Why is the World of Sport and Athletics Becoming Vegan?

Why is the World of Sport and Athletics Becoming Vegan?

Vegan sports stars and athletes
The world of sport and athletics is becoming vegan

Many of us are very happy to hear that more and more sport stars and athletes are turning vegan. It also appears that the recent growth in the popularity of veganism and plant-based diets has not escaped the attention of the mainstream media. This is even more encouraging, as it suggests that a greater number of athletes may have the opportunity to learn more about veganism and realize that they can be great at what they do while consuming a plant-based diet. It also suggests that a greater number of spectators might also eventually realize that the men and women that they spectate and whose athletic performance and prowess they admire so greatly do not need to consume animal products in order to achieve what they do. As a consequence, some of these spectators may begin to realize that they themselves do not need to consume animal products in order to be as fit and healthy as they aim to be in life. But why is the world of sport and athletics becoming vegan? 

Earlier this year Forbes attempted to explain the rise in the number of vegan athletes, giving a few reasons for this recent trend.

The first reason they gave is that plant-based products often contain significantly greater quantities of complete protein than animal products. This is of course completely accurate. For instance, soya contains about 1.5 times as much complete protein as lean beef. Also, we know deep down that the huge, lumbering beasts that are raised on farms need far more protein than we do in order to survive and maintain such considerable muscle mass, and we know that their protein comes exclusively from plants.

The article also mentions greater availability of plant-based sports drinks and performance enhancers. There have always been plant-based alternatives; however, it is fair to say that in recent times there has been considerable investment in these products, with new product lines being introduced and new companies opening all the time.

The article also mentions the fact that plant-based eating is far healthier from a cardiological perspective. The article even references the highly reputable Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group of elite medical experts and experienced medical doctors, who, for a considerable period of time now, have been educating the public about the unhealthiness of animal products and the health benefits of plant-based diets. Indeed, the risk of heart disease is unquestionably drastically lower among those consuming a plant-based diet.

Another fact mentioned by the article is the drastic reduction in recovery times noted by athletes on a plant-based diet. Indeed, this is a fact often noted by strength athletes and endurance athletes alike, especially those who have transitioned to a plant-based diet and seen the benefits first-hand. For instance, they quote Patrik Baboumian as saying “My recovery time was so much faster so I could train more”.

Finally, they mention the increasing number of plant-based and vegan athletes who are openly discussing the performance increase that they have experienced as a consequence of going vegan, and the fact that this in itself is likely to be encouraging many other athletes to make the same transition.

They are absolutely correct about all of these facts, and it is reassuring to see such candidness about this subject in mainstream media. Normally, we see attempts to dismiss veganism with bad logic and excuses, combined with pseudoscientific arguments for the necessity of consuming animal products. For instance, not that long ago, the Irish government decided to pay a PR company to spread misinformation about the meat and dairy industry in order to try to defend it from the criticism that it deserves. Nonetheless, among some in the media and the general public alike, there is increasing acceptance of the idea that a plant-based diet is healthier, better for you, and can also make you a better athlete.

However, Forbes and others who present this view regarding the transition that these athletes are making, are missing something important. A great many of the athletes and others who are going vegan are doing so for reasons other than athletic performance. More fundamentally, these individuals have realized that they do not need to continue supporting animal abuse and environmental devastation in order to live, to be healthy, and to be very successful. And in the process, they are discovering that they can be even more healthy, even more successful, and feel even more alive by living a plant-based, vegan lifestyle.

Interestingly, the article mentions vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian, officially Germany’s strongest man and a vegan of many years, in the context of recovery times within an article that pertains to the reasons why so many athletes and sports stars are becoming vegan. However, Patrik himself explains that he went vegan due to his inability to reconcile the animal suffering that he can’t abide or tolerate and would not even want to have to bear witness to in person, with his consumption of animal-based foodstuffs which in itself constitutes participation in and economic facilitation of the former.

Serena Williams, whose sister Venus is also vegan, mentions that her transition to veganism and vegan clothing brand was inspired in part by ethical concerns and to a large degree by her very legitimate concern about the environmental destruction that is being carried out on such a large scale as a result of animal agriculture.

She is quoted as saying “I feel like a lot of things are being killed and we’re not saving the Earth. She goes on to say: “we can all just do one small thing and help out so that was also a lot of our inspiration.” In other words, to become vegan is an exceedingly small, extremely easy lifestyle tweak, that has very considerable benefits for the environment and animals. We do not need animal products, and we do great harm to animals themselves, to other humans, to the environment, and to our health by consuming them, so all we need to do is to recognize and understand this basic truth and put it into practice.

There are of course many other vegan athletes who have become vegan for reasons of health and performance. Although, it seems fairly certain that most of these athletes, if not all of them, are more than capable of appreciating the happy fact that avoiding supporting and promoting industries which treat animals with brutality and violence and which destroy the environment means living with integrity and in accordance with one’s values, and that therefore we ought to avoid consuming animal products if possible. It is not surprising that for many vegan athletes, their motivation for becoming vegan was a mixture of both ethical concerns and performance considerations. A good example of this phenomenon is the heavyweight boxer Bryant Jennings.

Bryant Jennings
Bryan Jennings. Source: greatveganathletes.com

Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis champion, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest tennis players in all history, recently stated that he is vegan both for ethical reasons as well as athletic performance. He has also discussed the opposition, nay-saying, and cynicism with which his change of diet was originally met, illustrating that for many vegan athletes it has historically been difficult getting others onside, even when the nutritional science is pretty clear about the superiority of plant-based diets.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic. Source: Charles Ng

The historical lack of awareness and understanding regarding plant-based diets among sports scientists, nutritionists, and dieticians is also slowly disappearing and it is no where near as difficult getting appropriate advice and support as it was many years ago.

Something else that is disappearing, albeit very slowly, is the fallacy that in order to be ‘manly’ or ‘masculine’ one must consume products derived from animal cruelty rather than having the courage not to do so. Helping to destroy this myth are a steadily increasing number of strength athletes, endurance athletes, body builders, fighters, and rugby players doing the right thing and going vegan.

For further information about this subject, take a look at the Great Vegan Athletes site which maintains a catalogue of some of the most famous and prominent vegan athletes and sports stars.