When I first became vegan – 9 years ago – I did not think of the effect on my health, nor did I really know about the environmental benefits, it was entirely for the animals at that point. In fact, I hadn’t done much research into whether it was healthy, whether I would become weak, or whether it was even sustainable – would I die young? I actually assumed that I would probably lack some kind of vitamins and minerals, and was definitely led to believe, from the crap that had been spurted from the media, that I would be weak. That didn’t matter to me, as I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing I was bringing harm to animals, so it didn’t really influence me.
I actually started to look into the information about health when my young sense of invincibility started to vanish and my realisation that the aging process was already in place (my hair started to thin at a young age due to hereditary balding… thanks Dad!). I also started looking to improve my performance in the gym and realised that exercise is only half of it, the fuel you use for exercise is arguably more important than the exercise itself.
Along this journey I started looking for inspiration and people who clearly have thrived on a vegan diet. I’ve already gone into depth about Patrik Baboumian (professional vegan strongman) in our other post about strongman training – found here. So in this post I’m going to detail some other examples of athletes who have become great successes in their own fields to hopefully inspire some of you and show you that by following the right vegan diet, not only will your health improve, it will help you flourish in your chosen sport.
Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1)
Lewis Hamilton has won the F1 championships 5 times now. Although he won some of his titles before he adopted a plant based diet in 2017, since then he has won the 2017, 2018 and is on track to win the 2019 championships. As you can see, his performance certainly has not suffered, and time will tell whether it has improved his skills. For now, we can certainly agree he is an inspiration to many vegans and Formula 1 enthusiasts.
Venus Williams (Tennis)
Unarguably the two powerhouses of tennis are Venus and Serena Williams. Venus unfortunately had to step down from tennis in 2011 when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which means she gets terrible joint pain, which obviously is going to effect a tennis athlete’s performance. However, after advice by her nutritionists, doctors and team, she adopted a plant-based diet to alleviate the pain caused by her condition. This is because plant based diets reduce inflammation, which is one of the main causes of joint pain. Since adopting the plant based diet, she was not only able to return to tennis but has gone on to be runner up in Wimbledon final and the Australian Open, she has also won in the doubles finals twice. This gives some evidence to the power of a plant based diet and its healing properties. She managed to come back into the sport, and flourish, which she had previously given up due to disease, by adopting a plant based diet. It is also worth noting that Serena has been said to largely adopt a plant based diet for long periods of time, however from news reports it appears she does not adhere to a plant based lifestyle all the time.
Novak Djokovic (Tennis)
Another tennis player certainly worth mentioning. Novak, like Venus, adopted a plant based diet due to health. He famously collapsed on court, before going vegan, and realised he needed to do something to improve his health and performance. Part of this change was to adopt a plant based diet. He claims he has been vegan for many years now, but I can’t find the exact date he did go vegan. It is said he first started winning titles after he had gone vegan, but whether or not this is the case, it is indisputable that he has dominated men’s tennis in the last few years (whilst bein vegan). He is currently world number 1, recently won Wimbledon and has a number of other records under his belt. Since 2015 he has won 9 grand slam titles. Wow! He’s also opened a vegan restaurant, good guy!
Fiona Oakes (Marathon)
Fiona is incredible on so many levels. Fiona has been a vegan since the age of 6, and lost a kneecap when she was 17. Losing a kneecap would certainly hinder a lot of people, even to do just basic tasks, however Fiona decided that marathon running was what she wanted to be great at. That’s exactly what she did, she went on to set four world records in marathon running, one of them is the fastest female time to complete a marathon on all continents – yes that includes Antarctica in just under 23 and a half hours. She then went to set one for all continents PLUS the north pole… in just over 28 hours and 20 minutes. On top of all of this, she runs an amazing animal sanctuary called Tower Hills Stables Animal Sanctuary, so if you are inspired by her, why not donate to her sanctuary.
Scott Jurek (Ultra-marathon)
An inspiration to any endurance athlete. Scott is an ultramarathon runner (yes, most of you will think a marathon is likely too tough, but some people decide it’s not long enough and take to ultramarathon running. He has managed to get all of his records and titles whilst being a vegan. He has won multiple ultramarathons in his time and set a new US record of running 165.7 miles in 24 hours. Yes, you read that right. Not only did he run 165.7 miles which is crazy enough as it is, but he averaged an 8 minute 42 second mile. I struggle to average that for 5 miles, let alone 165.7 miles! Extremely impressive and clearly not lacking any energy.
Tia Blanco (Surfing)
Tia is an incredibly talented surfer. Some of you may not have tried surfing, but I can tell you that even just standing up on a surf board takes a great amount of balance and core stability. To then be able to compete in surfing championships, doing tricks on waves, is a whole other level. Tia grew up as a vegetarian, and became vegan in 2011. Since then she has won gold at two international surfing championships in 2015 and 2016. That’s totally cool.
Kendrick Farris (Olympic weight lifter)
Kendrick obliterates the idea that vegans are weak. Have you ever tried lifting 200kg – well it sure as hell isn’t easy. However to be able to get that weight above your head, is a whole new level of insane. Kendrick managed to get 209kg above his head in the clean and jerk, as well as a snatch of 168kg. This was a new US record for his weight class - incredible!
Meagan Duhamel (Ice Skating)
Meagan became vegan in 2008, and since then has gone on to become one of the best in her sport. She became a world champion in both 2015 and 2016, and most recently won a gold medal at the 2018 winter Olympics. If that is not proving that you are one of the best in your sport, then I don’t know what is! Skating takes an enormous amount of skill, agility, balance and core strength.
Hopefully this has gone some way to show that you truly can thrive on a vegan diet. A lot of athletes adopt a vegan diet due to the toll being top competitors takes on their bodies, to then find out that a vegan diet allows them to perform even better. These are all inspirational people, and there are loads of people we have missed out here, this is simply a quick highlight to try and prove that in all different types of sport, a vegan diet can make you great.