Vegan Diets Are Becoming More Popular with Athletes
Athletes and plant-based diets? Doesn’t really sound like there’s a connection to it, especially when you picture that athletes eat a lot of meat for muscle fuel. You may not know it, but some of the world’s successful athletes are actually vegan or vegetarian. And they all attribute their success in their fields by eating healthy, clean, and whole plant-foods.
One of the biggest concerns for those who are physically active is how to get protein through this kind of diet. After all, meat-based products are considered to be the best source of protein. Or is it? According to research and nutritionists, athletes can actually get all the necessary nutrients through a plant-based diet and at the same time, avoid high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats. We will discuss ten renowned athletes who can prove that a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle is key to succeeding in sports.
Carl Lewis is a well-celebrated track athlete who won ten Olympic medals and ten World Championship throughout his career. Lewis claims that the first year she went on a vegan diet was also his best year of track competition. An outspoken advocate of the vegan lifestyle, Lewis wrote these words as an introduction to the book Very Vegetarian by Jannequin Bennett, “I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete… Moreover, by continuing to eat a vegan diet, my weight is under control, I like the way I look. I enjoy eating more, and I feel great.”
Another Olympic medalist, Murray Rose won four gold medals in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics for swimming. The Australian swimmer started adopting veganism since childhood. Throughout his career, he was able to set 15 world records and he attributed his success to the vegan diet. Rose earned the moniker “Seaweed Streak” for his plant-based eating habits.
Vegans can be successful bodybuilders, too, as evidence by Robert Cheeke. The renowned American bodybuilder started with his vegan lifestyle when he was 15. Growing up on a farm in Oregon, Cheeke has a close relationship with animals. Aside from sports, he is also an outspoken vegan advocate and a motivational speaker. In an interview, Cheeke reveals that he gets his strength from eating burritos, rice, beans, fruits, avocados, quinoa, kale, artichokes, yams, and potatoes.
Controversial boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson is also a vegan. Although he adopted veganism later on and towards his retirement, Tyson attributes his revived health to this new way of eating. Tyson also claimed that he was able to shed more than 100 pounds thanks to his plant-based diet.
Rich Roll transitioned to a vegan lifestyle when he reached 40. Prior to that, he was 50 pounds overweight with a very unhealthy lifestyle. Roll decided to become vegan and loved it. In an interview, Roll said, “To my amazement, within the next seven to ten days, I experienced a tremendous surge in my energy levels.” He added, “It was as if I never realized I could feel this good. I started working out again, mostly because I needed an outlet for all this new found energy.” With a new eating habit and after six months of training, roll joined the Ultraman World Championship and placed eleven. He also finished second in the swimming category. Roll also successfully completed the Epic 5 Challenge in less than a week, a competition which had five Ironman-distance triathlons on five Hawaiian islands.
Known as the “300-pound Vegan”, NFL defensive lineman David Carter derives his nutrition now only from plants. Largely inspired by his vegan wife, David adopted a whole-plant diet in 2104 after watching several films, including “Forks Over Knives”.
Patrick Baboumian, who was a former bodybuilder and a world-record holder for the strongman competition is an outspoken advocate of veganism. In the 2013 Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Festival, Baboumian carried a yoke with a 550-kg load for ten meters, a load which is comparable to the weight of the horse, and roared “Vegan Power!” In an interview, Baboumian said that he wanted to break stereotypes that big, strong guys need to consume meat to retain their strength.
Brendan Brazier started with veganism when he was 15. The former Ironman athlete is now an author who advocates the vegan lifestyle. He also created Vega, a line which sells food products and supplements, as well as Thrive Food Direct, which is a plant-based meal delivery service. Brazier said that he adopted veganism because he deemed it as the best way to become a better athlete.
Tony Gonzalez is probably one of the most famous vegetarians in the NFL. The former tight end for Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs adopted the lifestyle after a chance meeting with David Pulaski on a plane. Pulaski introduced to him The China Study, which has become one of the most important research associating health and plant-based diets. Gonzalez initially faced challenges in his vegetarian diet because of his misinformed choices. But he pursued with the help of nutrition specialist and doctors. Gonzalez is not fully vegan as 20 percent of his diet is still composed of either chicken or fish.
Venus Williams started following a raw vegan diet in 2011, after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called the Sjorgen’s syndrome. Williams believes that her diet has helped her improve her health and has not affected her athletic ability. She came back with an impressive display of her tennis prowess, showing evidence that her new eating habit has greatly helped her manage Sjogren’s symptoms. According to Williams, eating raw, organic foods places her in optimum health. For matches, Williams admit to eating bread, pasta, and rice as a way to address the low caloric value of raw vegan foods. But on most days, she goes back to her diet, combined with juicing and wheatgrass shots. She admits some days it is difficult but relies on the plant-based diet to bring her back to feeling good. As support for her health, Venus’ sister, Serena Williams also has adopted are more plant-based diet.
Joe Namath and Tom Brady
Joe Namath, one of NFL’s best quarterbacks is also a famous vegetarian. Namath has always attributed his success in his field to his plant-based diet. A famous quote from Namath states, “You don’t need meat to play football.” Speaking of NFL quarterbacks, leading his team to their 7th Superbowl victory, New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady and his model wife Giselle Bundchen follow a very strict diet that is at least 80% plant-based. According to a recent article, Tom eats no white sugar or flour. Oils are limited to EVOO or coconut oil. He chooses not eat nightshades, because they’re not anti-inflammatory. This excludes the following from his diet: tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants. Also exlcuded are coffee/caffeine, fungus and dairy. Both Tom and Giselle thrive on their plant-based diets, which they believe supports excellence in their chosen professions.
American ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek has been a vegan since the late 90’s. Scott has been labeled one of the most successful US ultra-marathoners even with numerous wins and course records to his name. He has stated that his vegan is an important part of his stamina when running, his ability to recover following his long runs, and is very important to his overall health.
What do you think about vegan athletes?