Vince Gironda’s recommendations for high quantities of beef and organ meats would certainly lead to the assumption that he wasn’t a huge fan of vegetarianism. 

However, there is a time and a place for everything, and a vegetarian diet is no exception.  

Whilst Vince would never recommend it for a young man aspiring to build massive quantities of muscle, or for a bodybuilder seeking dazzling levels of definition…

His vast experience of working with clients resulted in the discovery of certain situations where a vegetarian diet was warranted. 

So what are these situations?

Let’s explore…

When To Use

The main reason for someone wanting to follow the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet is because they subscribe to a vegetarian lifestyle, which excludes meat and could be for religious, health, or ethical reasons. 

Full-time vegetarians aside, there were other situations in which Vince Gironda would prescribe the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet.

The main concern most people have with this way of eating is that it’s low in protein, and therefore not conducive to building muscle. 

This is a fair concern and was also one shared by Vince who noted that a vegetarian diet was a poor dietary choice for those desiring muscle gain. 

However, in 50+ years of working with physique transformations, he also identified a number of situations in which a lower protein intake was beneficial. 

These situations are: – 

  1. When not in ‘hard-training’ mode
  2. When rapid weight loss is required (actors, overweight/obese clients etc.)
  3. Immediately following competition 
  4. When progress has stalled
  5. Following periods of excessive protein consumption

The main thing all these situations have in common is that there is little requirement to build muscle. 

Without the need to build muscle, protein intake doesn’t need to be as high as it would be for someone seeking maximum muscle development. 

Here’s how the Lacto-Ovo Diet benefits each situation: 

When not in ‘hard-training’ mode

When the body isn’t being stressed on a regular basis from lifting weights, there is a reduced need for protein. 

Since less protein is being consumed, this is a perfect opportunity to consume more nutrients via a higher fruit and vegetable intake, which may have been previously excluded at the expense of a high protein consumption.

When rapid weight loss is required (actors, overweight/obese clients etc.)

When challenged with an actor who had a very short time frame to get in shape, or an obese client who’d had a hard time losing weight on other diets, and desperately needed to lose a lot of weight quickly for the sake of their health, Vince often turned to the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet. 

Since this diet is lower in calories, it will help to maximize fat loss in a short period of time. 

Yet, whilst lower-calorie diets are often associated with high, and uncontrollable, levels of hunger, the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian diet was plentiful in nutrients and roughage (fiber), which helped maintain feelings of fullness. 

You might wonder, if this diet was so effective for rapid weight loss, then why didn’t Vince use it for bodybuilders seeking maximum definition prior to competition?

This is a fair question. 

Remember, competitive bodybuilders who are training for stunning levels of definition are regularly lifting weights in order to preserve muscle shape and size, which is not a concern for someone who is obese. 

Furthermore, bodybuilders spend months training and dieting so they can achieve low levels of body fat. 

The actors following this diet would usually only do so for a very short time frame, maybe 10-14 days, and so, therefore, any changes to their muscle shape and size would be insignificant. 

If a bodybuilder were to use the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet in their competition preparation, there is a genuine risk they’ll sabotage their extremely hard-earned size, shape, and symmetry, as well as experiencing crippling levels of fatigue.

Immediately following competition 

Whilst Vince noted that a vegetarian diet wasn’t as ‘stimulating’ as a high-protein, meat-based diet, he, therefore, recommended it as an ideal choice for a bodybuilder in a post-competition phase, when resting their body was a priority.

Whilst he often prescribed the Maintenance Diet for bodybuilders in the phase after competing, he also taught his bodybuilders to recognize their natural cravings for food. They should never fight against their own nature, and should always listen to their body’s rhythms. If they felt like they required more vegetables and less meat, then they should absolutely do it, since it will only benefit them. 

In this instance, a reduced protein intake and increased vegetable consumption may be highly beneficial for allowing the body to fully recover and for nutrient levels to be restored, prior to starting the Maintenance Diet, where more intense training will resume with the intention of slow muscle gain. 

Furthermore, since they are unlikely to be competing again in the immediate future, taking some time away from hard training and allowing their body to rest will do wonders for their longevity.

When progress has stalled

Vince noted that some people wouldn’t respond well to high quantities of protein. 

If that was the case, then he recommended practicing vegetarianism one day a week (on a rest day), which would allow the excess of stored nutrients, such as sodium, to be burned up. 

By doing this, it would help someone break out of a rut and enable their body to begin using protein again, so they continue making gains. 

Following periods of excessive protein consumption

Vince observed some people suffered from a condition he referred to as ‘excessive nervous fatigue’, often seen in superachievers and workaholics.

This can often be the result of an imbalance between phosphorus and calcium levels. 

