The vegan movement has gained a lot of traction in recent years. To the extent that nowadays most people actually know what you mean when you say you’re a vegan. This is good news for plant-based advocates tired of fielding questions like: “So, no eggs or cheese?”
The not so great news, however, is that veganism is still seen as a hippie diet that couldn’t possibly sustain anything more strenuous than knitting. After all, we’re only eating lettuce, right?
If you’re on the fence (or downright skeptical) about eating a plant-based diet, these vegan athletes will go a long way to addressing your concerns. Who knows, they may even convince you to move over to the green side.
Debunking the Protein Myth
Our bodies need protein. It’s an essential nutrient, necessary to build and repair muscle tissue (amongst other things). On that fact at least, we can all agree. The discrepancy comes when we start questioning things like quantity and source.
As someone who has eaten a strictly plant-based diet for more than six years, I don’t think we need as much protein as we’re led to believe. More to the point, we don’t need to get it from meat, eggs or dairy.
That said, having never been to medical school or anywhere near an Ironman course (let alone competed in one), I get that my street cred is a little underwhelming.
Instead, I’ll look to vegan ultra-endurance athlete, Rich Roll, to debunk the protein myth, while leaving Holly Wilson, MD to address the protein question in way more detail than I could ever hope to. (In case you’re wondering, having canine teeth doesn’t make us meat-eaters.)
Vegan Athletes Making Their Mark with Plants
There’s a vegan athlete uprising happening and it’s pretty cool. Hopefully it’ll sway people’s opinions regarding what’s possible on a plant-based diet. What’s even more encouraging is that the younger generation appears to be leading the charge, with the number of vegan millennials on the rise.
What do a NASCAR driver, a 420-pound ex-football player turned cover model and a twelve-year-old racquetball player have in common? At first glance, nothing much. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that all three have an overarching theme in their lives that clearly unites them.
Leilani Münter: Vegan NASCAR Driver
Photo Credit: VeganPowered.org
Leilani Münter is a biology graduate turned race car driver and environmental activist. On the track she races her vegan powered car with the kind of focused determination it takes to be named one of the top ten female race car drivers in the world by Sports Illustrated.
Off the track, you’ll find her lobbying for one of the many the causes close to heart. Her slogan: ‘Never underestimate a vegan hippie chick in a race car’ says everything you need to know about the woman Discovery’s Planet Green dubbed the #1 eco athlete in the world.
Leilani is also not the only vegan race car driver. Landon Cassill and Spencer Pumpelly are both flying the ‘friends, not food’ flag on the track as well. By the way, Leilani is 43 years old, so clearly there’s some truth to the notion that going vegan will help you look younger.
Cody Elkins: Racquetball Player
At just twelve years old, Cody Elkins is already a noted vegan athlete with numerous accolades to his credit. He won the 2013 American Junior Racquetball Championships at the age of eight. In 2014 he went on to clinch the California State Champion title and finished third in the Junior Olympics.
Along with winning the 2015 World Indoor Championships, Cody was also ranked #2 in the USA in 2015 in the 10 and under category. Oh, and he also finished third in the world Outdoor Championships that same year.
But that’s not enough for this plant-powered star. Cody is also a black belt in karate and trains daily with his teacher, Keith Cooke. A budding chef and activist, this kid enjoys cooking vegan lasagne with his mom and winning his friends over to veganism. Cody became vegan at the ripe old age of two, proving that kids can do just fine without milk and cheese.
Photo Credit: GreatVeganAthletes.com
Josh LaJaunie: Endurance Athlete
Photo Credit: JoshLaJaunie.com
Josh LaJaunie went from being a 420-pound ex–football player to winning the Runner’s World cover search competition. The guy is nothing if not downright inspiring. Born and raised in south Louisiana, Josh says he grew up hunting, fishing, drinking, eating, playing football and getting fat.
Were it not for all the before and after photos, it would be easy to renounce his claims as gross exaggeration. But no, old Josh was very much larger than life and a far cry from the sleek, fit looking dude gracing the cover of a top running magazine.
From his first 10K, which he managed in 1:43, Josh recently completed a marathon in 3:24. A PR (personal record) he hopes to cut by another 14 minutes in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, arguably one of the tougher road races out there. No doubt, he’ll do it.
These are just a few of the athletes competing in their field on a plant-based diet. There are plenty more of them out there. Just search for vegan bodybuilders, vegan runners, vegan tennis players and more, and you’ll find them.
Athletic prowess is a clear bonus, but the rewards of being vegan are evident in everyday life as well. Health improvements such as acne clearing up, arthritis easing up and IBS symptoms disappearing completely have all been attributed to eating a plant-based diet.
The proof is in the plant-based pudding. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose, except for those excess pounds. What do you say, are you keen to sign up for the 7-Day Vegan Challenge?
Photo credit: Thinkstock