Being an accomplished athlete requires strength, stamina, and power—three things not usually associated with people who follow a vegan diet. Vegans are commonly regarded as weak or depleted of protein, energy, and potency. There are countless articles and experts warning about the dangers of veganism, cautioning that not eating animal products will certainly lead to vitamin deficiencies, starvation, or worse.
While undertaking any dietary change without serious consideration and discussion with a doctor can be dangerous, there are individuals who live healthy lives as vegans and are living as superior examples of health and fitness. Some of them are vegan athletes.
The following five individuals break the mold as tremendous athletes who stand ahead of the pack as competitors and sportspersons regardless of their diets. They also happen to do so as vegans, eating a plant based diet that excludes all animal products. Their incredible accomplishments argue that a vegan diet will not prevent good health if monitored correctly, and may even contribute to overall health.
- Scott Jurek: Ultramarathon Runner
While most people are familiar with marathons, few have the physical stamina to run the 26.2 miles to finish one. Scott Jurek not only runs marathons, he wins ultramarathons. An ultramarathon is anything longer than the standard 26.2 miles of a regular marathon, but the shortest available distance starts at over 31 miles. Some go for days at a time and span astonishing distances.
In the bio on his website, Jurek lists various distances he has run: one at 152 miles long, another at 165.7. Distances like these require enormous endurance and tax the body to its limits. Surprisingly for most, Jurek’s impressive physical success is sustained with vegan nutrition. In fact, Jurek credits his performance levels and speedy healing and recovery to his plant-based diet.
Jurek’s decision to change his diet was partially inspired by witnessing the poor health of his own patients. During his time as a physical therapist, he realized that poor quality food diminished health and well-being. Now an advocate for vegan living, Jurek has written prolifically and shares experience, wisdom, and recipes in his book Eat & Run.
- Steph Davis: Climber, Skydiver, BASE Jumper
Climbing a shear rock face requires concentration, strength, and stamina. Pulling one’s own body weight up by fingertips as the wind whips and pulls at your clothing and gear isn’t an activity for the faint of heart or body. Steph Davis not only free climbs some of the most challenging obstacles in the world, she also BASE Jumps and skydives. Davis’ list of accomplishments is impressive and includes being the first female to free climb the Salathe Wall in Yosemite and four free climbs of the Diamond in Long’s Peak.
Her energy and vitality are fueled by her vegan diet. Dedicated to advocating for healthy vegan living, Davis features multiple vegan recipes on her website. Her plant-based lifestyle provides her ample endurance and focus as one of the world’s most impressive climbers and jumping enthusiasts.
Besides her dedication to plant-based nutrition and her various extreme sports, Davis is writer, photographer, and traveler. So often at the top of the world, she takes advantage of her unique outlook and experiences to share her love of high, open spaces with those on the ground.
- Carl Lewis: Olympic Sprinter
Bursts of incredible speed and strength are vegan-powered for Olympic sprinter, Carl Lewis. A world-class runner since 1979, Lewis earned nine gold medals and one silver in events such as the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints as well as the long jump and 4 x 100 relay events over the span of his career.
Lewis made the change to a vegan diet during the course of his athletic peak and so has the advantage of a before and after vegan perspective. His improvement after making his dietary change served to solidify his plant-strong lifestyle.
Over the course of his time as an athlete, Lewis set multiple records that have set the Olympic bar high enough to challenge athletes over thirty years later. Lewis was voted “Olympian of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee, firmly establishing him for all time as one of history’s greatest athletes.
- Baggio Husidic: Soccer Midfielder
Soccer demands incredible levels of endurance at high speeds as players race their opponents across and up and down the field. As a midfielder for the LA Galaxy, Baggio Husidic has practiced a vegan diet since the early 2000’s. He has since discovered better performance, fewer cramps, and faster recovery are a few of the benefits of a plant-strong diet free of diary, eggs, and any other animal products.
As a midfielder, the physical and mental demands of the game are high. Husidic must help to hold some of the most crucial territory on the field. He must be both quick and technically superior to keep the opposing team back, but then be ready to attack at a moment’s notice. Husidic excels in these qualities and asserts that his vegan diet has improved his abilities, overall health, and his edge.
- Rich Roll: Ultra-Endurance Athlete
Like the four above, ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll is another competitor in a class of his own. In 2010, Roll completed the Epic 5 Challenge which is the equivalent of five Ironman triathlons in five days. Not content to simply attain glory as an accomplished athlete, Roll works as a nutritional advocate and motivational speaker. He uses his own story of extraordinary health and physical well-being to inspire others to embrace vegan living for their own health and that of the planet.
A couple of years after completing the Epic 5, Roll wrote a bestselling book, Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself. As an ultra-endurance athlete, the physical requirements are staggering and would be so regardless of any dietary choices. Roll’s astounding level of health and vigor at nearly fifty years old is a testament to the quality of a vegan diet.