Two years ago I began a vegan bodybuilding experiment to demonstrate that plant protein can support the same rate of muscle gains as animal protein. I felt this would allow me to make a powerful point, particularly among a Chinese audience given that the Mandarin word for muscle (肌肉) contains the word for meat (肉) and the word for protein (蛋白质 dan bai zhi) literally translates as “egg white substance”. Surely, gaining muscle without meat, or any other animal foods would challenge some engrained ideas and help raise some of the critical issues related to meat consumption, such as disproportionate land and water use and green house gas emissions.
But as things progressed, I realized that the greatest benefit of this was not a propaganda victory for any particular group, but practical lessons. Eating and cooking nearly 4,000 calories of high-protein vegan food in spite of a busy lifestyle is like the US sending men to the moon. It’s a seemingly crazy thing to do, but the problem-solving done along the way can create a lot of value for a lot of people who may never wish to fly to the moon or become vegan bodybuilders.