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18 Vegan Athletes Who Swear Their Plant-Based Diets Help Them Succeed

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The previous school of thought: In order to get big and strong, you need to eat meat, and lots of it. But now, tons of vegan and plant-based athletes are proving everyone wrong. In fact, recent research from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that vegan athletes get the benefit of a higher intake of carbohydrates, fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other micronutrients than omnivores. And all of that can contribute to prime performance, whether they’re lifting weights or running miles.

So yeah, you can totally stick to that veggie-centric life and crush those PRs. Need more proof? Check out some badass vegan athletes who are showing the world that strong bodies aren’t only made at a steakhouse.

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1

Alex Morgan

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup champ Alex Morgan fuels her soccer game with a vegan diet. “It makes me stronger and helps with fatigue and recovery,” Alex told USA Today in an interview. And during the World Cup, she shared the U.S. Women’s National Team chef prepared special vegan meals for the athlete.

“I never thought it was possible I could be playing at an elite level as a professional athlete with a plant-based diet,” she said. “Then I realized it wasn’t detrimental at all.”

2

Tia Blanco

This World Surfing Games champion has been riding the vegan wave for the last seven years, after having maintained a vegetarian diet from birth. On her YouTube channel, she shared that she starts her day with refreshing lemon water and a vegan smoothie made with in-season, fruits, leafy greens, and sources of healthy fats like hemp seeds.

But it’s not always smooth sailing. She told Great Vegan Athletes that traveling makes it particularly difficult to stick to a raw vegan diet, so she ends up opting for lots of pasta, brown rice, and bread on the road. Hey, nothing wrong with a little carbo-loading before a major event.

3

Meagan Duhamel

Meat wasn’t behind the metals for this two-time figure skating world champion and Olympic gold medalist. After reading a book about veganism at an airport bookstore, Meagan told CBC she immediately cleaned out her fridge of meat products and made the switch to a diet focused on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Since switching to veganism, she’s noticed major boosts in her energy levels and athletic performance on the ice.

4

Steph Davis

It’s always been difficult for this world-class rock climber to reconcile her love of animals and simultaneously consume them. So in 2002, Steph shared on her blog that she cut out animal products to stop funding an industry that holds animals captive “in wretched living conditions [while being] killed violently.” The vegan athlete adds that while fighting animal cruelty is her main goal, “if I climb better and feel better on top of it, all the better.”

5

Venus Williams

When the former Grand Slam and Olympic tennis champion was diagnosed with autoimmune disease Sjorgen syndrome in 2011, she looked to a raw vegan diet to help her get back on the court in full swing. But more recently, Venus told Insider that she’s added a few non-raw items back into her diet, like rice, potatoes, and lentils to sustain her training.

6

Molly Cameron

The only trans athlete to compete in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup, Molly’s success as a pro bike racer is due in part to her vegan diet. She told Viva La Vegan that she cut out meat “accidentally” in 1999 because she didn’t like the taste. But what motivated her to adopt a stricter vegan diet were the positive effects on the environment and her improved athletic performance. “Eating organic and whole food keeps my energy level and mental focus consistent,” Molly told Organic Athlete. “It is the logical step when living a super active and conscious lifestyle.”

7

Hannah Teter

After watching the documentary Earthlings, this animal-loving Olympic-snowboarding gold champion became a vegan athlete. But after taking a closer look at how factory farms treat animals, she decided to cut out animal byproducts entirely. “My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete,” Hannah said in an interview with HuffPost. “It’s a whole other level that I’m elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it’s a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete.”

8

Jahina Malik

Bodybuilder Jahina is known for a lot more than her impressive lineup of titles like NPC Eastern USA Bodybuiding Champion and IFBB Pro Physique Pro Card holder. As the first ever vegan bodybuilder since birth, she told Meat Free Athlete that she considers veganism a lifestyle, and not a diet. Plant-based foods like couscous, vegan chicken, and tofu help her recover from tough workouts. When asked about the advantages of being a vegan athlete, she told Plant Built: “For me, it’s breaking all the stereotypes and barriers that vegans can’t bodybuild.”

