Updated March 2021
Professional athletes and other fitness enthusiasts are traditionally seen as meat-eaters to receive an adequate protein intake. However, recently, there has been a new dynamic between athletes and a vegan diet.
“Going vegan” isn’t just a passing diet fad or trend. A plant-based diet is a smart way to eat, whether you’re an athlete or not. From improvements in overall health to reducing one’s environmental footprint, being a vegan is a holistic and sustainable way of living.
Many elite athletes have adopted a plant-based diet. According to BatsFinder, high profile sports people, including tennis players, bodybuilders, basketball players, and footballers, have all proven that being vegan and an athlete is possible.
In many cases, these vegan athletes are outperforming their non-vegan competitors in the sports field.
Let’s look at some of the most high-profile vegan athletes who have proven that they perform better on a plant-based diet.
1. NOVAK DJOKOVIC
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic is ranked #1 in the world, and he’s a vegan. In press conferences, Djokovic explained that his decision to adopt a plant-based diet has helped him to further succeed in his game.
The vegan tennis player explains that he needs an optimal balance between strength, power, and speed to perform his best. Here’s the interesting thing: his vegan diet hasn’t hindered any of these components while performing on the court.
Along with other high-profile vegan athletes such as Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the world number one tennis player revealed on the Netflix documentary ‘Game Changer’ that he only eats dairy-free and gluten-free foods.
2. PATRIK BABOUMIAN
Strongman Patrik Baboumian proves that athletes can be strong and muscular while on a vegan diet. After winning the title of Germany’s Strongest Man back in 2011, Baboumian went vegan. ‘The Vegan Badass’ decided to go meat-free out of the compassion he felt for animals.
This decision has no way affected his ability to pull, lift, and press great weights, and he explains that the switch from meat to meatless was easier than anticipated.
He claims he feared his performance would suffer but found that “my sporting prowess was totally stable. The only thing that changed was that my overall sense of well-being noticeably improved.”
A diet high in dairy and animal protein can indeed lead to the over-acidification of the body, resulting in chronic heartburn and indigestion that may hinder an athlete’s performance.
3. ALEX MORGAN
To 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, Alex Morgan, a vegan diet fuels her soccer game by making her stronger and helping with fatigue and recovery.
“I never thought it was possible I could be playing at an elite level as a professional athlete with a plant-based diet,” she said. “Then I realized it wasn’t detrimental at all.”
Many people don’t realize it’s entirely possible to get the right balance of macronutrients from meat-free alternatives.
Like Morgan, many athletes tend to find that a vegan plant-based diet can lead to quicker recovery from workouts and help with injury prevention, stamina, and overall performance.
4. COLIN KAEPERNICK
More and more professional NFL players are turning to a vegan diet for better performance on and off the field.
Former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick chooses a vegan diet for ethical reasons (he is a known advocate for the environment and animal rights), as well as to improve his performance as an athlete.
Other NFL players who have opted to go plant-based include Tom Brady, who credits his high vegetable diet for his increased strength and flexibility.
Plant-based foods are low in saturated fats and cholesterol, which improves blood viscosity and thickness, allowing more oxygen to feed the muscles. This, in turn, leads to increased flexibility, conditioning, and improved athletic performance.
What Should A Vegan Athlete Meal Plan Consist Of?
Since eating animals has been such a common practice for so long, many people are unaware of where else to find sources of protein if they are not consuming animal products. So, what exactly do vegan meal plans consist of?
There is no set meal plan for a vegan athlete’s diet since how they eat will depend on their athletic goals. The diet will change depending on whether they are aiming to minimize their body weight or build muscle as they train for their respective sport.
While there is no best vegan diet for athletes, generally, a vegan athlete will consume a lot of protein to fuel their training and to help their body recover after strenuous exercise.
While many people believe that protein sources are minimal in a vegan diet, many plant-based foods contain protein.
If you are athletic, you can easily meet your protein goals through soy products, peanut butter, hemp seeds, brown rice, beans and legumes, and protein shakes. We have found the best plant-based protein shakes to provide you with all the essential amino acids you need.
Most vegetables and fruits contain more protein than people realize, and the rest of an athlete’s meal plan will contain the usual carbohydrates, fiber, and fats as a meat diet.
The only areas athletes may have to focus on where the vegan diet lacks slightly is vitamin B12, which can be obtained from fortified vegan foods like plant-based milk and nutritional yeast. Then fatty acids that are found in fish can also be found in flax seeds to provide athletes with the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Vegan Diet For Athletes FAQs
Why Is A Vegan Diet Good For Athletes?
Since well-known athletes have started consuming a vegan diet, the common question is whether this diet is good for athletic activities. It is widely believed that consuming a vegan diet helps the body recover faster, enhances physical performance, and provides athletes with the right amount of nutrients.
This could be due to the improved cardiovascular health, reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure, and weight loss benefits seen in those who consume a meat-free diet.
Is It Possible To Increase Your Weight Gain On A Vegan Diet?
Often people believe you can’t gain weight on a vegan diet due to the increase in low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables that contain fewer calories than meat products. However, you can easily match your caloric goals on any diet.
Consuming a vegan diet may mean that you need to consume more food than usual, but if you are looking to bulk up with some weight gain for building muscle, you can easily meet your caloric needs on this diet.
Is The Vegetarian Diet Good For Athletes?
The vegetarian diet is also common among athletes and works similarly to a vegan diet. There are various types of vegetarian diets and some contain fish and eggs, while others don’t.
The vegetarian diet has the same benefits of lower cholesterol levels, reduced blood pressure, and better cardiovascular health as the vegan diet, just not as pronounced as the latter. Athletes can still get the required protein and other nutrients on a vegetarian diet.
Athletes such as those mentioned above prove that going vegan can actually help a person perform better in the competitive field.
Vegan athletes are not merely switching to plant-based diets for environmental reasons but also due to the evidence of vastly improved health, strength, recovery, and injury prevention.
An athlete relies on overall health and vitality to outperform opponents and win competitions. A vegan diet aids in improving a person’s health and bodily functions, ensuring optimum performance.
In the end, a healthy diet will always reign supreme when it comes to getting body-strong and reaching a higher level of performance.
Do you follow a vegan diet and train? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.