Whether it’s for health reasons, environmental sustainability or animal rights, plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular. Even some of the world’s most elite athletes are now embracing and advocating for the power of plant-based nutrition.
Many people worry about when considering a plant-based diet is getting adequate protein and nutrition — something we’ve been brought up believing we can only get from a diet that includes meat and dairy products.
However, the rising number of top athletes living, competing and winning on plant-based diets are helping to dispel this myth — proving that you can fuel your muscles and achieve high-powered performance with plant-based nutrition.
Check out these 5 champion athletes who harness plant-based power
Ultraman athlete and best-selling author Rich Roll is the epitome of plant-based power. After his health took a turn for the worse around his 40th birthday, Roll decided to go vegan. Since then, he has evolved into a highly accomplished ultra-endurance athlete, becoming a top finisher at the 2008 and 2009 Ultraman World Championships, and was named “The World’s Fittest Vegan” by Men’s Health magazine in 2018.
“About 10 to 14 days into eating a completely wholefood plant-based diet, I realised how different it was to everything else I tried. It revitalised me like no other way of eating. I wanted to feel this way all the time,” Roll told HuffPost in an interview in 2017.
Retired strongman and former bodybuilder Patrik Baboumian is one of the strongest people on the planet — and he is also powered by a purely vegan diet. Baboumian holds several powerlifting records and broke the world record for the yoke walk in 2013 by carrying 550kg for a distance of 10 meters. He then broke his own record in 2015 by carrying 560kg. Baboubian was named “Germany’s Strongest Man” in 2011 when he was a vegetarian, but he believes that going vegan made him stronger than ever.
“I got heavier, I got stronger, I won the European championship title in powerlifting, I broke three world records so everything was going perfect … my blood pressure went down, and my recovery time was so much faster so I could train more,” Baboubian told CNN.
Record-breaking tennis player Venus Williams has not only won several tennis tournaments, but she has also achieved several Olympic gold medals, a silver in mixed doubles, and holds the joint record for the most Olympic medals held by a male or female tennis player. Williams adopted a raw vegan diet after she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome in 2011. While she is no longer a raw vegan, she is still largely plant-based when in training.
On her plant-based diet, Williams told Health magazine, “It really changed my life … I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and I wanted to maintain my performance on the court. Once I started, I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.”
Seven-time Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton often speaks out about animal rights and describes his decision to switch to a vegan diet in 2017 as one of the best he’s made.
“As the human race, what we are doing to the world… the pollution [in terms of emissions of global-warming gases] 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 and I want to live a healthier life,” Lewis told the BBC in 2017.
Hannah Teter is an Olympic snowboarding champion, winning the gold medal in halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Olympics and silver at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Teter became a vegan after watching the documentary Earthlings and realising how factory farms treat animals. She believes giving up animal products made her a better athlete.
“I feel stronger than I’ve ever been, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete. It’s a whole other level that I’m elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it’s a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete,” Teter said in an interview with HuffPost.
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