9

Morgan Mitchell

Runners are notoriously focused on upping their carb intake to promote strength and endurance on the road or track, but this Olympic sprinter takes pride in finding wholesome protein-rich, plant-based foods to fuel her incredible feats of athleticism. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that she won her first Olympic medal two years after swearing off meat and its byproducts. “I recover a lot quicker than I used to,” the vegan athlete told Live Kindly. “It’s easier to keep my weight down and I haven’t been sick at all.”

10

Pat Neshek

Baseball isn’t all hot dogs and cheese fries. For free agent pitcher Pat, it’s about optimizing performance as a vegan athlete, he told the Star Tribune. While his teammates have teased him for his plant-based food choices, he takes solace in knowing his game has improved since first going vegan after reading The China Study. Hey, at least sunflower seeds are vegan-approved.

11

Patrik Baboumian

You might equate a vegan diet with scrawny, sinewy muscles, but strongman Patrik is anything but that at five foot seven and 256 pounds. After earning the title of Germany’s Strongest Man in 2011, he went vegan shortly thereafter, according to Barbend. On his YouTube channel, he shared what a typical day of eating looks like: vegan sausage, falafel, oven fries, tofu, and smoothies, clocking in at over 5,000 calories and 400 grams of protein.

12

Colin Kaepernick

Football fans know and love Colin for his boundless skill and agility as a quarterback and former San Francisco 49er, as well as his political activism advocating for racial equality in America. It’s thus little surprise that Kaepernick’s compassion extends towards animals as well, and he sticks to a vegan diet. [LET’S CITE WHERE THIS LINK IS GOING TO]

13

Sarah Stewart

Superstar Sarah won three Australian championships, placed in the All-Star Five for five years, and won three Paralympic games—and she credits her success to a vegan diet, which she adopted in her late teens. “I think being vegan makes me healthier,” she told Great Vegan Athletes. “I certainly believe that vegetable carbs and protein along with all their nutrients build better, cleaner bodies, including muscles, without all the bad-for-you animal fats. And trying to avoid causing pain and suffering along the way is a great thing too.”

14

Abel Trujillo

Having recently competed in the lightweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship as a mixed martial artist, Abel, also known as “Killa,” has a gentler side fans don’t often see on camera. He told Raise Vegan that he wanted to make veganism a part of his life after taking up Kundalini yoga. “Energetically, this type of yoga is a sacred science of becoming in your higher-self, so your diet must be pure and clean,” he said in an interview. “This is why all the holiest people on the planet […] don’t eat meat.” He looks to foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts to “heal and purify the body.”

15

Madi Serpico

Professional triathlete Madi Serpico is all about life as a vegan athlete. “I did some research and watched Forks [O]ver Knives and Earthlings and decided that I didn’t want any part of animal cruelty, not to mention putting poison in my body,” she told Viva.

16

Ruth Heidrich

After being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in her forties, Ruth switched to a vegan diet, according to her website. Two years later, she became the first vegan athlete to run the Kona Ironman Triathlon. Now, at 83 years old, she’s competed in over 900 races, including five more Ironman Triathlons—proving a vegan lifestyle can fuel incredible athletic feats, at any age.

17

Rocky Luedeker

Sure, age is just a number, but 63-year-old Leudeker wouldn’t have been able to break 14 powerlifting world records and 33 state and national records without the help of the vegan diet she adopted 16 years ago. “I eat a variety of foods with various grains, beans, vegetables, tofu and a bowl of fruit for dessert,” she told Vegan Health and Fitness magazine. “The morning of a competition, I eat a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter mixed in, and a glass of grapefruit or orange juice. The only supplement that I take is turmeric. I do not use protein powder or take B12 or any other supplement.”

18

Dana Glowacka

Dana Glowacka holds the women’s world record for the longest plank. (FYI: It’s 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 55 seconds, according to Guinness World Records.) To make it even more impressive, Dana is a vegan athlete. “Vegan diets are the best to prepare for endurance and recovery—I am absolutely convinced!” she wrote on Instagram.

