10 Vegan Professional Athletes (Busting The Protein Myth)

For many people the words “vegan” and “athletes” never go together in the same sentence. People often associate vegans with being weak and a lack of strength, and why is this? Oh yes, the whole “where do you get your protein” nonsense.

They think without meat you cannot get enough protein, and without protein you cannot build muscle and gain any strength, and therefore the idea of vegans being high level champion athletes is a complete joke…except it isn’t.

These are simply myths born out of complete ignorance to the reality. The fact of the matter is that there are many vegan professional athletes, not only that but they can beat meat-eating athletes and become champions.

In fact to bust the myth that all vegans are weak because they lack protein, the first example of a champion vegan athlete has the coveted title of being the strongest man in Germany.

1. Patrik Baboumian

Patrik Baboumian
The world’s strongest human, is 100% vegan. By Deivitrix, April 1, 2016

This vegan badass is living proof that a vegan diet can supply everything your body needs to become big and strong. Patrik Baboumian started as a vegetarian back in 2005 and then became a vegan in 2011, the same year he won the title of Germany’s Strongest Man.

Since then he has broken numerous weight lifting world records, including lifting a 150.2kg beer keg overhead in 2012, a 20kg front hold for nearly 1.5 hours, a 550.2kg yoke-walk over 10 meters in 2013, and a 560kg yoke-walk for 28 seconds in 2015, he’s done all that while being powered only by plant foods.

2. Mac Danzig

This retired MMA fighter and winner of The Ultimate Fighter 6 has been a vegan and an advocate for animal rights since 2004. He had enjoyed incredible success as a MMA fighter for a decade since going vegan, proving wrong all the people who criticized him for quitting animal foods.

When it comes to ‘manly’ sports such as mixed martial art fighting competitions, many people still believe firmly that lots of meat, dairy and eggs are the optimal diet for building strength and muscle. But Mac Danzig is a perfect example that proves all this “vegans are weak” nonsense are the only arguments that are weak. 

3. Carl Lewis

He is the winner of 9 Olympic gold medals, 1 Olympic silver medal, and 10 World Championships medals of which 8 are gold. He went vegan in 1990 because he learned that a plant-based diet can help improve athletic performance.

Just a year after he went vegan, he had arguably the best performance of his life in 1991 at the World Championships in the 100 meter races, winning 2 gold medals and 1 silver. Also, 3 of his Olympic gold medals were won after he went vegan.

I had all my personal bests after 30 years old with the new vegan and vegetarian diet, and most people think that’s unbelievable. But the reality is that we know that people can compete and have success without a heavy-based meat and higher protein diet. You can do it with other proteins which are all types of vegetables, legumes, starches, you can do it like that.  So for someone to have had their personal best at 30 when I was really not on a meat diet, just tells everyone you can do that.  – Carl Lewis

4. Tim “Livewire” Shieff

Tim Shieff is a free runner who performs a lot of dangerous daredevil stunts like doing hand stands on the edge of roofs, and jumping across tall buildings.

He went vegan and few years ago and advocates a high carb low fat diet, which includes a lot of sweet potatoes.

He says he is healthier and happier than ever before, and cites his healthy plant-based diet as being helpful in speeding up his joint’s recovery time.

5. Austin Aries

wwe wrestler austin aries
Austin Aries at a TNA event in March 2013. By Mike Kalasnik, March 22, 2013

Austin Aries is a pro wrestler who went vegan in 2011. He is best known for his time with TNA as a former heavyweight champion and 6 time X Division champion, he is currently signed with the WWE in the cruiserweight division, he is the company’s first vegan wrestler.

Being a vegan in the wrestling world is definitely a rare anomaly among meat-eating wrestlers obsessed with getting enough protein to gain muscle mass, and Austin Aries definitely gets enough protein from plant-based foods.

At 5’9” and 202lbs, it doesn’t seem like he’s got any trouble gaining muscle mass from plant-based protein.

6. Scott Jurek

vegan ultra marathon runner scott jurek
Scott Jurek in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado (2014), By Windriverwild, July 9, 2014

Ultra marathon runner Scott Jurek stopped eating meat in 1997 and went fully vegan in 1999.

He loves running and have won numerous tough long-distance races including the Western States Endurance Run (a 100 mile ultra marathon) in 7 consecutive years from 1998-2005, and the Badwater Ultra Marathon (aka the toughest 135 mile foot race in the world) twice in 2005 and 2006.

He feels that his vegan diet is the key to maintaining his excellent athletic performance and quick recovery times.

7. Fiona Oaks

Fiona Oaks consciously made the decision to stop eating animals at the age of just 6 years old. She is a retained firefighter, a famous marathon runner, and she rescues and cares for 400 animals in her Tower Hills Animals Sanctuary.

She won 1st place in many marathons around the globe and uses the money she wins to help maintain her animal sanctuary in England.

Her running career highlights include winning the 2013 North Pole Marathon in a weather of -28 degrees Celsius. She finished 1st for women and came in 3rd behind two male runners, she also broke the women’s course record by a whopping 45 minutes.

