On Sunday the 28th of October, Lewis Hamilton became the Formula One World Champion for the fifth time, joining the likes of Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio with five world titles and a place in the record books. Formula One driving is a sport that although many discard, requires skill, precision, quick reactions and ultimately peak physical fitness, all of which Hamilton possesses. An aspect to any highly competitive sport is of course nutrition and making sure what the athlete is putting into their body is only going to aid them in becoming the best they can be. With this in mind, it may come as a surprise to the cynics out there that Hamilton has been following a plant based vegan diet for the past year, with the results showing in his driving. With the stereotype of vegans being “weak” and “lacking in protein”, numerous high profile and successful athletes prove this ridiculous conclusion wrong.
If I had a pound for every time a guy told me they couldn’t be vegan because they wouldn’t manage to get their protein in, or it would mess with their macros! My answer to this is simple. Do you think Kendrick Farris, the only male Olympic weightlifter from the USA to qualify for the games in Rio, the man who can snatch 168kg and clean and jerk 197kg, and who currently holds the US record for the combined effort, you think he doesn’t get enough protein? Of course he does, he will be getting a substantially more than your average “gym lad”, so to answer the age-old question, if not from meat then from where? His advice is swapping high carb grains for high protein grains such as quinoa or buckwheat, while also eating plenty beans and legumes, green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach and all of these foods in high quantities.
So that’s one myth busted. Now for another. Many endurance athletes may argue that it’s very easy to eat a high fat diet that limits their performance. Two things wrong with this, firstly there is not a lot of evidence to say high fat diets are necessarily bad for endurance running if it’s the correct type of fats, and secondly, a vegan diet has the capacity to be high or low in whichever macros you choose. If my word isn’t enough, then take a look at Scott Jurek. Arguably the greatest ultramarathon runner of all time, holding countless records and running for miles and hours at a time, he is famously fuelled by plants. If this man can win races such as the Badwater, which is branded as “the world’s toughest foot race”- 135 miles through the gruelling California Death Valley in up to 52 degrees heat – then he must be doing something right. Not only does Jurek follow a plant based diet, he is also a massive advocate for it, often making large quantities of vegan food at ultra-races in order to feed the other runners, with what is in his opinion the best possible fuel for the extreme conditions they are putting themselves through.
These three examples are just the start of a long list of professional athletes, from the William’s sisters to world-class boxer David Hayes, there is a vegan excelling in all areas of professional sport. Not only are the excelling they are at the top, the best of the best and all attribute at least part of their successes to the diet they follow. So the next time you come up with an excuse for veganism that includes it being of some kind of detriment to your health, think about these athletes and the many others that are at the peak of physical human health purely by the power of plants.
Laura Hannah, Sport and Welfare Editor