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Nutrition

The 9 Best Spiralizers For Making Zoodles In 2020, According To Test Kitchen Reviews

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Since zoodles made spiralized vegetables a thing a few years back, pretty much every vegetable under the sun has found itself in noodle form at some point. (Even beets…)

And, frankly, veggie noodles are kind of the bomb. “Spiralized vegetables fit into many diet styles including keto, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian,” says dietitian Jenna Appel, RD. “They instantly boost your fiber, vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant intakes, while lowering carbs and calories (since they often replace processed carbs like pasta.”

For that reason, incorporating more spiralized vegetables into your eats can help you feel more satiated while cutting down on calories so you can either lose or better maintain your weight, according to Appel.

Of course, to sneak extra veggies into your diet and make your meals look so much prettier, you need to get yourself a spiralizer. Once you have one handy, you can hit the produce aisle and go to town.

“Veggies like zucchini, carrots, beets, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes all spiralize well, but what many people don’t realize is that you can also spiralize fruits, like apples, pears, and melons,” says Appel. (She likes using her spiralizer to make pesto zucchini noodles with chicken or cozy sweet potato noodles with meatballs.)

But which spiralizers will turn your veggies into true noodles—and not just stringy piles of mush? Since there are an overwhelming number of options on Amazon, the Women’s Health Test Kitchen tried out a ton of veggie spiralizers to narrow down the best of the best.

Here are nine of the best spiralizers out there, from the hand-helds to the electric-powered.

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Nutrition

The 10 Best Edible Flowers To Decorate Your Food, According To A Nutritionist

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Not long ago, edible flowers were reserved for fancy bakeries and Michelin-starred restaurants. And then Instagram happened. Fun as decorating your smoothie bowls and other eats with edible flowers may be, though, it’s not a total free-for-all. (No, you can’t just turn any old bouquet into a salad.)

“The term, ‘edible’ simply indicates that the flower was grown in a food-safe way, meaning it wasn’t treated with unsafe pesticides or preservatives,” explains Todd Seyfarth, RD, dietitian, chef, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Johnson & Wales University. “It also means that the flower doesn’t naturally contain any compounds we’ve identified as dangerous or toxic.”

Not all edible flowers are actually worth eating, though. “Often, plants with vivid and deep colors are bitter on the palate, so [appreciation for their taste] will vary from person to person,” says Seyfarth. If you’re not a fan of bitter flavor, you’ll probably want to remove those deep-hued petals from your food after snapping a pic for the ‘gram.

That said, deeply-colored flowers are often the most nutrient-rich (like all edible plants, edible flowers contain important vitamins and minerals). “The more colorful the plant and deeper the flavor, the more antioxidant power the plant usually has,” Seyfarth says.

If you’re intrigued by flowering up your food, make sure to only purchase flowers marked as edible. “They are harder to find, but gourmet grocers usually have them,” says Seyfarth.

From there, you’ll want to prep your flowers a little differently than other fruits and vegetables. “Most flowers are very delicate and will be damaged by rough washing,” says Seyfarth, who recommends dipping edible flowers into a bowl of clean water and carefully hand-drying them.

Add some flower power to your next meal with one of the following 10 popular edible petals.

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Nutrition

The 8 Best Non-Dairy Coffee Creamers That Taste As Good As Half-And-Half

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Dairy-Free Creamers

Jason Speakman

Not long ago, if you wanted to keep your morning coffee plant-based, you were stuck with a rather lame splash of soy or almond milk. Thanks to all sorts of new non-dairy creamers hitting store shelves, though, you can now make your java super creamy and dreamy—without using anything that comes from a cow.

“Many people are moving away from cow’s milk and toward non-dairy milks, like almond and rice, for health and environmental reasons,” says meatless dietitian Kristine Duncan, RDN. And now that plant-based milks and yogurts have gone mainstream, non-dairy creamers are a natural next step.

