority of these sources are animal products, soy foods, such as tofu, are plant-based alternatives.
Schwarzenegger made a name for himself as a bodybuilder, winning the Mr Universe title in 1966
The daily amount of dietary protein recommended for adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds. For a 140-pound person, that equals about 50 grams of protein per day.
Anna Tebbs, registered dietitian in the UK and nutritionist from meal kit company Green Chef, said that many meat eaters consume more than the recommended amount of protein per day.
‘Meat eaters often eat over one and a half times the amount of recommended protein,’ she said.
This can lead to adverse health effects, such as weight gain.
For example, one study in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that weight gain was significantly associated with diets where protein was implemented in place of carbs.
Getting protein from sources like red meat can also increase the risk of certain diseases.
A 2018 study in the European Heart Journal found that consuming red meat for long periods of time increased the amount of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) in the body, a chemical generated by the gut that increases the risk of heart disease.
The same study showed that reducing red meat consumption reversed those effects.
‘By cutting down on your meat intake, you can reduce your chances of getting heart disease or diabetes,’ Ms Tebbs said.
Ms Tebbs recommended meat-free options such as nuts, beans, peas, grains, and legumes as high-protein options to replace meat.
Seitan, for example, is a plant-based meat substitute that contains about 20 grams of protein per three-ounce serving, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
It is created with vital wheat gluten, the main protein in what, which gives it a chewy texture that mimics meat.
For comparison, the same serving size of cod has 15 grams, and salmon has 17.
Additionally, soy protein can be found in foods like tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy milk, making it a versatile plant-based option.
One review of 35 studies found that soy intake lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol and raised HDL cholesterol (good). This can lead to lower risks of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
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