Some dominate the tennis court. Others are heroes in the ultraendurance world. And millions run 5Ks or take Zumba classes. But all these athletes share a training secret: the Power Plate.
Just as the strongest animals—bulls, stallions, and elephants—eat plant-based diets, more and more athletes are turning to plant power for a competitive edge. From the boxing ring and the bobsledding course to ultramarathons, professional and amateur athletes alike are crediting vegan diets for their greatest victories. Now, the Physicians Committee is teaming up with the world’s leading sports figures to help all active people up their games with a plant-based diet.
More and more athletes are fueling their bodies with plant-based foods.
- Serena Williams: A five-time U.S. Open Championship winner and four-time Olympic gold medalist, Serena Williams has dominated tennis. She is the reigning champion of the U.S. Open, French Open, WTA Tour Championship, and Olympic ladies singles.
- Patrik Baboumian: Known as the world’s strongest man, Patrik Baboumian holds the world log lift record in the 105k category and has lifted 1,210 pounds.
- Scott Jurek: The world’s fastest ultra-distance runner, Scott Jurek dominated the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run from 1999 to 2005. In 2010, he set an American record for running 165.7 miles in 24 hours.
- Timothy Bradley: Undefeated boxer Timothy Bradley is the current World Boxing Organization welterweight champion.
- James Jones: James Jones plays in the NBA and won the 2012 and 2013 Championships with the Miami Heat.
- Glen Davis: Glen Davis plays in the NBA for the Orlando Magic.
- Andy Lally: Andy Lally is a vegan racecar driver who won the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year title.
- Leilani Munter: Vegan racecar driver Leilani Munter was one of only three women to qualify for the Daytona 2010 race alongside Danica Patrick. Leilani returned to Daytona in 2012.
- Fiona Oakes: Fiona Oakes is a longtime vegan runner who has run through deserts and ice to complete marathons. She recently won the women’s title in the North Pole Marathon, shattering the old record by 45 minutes.
Olympians Going for Green
Olympians, too, are eating their greens to go for the gold. World arm wrestling champion Alexey Voevoda, powered by a plant-based diet, is also a three-time Olympian, winning medals at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, followed by two gold medals for the Russian bobsledding team at Sochi in 2014.
Three-time Canadian World Champion Meagan Duhamel and her partner skated in the pairs short program to help Canada win a silver medal in the team figure skating event on the first day of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Duhamel, who has followed a vegan diet since 2008, shares her expertise and advice as a coach for the Physicians Committee’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.
“Your body is like a machine: If you want it to run properly, you have to fuel it properly,” says Duhamel. “Load up with healthy plant-based foods for optimum performance. I made the change instantaneously and now feel strong, vibrant, and healthy.”
Two of Duhamel’s favorite recipes are sweet potato casserole and banana bread. Both provide healthy complex carbohydrates to power the muscles, the brain, and the rest of the human body.
“A vegan diet is the perfect combination,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., who is a board certified specialist in sports dietetics and the Physicians Committee’s director of nutrition education. “It brings you healthy complex carbohydrate, healthy protein, and the vitamins and minerals you need, but avoids the saturated fat and cholesterol that interfere with health and athletic performance.”
A plant-based diet is an optimal sports diet, according to a paper on vegetarian dietary practices and endurance performance published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Teaming Up 4 Health
The Physicians Committee’s new Teaming Up 4 Health campaign brings together sports figures who want to spread the word that partnering a plant-heavy diet with exercise is the best way to stay fit and healthy.
Olympian Daba Modibo Keita, who stars in a Teaming Up 4 Health public service announcement, is a two-time taekwondo world champion. What is his secret? He fuels his body with a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Olympic medalist swimmer Kate Ziegler, who has logged enough miles to swim from the United States to Australia, and professional football player Adam Carriker also star in the Teaming Up 4 Health campaign.
The Mental Game
A plant-based diet is also key for your mental game. The current world memory champion, Jonas von Essen, and former world snooker champion, Peter Ebdon, both stay focused with a vegan diet. Arguably the world’s greatest brain, Albert Einstein wrote, “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” Einstein continued: “So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore.”
An optimal sports diet for performance, recovery, and health is found in the Power Plate—grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits. By choosing generous servings of these nutrient-dense foods with a focus on variety and wholesomeness, your body will reap the benefits.
- Whole grains: Choose whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, and pastas. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, zinc, and B vitamins. A single serving also provides about 2 to 3 grams of protein.
- Vegetables: Choose a variety of colorful red, orange, and yellow vegetables in addition to leafy greens for vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants that protect your body from the stress of exercise. These foods also provide iron, calcium, fiber, and 2 grams of protein per serving.
- Legumes: Choose a variety of beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, Great Northern beans), as well as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein. They are not only high in protein (about 7 to 10 grams per serving), but also rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, iron, calcium, and B vitamins.
- Fruits: Choose a variety of fruits and fruit juices for extra vitamins, especially vitamin C. By selecting fruits of different colors, you can ensure a variety of vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin B12 supplement: A vitamin B12 supplement can be taken daily or every other day to cover nutritional needs. Fortified foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals or fortified soy and rice milks, may also contain adequate amounts of vitamin B12.
- Water for your workout: Three to four hours before exercise: Drink 2 to 4 cups of water. One hour before exercise: Drink 1 to 2 cups of water. During exercise: Drink 6 to 12 ounces (or about 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups) of fluid every hour. After exercise: Drink 16 ounces (or about 2 cups) of fluid for every pound lost during exercise; weighing yourself before and after exercise can help you determine your fluid loss.