Successful Vegan Athletes
Veganism is becoming extremely popular across the world, as more people are seeing the benefits of a plant-based diet.
One of the most common misconceptions about following a vegan diet is that it is protein deficient and not suited for anyone who wants to follow specialized fitness routines.
Yet, as the famous vegan athletes on this list show, it is possible to be an elite sports star while following a plant-based diet. They all demonstrate how it is achievable to fuel the body without meat and still compete at the highest level.
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Five-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has become one of the world’s most prominent vegan athletes in the past two years.
The F1 star turned vegan in 2017 at the age of 33 and has credited his diet change to making him much healthier and happier.
After the driver weight rules changed for the 2019 season, Hamilton used his diet to bulk up and pack on muscle. He went from maintaining a weight of 68kg to weighing 75kg. The new F1 rules stipulate that a driver must weigh a minimum of 80kg with all their gear on and holding their vehicle’s seat.
Hamilton’s favourite vegan meals includes avocado on toast and vegan pancakes.
Former boxing world champion David Haye is as far from the stereotypical vegan as it is possible to be.
Haye became a vegan athlete in 2014 to help him recover from a long-term injury and has followed the diet ever since.
The boxer has helped break the notion that a vegan diet is not sufficient for building strength and muscle. He supplements his plant-based diet with vegan protein shakes from which he gets 200-grams of protein per day.
When asked how a vegan diet can build and maintain strength, Haye has pointed to the animal kingdom and how an ape is 20-times stronger than a human due to eating plants all day.
Venus Williams is a giant of women’s tennis with 10 Grand Slam singles championships to her name.
However, her life changed in 2011 when she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Sjögren’s syndrome. The condition forced her to withdraw from the second round of the U.S. Open that year.
In order to combat the symptoms and return to professional tennis, Williams started following a vegan diet. Since being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, Williams has won an Olympic gold medal in 2012 with her sister Serena, and a silver medal in 2016 with Rajeev Ram.
This is a clear demonstration that a plant-based diet is no barrier to success.
Diaz turned vegan when he was 18, and his diet has helped him to become one the UFC’s top fighters.
One of the main reasons that Diaz doesn’t eat meat is that he believes it would slow him down. He has been proven right and has used his speed and agility to beat many of the UFC’s top fighters.
His most famous victory was against Conor McGregor in 2016, when he beat the Irish star after only 11 days of preparation. This lead to Nate’s brother Nick tweeting: “Conor McGregor got his ass kicked by a vegan”.
Barny du Plessis
The winner of Mr Universe 2014 is no stranger to pushing his limits.
After he won his title at the age of 40, du Plessis turned vegan and found himself feeling healthier and stronger. He has taken his diet to the extreme, as all his food is GMO free and organic.
His vegan meal plan is a seven-step process with his main protein sources being beans, chickpeas, lentils, oats, and rice.
The only issue du Plessis has found following a vegan diet is the amount of food he has to consume in order to maintain his muscle mass.
U.S. snowboarder Hannah Teter is one of the country’s top winter sports athletes.
She won the Olympic gold in Turin 2006 and silver in Vancouver 2010 in the half pipe competitions. After her 2010 triumph, Teter switched to a vegan diet.
Teter has explained that one of her main motivations for going vegan was the documentary Earthlings. Her personal manta is a Gandhi quote: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Her plant-based diet has helped Teter to continue to perform at the highest level and she achieved a bronze medal at the Winter X Games in 2016.
Messi & Agüero
While not strictly vegans, Argentinian footballers Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero have both turned to a plant-based diet to help them with their performance during their respective seasons.
Both footballers sought the advice of Italian nutritionist Giuliano Poser who prescribed a vegan diet to help them improve their performances and aid with injury prevention and recovery.
Messi’s vegan diet has a foundation of fruit, good quality olive oil, water, whole grains, and vegetables. The diet helped the Barcelona star lose up to 3kgs.
The following two seasons after switching his diet, Messi scored 92 goals in 102 games for Barcelona and was the recipient of that year’s Ballon d’Or.
Manchester City’s all-time top goalscorer Sergio Agüero adopts a vegan diet during the Premier League season to help prevent injuries.
He has spoken about how the changes to his diet and lifestyle have allowed him to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League.
His performance on the pitch shows how his diet change isn’t having an impact on how he plays, as he has continued to be a driving force behind Manchester City’s Premier League winning team.
Sports nutrition is an evolving science and the aforementioned famous vegan athletes show how veganism is breaking free of the common misconceptions surrounding the diet. They all show how a plant-based diet doesn’t hinder their performance or their ability to be the best at their chosen sport.