The topic of choosing a plant-based diet has come up recently and we could say it’s yet another Netflix influence thanks to the eye-opening documentary The Game Changers presented by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul. While the movement isn’t anything new, this show brings awareness to pro-athletes and their reasons on why they chose plant-based diets and it certainly has drawn mass interest. Debunking myths about not getting enough protein and nutrients from non-animal based foods certainly has many changing what they eat. Not only that, we’re learning that switching to vegan foods also aid to overall health and has a positive impact on mental health. But for pro-athletes, the driving force is often related to performance, muscle efficiency and recovery. Athletes at all fitness levels are choosing to eliminate meat or consume less meat and are seeing results. And it’s never too late. According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of indicent Cardiovascular Disease in a general population of middle-aged adults.
For athletes there are clear science-based advantages to eating plant-based. Benefits also include improved blood flow, reduced inflammation, and reduced risk of high blood pressure. In the film, an experiment was conducted on three NFL players. It showed that even one animal based meal can thicken our blood which in turn slows down the flow of nutrients through our blood streams to areas that need it the most. Athletes who ate plant-based meals revealed that nutrients were able to travel through the blood stream quickly and efficiently.
So, what’s the difference between plant-based and vegan diets?
It depends on who you talk to. But most people understand a vegan diet is avoiding all animal products. Plant-based diets is understood to be food coming from plants – that is, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Plant- based focuses on “whole foods” and not processed foods – which some vegan store-bought products still fall under this category. Also, it’s not uncommon for plant-based eaters to occasionally consume fish and dairy products.
Who are some athletes who choose plant-based?
There are so many vegan and vegetarian athletes who are at the top of their game and are some of the best in the world at what they do. If I was a betting man, I would keep in mind the athletes lifestyle before placing bets.
Venus Williams is an American tennis player with seven Grand Slam singles titles, 14 Grand Slam Women’s doubles titles, five times Wimbledon Women’s Singles, and four Olympic gold medals. She’s the second highest-earning female tennis players behind her sister Serena Williams. Doctors had recommended that she eat a raw vegan diet to help with her symptoms of extreme fatigue and joint pain when she was diagnosed with Sjorgren’s, an autoimmune disease in 2011.
Novak Djokovic is a professional tennis player currently ranked world number 1 in men’s singles tennis. He’s won 15 Grand Slam singles titles, five ATP Finals titles, 33 ATP Tour Masers 1000 titles, 12 ATP Tour 500 Titles and has held the number 1 spot in the ATP rankings for over 250 weeks. He’s also the only male player to have won all nine of the Masters 1000 tournaments. Although he’s reported to not like being labelled a “vegan” he’s adapted to a plant-based diet and tells media that he’s feels much better for it citing better recovery and overall health. He and his wife also opened up a vegan restaurant in Monte Carlo.
Meagan Duhamel is a world champion and Canadian figure skater. She won the 2018 Winter Olympics gold medal, 2014 Olympic silver medalist in the team event, two-time Four Continent champion, six time Canadian national champion pair skater. Duhamel transitioned to a vegan diet in 2008 after she read a book about veganism.
Lewis Hamilton is a five time Formula One champion. Holds the record for most career points, most wins at different circuits and all-time most pole positions. He recently decided to switch to a vegan diet based on what he was learning about how human consumption contributed to global-warming.