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Athletes perform on a plant-based diet

DeAndre Jordan

NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist DeAndre Jordan has experienced first-hand the health and performance benefits of a plant-based diet. He is in tune with what he puts into his body and understands how a balanced, plant-centered diet impacts his performance on and off the court.   

“I started my plant-based journey three years ago and haven’t looked back. As a professional athlete and a parent, I’m constantly thinking about ways to nourish my body and enhance my performance, while also balancing a healthy, mindful lifestyle at home. Whether at home or on the road, my morning always starts with a healthy, high-protein breakfast that keeps me going throughout the day.” said Jordan, a three-time All-NBA and two-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. 

Jordan, along with Jrue Holiday, point-guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, have recently been names as professional athlete brand ambassadors for the plant-based egg substitute brand, JUST Egg. “As a former college athlete, I have a deep admiration and appreciation for the work that professional athletes put into their sport which starts with how they treat their bodies. I’m thrilled to welcome DeAndre and Jrue as our first ambassadors at Eat Just and I’m proud to share the same commitment to eating a healthier plant-based diet, while also making our communities stronger and our planet more sustainable,” said Josh Tetrick, CEO and co-founder of Eat Just. 

This marks the beginning of Eat Just’s athlete ambassador program as more professional athletes across different sports are changing their relationship with food and embracing plant-forward eating. We’re sure that promoting their dietary choices will help inspire many others to give plant-based eating a try!

David Verburg, athlete and animal rights advocate

David Verburg

Runner David Verburg was a 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 4×400 meter relay.  He’s also a vegan. It started over two years ago, because he was doing a lot of work with animal recues and became a big advocate for the animals. 

In 2018 in Clemont, FL, Verburg ran into traffic at an intersection to rescue a turtle that had wandered into traffic. A video of this went viral on social media and made him an unexpected star.  He subsequently started the Golden Tortoise Rescue Foundation in his home state of Florida.

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Shaquille O’Neal goes vegan

Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O’Neal in 2017

Retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has announced that he’s going vegan, during a May 2 interview with Rip Michaels, host of the show Urban Eats & Treats.  He had previously followed a high-protein, low-carb diet, but he’s realized that following a vegan diet, including vegan versions of many of his favorite junk foods such as cheeseburgers, gives him many advantages, including enabling him to continue to eat the way he prefers, while avoiding packing on too many pounds.

At 7-foot-11, and 320 pounds, the former NBA star is now 50 years old and wants to look after his health, while still enjoying his favorite foods.  He has discovered that is possible, by frequenting a vegan restaurant in Atlanta where he can get a cheeseburger without the guilt.  He used to think that a healthy diet consists of salad, steak and fish, but finds that eating vegan food helps him feel lighter and more energized, and healthier than he used to feel.

For breakfast, he enjoys a vegan smoothie, with blueberries, peanut butter and bananas, inspired by vegan NFL star Tom Brady.  Shaq joins many other vegan athletes who have discovered the benefits of a plant-based diet, including female athletes such as tennis champion Venus Williams and soccer star Alex Morgan.

Plant-based man vs Tesla!

Can a marathoner outlast a Tesla electric car?  Vegan ultra-endurance runner Robbie Balenger has set his sights on running as far as a Tesla Model 3 on a single charge, estimated to be around 267 miles.  He gave himself 72 hours to do this (plus minimal sleeping time). They both started the journey 250 miles away from the newest Austin, Texas, Tesla factory on Monday April 11th.  Balenger has to also contend with 90 degree heat, some elevation gain, minimal sleep and even a few snakes.

In a recent press release, Balenger shared, “As a plant-based athlete, I have two key considerations when it comes to my diet: environmentalism and performance – and Tesla excels at both. Outlasting a Tesla will be the longest single effort I have undertaken. This excites me and terrifies me all at the same time, meaning I must be onto something good.” 

They started out at 5am, and ran the first mile together. By the end of the first day, the Tesla had driven 242 miles and was out of charge.  Balenger was at the 65 mile point when he heard that he had 57 hours left to close the gap. Last we heard, he was still going strong. We’re eagerly awaiting news of whether he was able to complete this challenge.

Balenger is not new to running, having completed 3,175 miles in 2019, running across the states in just 75 days to promote the benefits of a plant-based diet.  “My goal is to inspire people all across this country to start paying more attention to what they put inside of their bodies, and to be an example of someone who has made a radical change and feels better for it,” the athlete said.  He has also broken the record for the most laps run around New York’s Central Park in one day, when he ran 16 full loops in 18 hours and 7 minutes, breaking the previous record of 11 loops.

Ultrathon runner wins on vegan diet

Harvey Lewis

Ultrathon runner Harvey Lewis, 45-years old, won the most recent 135-mile Badwater endurance race, on a vegan diet.

Badwater is the most demanding running race offered anywhere on the planet. The race starts at 280 ft below sea level in California’s Death Valley, and finishes up at 8300 ft on Mount Whitney.  Lewis completed the race in under 26 hours, despite 100 degree heat. He has won this race before back in 2014, and has completed the race 10 times, with top wins half of those times. He credits plant-based nourishment for his endurance and athletic performance.

In 1996 at age 20, Lewis decided to become a vegetarian after his mother suffered a stroke at age only 54, which caused him to reassess the culture of the modern Western diet. Following a trip to the Australian rainforest for college credit and an overarching love for animals, Lewis considered his existing habits and their impact on his overall quality of life, as well as the impact on the planet.

