By Erik Marcus
Vegan athletes are no longer an anomaly in the world of sport. Check out this profile of eleven prominent pros from eight different sports who follow a vegan diet.
For decades, the National Football League posed a seemingly insurmountable barrier to vegans. Spectators and athletes alike assumed vegans couldn’t attain the strength and muscle mass required for NFL competition. But during the 2018 season, more than a dozen members of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans went vegan. Standout wide receiver Griff Whalen includes the words “100% #vegan athlete” in his Twitter bio. Elsewhere in the league Colin Kaepernick tweeted the hashtag #NotBadForAVegan to accompany a training photograph.
Over in the NBA, the Detroit Piston’s Cade Cunningham has followed a vegan diet since 2019. Cunningham was the #1 overall pick in the NBA’s 2021 draft. Fellow NBA star Chris Paul’s performance took a big leap forward when he switched to a vegan diet.
Vegan athletes frequently dominate ultra-endurance competitions. These events include long-distance running, cycling, and swimming. Rich Roll is a long-time vegan who ranks among the most impressive ultra-endurance athletes of any era. His many feats included doing five Iron Man distance triathlons over a five day period.
Nutrition Needs for Vegan Athletes
When it comes to sports nutrition, the primary special need for athletes is to simply eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods. Additionally, weight lifters and other athletes doing heavy strength training must also boost their protein intake somewhat. Many elite athletes adhere to training regimens that require an enormous number of daily calories.
Everyone from a professional athlete to a weekend golfer stands to benefit from a well-planned vegan or vegan-leaning diet. And it’s reassuring that vegan diets can deliver the goods to anyone who wants to enhance their athletic performance. If you want to adopt a well-planned vegan diet, check out our How to Go Vegan article, as well as our Vegan Nutrition Guide.
You don’t need to become an elite vegan athlete to experience the benefits of exercise and basic fitness. Our comprehensive Vegan Fitness Guide will show you a number of easy and rewarding ways to become more physically active.
Recommended Vegan Fitness Books
The first book every serious vegan athlete should read is Plant-Based Sports Nutrition, by Larson-Meyer and Ruscigno. The book offers comprehensive nutrition advice to optimize athletic performance. You’ll get recipes, training tips, and meal plans to prepare for any competitive event.
Regardless of whether you seek to increase strength, bulk, or endurance, there’s a vegan-oriented book that will help you to achieve your goals. Here are some of the best recent titles:
- No Meat Athlete, by Matt Frazier
- Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll
- Eat & Run, by Scott Jurek
- Plant-Based Muscle, by Cheeke & Espinoza
Not so long ago, athletes typically regarded vegan diets as incompatible with rigorous training requirements. That is happily no longer the case. A well-planned vegan diet can indeed power top-level athletic performance.