Check Out These 5 Vegan Athletes Who Are Breaking Down All Stigmas
By: Kaitlin Meilert
After five Tennessee Titans players went vegan in 2017, the NFL team made it to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Coincidence? Maybe. But the teammates reported to ESPN that “a plant-based diet helps them lose weight, recover faster, and, believe it or not, play better.”
Proving that you don’t need meat to build muscle or enhance athletic performance, a surge of pro athletes are swapping meat for veggies. NBA stars Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, NFL pro Griff Whalen, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, and Snowboarder Hannah Teter are just a handful of pro athletes who have made the leap.
Let’s take a look at how some notable pro athletes benefit from a plant-based diet.
Riddled with high blood pressure and tendinitis in his early 20s, the NFL star went vegan in 2014 after watching Forks Over Knives. Six weeks in, he lost 40 pounds and experienced increased stamina, quicker recovery time, and better sleep.
“I didn’t need to take painkillers to get through the day,” Carter told the LA Times. “The tendinitis disappeared almost instantly.”
The former lineman still needed 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day to maintain his muscle mass. His secret? “Protein shakes with fruit, vegetables, a can of cannellini beans, flax, four bananas, dates,” he said. “That’s 1,000 calories right there, and I would do that a couple of times a day.”
The Puerto Rican surfer is as well-known for being vegan as she is for winning two consecutive first place Gold medals in the International Surfing Association (ISA) Open Women’s World Surfing Championship. She even created a second Instagram account, Tia’s Vegan Kitchen, that’s dedicated to spreading vegan love through organic, plant-based recipes.
Since Blanco grew up on a vegetarian diet, going full-on vegan in 2013 was as easy as vegan pie.
“I went vegan for the animals,” she told World Surf League. “I love them all and I don’t want to eat my friends. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.”
As a result, the surfer’s whole foods, plant-based diet also keeps her in peak condition during the competitive season. “I feel healthier on a clean, whole foods diet that is very simple — especially during competition,” she told Men’s Journal. “And since a plant-based diet is less calorically dense than other diets, I need to make sure I’m eating enough food so I up my portions a lot.”
The Denver Nuggets forward went vegan after he missed the 2015-2016 season for injury-related surgery. After watching Food, Inc., Chandler made the connection between his diet and his health issues.
“…stamina level, inflammation, stuff with my stomach, overall mood, how my body was feeling and working,” he told Highsnobiety.
“Eating a vegan diet has changed my everyday living,” Chandler continued. “I sleep better, I wake up in a better mood, I recover faster, I’m not so inflamed, not so achy. I feel better overall, in everything that I do.”
The tennis pro adopted a raw, plant-based diet in 2011 after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that left her unable to play. Williams quickly reaped the benefits of her new diet, from symptom relief to getting back to the sport she loves.
“I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible,” Williams told Health magazine. “Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.”
The British boxer went vegan in 2015 after a shoulder injury knocked him out of the ring.
“I feel better than ever, I look and feel younger,” Haye told The Sun.
And when people ask him how he stays strong? “I say, where does an ape get his strength from?” Haye said. “He’s 20 times stronger than a human and doesn’t have a meat-based diet. They eat plants all day long. It’s a myth that you need meat for strength.”