More recently in 2016, he went fully vegan. He says being vegetarian, and now vegan, gives him the “necessary ingredients for my body to bounce back quickly from punishing endurance events.” He admits his daily nutrition varies significantly from his race-day intake, particularly for a 24-hour race. On a regular day, Lewis enjoys black bean burgers, traditional ethnic foods like Indian and Korean cuisine, and mango smoothies.

However, during lengthy races, he snacks on Clif bars and cran-razz shot bloks, Peppermint Patties, Coca-Cola, pizza and avocado sandwiches. For a race in the heat, like Badwater, Lewis relies on liquid calories, namely Clif hydration drinks and Coca-Cola. Lewis was featured on a No Meat Athlete podcast describing his Badwater win and race-day nutrition.

Several other ultrarunner athletes prefer plant-based diets, including a former member of ours, Scott Jurek, who co-authored a memoir called Eat & Run detailing his experiences with ultrarunning, going meatless in 1997, and becoming vegan in 1999.

Olympic cyclist powered by plant-based foods

Dotsie Bausch wins silver medal at 2012 Olympics

Dotsie Bausch credits her plant based diet with her gaining a spot on Team USA and subsequently winning a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics . 

At the age of 26, Dotsie Bausch was in therapy for eating disorders and drug addiction. Her therapist suggested that she find a sport she loved, so that she could spend more time exercising. She chose cycling and found a new passion.  Within a few years she was a professional cyclist, going on to win eight US National Championships and two Pan American Gold medals.

While training for the 2012 Olympics, she switched to a plant-based diet, after learning about the abuses of animal agriculture. Within the first 10 days of going plant-based, she noticed that she woke up feeling lighter and more energized, ready to get on the bike within an hour of getting up! She later went on to win an Olympic silver medal in women’s track cycling at the age of 40, a record for the competition.

“I had been competing professionally for about ten years before adopting a plant-based diet, but when I finally did (two years before the 2012 Olympics), it felt like rocket fuel. I was more energized and able to recover from workouts so much faster than ever before. As the oldest person to ever medal in my discipline, that recovery factor really helped me pursue and earn a spot on the Olympic team.” Dotsie said.

While she’s now retired from professional cycling, she still promotes a vegan diet, founding the nonprofit Switch4Good, which is focused on encouraging people, especially athletes, to drop dairy from their diet. She was featured in the 2019 movie, The Game Changers, and continues to give talks promoting plant-based diets.

Another NFL star goes vegan

Lineman Lawrence Guy

New England Patriots lineman Lawrence Guy is a 6’4″, 315-pound vegan. In fact, Guy is one of the biggest vegans in sports.

Guy switched to a vegan diet a couple of years ago and said it made his body feel better. His new vegan diet has helped him maintain his weight, feel energized, and stay fit despite the physical toll of football.

How did he make the switch? Guy and his wife decided to gradually remove meat products from their diet a few years ago, and they’ve reaped the physical benefits of the switch ever since. He explains, “My wife and I started taking out heavy red meat products and my body felt better, my joints felt better. I never really drank milk. Then we started taking out chicken. Then you go to the fish.” Now, they no longer feel groggy when they wake up in the morning, they don’t get bloated. Guy says he also no longer feels pain in his knees and joints.

The lineman incorporates vegan food into his training. For instance, after workouts, he’ll have a green smoothie or an acai bowl. His smoothies and acai bowls are made up of flax seeds, carrots, kale, spinach, mango. Throughout the day, he’ll snack on sweet potatoes, and apples to keep up his energy. Cauliflower is also a key ingredient in the meals Guy and his wife eat. They include cauliflower rice in a lot of their meals, and use it to make pizza crust with hummus topped with grilled veggies.

Lawrence Guy joins the growing list of professional athletes going vegan and being glad they did.

Sprinter Morgan Mitchell is vegan

Australian Morgan Mitchell went vegan at the age of 19, in 2013.  After competing in the 4×400 meters relay event at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games, she switched focus to the 800 meters and rapidly improved to come in sixth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (held in July 2021).

She has appeared in the media talking about the positive impacts a plant-based diet has had on her performance.  She describes what she eats each day as focused on protein-rich meals like breakfast burritos, vegan chicken salads, smoothies, burgers and Buddha bowls.

But eating vegan is more than just about health and performance.  When asked about her diet, she says: “the life of an animal and the wellbeing of the environment means more to me than any amount of money or the career path I wish to take” because the lives of the farm animals and the future of the environment depend on what we do.

Vegan powerlifter wins Belgian championship

photo credit Sahyuri Lalime via Instagram

The Belgian female champion powerlifter, Sahyuri Lalime, has just taken home the Belgian national title for the fourth year in a row, and she is vegan. The plant-powered athlete won best overall female lifter, lifting a total of 412.5kgs: 152.5kg squat, 80kg bench, and 180kg deadlift, which shows that you don’t need to eat meat to be strong!

Lalime has been vegetarian for nearly 20 years, and vegan since 2015. She went vegetarian when she left home for college, based on not wanting to kill animals.  Having lost her mother as a child, she became very sensitive to death and didn’t want to be a part of causing others to experience the same trauma.  At college, she learned about how dairy cows were treated and realized that a vegan lifestyle was preferable.  Sahyuri explains that the transition took her a while:

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