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 way they eat.
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/vegetarian diets for their greatest victories.
More and more athletes are fueling their bodies with plant-based foods. But you don’t have to take my word for it: There are plenty of world-class athletes (and not just endurance runners) that don’t eat meat.
Check out some of the top athletes who are eating plant-based diet for performance.
1. Ultra runner Scott Jurek
A marathon sound like a lot? Well, ultrarunning, or an ultra-marathon is defined as any race distance longer than a marathon. Typically, they are 30 miles or more. One of the world’s foremost ultrarunners, Scott has won both trail and road races, that are frequently much longer than that. His signature race is the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, which he has won seven times. Read his bio for a complete list of his insane accomplishments. Scott fuels is super long runs through a strict plant-based diet, which he claims is the cause of his overall good health and his body’s ability to heal, and what “helped [him] run 100 miles.”
2. Bodybuilder Jim Morris
Jim Morris entered his first bodybuilding competition at age 30 in 1966, and won his first national title the following year. He is well known for keeping his physique maintained well into old age, competing in the over sixty category in the 1990s. Competing in his final competition in 1996, Jim Morris went vegetarian in 1985. Afterwards, in the year 2000, he went full on vegan. After some health scares, Jim has become an advocate for natural foods, and considers “health and well being [as] a way of life.” He continues to post about lifelong fitness on his website.
3. Bodybuilder and boxer Amanda Reister
Amanda‘s family history of boxing led her to get involved in the sport from a very young age, and she’s been competing at the national level since the age of 17, a year later ranking number two in the U.S. In 2011, she won the Natural North America Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships. In addition to her sport commitments, Amanda works as a pet-loss grief counselor and professional animal communicator. A vegetarian since kindergarten when she realized what meat really was, Amanda is now a vegan, and is proud to be “an ambassador for the vegan lifestyle.”
4. UFC fighter Mac Danzig
Lightweight contender and winner of the sixth season of the Ultimate Fighter Competition, Mac Danzig is also a vegan. Surprising and an anomaly amongst his MMA peers, Mac went for vegan out of respect for animals. Mac Danzig was also featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives, about the link between disease and meat consumption. He may now be a pioneer in his field, as vegan and fighter are no longer contradicting terms. Mac is open about his moral and ethical reasons for being a vegan; he did not want to contribute to the suffering of animals nor eat processed meat.
5. Skater Meagan Duhamel
This Canadian’s twitter handle describes her as an “aspiring Olympic figure skater, vegan, yogi and nutritionist.” she recorded the highest ever score in Canadian pairs history, but she still calls one of her biggest accomplishments going vegan, which she managed to do in 2008.
6. Ultrarunner Michael Arnstein
Not only does Michael Arnstein eat thirty pounds of fruit every day, he also runs 15 miles. Twice. That is, of course, when he isn’t running 100 mile ultraruns. He was an ultrarunner before being a vegan, but his performance has gone elite since ditching the animal products. However, Michael hasn’t just stopped his consumption of meat; he’s gone full blown fruitarian, meaning he eats just fruits and veggies, which he considers to be the future of veganism.
7. Endurance athlete Brendan Brazier
This professional Ironman runner and ultra-marathoner has not only won the Canadian Ultra-marathon twice, but has also written several books on veganism, and started his own line of famous food products, Vega. Now considered an authority on plant-based nutrition and training, he writes and speaks on the topics, as well as guest-lectures at Cornell University.
8. Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis
And, as a strong finish to this list, let’s talk about Carl Lewis. Sprinter, relayer and long-jumper, he was voted World Athlete of the Decade and Olympic athlete of the century during his career, to name only a few of his accomplishments. The year following his decision to go vegan, which he did for health reasons, Carl’s performance improved.
9. 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.
10.Ruth Heidrich is a six-time Ironwoman champion, named the top 10 fittest women in America in 1999, and a totally raw vegan.
11. Lizzie Armitstead is a vegetarian with some serious endurance! Olympic cyclist Lizzie Armitstead has been a vegetarian since age 10. At the London 2012 Olympic games, Armitstead took home a silver medal for Great Britain in the 87-mile road race.