Top athletes always strive to get the most out of their bodies. Whether they are winning the big race, or setting a world record, how they treat their bodies is always high priority.
Imagine your body as a sports car: the vehicle only gets where it’s going with the proper fuel.
The same is true for athletes and the food they eat. They will maximize their body’s potential through their nutritional regimen.
Athletes aren’t just machines who pile up statistics or win gold medals. They are people who have morals, opinions, beliefs, and want to make a difference in the world with not just their athletic performance but also by influencing society positively for future generations.
There are many reasons people decide to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, including to improve health and nutrition, for environmental protection, or because of social justice and animal rights. Veganism is considered vegetarianism in its purest form, as the lifestyle doesn’t contain any animal products whatsoever. Eggs, diary, or honey are also not allowed on a vegan diet. A plant-based vegan or vegetarian diet strictly consists of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
You might ask yourself, can vegans or vegetarians be successful athletes? Does animal protein need to be consumed for peak level athletic performance?
Plant-based diets consisting of adequate supplies of protein, calcium, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc will have athletes performing at peak levels. Athletes must research proper and balanced meal plans built on healthy fats, non-refined carbohydrates, and lean proteins, which are all rich in minerals and vitamins.
There are many athletes that have had successes in sports with a vegetarian or vegan diet. Here are the five top vegan athletes.
Carl Lewis—Track and Field Athlete
American track and field star Carl Lewis enjoyed an incredible career, including being honored as World Athlete of the Decade in the 1980s and the Olympic Athlete of the Century award. Lewis made the decision to become vegan in 1990, and although he experienced listlessness, once he increased his calorie intake, he regained his energy.
After he made the switch to veganism, Lewis had arguably his greatest performance of his career at the 1991 World Championships, reclaiming the 100-meter world record with a time of 9.86 seconds. “I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete,” explains Lewis, who is a nine-time Olympic gold medalist.
Brendan Brazier—Professional Ironman Triathlete
Brendan Brazier started a vegan diet at the age of 15, because he wanted a good performance-based diet, which included a speedy recovery between workouts. The former professional ironman triathlete is a two-time Canadian 50-kilometer Ultra Marathon Champion. The Canadian is a well-known performance nutrition consultant and vegan advocate, formulating the whole food nutritional product line, Vega.
He is also the best-selling author of the Thrive series, including the first title from 2007, The Thrive Diet: The Whole Food Way to Losing Weight, Reducing Stress, and Staying Healthy for Life.
Georges Laraque—NHL Hockey Player
Canadian Georges Laraque is a former NHL enforcer, playing from 1996-2010 with the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Montreal Canadiens.
“I have never felt better or so healthy in my life,” says Laraque after embarking on a vegan diet in 2009. He made the switch after seeing the movie “Earthlings,” which illustrates the cruelty that animals face in order for us to eat them.
When he started the vegan diet, he had help from the Montreal Vegetarian Association and his nutritionist Anne Marie Roy. He is also a big advocator of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and he owns two raw vegan restaurants called Crudessence.
Patrik Baboumian—Strongman Competitor
Strongman competitor Patrik Baboumian has made headlines recently after carrying 550 kilos (1,212.54 pounds) on his shoulders for over 10 meters (32.8 feet) at Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Festival on September 8, 2013. He wanted to inspire people and break stereotypes that tough guys don’t need to eat a lot of meat.
Baboumian, a former bodybuilder, went on the vegan diet in 2011, shortly after being named Germany’s strongest man. He was a vegetarian since 2006 before he made the switch. This vegan athlete holds the world log lift record in the 105-kg category (165 kilograms) and the German heavyweight log lift record (185 kilograms).
Pat Neshek—MLB Baseball Player
Pat Neshek is an American side-arm throwing relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. His wife Stephanee encouraged him to practice a healthier lifestyle when they met in 2004. Neshek, while with the Minnesota Twins, became vegan in 2007 after reading the book The China Study which examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products and chronic illnesses. “I like knowing everything I eat was served in a humane way,” says Neshek, who has a 3.10 earned run average in 222 career games with the Athletics, Twins and San Diego Padres.
Photo Credit: Evan Meyer / Shutterstock.com
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