Lizzie Armistead


Not so long ago, vegetarians were a curious, small group of people who seemed extreme and in some cases quite weird. Everyone wondered what they actually ate, and they were considered to be pale, pasty people who probably spent a lot of time in a doctor’s waiting room. These days though, vegetarianism is more widespread, with millions of us choosing not to eat meat either through compassion for animals, for sustainability issues or for other reasons. Either way, these days there are just as many vegetarian options as meat ones in the supermarket aisles, and restaurant menus no longer list a single solitary salad as the sole vegetarian option. Times have changed.
Still, it’s often hard to believe that someone could be a vegetarian and also an elite athlete. Surely athletes need a lot of protein and live on a diet of pasta and chicken breasts? Not so! Here are ten sports people you didn’t know where vegetarian:
Lizzie Armistead
At London 2012, Lizzie Armistead won a silver medal in the 87-mile road cycling race. She says:
One of the most common misconceptions I’ve come across is that vegetarians are pallid, gentle creatures who would recoil in a tough sporting arena.”
Carl Lewis
In 1991 Carl Lewis not only won the 100m in the world championships; he also broke a world record. He called this his greatest race, and he did it on a vegan diet. In this video he explains how his best athletic performances came after he became a vegan.
Martina Navratilova
One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Navratilova won 18 Grand Slams. Most professional athletes retire in their early to mid thirties, but Navratilova won a US Open mixed doubles title six weeks before her fiftieth birthday!
Venus Williams
Another outstanding tennis star, Venus Williams changed her diet when she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011. In fact, she’s not just vegetarian but has switched to a raw, vegan diet. In order to support her sister, Serena has also switched to a plant based diet. It doesn’t seem to have done either of their careers any harm!
Hannah Teter
This US snowboarder is a two-time Olympic medalist and is also the US Overall Grand Prix half-pipe champion. Teter says that her vegetarian diet was what helped her to get onto the Olympic podium.
David Carter
David Carter’s Instagram handle is the300poundvegan, which says it all really! He is a 28-year-old NFL defensive linesman who says “you don’t have to take a life to gain muscle.”
Scott Jurek
Scott Jurek is a Canadian ultramarathon runner. Last year he ran the 2189 mile Appalachian Trail in a record time, beating the previous record by over three hours!
David Smith MBE
This Olympic rower won gold at the 2009 World Rowing Championships, before going on to have an operation to remove a tumour from his spine in 2010. He won Gold at London 2012, and has now started training in cycling and snow sports. He did all of this on a plant-based diet.
Timothy Shieff
Shieff is one of the most famous and successful freerunners in the world, and has also set an American Ninja course record. He has also been vegan since 2012. He says:
People have their input, often nutritionists and other “experts” think it’s not prime for optimum strength etc… But I actually feel stronger and more efficient any way. There’s more to life/nutrition than science currently knows, that’s for sure.
Tia Blanco
This American pro surfer is also a dedicated vegan and yogi. In the women’s final of the 2015 ISA World Surfing Games she won a gold medal. When asked if a vegan diet provides enough energy and stamina she replied:
Yes, in fact I feel more energized than ever before. I am rarely ever sore after my workouts. I also find myself reaching a higher athletic level.
So often we think that regular exercise requires eating a lot of meat, but these professional athletes are all shining examples that being vegetarian – or even vegan – doesn’t need to hamper your progress or success.