In addition to being more sustainable and easier on your stomach (I feel you, lactose intolerant peeps), non-dairy creamers are often lower in calories and boast better nutrition than your usual salted caramel half-and-half.

“Many people who add cream and sugar to their coffee don’t consider the additional calories,” Duncan says. Just one tablespoon of heavy cream contains about 50 calories, and many popular creamers contain upwards of five grams of sugar (not to mention artificial ingredients) per serving.

Non-dairy options, meanwhile, often contain less than 10 calories and little sugar per serving, says Duncan. They’re typically lower in saturated fat, too.

To make sure your dairy-free creamer is quality, make sure the first ingredients on its ingredient list aren’t sugar or oil, Duncan recommends. (If you plan to add your own sugar, opt for a creamer that’s completely unsweetened.)

Ready to mix up your morning cup of Joe? These eight nutritionist-approved non-dairy creamers are everything you’ve wanted and more.

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1

Nut Pods Original Unsweetened Oat Creamer

nutpods.com

Made with just oat milk, vegetable oils, and thickeners, this creamer keeps it simple. Though oat milk isn’t anything fancy, its natural sweetness and creamy texture have made it one of the most popular dairy-free coffee-enhancers out there right now, Duncan says. Nut Pods’ unsweetened option is a good one. 

Per tbsp: 10 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

2

Califia Farms Original Better Half Coconut Cream & Almondmilk Creamer

califiafarms.com

This cleverly-named half-and-half from Califia Farms is made with almond milk and coconut cream for sweet flavor and thick, creamy texture. Since it’s fortified with calcium, you’ll also score a small amount of the bone-building mineral that dairy usually boasts about.

Per tbsp: 10 calories, 1 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 0.5 g carbs, 0.5 g sugar, 15 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

3

Vital Proteins Vanilla Collagen Creamer

vitalproteins.com

Some people find that adding collagen to their coffee really ups the froth factor (especially when blended). Made with collagen protein from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and coconut milk powder, this creamer is a little higher in calories, but can add staying power to your morning sips.

Bonus: It’s Whole30-approved. 

Per tbsp: 70 calories, 4.5 g fat (4.5 g saturated), 2 g carbs, 0.5 g sugar, 28 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 5 g protein

4

Nutiva Organic MCT Creamer

nutiva.com

If you’re all about the Bulletproof coffee or keto life, this fat-fueled creamer is for you, Duncan suggests. It’s made from organic coconut oil, coconut milk powder, and coconut sugar. (Hope you like the taste of coconut.)  

Per tbsp: 40 calories, 3 g fat (3 g saturated), 1 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 0 g protein

5

New Barn Barista Almondmilk Creamer

newbarnorganics.com

This almond milk is richer and creamier than most options, and contains a little cane sugar for just the sweetness your java needs.

“It may be sweetened, but it has a very simple ingredient list,” says Duncan. “Plus, it’s slightly lower in calories than the others.”

Per tbsp: 8 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 3 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

6

Silk Original Dairy-Free Soy Creamer

silk.com

Since Silk is such a mainstream brand, this dairy-free creamer is probably one of the easiest to find. It’s made with soy milk, sugar, oil, and thickeners, so it feels a little more indulgent than some of the other options, says Duncan.

Per tbsp: 20 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 2 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

7

So Delicious Organic Dairy-Free Coconutmilk Creamer

sodeliciousdairyfree.com

Made with basically just coconut cream and water, this unsweetened creamer has big, sweet coconut flavor, says Duncan. You won’t even miss the sugar. 

Per tbsp: 15 calories, 1 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

8

Ripple Original Plant-Based Half & Half

ripplefoods.com

If you’re looking for an alternative to nut milk-based creamers, try this one, suggests Duncan. It’s made with just pea protein, oil, water, and thickeners. Though not the lowest-calorie option of the bunch, it contains zero grams of saturated fat—a plus for those watching their intake.

Per tbsp: 18 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 30 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

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