That same year she did a marathon in all 7 continents plus the North Pole, breaking Guinness records for being the fastest woman to complete those marathons in aggregate time.

8. Venus Williams

professional female tennis player venus williams
Venus Williams at the 2014 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, By Tatiana, May 12, 2014

Along with her sister Serena, Venus Williams is probably the most famous female tennis player in the world. She went vegan in 2011 after being diagnosed with a auto-immune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome.

Not only is she a vegan, but most of her diet consists of raw foods such as fruit smoothies, veggies, green juices, and sprouted foods. She eats this way not only for her health, but for superior athletic performance. After making a successful comeback after her diagnosis, it’s clear that her vegan diet has not affected her athletic ability one bit.

9. Korin Sutton

Most bodybuilding enthusiasts laugh at the idea of a vegan bodybuilder, they’ll say it’s impossible to get this big without eating meat and dairy.

Even after you bring up successful vegan bodybuilders like Korin Sutton, some will still not believe you and call it BS. But for those with an open mind, guys like Korin Sutton blows the whole “vegans can’t get enough protein” out of the water.

Korin Sutton went vegan in 2011 after listening to a Gary Yourofsky speech and decided to stop eating meat right away. Speaking on how he feels a vegan diet gives him an athletic advantage, Korin Sutton says:

Gains and health benefits. The gains that I achieve being vegan are remarkable. My strength, endurance, and speed has greatly risen and continues to as a vegan athlete.

10. Timothy Bradley

Timothy Bradley is an American boxing champion who was named the 3rd best pound for pound boxer by The Ring (boxing magazine) in 2013, he has an impressive record of only 2 losses in 33 fights.

He went vegan in 2008 while preparing for a fight against Junior Witter who was super light weight champion at the time. He won that fight by a split decision and decided to continue with the vegan diet which he believes to give him an advantage over his opponents by giving him more energy, better reflexes and balance.

It’s Conclusive…Champions Eat Fruits & Veggies

So these are just 10 of the more famous vegan athletes out there, this is definitely not an exhaustive list. There are many more vegan athletes out there in the world, way too many to list. I hope that this article have showed you that it’s 100% possible to be a successful vegan athlete regardless of your choice of sport.

Whether you want to build endurance for ultra running or build muscle mass and strength for bodybuilding, a proper and balanced vegan diet is all you need to succeed.

If you are a vegan athlete, please share your experiences with the community by posting a comment down below. Also share this page with your friends on social media and spread the vegan word!

8 thoughts on “10 Vegan Professional Athletes (Busting The Protein Myth)

  1. Casonn says:

    It’s really crazy to see someone from WWE be vegan because I know most wrestlers on WWE are jacked with crazy looking guns. But there are a few who aren’t jacked but still pack a “punch”. That’s in quotes because as we all know WWE wrestling is fake. However, it doesn’t surprise me that athletes are able to be vegan but for me I think it would be difficult.

  2. Jay says:

    Wow, this gives me more reason to just want to go vegan and ditch all the meats and all that. I see that there are a whole number of great people who believe in this and they stick to it and they have been living a very healthy life too. Like in the case of Venus Williams, I think that it is very good to see that vegan diet can also help to deal with some kinds of sickness

    • Kent L says:

      I’ve heard that a proper whole plant-based diet (low fat, low protein, whole foods) can be used to treat a variety of sicknesses, some people even completely heal from things like type 2 diabetes (or type 1 I cant remember). But dont take my word for it, look it up online. But Im not a doctor so take my word with a grain of salt

  3. Aidan says:

    Interesting as I never really thought that sports people could be vegan and successful! I guess a lot of what we are told about nutrition, such as needing to eat meat for protein is not necessarily correct.

    • Kent says:

      Yeah the protein thing is a myth, perpetuated by the ignorant and/or shills working for the meat and dairy industries. They think if they repeatedly say it enough times it will be become fact. Doesn’t matter if millions of people believe it, but it’s still false.

  4. Lynne Huysamen says:

    My one sister is vegan and the other is vegetarian so I get to see how people react to their choices and it really is strange.

    Both my sisters are perfectly healthy and strong. I love what you say about protein, there are plenty of sources other than meat for protein. Nuts, seeds, spinach, soya, tofu, lentils and beans are just a few off the top of my head that I can share.

    Thanks for sharing this list of vegan athletes that just goes to show that there is no reason for a vegan to be underweight and weak!

    • Kent says:

      I’m glad you say your sisters are perfectly healthy and strong, and it’s almost like as non-meat eaters we have to stay extra healthy and strong just to prove ourselves. The statistics say that vegans on average have lower rates of diet-related diseases, but at the end of the day we’re still branded as weak and nutrient deficient by these stereotypes that just never die. Meanwhile meat eaters can eat all the cheese and steak with the heart disease that comes with it, and they’re still seen as the healthier ones among the majority of society.

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