It doesn’t seem to matter how many successful bodybuilders, top performing athletes and medical experts are known to be vegan. It doesn’t matter the number of high profile politicians or renowned chefs who advocate the vegan way of life. The image of the vegan as a malnourished and fragile weakling persists.
A false misconception perpetrated by the media; many meat eaters seem to assume being vegan equals being pale and sickly, consequently discrediting the lifestyle. Amongst those proving the exact opposite is Daniel Negreanu, one of the most successful poker players of all time.
Through his notable twitter following, Negreanu often looks to stir debate by tweeting questions on controversial subjects. Indeed it might well have been his interest in logic and ethics that lead him to a life of veganism. That, and a previously awful diet which put his poker career at risk.
“I ate the typical meat-heavy diet of most poker players in the 90s: burgers and steak, along with French fries, mash and a bucket load of wine, beer,and vodka. There was nothing fresh in my diet and I felt terrible.” Negreanu admitted.
Feeling his health deteriorate, he knew something had to change. In 2000, the poker player took the first step and became vegetarian. It wasn’t easy, with his opponents mocking his ‘rabbit food’ whilst they dug into their ‘man’s meal’ of steak and chips.
Besides feeling like an outsider, Negreanu also struggled with his vegetarian life from failing to have done the necessary research beforehand. He admits, in hindsight, that switching out a meat feast pizza for a Margarita was hardly a sufficient health move.
Fifteen years later and the poker superstar has never been healthier, with a varied and rich vegan diet that he takes as seriously as his career. Inside his fridge are stacks of tupperware containing ready-prepared vegan dinners, from lentil curries to tofu salads. Bowls of fruit, nut bars and coconut water take up the rest of the shelf space.
Despite having to frequently travel to tournaments across the world, the poker player is able to eat vegan by bringing packed lunches with snacks such as organic cookies and crackers. Negreanu consults two doctors to ensure he continues to get his recommended daily nutrition. As for protein - the poker player gets 150g of it a day; three times the daily recommended intake. Since Negreanu is also gluten-free, he uses a nutritional shake called Vega One after every workout.
Endorsing PETA under the slogan ‘going vegan is a sure bet’, Negreanu explains through Twitter that his reasons for going vegan were initially about health but now also include animal cruelty and environmental concerns. He describes the meat industry as a ‘holocaust on animals’.
Negreanu claims going vegan made him a better poker player. With 6 WSOP bracelets and over 30.5 million in poker winnings, it’s tempting to believe him. But can going vegan really improve cognitive abilities? Though it’s clear that a balanced vegan diet can improve physical health - what exactly does it do to the mind?
Vegans typically eat lots of leafy greens, flax seeds, nuts, seeds, legumes, berries and beets - all of which have been proven to improve mental clarity. Avocados, bananas, fortified breakfast cereals, cocoa, green tea and olive oil are also believed to boost brain activity - and are all welcome in the vegan diet. In conclusion then - it is highly likely that Negreanu’s diet contributes to his excellent concentration at the card table.
Daniel Negreanu certainly stands out with his staunch support of the vegan lifestyle and was perhaps one of the first popular players to realize exactly how much a healthy diet can improve game play, but he is no longer alone in striving for better health. Increasingly, poker players are taking up exercise and healthier diets to establish an edge over those who still opt for fatty, meat-filled meals instead.