What Do Top Athletes Think About Plant-Based Eating?

What Do Top Athletes Think About Plant-Based Eating?

A new Netflix documentary showcasing the high-level athletes who swear by plant-based eating takes veganism to new heights. Created and presented by James Wilks, a former Ultimate Fighting Champion who discovered the power of plants while recovering from a potentially career-ending injury, ‘The Game Changers’ includes a host of famous names, including Lewis Hamilton and Novak Djokovic.

Here’s why going vegan could be the best move you make…

Going Vegan Isn’t Just A Trend For Top Athletes

Bone samples dating back to the gladiators have shown these ancient warriors were some of the very first non-meat eaters. It also didn’t take long for Olympic athletes to prove you can win gold medals and be vegetarian: committed veggie Emil Voigt took home a gold medal at the London Olympics of 1908. Fast forward to 2012 and American track cyclist Dotsie Bausch became the oldest woman to take home a silver medal after turning vegan only three years before.

You Can Actually Get More Protein By Eating Plants 

Most of the world’s protein sources are found in plants. We often think that, by eating animals, we absorb all the protein they consume. But animals only tend to produce one-sixth of the protein they consume. Still not convinced? Look at it this way: a cup of cooked lentils or a peanut-butter sandwich has the same amount of protein as 3oz of beef or three large eggs.

Cutting Out Meat Won’t Make You Weak

If Jackie Chan and Novak Djokovic aren’t proof that going vegan doesn’t hold you back, Germany’s strongest man Patrik Baboumian offers up an interesting perspective: “Someone asked me how could you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat and my answer was, have you ever seen an ox eating meat?” Baboumian holds multiple world records in weightlifting, and went veggie in 2005 before turning vegan in 2011. Food for thought, indeed.  

A whole host of top-performing athletes reckon they recover more quickly after going plant-based.

We All Need To Be Supplementing

Whether or not you eat meat, most humans are still deficient in B12 – a crucial vitamin for fighting low energy. Several doctors featured in The Game Changers agree that, vegan or not, the only way to boost your B12 level is to take a supplement. Humans can’t make their own vitamin C either – fruit and veggies are a great source of this if tablets aren’t your thing. 

Eating Just One Hamburger Has A Serious Effect On Your Body

A pretty gruesome experiment involving three NFL footballers will have you reaching for the veggie menu. The effect on the quality of the athletes’ blood samples after eating a beef, chicken or bean burrito for dinner makes for some stomach-churning viewing. The upshot is, if you still want to include meat in your diet, make it a special treat. 

A Plant-Based Diet Could Speed Up Recovery Time

A whole host of top-performing athletes reckon they recover more quickly after going plant-based. As Bausch says, an athlete’s life is made up of damage and recovery - day in, day out. And while traditional thinking tells us athletes can’t recover in time for the next day’s training without chowing down on a good steak, the latest research shows us that switching to a plant-based diet could actually take inflammation in the body down by another 29%. 

Eating Plants Can Halve Your Risk Of Heart Disease 

Athletes aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from a higher proportion of fruit and veg in their diet. Eating fewer meat-heavy meals lowers your chance of developing heart disease or cancer. Look out for the part in Game Changers where a group of New York City firefighters are told that the most likely way to die in the line of duty isn’t from smoke inhalation or injury, but from a heart attack. 

There’s A Link Between Eating Meat And Erectile Dysfunction

Former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger admits he was seriously sceptical of going vegan after being raised to believe that ‘eating like a man’ equalled lots of meat. Ironically, doctors now think the more meat men eat, the more likely they are to suffer from erectile dysfunction. It’s still early days as far as scientific evidence is concerned, but one of the film’s more graphic experiments might make you rethink your Valentine’s Day plans.

Our Physiology Doesn’t Prove We’re Meat Eaters

The assumption is that human teeth are a clear sign of our carnivorism. But experts in the film point out that human beings don’t have the same long incisors found in other carnivorous animals. Our teeth are flatter and squarer, suggesting we’re actually better at crushing plants and vegetables, not tearing the meat off animal bones. Research also shows our brains are desperate for glucose, the main driver of our energy, with carbohydrates offering the best source. 

Eating Meat Devastates The Environment

If athletic performance isn’t motivation enough to make a dietary change, it’s worth remembering that rearing enough livestock to feed the world’s population has a devastating effect on the local environment. Oxford researchers found that meat, dairy, egg and fish farming use 83% of the world’s farmland but only provide 18% of the world’s calories. And that’s before considering the impact on air quality and water pollution.

Five Quick Tips To Help You Go Vegan


Know Your ‘Why’

It’s hard to keep the big picture in mind when faced with the thought of a Sunday roast on a chilly winter afternoon. Whether it’s helping the environment or improving your kid’s nutrition, get to grips with why you want to make the change to ensure you stick to it.


Start Small

Party season isn’t the best time to overhaul your entire diet, so start by dedicating just one day a week to plant-based eating. That way you can make enough small changes ahead of trying out ‘Veganuary’ in the New Year.


Hit Up Amazon

Don’t live near a Whole Foods and the local supermarket just not cutting it? Head online to find the best vegan swaps. Alongside the more usual vegetarian alternatives, give this dairy-free alternative to Baileys a go this Christmas.


Relax At Restaurants

If you’re struggling to get the rest of the family on board, try compromising. If meals at home revolve around plant-based recipes, restaurants can be a time to relax the rules. This will still help cut the amount of meat in your diet, while allowing kids and spouses some freedom of choice.


Keep Reading

Immersing yourself in the subject will act as a helpful reminder of all the benefits of plant-based eating. There are tons of great cookbooks and science-driven articles out there. We like 15 Minute Vegan by Katy Beskow for fast, week-night supper ideas.

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