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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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Champion surfer Tia Blanco is a vegan

Champion surfer, Tia Blanco, choses a vegan lifestyle, and has found it to have a positive impact on her performance. As she grew up in California and Hawaii, Tia Blanco took to surfing at a young age, and by age 17, she was already winning national titles. She now lives in Southern California. She represented Puerto Rico as a pro-surfer in the Pan-Am Games, and continues to compete at a high level, ranking in the top 50 female surfers internationally.  

To maintain this level of performance, she trains daily, spending up to 8 hours a day in the water or working out on land.

She says, “I feel healthier on a clean, whole foods diet that is very simple — especially during competition. And since a plant-based diet is less calorically dense than other diets, I need to make sure I’m eating enough food so I up my portions a lot. I think of veggies as nutrition and water, not a food where I can get energy so I don’t even count veggies when I’m counting calories and nutrition. For energy, I go to potatoes, whole grains, and starchy veggies. I’m obsessed with carrots and sweet potatoes.” 

She also makes sure to consume plenty of legumes and nuts, along with protein shakes, although she admits that’s more because she likes the taste, as she doesn’t feel short of protein.

Having been raised vegetarian, Tia decided to go vegan in 2013 after thinking about her food choices carefully.  She recognizes the benefits of a vegan diet from both a compassion for animals, environmental and a health perspective, and has become active in promoting plant-based diets. Although she’s very open about her ethical beliefs regarding animals when it comes to veganism, and how a vegan diet has fueled her through her impressive athletic accomplishments to date, Blanco strives to keep her relationship with food and others positive — especially with so many other pro surfers adhering to meat-heavy Paleo diets.

“I definitely get my haters,” she says. “Even when I was vegetarian not everyone agreed with it, obviously. But I don’t push my beliefs on others. I express the benefits if people are asking, and in my case people were asking. I never tell people how to eat. Respect what’s on my plate, I’ll respect what’s on yours.”

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!

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.

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.

Quarterback Justin Fields chooses vegan for performance

Justin Fields 2022

Justin Fields, the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears, has discovered that following a plant-based diet makes him lighter and faster.  He first tried it in May 2020 while he was quarantined with his family, and they all decided to do a one-month plant-based challenge.  During that month, Fields noticed how his body felt better, and so at the end of the month, he continued with the diet, while the rest of his family went back to eating meat and dairy products.

Fields was drafted as the Bears’ number one choice in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, after playing college football at Ohio State university. He continued with the Bears into the 2022 season.  Of his vegan diet, he says:

“It’s changed the way I feel and the way I perform dramatically. I just feel so much lighter and faster. Football as a sport is so hard on your body so I just want to do anything I can to have the longest career possible.”

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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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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.

Chris Paul, 12 year NBA all-star, credits plant-based diet

Chris Paul 2022

NBA veteran, Chris Paul, made his 12th appearance on the NBA All-Star team in February, and credits his plant-based diet with helping him gain energy and reduce muscle aches both on and off the court.  The 37-year-old Phoenix Suns point guard decided to give a plant-based diet a try in 2019, and after experiencing many health and fitness benefits, he chose to stick with it.

“When I first went plant-based, it was for performance purposes but once I saw how my body changed and how I felt—it was for life,” Paul said in an interview with GQ. “Years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even gone outside to run around with my kids and all the other activities because my body would be aching. Now, with the constant lifting and making sure that my body is always ready, it’s been a good lifestyle change for me.” 

Before he went vegan, Chris enjoyed foods including fried chicken and burgers, but his commitment to a plant-based diet has led him to try a lot of new foods.  He finds vegan versions of his favorite foods, such as chocolate chip cookies and pancakes, and uses substitute products such as JUST Egg and Beyond Meat sausage as staples in his breakfasts.  For lunch, he typically eats a salad or a veggie bowl, along with a protein smoothie, while his dinners are prepared by a professional chef using plenty of beans, grains and vegetables.

Chris has managed to convince his father to give the diet a try too, and Charles Paul noticed health benefits such as lower cholesterol since he replaced chicken eggs with JUST Egg.  In October, Chris will lead the Phoenix Suns in his 18th season of professional basketball – a feat that only a few have achieved.  We think his diet has something to do with that!

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