Since high-protein foods are high in phosphorus, he advocated substituting these foods with the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet until their nerves have regenerated and the calcium-phosphorus balance has been restored.

The high roughage consumption also created a natural cleansing and detoxifying action, which would alkalize the body and clear the toxins which had been built up from prolonged periods of excessive protein intake.

Lacto-Ovo Diet Breakdown

The foods permitted on the Lacto-Ovo Diet are as follows: – 

  • Copious amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Sprouted seeds
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Raw milk
  • Eggs

As you can see, the basic premise behind the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet is that no food is ‘off-limits’, with the exception of meat. 

Protein needs are met from eating complete sources, such as eggs and drinking raw milk, and from mixing incomplete sources, such as grains and legumes. 

Since the bodybuilder is unlikely to be training hard for competition, they will not need to eat huge quantities – just enough to help maintain their current muscle mass.

However, a vegetarian bodybuilder preparing for competition would need to increase their intake of dairy foods, but also consider additional protein supplementation. 

If hunger is an issue on the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet, then this may be a sign that insufficient fiber is being consumed, from both fruits/vegetables and grain sources. 

One word of warning for anyone making the transition to the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet, especially after following a diet heavy in meat and low in vegetables, is that the rapid addition of high-fiber foods can trigger painful and unpleasant digestive discomfort. 

It’s therefore advisable to gradually increase fiber intake in order to allow the digestive to accommodate it. 

Diet Duration

Vince didn’t recommend vegetarianism as a long-term solution for achieving a champion-level physique. Training for extended periods of time required a high intake of nutrients only found in meat to help with energy levels and recovery. Whilst a fantastic physique could be sculpted by strictly sticking to vegetarian principles, the chances of it winning a high-level bodybuilding event, such as Mr. Olympia, were somewhat slim. 

Therefore, with the exception of vegetarian bodybuilders, the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet was designed for short-term use only. 

Unlike the other diets recommended by Vince, its purpose wasn’t to fuel training or boost rapid muscle growth, but rather to give the body a rest from having to digest such large quantities of protein, which could eventually begin to take its toll on the body.

Whilst there was no set time frame for the bodybuilder to follow the diet, Vince stated that the bodybuilder would instinctively ‘know’ when it was time to eat meat again, and when they felt that sensation, they should listen to their body. 

Actors and actresses who needed to get in shape for a movie role were often put on the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet, simply because it was a great way to change shape in a very limited time frame 

Vince often had as little as 10 days to help transform Hollywood stars, so he needed something that was capable of producing drastic results. Thanks to its very low energy density, the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet provided the perfect solution and would force the body into an energy deficit, thus forcing the body to burn off its fat stores. 

Diet Example

Here’s an example of a typical day on the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet: 

Breakfast

  • Vince’s Special Protein Drink: –
  • 12oz. Half & Half
  • 12 Raw Eggs
  • 1⁄2 Cup Milk & Egg Protein Powder [Link]
  • 1 Banana

Breakfast Notes

  • Vince recommended making up to three of these drinks per day in a blender and then sipping between meals

Lunch

  • Raw vegetable salad
  • Pick at least 5 of the following: – 
  • Avocado
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower heads
  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Green peppers
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Water chestnuts
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini 
  • Toss and serve with olive oil, vinegar, and chopped garlic or garlic powder
  • No salt or sugar

Lunch Notes

  • Feel free to add eggs to the salad, if desired

Dinner

  • Same as lunch
  • Fruit

Beneficial Supplements

There are certain nutrients that are essential for the health of the human body, but are only found in animal meats. Therefore, for optimal health and function, Vince recommended a number of supplements to support the bodybuilder during the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet. 

The following supplements were recommended at each meal time: – 

1 x multivitamin tablet
1 x chelated mineral tablet
3 x vitamin B complex
1 x vitamin B12 tablet
1 x vitamin C complex (500mg)
3 x lysine tablets
1 x iron tablet (lunch and dinner only)

Special Supplements

In addition to the supplements at meal times, Vince recommended the following supplements to help maintain energy levels and ensure the bodybuilder had sufficient nutrients for recovery from the gym: – 

5 x amino acid tablets or 1 oz. liquid amino acids (every 3 hours)
4 x raw orchic-tissue tablets, 1 x vitamin B complex, 1 x niacin tablet (before and after workouts)
5-10g arginine, ornithine (before retiring)
3-5g of tryptophan + calcium tablets (before retiring)

Multivitamin 

Taking a multivitamin safeguards against any potential nutrient deficiencies that may arise during any diet. 

Being deficient in just one single nutrient may affect the bodybuilder’s health and energy levels, which could have a negative long-term impact on their training. 

Chelated minerals

A chelated mineral supplement is included to ensure there are no mineral deficiencies within the maintenance diet. 

