Why did these 3 vegan athletes go plant-based?

Fact or fiction: The only way to get healthy muscle is by eating meat and fish to get protein.

What do Olympic Gold Medalist soccer player Alex Morgan, Formula One Champion race car driver Lewis Hamilton and seven times Grand Slam Champion tennis player Venus Williams all have in common?

Big bank accounts.

Just kidding, they are all VEGAN!

The myth that veganism means you are not getting all the nutrients you need to have a healthy life and diet lies in the fact that many people are not aware of how beneficial vegan lifestyles can be. Luckily, these popular and successful vegan athletes are eager to dispel those rumours, despite these athletes once having believed that meat was the answer.

“I never thought it was possible I could be playing at an elite level as a professional athlete with a plant-based diet. Then I realised it wasn’t detrimental at all”. Alex Morgan stated. Since discovering the benefits of the diet, Alex has joined the leagues of professional athletes adopting a plant-based lifestyle. Amongst some of the first to try this were Roman gladiators. Researchers show that they consumed a diet with little to no animal meat but rich in plant foods, such as legumes, pulses and grains. Thankfully, modern athletes are not being thrown into a Colosseum with a sword. However, it seems like our vegan athletes may stand a chance with Lewis Hamilton claiming in an interview with Men’s Health “I have more energy; I’m so much more productive. I wake up feeling way better, clearer in thought and fresher in my body”. Lewis isn't alone in this as research has indicated that a plant-based diet can protect against cardiovascular diseases. This is because the antioxidant phytonutrients and nitrates (hope you paid attention in science class) found in plant-based foods can reduce obesity and lower cholesterol.

These benefits are also why people with autoimmune diseases are turning towards vegan diets to relieve their symptoms. Venus Williams, who suffers from Sjögren’s syndrome, credits her vegan lifestyle for alleviating the extreme fatigue associated with the condition, which has allowed her to continue competing at the highest level. Speaking to Health Magazine, Venus said “Once I started, I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible [through raw, vegan food]. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me”. Venus thought the diet was so beneficial that she even convinced her fellow tennis player and 23 x Grand Slam Champion sister Serena Williams to adopt a plant-based diet during her tennis tours.

Like these athletes, you should do your own research into vegan diets to make sure that you are doing it safely and that it fits in with your health requirements.

Veganism can transform your life but it isn’t a one size fits all solution. Even exchanging one meat-based meal a day can be beneficial. You don’t have to be an athlete to have health and fitness goals. Tailor your diet towards what your mind and body need and always make sure you’re doing what’s best for you.

Michaela Pontiki