The trend towards vegan diets isn’t limited to world-class athletes. Many athletes have switched to vegan diets or plant-based diets as a part of their training regime, lifestyle, and ethical practices. Check out some of the few amazing athletes who continue to dominate on a vegan diet.
Venus Williams is one the best tennis players of all time with seven Grand Slam singles titles, 5 Wimbledon titles, and two US Open titles, on top of being formerly Number 1 ranked in singles and doubles. In 2011, she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease, and switched to a raw vegan diet to help her manage her symptoms. A raw vegan diet avoids any food cooked above 118ºF, food changed from its natural state, and only fresh, dehydrated, cold-smoked, or fermented foods.
Alex Morgan is a professional soccer player who has played on the U.S. Women’s National Team since 2011 and was the youngest player on the U.S. World Cup roster at the time. She has been vegan since 2017 while continuing to train and be a powerhouse on the field.
Hannah Teter is a professional snowboarder with like the others mentioned above, several Olympic medals under her belt. She can be seen in snowboarding documentaries like First Descent starring next to some of the other biggest names in the sport. She switched to a vegan diet after watching Earthlings in 2016 as a way to reduce her environmental impact and increase awareness about inhumane practices in factory farms.
Diana Taurasi is regarded as one of the greatest women's basketball players of all time, being the first pick in the 2004 WNBA draft. Also an Olympian, she has numerous awards globally that recognize her dedication and skill. She went vegan around 2015 in an effort to follow a healthier diet for her body and it hasn’t stopped her from continuing her impressive career.
Colin Kaepernick is a professional Football player and civil rights activist with awards like the “Best Breakthrough Athlete” ESPY award (2013) and the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy award (2017), an award that recognizes sportsmanship and impact on the world. He has been vegan since 2016 for ethical reasons and health reasons.
Neymar is one of the greatest soccer players in the world, currently playing for Paris Saint-Germain F.C. and the Brazil national team. He has been vegan since 2021 when he suffered from a serious injury that made him change his lifestyle from training to sleep to diet. His new diet helped him recover so he could get back on the field.
Why are athletes going vegan?
These are just several of the many athletes and many people in the world to go vegan, but why are they doing this? The aforementioned athletes chose to go vegan for ethical reasons, environmental reasons, and many due to injuries. Vegan diets have been proven to lead to statistically significant weight loss, decreased BMI, and leaner body mass. For U.S. Olympians, they had lower body fat percentage and higher lean body mass compared to college athletes which is desirable for athletic performance. Vegan diets are often associated with an influence on inflammatory biomarkers, one of the reasons that injured athletes might make the change to improve their recovery.
Barriers to Going Vegan
One reason is that vegan diets may be inaccessible to some people, specifically historically marginalized communities who are systemically impacted. Food swamps, food deserts, and the price is often a limiting factor of accessibility to healthy and fresh foods which may prevent a person from choosing a vegan diet.
While it is not a barrier, a person may choose not to choose a vegan diet based on culture and cultural connections to food.
While these world-class athletes have gone vegan, it should be recognized that the average person does not have the same access to resources as them. There are many factors that impact their athletic performance and while a vegan diet may be a contributor, it is not the only factor.