There is a definite misconception out there which I am coming up against every day. People don’t believe a vegan lifestyle is optimal for athletic performance.
From a personal perspective, I’ve become FAR fitter since cutting out animal products; recovery times are far shorter, I’ve shaved minutes off my 5k’s and have become significantly stronger.
Weekly park run…5k event in Sydney with 350-400 competitors.
There are very logical reasons for improved fitness for vegans, including; a diet higher in vitamins, minerals, less fat, more carbohydrates, less hormones and pesticides from animal products, less body fat to slow you down…the list is pretty long.
Below are some of the inspirational athletes below have shown me that is absolutely is, and in fact, is a better diet for athletic performance, and more and more athletes are switching over or reducing their intake of dairy, meat & eggs, wahoooo 🙂
Let’s start with a ‘biggie’ and somebody, who after reading about, absolutely astounds me.. Barny Du Plessis aka MR UNIVERSE!
We can easily assume that when watching a body builder, their diet is pure meat. However, Barny shows us that his is quite the opposite. In fact, an average lunch for Barny consists of: veg, brown basmati rice, mixed lentils, beans and chickpeas. Easy, cheap, yummy 😀
Barny was a vegetarian since birth and then multiple reasons relating to health and animal welfare made Barny think twice about his egg and dairy habits.
His partner Josie and himself love animals; ‘I couldn’t kill one. So why was I eating them? I was ashamed. We knew it wasn’t right and made us hypocrites’.
- Barny claims that his meat-free diet gave him more energy and endurance in the gym than ever before.
- Thanks to turning vegan Barny claims, ”I have just as much strength and power as before, but I have less fat, and greater lean muscle mass, plus better energy and endurance. My recovery is much better and I feel excellent all the time”.
- Barny and his wife decided to go 100% GMO free and organic to support the industry that they believe in ethically, environmentally and ecologically. They are living true to ethics and beliefs.
- ‘’These days I train half as much & do half as much but get better results. Why? Only one answer, going vegan, GMO free and organic. My body is running perfectly.”
- We all have the power to choose and support the industry we believe in. We vote with our pound (or dollar/euro etc 😉
Tennis players spend up to 5 hours on a court for 1 match, therefore, endurance and power are key. So, who better to learn how this can be achieved than the world’s number 1 tennis player?!
What Kicked Things Off?
During Novac’s matches he began suffering from collapsing, vomiting and ended up taking several breaks during the space of a game. In combination this was probably what was causing him to lose the chance to reach his Grand Slam glory.
Trying everything from controlling his asthma, new trainers, nasal surgery, meditation and yoga….nothing seemed to be the cure (although he does still do yoga each Morning upon waking). It was eventually discovered that Novac has allergies to dairy and wheat, opening his eyes to the potential hazards of diet on performance.
Adopting A Plant-based Lifestyle
Since then, Novac has changed his diet to being pretty much totally organic vegan with occasional fish. Novac feels that his diet hasn’t just changed his tennis but his overall life and wellbeing. Eating plant based makes him more aware of his body and more alert and since removing toxins from animal products, inflammation has reduced.
Along with this, consistent energy levels…when playing for up to 5 hours straight, the right flues is key. Earlier this spring, Novac opened a vegan restaurant in Monte Carlo, where he lives to spread the benefits.
Aside from LOTS of water, Novac has two tablespoons of honey; muesli (including organic gluten-free rolled oats, cranberries, raisins, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and almonds) and fruit.
Olympian track star, Carl Lewis claims that his best year on the track was due to transitioning to a vegan diet.
Lewis puts his incredible 1991 results down to the vegan diet his adopted in 1990, often quoted as saying;
”My best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet”
Carl’s Achievements include:
- 10 Olympic medals (9 gold and one silver) in the following events;
- 100 m (set world record) & 200m sprints
- Long jump (
- 4x 100m relay, 4x200m relay (set world records for both)
- 10 World championship medals
- Voted as Olympic athlete of the century
- Maintained his athletics for 17 years (1979-1996 when he won his last Olympic title and subsequently retired).
