Why you don’t need meat to become a top-performing athlete

By Catherine Orda | Lead photo from Instagram

There’s nothing paradoxical about a world-class athlete who’s also a staunch vegan. Again and again, it’s been proven by research that sticking to a plant-based diet is nutrient-dense and will provide you more than enough protein. When it comes down to it, finding a healthy and satisfying diet is a question of getting the right information about food. It takes effort to do the necessary research and food preparation. Meanwhile, you can turn to these four vegan athletes to get an idea of how far proper research and a dedication to athleticism can get you.

 

Meagan Duhamel

The two-time world champion figure skater and Olympic silver medalist Meagan Duhamel credits a lot of her success to living a strict vegan lifestyle. “I think being a vegan athlete gives me a huge advantage,” she told MBG in an exclusive interview between events in Pyeongchang. You won’t help but agree after reading about both her accomplishments and her diet, especially after noticing that there is a kind of common discipline and pedantic quality between the two.

The 32-year-old starts her day with overnight oats (she uses almond milk, gluten-free oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, cacao nibs, bananas, and almond butter), which give her blood-sugar balancing carbohydrates. A smoothie made up of spinach, mangoes, bananas, flax seeds, spirulina powder, and coconut water is also another quick healthy breakfast option. As for post-workout food, Duhamel snacks on sweet potatoes or pineapples sprinkled with hemp seeds. You’ll wonder about the kind of dedication Duhamel has for preparing these seemingly meticulous meals, but it’s one of the things she often credits as keys to her success.

 

Lewis Hamilton

The story of how F1 driver Lewis Hamilton decided to adapt a plant-based diet will sound familiar to a lot of vegans. After seeing a documentary about the evils of factory farms (to animals, the environment, and our health, among others), he quickly decided to give up all animal-based products. “I feel the best I have ever felt in my life, in my 32 years—physically,” he told CNN ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

He says that the diet makes him feel “incredibly clean and healthy,” he also adds that he can’t imagine ever eating meat again: “I feel sick because I have read about it and have read some of the science.” Hamilton isn’t as specific as Duhamel when it comes to describing what exactly goes into his diet, but he does admit to having the same food for breakfast every day. “The truth is, I have pancakes every day now.” It’s something he couldn’t have before because of his fear of carbs, but after converting to veganism and discovering pancakes were vegan, he decided to have them every morning.

 

David Haye

The hulking figure of the British boxer David Haye is the perfect rebuttal to arguments claiming that a vegan lifestyle will leave you weak and “lacking in protein.” Haye, who has been adhering to a strict plant-based diet for three years now, has a full-time chef and a nutritionist who make sure that he gets all the minerals and nutrients he needs to stay on top of his sport. The 36-year-old boxer decided to become vegan after looking for efficient ways to recover from injury. This coincided with a bit of research about the “horrible” ways animals were being treated. The answers that addressed both those concerns was sticking to a plant-based diet. “It’s a myth that you need meat for strength,” he adds.

 

Venus Williams

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams decided to go vegan after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome (its symptoms include joint pain and stiffness, and chronically dry mouth and eyes). In an interview with Health.com, Williams said that the disease affected her so much she “literally couldn’t play tennis anymore.”

After switching to a raw vegan diet, things became a lot better. Being more mindful and hands on with the food she eats is one of the reasons she still gets to compete. One of her go-to recipes include celery root soup with tomatoes, almond milk, pan-fried garlic, and truffle oil. As for energy-boosting snacks, Williams enjoys either fruit juice or a smoothie she calls orange creamsicle—a concoction of soy milk, oranges, bananas, vanilla, and coconut oil.