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Vegetarian Professional Athletes

Professional athletes demand a lot from their body. Practices, meetings, traveling, internal and external stress, injuries, and of course game days. Their bodies and minds must function at an extremely high level throughout the entire season. If their body or mind fails to perform, they could lose their jobs and with it, their livelihood.

Athletes at all levels must fuel their bodies appropriately to ensure they are performing at their best. With disregard to the many different diet types that exist in the world, one mostly assumes that professional athletes eat whatever they can, whenever they can. Contrary to belief, most professional athletes are strict about what food they consume, relying on a steady amount of protein and carbohydrates to keep their bodies in top shape. Few athletes recognize how beneficial more plants in their diet can be to their performance. We chose five professional athletes who experimented, some continuing with, plants at all meals as part of a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. The list was much longer than expected! And narrowing it down to share only these top five means many more articles featuring other athletes are to come.

  • Prince Fielder
    • In February of 2008, Fielder read a book his wife suggested by authors Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin. The book is deeply grounded in the many health benefits a Vegan diet can offer a person and it led Fielder to make a change.
    • For Fielder, a heavier than normal baseball player, it wan’t about the weight for him in making the change. Instead, it was about all the other food out there. He credits his vegetarian diet to feeling amazing and removing the need to lay around. He has been quoted as saying, “When I’m up, I’m up. There is no rolling around or waiting to feel fully awake.”
    • Currently, he is the designated hitter for the Texas Rangers. He has played 10 full season in Major League Baseball.
  • Carl Lewis
    • Adopted a Vegan diet in 1990, his best year of track competition.
    • Throughout his career, he earned 10 Olympic medals, nine of which were gold.
    • Lewis dominated sports in the 1980’s, setting world records at every turn. He posted world record times for the 100 meter, 400 meter, and 200 meter relays. He has held the world record for the indoor long jump since 1984 and holds one of the world’s longest winning streaks in the long jump.
  • Joe Namath
    • Proudly stated “You don’t need meat to play football.”
    • Played 13 seasons in the National Football League, the majority of his career with the New York Jets.
    • Was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985.
  • Scott Jurek
    • Ultramarathon runner who set the American 24-hour record in 2010 at the IAU World 24-hour Championships.
    • Vegan since 1999.
    • Wrote the book Eat & Run and opens up about his life and career, as well as leveling all stereotypes of what athletes should eat to fuel optimal performance. At the end of each chaper Jurek provides a personal, vegan recipe.
  • Tony Gonzales
    • 17 year NFL career playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
    • Follows the 80/20 diet, in which 80% is plant based and the other 20% is fish or chicken.
    • He became a Vegan in 2007 after suffering a bout of facial paralysis and reading the China Study. His Kansas City Chiefs nutritionist and he ultimately decided to eat meat occasionally to best his performance.
    • A typical day of food for Gonzales includes the following:
      • Breakfast
        Double serving of steel-cut oatmeal with granola, blueberries, walnuts, and a little brown sugar. A smoothie made with coconut water, carrots, blueberries, strawberries, apples, banana, spinach, flax seeds, and goji berries.
      • Lunch
        Black bean burger with a large kale salad, an 8-ounce filet of fish (usually mahi mahi, salmon, or arctic char), and a side of sautéed green beans with garlic and mushrooms.
      • After practice 
        An extra-large smoothie made with coconut water, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, banana, vegan protein, walnuts, and apple juice. If necessary, a Kind Bar.
      • Dinner
        Large spinach and kale salad with avocados, cucumbers, carrots, and walnuts with a vinaigrette dressing, an 8-ounce filet of fish, and a side of brown rice.
      • Dessert
        Vegan organic chocolate chip cookies from Uncle Eddies.

Stay tuned this month as we explore more Vegan and Vegetarian options, people to follow, and facts about how a plant-based diet can help turn things around for your life and your body.

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