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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!

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.

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.

Run fast on plant foods

The American sprinter, Elijah Hall, says: “Changing my diet was the best decision I could have made.” The athlete made this decision to ditch meat and dairy from his diet a few months ago because “he’s on a mission” to win. Hall adds, “the effects that it’s having on my body is amazing. Becoming a plant-based athlete has opened many doors to my health and my training.”

Hall holds records in the indoor 200 meters and was training for the Tokyo Olympics that were scheduled to take place this month, but was postponed a year due to the pandemic. Last year, Hall said he took the entire summer off to train, “Took the summer off to get it right… Let’s get to it !!” When it comes to track and field, a plant food diet means getting it right!

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.

NBA star JaVale McGee promotes vegan lifestyle

JaVale McGee shoots for the hoop
JaVale McGee

NBA star JaVale McGee plays center for the Denver Nuggets.  He is using his passion for vegan food and his star power to help promote vegan food products and a foundation called JUGLIFE, which provides clean, safe drinking water in underdeveloped areas of the world.

McGee went vegan in 2016, and credits his plant-based diet with helping him “get up and down the court.” In 2018, McGee helped his team, then the Golden State Warriors, win an NBA championship title, which he credited in part to his plant-based diet.  He actively promotes plant-based brands to athletes and fans.  McGee was one of the investors, alongside legendary musician Snoop Dogg, to help Outstanding Foods close a $5 million financing round last year. 

In addition to his support of Outstanding Foods, McGee has been an athlete ambassador for vegan brand Beyond Meat since 2019 after he and a group of 13 other professional athletes invested in the brand—which also counts Snoop Dogg as an investor. “Shifting to a plant-based diet has been a literal game changer,” McGee said at the time. “And I’m excited to have my two favorite LA brands partnering to make plant-based eating not only delicious, but accessible.” 

John Salley – vegan advocate

John Salley, a former professional basketball player and four-time National Basketball Association championship winner—urges athletes to go vegan for optimal performance.

A proud native of Brooklyn, New York, John found a love for basketball at an early age. He accepted a Basketball Scholarship to Georgia Tech to play for legendary head coach Bobby Cremins. During his career, he played for the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and the LA Lakers.

He learned about the importance of healthy eating for his performance early in his career, and has been fully vegan since at least 2008.

“Being a vegetarian to me was my edge, the way I was going to be ahead of the guy I had to play against. He couldn’t beat me as long as he was harboring tons of flesh in his stomach at that time.” John Salley

John has been a staunch advocate for vegan diets, particularly as a health measure for athletes and to prevent harm to animals. He appeared before the US Congress to advocate for vegetarians options to be served in public schools as part of the Child Nutrition Act discussions, and has promoted Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals.

“I want to let everyone know you don’t have to be a wimp [to go plant-based] or have a bad attitude about it, and it tastes as good as the stuff that they told you was good for you,” Salley said. “Now you have something that is a good product and the same taste, but no animals have to die. I’m an advocate for life.”

Alex Morgan, soccer champ’s, advantage!

You’ve probably heard by now that last week, the Women’s US Soccer team blasted their way to a 4th world championship with a 13-0 win over Thailand.  While skill and a rigorous training schedule, plus a lot of determination, have a lot to do with it, Alex Morgan, co-captain of the team, has another advantage – she’s vegan!

In a recent interview with Time, Morgan revealed that switching to a vegan diet has been key to her success on the field. She first adopted a vegan diet, “because it didn’t feel fair to have a dog I adore, and yet eat meat all the time,” she told Reuters. She soon discovered that eating a plant-based diet improved her energy during practice and games. On World Vegan Day, she announced on Twitter that she’d never felt better after eating vegan for a year.

Morgan joins many other athletes in discovering the vegan advantage.  In sports as wide ranging as football, basketball, tennis and weight lifting, several top sports stars freely acknowledge the advantage that going vegan has given them.  See our article on strength and endurance for more examples.

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