Over the course of the past decade, Veganism in professional sports has risen in popularity. Though the thought of a diet without animal-based proteins, such as meat and dairy products, scares some athletes, more are switching to the vegan diet for health and performance reasons. To think that you can’t get sufficient amounts of protein or carbohydrates on a vegan diet is a common misconception.
There are a plethora of non-meat and non-dairy products from which athletes can get their protein and carbs for muscle growth and recovery. Quinoa, soybeans, spinach, seeds and legumes are just a few popular ways athletes can stay strong and keep their muscles growing for their sport.
To prove that athletes can still be strong and successful on a vegan diet, we found 5 professional athletes you had no clue were vegan. Any athlete can reach his or her full athletic potential with a balanced and well-planned vegan diet, and the proof is below.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL in the final weeks of the 2015 season. To try and speed up recovery, he decided to go vegan.
While still new to a completely vegan diet, “The Honey Badger” said he felt amazing and energized.
Making the switch appears to have done wonders for his career; Matheiu has missed all but one game of the regular season since 2018.
Serena Williams is arguably the most popular tennis player in the world. Both her and sister Venus turned vegan in 2011, and both have had a great deal of success. After being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that results in fatigue, Venus went vegan to fight the disease’s symptoms. Shortly thereafter, Serena made the change, not only to support her sister but to help her own athletic career.
After switching to a vegan diet, the sisters crushed the women’s doubles tennis tournament at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, finishing with gold medals. According to beegans.com, Venus gets her calories and fuel from nuts, beans, lentils and sprouts—and she adds a plant-based protein powder to her smoothies.
NBA champion and Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving adopted an all-vegan diet after screening the documentary “What the Health,” according to Business Insider.
Something unique Irving consumes often is a power ball.
His personal chef Corey Bryant told Heavy it’s “…“Pecans, almonds, walnuts, and bring it all together and you roll it out into a ball, and there you go…You can do chocolate peanut butter and white chocolate.”
Irving has even appeared in advertising campaigns with Beyond Meat:
The talented point guard changed his diet as a member of the Boston Celtics in 2017, telling the LA Times two years later he thought the switch would expedite his recovery after games and workouts.
Former Ohio State quarterback and 1st-round-pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2021 NFL Draft, Justin Fields made the transition to a predominantly plant-based diet prior to his final season with the Buckeyes.
Fields chose to make the change in his diet permanent after experimenting with it for almost a month during quarantine at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic:
The Bears rookie said in October of 2020 he feels how he eats translates to his performance on the gridiron too.
“I feel great, my body feels great and I feel faster and stronger,” Fields said via the Lantern.
During his final college season, Fields said his day began with either avocado toast or a bagel with vegan cream cheese. He ate multiple times a day with a plant protein shake for post-workout recovery. Typical meals consisted of tofu salads or burritos, even another shake.
Occasionally, Fields will indulge in fish.
Currently the No. 1 player in men’s professional tennis, Novak Djokovic is a 19-time major tournament champion.
Djokovic gradually removed foods from his diet like meat, dairy, refined sugar and gluten until becoming entirely vegan.
He explains his diet in detail to Graham Bensinger below:
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The Serbian native told Bensinger he wants to digest his meals with them taking as little energy away from him as possible, so his training benefits.
The 34-year-old athlete also told the press at Wimbledon in 2019 his plant-based diet helps him recover faster between matches and reduce inflammation.