8 Olympic Athletes Who Are Vegan or Vegetarian
Have you ever wondered what your favorite Olympians eat? I know I do. You'd think they'd need a lot of protein, given how much muscle you need to be a professional athlete, much less an Olympian. Some Olympic athletes are vegan or vegetarian, and they're proof that you don't necessarily need to eat meat to be a champion.
You may be thinking, "Wait, won't eating a plant-based diet cause a person to be protein deficient?" Nope! Vegans can get the right amount of protein by eating quinoa, hummus, chia seeds, and many other protein-heavy, plant-based foods. When training for the Olympics, athletes intake a massive amount of calories because they're exercising so much. They need the calories from food to fuel their workouts, and these calories can come from vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
Olympic athletes often have personal trainers and nutritionists helping them along the way. They might be the only one you see competing, but it takes a team of professionals to make an Olympic athlete. Even though it takes a little more planning, many athletes have figured out how to incorporate a plant-based diet in with a super-active lifestyle, and the fact that they win medals doing it is really inspiring. Here are 8 Olympic athletes who've made history while on a plant-based diet.
Meagan Duhamel is a Canadian silver medal-winning figure skater who participated in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, and will be competing at PyeongChang with partner Eric Radford. According to Ecorazzi, Duhamel decided to go vegan after reading a book that spoke to veganism’s health benefits and the ethical issues behind eating meat. Initially, she only went vegan to prepare for the Olympics, but she told Huffington Post Canada in 2012, “I think I'll be a vegan for the rest of my life.”
Venus Williams is living proof that you don’t need to eat meat to be powerful. She began eating a raw vegan diet in 2011 after being diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome, according to Health. (Of course, Williams will not be participating in the Winter Olympics, but she has previously won four gold medals at the Summer games, according to Olympics.org.) In 2017, Williams told Health going raw vegan "changed everything" when it comes to her physical health and lifestyle, but she admits that sometimes she’s a “cheagan” (a cheating vegan) — which just goes to show that it's OK to be flexible with major diet changes.
After winning the bronze medal for judo in the Summer 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ronda Rousey temporarily went vegan. She told The Washington Post, "As of right now I am a vegan. I put that off until after I was done with this tournament." In 2013, however, she tweeted that she was "not really vegan mostly dairy/gluten free." One type of diet doesn't always work for everyone throughout their life, so it's OK to switch it up from time to time.
Charlene Wong is a Canadian figure skater who competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Although she didn’t win an Olympic medal in Calgary, she’s a four-time silver medalist at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. In 2008, she told LifeSkate, “Although I am not as strict a vegetarian as I once was, I do continue to choose to eat more like a vegetarian than not. I would call myself a 'conscious eater.'"
Hannah Teter is a vegetarian who has a gold and silver Olympic medal for snowboarding. She told the Huffington Post in 2010, “I feel stronger than I’ve ever been, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete.”
Debbi Lawrence is a vegetarian who has competed in three Summer Olympic games as a racewalker. In 2010, she said that “you have to be very careful about what you eat, and you have to take supplements to help fill in the gaps.”
Lizzie Armitstead has reportedly been a vegetarian since she was 10 years old. The Olympic-medal winning cyclist told Cycling Tips that she “never liked the taste or texture of meat.”
Not all athletes need to eat meat to be successful. Everybody is different, so every athlete's diet will be a little different to meet their personal nutritional needs. This athletes are proof that bodies that are fueled by plants can be just as athletic as bodied fueled by meat.