It's an age-old assumption that we need animal protein to be strong, but as veganism is becoming more and more popular, we have less of an excuse to cling to this ideology. Did you know that some of the world's best athletes are vegan? Here are just a few examples of plant-powered athletes who are proving the world wrong. They may just make you rethink your own diet.
Vegan Athletes Who are Strong as Hell
Venus and Serena Williams
No one could ever say that Serena Williams is malnourished. She is one of the best athletes in the world and her physique is simply awe-inspiring. You don't need to eat animals to achieve what she has, but you do need complete dedication. Her sister, Venus, chose a vegan diet to help her deal with an autoimmune disease as well as her training, and says its "a great lifestyle for long-term stability". Serena and Venus follow a strict raw vegan regime when they're preparing for competition.
Scott Jurek is an incredible ultra-marathon runner and author of Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. He credits his plant-based diet for sustaining him through races up to 24 hours long with superhero endurance. If Scott can survive on just plants, anyone can.
Claire 'Fury' Foreman
Claire is a Muay Thai fighter and winner of WMC bantamweight Australian championship title. Since going vegan, she's moved up a weight class and has felt improvements in her strength training. She told Huffington Post what she eats every day to keep her fighting fit, and said she has no problem fuelling her training with vegan food. “It helps support the intensity of the training and I can recover better. It definitely hasn't hindered anything. I'm fitter now”, she said.
Otherwise known as 'the 300lb Vegan', David Carter is an NFL defensive lineman who smashes the stereotype of vegans being weak with his gargantuan frame. When he's not on the field, he's spreading the word as a public speaker and animal rights activist. He says: "You don’t have to take a life to gain muscle".
British Heavyweight boxer David Haye says a vegan diet made him stronger than he's ever been. He turned vegan in 2014 and said it helped him get shredded and lose body fat. For those who can't commit to a vegan lifestyle, he recommends trying it out for just two days a week.
He uses the example of the humans closest relative, the ape, to illustrate just how powerful a vegan diet can be. “They’re 20 times stronger than man but they’re predominantly vegan. The only difference is they eat so much more than we do”. He's got a point. No one asks where gorillas get their protein from! Or elephants. Or rhinos. We could go on.
Nick and Nate Diaz
These MMA fighter brothers follow a vegan diet, and Nick says this played a significant role in his success. It's hard to argue that you need meat for strength and recovery when you see these guys training as hard as they do without it. There are lots of other vegan MMA fighters, too.
The idea of weightlifters eating endless amounts of eggs is outdated, and team USA's only male weightlifter, Kendrick Farris, proves that. He turned vegan in 2014 and has since broken records. In 2016, he broke the US record by lifting 168kg in the snatch and 209kg in the clean and jerk.
Go Vegan the Right Way
One of the most surprising things about a vegan diet is how varied it is. When most people think of vegan food, they imagine a plate of boring old vegetables, but there is so much different vegan food out there. Now, vegans have more choice than ever, and it's not just horrible fake meat. There's vegan cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and so much more. This is just as well because the key to a healthy diet is variety. You hear lots of people say things like “I tried going vegan/vegetarian for a while and it made me ill, so I went back to meat”. The problem is not the lack of meat, but the lack of variety. Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables makes it much easier to get all the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs, too.
How to Get Strong on a Vegan Diet
There is protein in everything that we eat. In fact, you'd be surprised how much protein you can get from just plants. If you're going to train like these guys, you'll need 1.5-2g of protein for every kilogram of body weight, and it's entirely possible to get that without chicken breasts or whey protein shakes. But if you do need to supplement with protein powder, there are plenty of vegan versions of that available, too.
Learn more about how to power up with vegan protein.
Image credit: John Norris (https://www.flickr.com/photos/143975816@N08/)