Just in case you didn’t know, being a vegan means restricting one’s diet to plant products only. This is a bit different from being a vegetarian which just entails avoiding meat. A vegan is a strict vegetarian who consumes no food that comes from animals like milk, cheese etc.
It’s not news that many athletes pay attention to their diet. Some get professional dieticians to tailor their diets for them in order to help them perform optimally and to do so for a long time. Some athletes go vegan (go without eating any animal or animal products) and find it to work for them. Plant-based diets have always been portrayed as the healthier choice. Athletes increasingly turn to it in a bid to prolong their careers or to combat health or physical problems. It’s not so much of a secret that plant-based diets help to cause a decrease in cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart disease risk etc. However, there’s been some general concern about whether they supply enough strength for performance.
Let’s take a quick look at top athletes who went vegan in their careers and note what necessitated it. We’ll also check for correlation between going vegan and Performance and Longevity, and if there’s been any downside to this plant-based diet.
- Venus Williams (American tennis player)- Venus was diagnosed with the Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011 and doctors advised that going vegan would relieve some of her symptoms such as extreme fatigue and joint pain. She had to do it to maintain her performance on the court. Her sister Serena is also on a vegan diet. Its compelling to believe that veganism has helped them prolong their great careers as they’re still both doing well in the world of tennis after so many years at the top.
- Lewis Hamilton (five-time formula 1 world champion)- Lewis’ story is quite different as he turned vegan for environmental reasons (I’m guessing he did so with an idea of what he stood to gain sporting-wise). He didn’t want to contribute to pollution in terms of emissions of global-warming gases coming from the number of cows that are being produced. In his words: “the pollution coming from the amount of cows that are being produced is incredible. They say it is more than what we produce with our flights and our cars, which is kind of crazy to think. The cruelty is horrible and I don’t necessarily want to support that.”
- Jack Wilshere (soccer player)- The Englishman must be tired of getting injured. After having a lot of injuries in his career, he turned to veganism in order to give himself another shot at a great personal career. He also feels leaner and fitter and more energetic after going vegan.
- David Haye (retired British boxer)- The retired boxer researched the benefits of plant-based diets on healing rates and recovery time after a shoulder injury that prompted surgery. He thinks it’s a myth to think that we need meat for strength. He has a good nutritionist who makes sure he gets all the minerals and nutrients required.
- Fabian delph (soccer player)- he switched to a vegan diet because of his injury record and in order to strengthen his body after rehab.
- Barny du Plessis (bodybuilder)- The bodybuilder went vegan after retiring in 2013 due to a growing list of health concerns including hernias and acid reflux. His fitness improved and he came back to win the Mr. Universe title in 2014. What a comeback.He also seems to dislike the idea of exploiting “innocent creatures” when there’s a better alternative. His wife, Josie, who’s world’s strongest woman 2010 is also vegan. This just goes to prove that we don’t necessarily need meat or animal products for strength.
- Hector Bellerin (soccer player)- The arsenal soccer player has gone through some injury struggles and it’s made him to turn vegan. Since turning vegan, he’s noticed faster muscle recovery after games and injuries healing way quicker.
- Nate Diaz (UFC fighter)- The UFC fighter is a vegan and he thinks that aside the short healing duration which the vegan diet is credited for, it doesn’t take anything away from your strength. He states “I train harder than everyone else.”
- Jermain Defoe (soccer player)- One of the highest goal scorers (seventh best) in the English premier league history, Defoe, says he feels more energetic and less lethargic since going vegan. He also did this to prolong his career. He says: “I don’t find anything hard to give up… because I know the feeling scoring goals gives me”
- Kyrie Irving (basketball player)- The basketball player was once asked how he’s able to dribble fast and he didn’t hesitate to praise the influence of his vegan diet.
With all these testaments, it’s easy to see the correlation between veganism and longevity of an athlete. Going vegan has helped some of these athletes stay in shape despite getting to or approaching the twilight of their careers which for most others is usually marred with a lot of health and physical problems. Most of them were injury-plagued and needed some redemption.
The prolonged careers and low injury record of few other top athletes in sports who haven’t turned vegans (e.g. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who have been at the pinnacle of soccer for the most par of two decades) shows that not being a vegan is okay for an athlete too even though it may become a thing of necessity for most as they get older and closer to retirement.
These athletes have also noted that the fear of the vegan diet resulting in a loss of strength is most probably a myth. It’s also obvious that many of these athletes turned vegan due to necessity. This shows their love and dedication for their sports. However, the mere fact that they turned and stuck to veganism during their trying times speaks a lot about their belief in the plant-based diet to help them achieve their sporting goals.