In Jannequin Bennett’s book ‘Very Vegetarian’ Carl writes;
“I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete.”
Carl went vegan for health reasons as he was eager to obtain nutrients while minimising excessive calories and was so impressed he quoted;
“My best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet. Moreover, by continuing to eat a vegan diet, my weight is under control, I like the way I look. (I know that sounds vain, but all of us want to like the way we look.) I enjoy eating more, and I feel great.”
The Williams Sisters
They’re Pretty Damn Good
Venus & Serena are probably the best female tennis players in the world. Both have been ranked number 1 in the world (both singles and double) and won dozens of Grand Slam finals. Undoubtedly they need a lot of energy for their games!
The most popular question I am asked when somebody finds out I am a vegan is ‘how do you get your protein’. Probably a more interesting answer to this one would come from top pro athletes.
So how do these girls get their protein?
”Easy. Lots of beans, nuts and lentils, along with sprouted quinoa and sprouts, which packed with loads of easily absorbed nutrition.”
Raw-r, Like A Lion
It is quite well known that Venus was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome several years ago. A debilitating autoimune disease with symptoms such as excessive fatigue. Doctors prescribed her a ‘raw vegan diet’.
During tennis season it has also been reported that both of the sisters follow a majority raw vegan diet.
So what would this include? Venus told CBS she eats, ‘a lot of wheat grass shots, lots of fresh juices and things like that. As a professional athlete, if you have fatigue, then that’s tough.”
Have Those Plants Improved Their Performance?
- Venus has felt improvements since being diagnosed with ther condition: “changing my diet has made a big difference”.
- Venus has made tremendous in overcoming fatigue and joint pains
- Venus feels that wheat juices & cacoa water have been fantastic for detoxifying
- Both sisters are extremely motivated, and their vegan diet helped them keep their tennis skills at the highest level.
- Since transitioning in 2012 Serena has has 3 wins at the US Open. Woop to plant based burgers and vegan lasagna.
What Do The Chicks Eat?
They fuel themselves with veg, fruit nuts, beans, lentils, and sprouts. Similar to most vegans, but inevitably, in much larger quantities. She even gave a name to her new strict vegan diet, a Venus A.D. (“Venus After Diagnosis”).
Tim Shieff…my favourite
Bezzie of Jamie Oliver and one of the worlds best free-runners, Tim is also known by his freerunning/parkour name ‘Livewire’.
Thim entered the 2015 Ninja Warrior UK and became the only person to complete the second course in the final…read more here.
Why did Tim Go Vegan?
Optimal strength, muscle repair and power are essential for his game. Tim was suffering from tendonitis and looking for ways to overcome this and also watched Gary Yourofsky’s incredible speech.
Tim noticed that many people are motivated to try veganism for health or the environment, and later on delve into the animal abuse side of things, which is actually the same for me…not quite what people assume motivates vegans though.
Quote from Tim:
“I saw that and straight away felt like I’d woken from a trance, of course we promote kindness and compassion and being nice to others to our kids but when it comes to animals there is a huge hypocrisy in our society and I am not one to live in denial once I see the truth.”
Another quote I love;
”I feel stronger and more efficient anyway. There’s more to life/nutrition then science currently knows, that’s for sure.”
Tim has enjoyed transitioning and his favourite food is sweet potatoes and hummus, saying “I would struggle some days without them!”
“I want to promote the vegan message more, it’s far more important than anything else right now so I’ll continue to spread the awareness about living in alignment with all of our beliefs about not being cruel to animals.”
Other Vegan Athletes
I’ve only talked about a a few above but also worth mentioning the likes of David Carter (NFL), John Joseph (Ironman), Scott Jurek (Ultramarathoner), Jake Shields (MMA Champion), Tia Blanco (Pro Surfer), Rich Roll (Ultramarathoner). I’m confident that this list will keep expanding too!