The release of the Netflix documentary 'Game Changers' in 2019 increased people's curiosity around a plant-based diet and its positive effects on training as an athlete. From increased recovery time to reduced risk of injury, the reasons to go vegan to improve your training are endless.
While for some this was a revelation, for many athletes the myth that meat is the only form of protein was no surprise. From tennis players to ultramarathon runners, and even bodybuilders, some elite athletes around the world have benefited from a plant-based diet. But what made them switch?
Novak Djokovic - Tennis
Photo by: JOVICA ILIC
Grand slam champion for 16 years and five-time Wimbledon champion, Djokovic is known as one of the best tennis players of all time. And although he prefers to stay away from labels, Djokovic has been following a vegan diet in recent years. In a recent interview, Djokovic stated that:
"Food is the fuel that determines how I play, how I recover, and how alert I am on the court... I attribute a large part of my professional success to my diet."
...this explains how Djokovic managed to maintain his strength and come out ahead after 4 hours and 57 minutes of the Wimbledon final last year (2019).
Scott Jurek - Ultramarathoner
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Scott Jurek, one of the world's most prominent ultramarathon runners, completing the Appalachian Run (3,500 km) in a record time of 46 days (I'm tired just typing this...), is not only a running legend, but It is also 100% plant powered.
Considering that it requires consuming up to 8,000 calories some days, Jurek has never had any problems getting everything he needs from plant-based sources. It's not uncommon to see Jurek eating a vegan burrito at part of the races to ensure he's getting enough calories!
In an interview, Jurek detailed that "it's really a mental barrier... I like to eat, and I don't have to worry about weight control. All I need is a high-carb diet with enough protein and fat."
Lewis Hamilton - Formula 1
Photo by: TOLGA BOZOGLU
Formula 1 racing phenom Lewis Hamilton turned to veganism in 2017 for two reasons: first, to address animal welfare, and second, to see the positive impact it could have on his body.
Three years later, he says he has never felt better. In an interview, Hamilton spoke of how veganism not only helped him control his energy, eradicating those "big swings and ups and downs in his energy levels", but he has also since realized that veganism is "the only way to really save our planet".
In fact, Hamilton owns a vegan burger restaurant, located in central London. The name of the bar is “Neat”.
Venus Williams – Tennis player
Photo by: JONATHON BRADEN
She adopted a plant-powered diet after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2011.
"I started eating raw and vegan for health reasons... I needed to fuel my body in the best way possible," Williams told Women's Health in a recent interview.
Changing his diet to a plant-powered one significantly helped alleviate what was debilitating symptoms of joint pain and fatigue (and clearly, secondly, it benefited his athletic ability!).
Lionel Messi - Footballer
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Number 1 on our list of vegan football players is Lionel Messi. No introduction is needed for the 5-time Ballon d'Or winner as Messi is now in his 30s, maintaining a full fitness system. However, a lot of this comes from what he tends to eat in his free time.
Have you ever wondered why the Argentine legend almost never gets injured despite being one of the most fouled players in the world? Well, that's partly a reflection of what's on your plate.
By keeping all animal products off his plate, Messi switched to a vegan diet in 2018 to improve his performance not only at the World Cup but also as a football player in general. And just like Aguero, he is reportedly only vegan during the football season.
His transition to this particular diet saw him lose 3 pounds of body weight and improved his speed. He is known for including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in his meals.