Chelated minerals are minerals, such as zinc and magnesium, that have been bound to amino acids, and are absorbed better by the body. 

Zinc is primarily found in animal tissue, which means it’s easy for someone following a vegetarian diet to create a deficiency. 

Since zinc plays an essential role in immune health, it’s critical for anyone under high stress who will be at greater risk of getting ill. 

Vitamin B complex

A whole vitamin B complex was necessary for the bodybuilder since supplementing with single B vitamins were of little or no use to the body. 

Carbon foods such as white bread, sugar, and pastries bum up Vitamin B which, in turn, causes

abnormal thirst, thus bloating the body tissues with water, which appears as body fat.

Although high quantities of these foods are not recommended on the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet, since they are vegetarian-friendly, they aren’t completely off-limits to the bodybuilder. 

Therefore, a vitamin B complex would protect them against a potential deficiency. 

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is exclusively found in animal products (meat and dairy) and plays an essential role in brain function.

Although it will still be consumed in a vegetarian diet from the eggs and milk, it’s recommended to take additional supplementation to eliminate the risk of a deficiency. 

Vitamin C Complex 

Vitamin C is a fantastic healing agent, and also a great detoxifier.

It may help to counteract the harmful effects of air pollution, making it an essential supplement for those living in cities or built-up areas. 

As well as maintaining a strong immune system and helping to stave off colds, maintaining optimal vitamin C levels helps reduce the risk of more life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. 

It’s recommended that bodybuilders take a minimum of 1,000 milligrams a day. 

Vince highly recommended ensuring that bioflavonoids were present in the supplement and not to use pure ascorbic acid. 

Lysine 

Lysine is an amino acid found in rich quantities in cow’s milk, where it plays a crucial role in muscular growth and development. 

It’s included with the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet in order to protect against muscle breakdown.

Iron

The combination of iron of both liver tables and a high potency vitamin B complex helps to increase red blood cell count and blood volume, which results in a better pump in training. 

Iron also helps oxygenate muscle tissue, which can help to delay fatigue in training. 

Since the vegetarian diet is low in iron, one is likely to notice reduced energy and weaker pumps in training. 

Although intense training isn’t the goal, it’s important that training still remains productive and beneficial. 

Amino Acids 

Due to the lower protein intake, there is an increased risk of the bodybuilder entering a negative nitrogen balance i.e. a catabolic state where muscle tissue is broken down. 

Supplementing with amino acid is recommended in order to prevent this from happening and to retain muscle mass. 

Raw Orchic-Tissue tablets + Vitamin B Complex + Niacin 

This combination of nutrients taken pre and post-workout served the following benefits: – 

  • Orchic-Tissue may help boost testosterone, which helps to preserve muscle tissue and energy levels
  • Niacin acts as a vasodilator, meaning it widens blood vessels for increased blood flow, a better pump, and nutrient delivery (for energy and recovery) 
  • Vitamin B complex helps with energy production and lipid metabolism 

Arginine + Ornithine 

The combination of arginine and ornithine helps maintain energy levels in the gym, so the bodybuilder can continue to work hard and prevent muscle loss. 

Tryptophan + Calcium

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used by the body to create serotonin and melatonin, which help to promote sleep. Taking tryptophan before retiring was recommended to help improve sleep quality, which would have a beneficial effect on growth hormone and testosterone levels, recovery, and muscle growth. 

Following a period of excessive protein intake, Vince noticed that the calcium-phosphorus balance was unbalanced, which may result in nervousness. 

Therefore, supplementing with calcium would help to quickly regenerate nerves by restoring balance between these two nutrients. 

Summary

Unlike Vince Gironda’s more well-known diets, the purpose of the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet isn’t to help bodybuilders build enormous muscles or achieve tremendous definition. 

Instead, it was a highly appropriate short-term diet for bodybuilders immediately after competition, who needed to rest their bodies following extended periods of intense training and excessive meat consumption. When they had the ‘desire’ to eat meat again, they could then transition to the Maintenance Diet. 

Even non-competitive bodybuilders could benefit from regularly practicing vegetarianism, either one day a week, or for extended periods in between training cycles, in order to rest their body and cleanse the build-up of toxins in the muscle tissue. 

Vince believed this was the easiest of his diets to follow since you could eat as much as you wish. Therefore, it also made an excellent choice for someone who had struggled to lose weight on a previous diet and who needed to lose a lot of weight quickly. 

Protein is still provided in the diet, but strictly from eggs, milk, and amino acid supplementation, which are easier for the body to digest.  

Since there are a number of nutrients, such as vitamin B12, zinc, and iron, which are either only found in meat, or in extremely low quantities in plants, Vince recommended supporting the diet with a number of supplements, in order to prevent creating a nutrient deficiency, as well as a loss of energy and muscle tissue.

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