She might be on to something. More and more athletes are now fueling up on plant-based foods—and they have thestrength and stamina to show for it. Vegan foods, which are usually high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, provide the power and energy that athletes need, without the artery-clogging fat and cholesterol they don’t. Vegans tend to have a lower body mass index than nonvegans, and studies show that plant-based foods can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost athletic performance.
Dallas Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta, who stopped eating meat, eggs, and dairy products last summer after reading some books on the subject, told ESPN that he felt better on and off the field after he went vegan.
Although Atlanta Falcons star Tony Gonzalez—a six-time Pro Bowl veteran and one of only four active players with at least 75 touchdowns—is not entirely vegan, he has also touted wholesome vegan foods and encouraged other athletes to eat more meatless meals. He’s a pretty health-conscious guy, and though he might look tough, he’s got a soft side for animals. He and his wife, October, even posed for a “We’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ad for PETA.
Other kindhearted and health-conscious athletes, includingMLB pitcher Pat Neshek, Ultimate Fighting Champ Mac Danzig, welterweight winner Timothy Bradley, international bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, basketball greats John Salley and Salim Stoudamire, and former hockey star Georges Laraque, have succeeded in their sports—and saved animals to boot—by choosing nutritious vegan foods. Tennis legend Venus Williams, who just won the Wimbledon doubles championship with her sister Serena,recently switched to a healthy vegan diet in order to beat an autoimmune disease.
Vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier helps other vegans stay in shape—and save animals—by sponsoring the PETA Pack, a vegan running team that races to raise money for PETA and show spectators that vegans tend to be very fit and trim. Marathoners Scott Jurek and Rich Roll have even written books, respectively called Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness and Finding Ultra, which explain how being vegan helps them to endure long runs.
Olympian Carl Lewis even says that his best year of track competition was the first year that he ate a vegan diet. Track star Edwin Moses, racewalking champ Debbie Lawrence, discus thrower Al Oerter, late swimmer Murray Rose, six-time Ironman triathlon winner Dave Scott, and famed Argentinian soccer goalkeeper Carlos Roa are just a few of the other Olympians who have sung the praises of plant-based foods.
The list of vegetarian and vegan athletes goes on and on, and it’s growing steadily each year. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for the gold or for a touchdown—or even just sitting in the cheering section—a healthy, humane vegan diet is clearly the choice of true champions.