Veg Out, Muscle Up

You can burn fat and build muscle without eating meat.
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Think building muscle requires eating heaps of meat every day? To show you that it is possible to get fit on a meat-free diet, we spoke with Melissa Brey, a California-based fitness model, competitor and diet consultant, who has been training on a vegan diet since 2007. Her motivation and tips (not to mention her bomb body) will inspire you to think twice about meat and muscle.

Q: What are the benefits of going vegan?

A: I could go on and on, but I’m an environmentalist first and foremost, so the number one benefit for me is how a vegan diet helps reduce greenhouse gases. It makes me feel good knowing that I’m doing my part to help the planet. The second greatest benefit is that it’s anti-aging. Ever since I went vegan, people can never guess my age. At 41, I look and feel better than I did during my entire 30s. Not to mention all the animals I’m saving by living a compassionate, cruelty-free vegan lifestyle.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your diet?

A: The convenience factor. I can’t just walk into a restaurant and have a high-protein vegetarian meal at my fingertips. It requires advanced preparation, although I do know places I can go to in a pinch to get something vegan friendly. If you want to be successful, you should have these places scoped out in advance. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Q: What advice would you give to an active woman who is thinking about giving up meat but is afraid of compromising muscle gains?

A: Supplementation with vegetarian protein powder is the best option. There are so many options available: brown rice, pea, hemp, soy – they even have artichoke protein available now. Such powders will help preserve lean muscle you’ve already built and continue to build.

Q: How often do you train?

A: I use various routines four or five days per week with moderate to heavy weights. I do cardio for one to two hours per day, five to six days a week, depending on what I’m training for at the time.

Melissa’s Sample Meal Plan

Breakfast: Protein shake with brown-rice protein, berries, soy or almond milk, and a handful of nuts.

Midmorning snack: Protein bar (A brand that’s low in sugar with about 18 grams of protein).

Lunch: Collard greens with quinoa and seitan (a type of protein derived from wheat).

Afternoon snack: Usually the same as breakfast.

Dinner: Tofu stir-fry with bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and broccoli sautéed in a small amount of sesame oil.