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
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
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
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
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!