Nothing is more inspiring than watching the Olympics; athletes driven by a sheer, single-pointed focus to win the gold. Swimmers that wake up before dawn day-in and day-out to swim more laps in one day than many of us will swim in a decade; or gymnasts who train years and years just for a few days of international competition. What’s even more inspiring is that many of these remarkable Olympic athletes are 100 percent plant-powered, fueling their superhuman feats on an entirely vegan or vegetarian diet.
1. Carl Lewis
Carl Lewis is likely the most famous vegan Olympian. He earned ten Olympic medals in track and field in his lifetime of competition, nine of which were gold. In 1990, he switched to a vegetarian diet when he realized that controlling his weight by skipping meals wasn’t the best way to stay slim and trim. By 1991, Lewis went completely vegan after which he claimed he had the best athletic year of this career.
“It’s a myth that muscles, strength, and endurance require the consumption of large quantities of animal-based foods. This myth began before anyone even talked about protein,” he wrote in the introduction to Jannequin Bennett’s book "Very Vegetarian." He went on to say, “Your body is your temple. If you nourish it properly, it will be good to you and you will increase its longevity.”
2. Murray Rose
Murray Rose is an Australian swimmer and a six-time Olympic medalist (four gold, one silver, one bronze). At one point he held Olympic records in three different swimming events, the 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle. Rose was a vegan during the 1950s and '60s, when the idea of eating a plant-based diet was far from the norm. Subsisting on carrot juice, nuts, seeds, and rice, Murray has been called “a true pioneer of Australian swimming."
3. Martina Navratilova
Although Martina Navratilova lost in the quarter finals in the Athens Olympics in 2004, she’s considered one of the best professional women’s tennis players ever. She was the number one player in the world in women's singles for a total of 332 weeks. She contends that her plant-based diet is one of the reasons that she was able to play professionally into her 40s. It helped her to endure the “physical conditioning that’s required to compete at that level.”
4. Alexey Voyevoda
Alexey Voyevoda is a Russian bobsledder that credits his success to a raw vegan diet. This 36-year old huge dude, has won five medals, two silver and three gold in Olympic competition. He’s been a vegan for five years.
5. Bode Miller
Bode Miller has been eating a locally-based vegetarian diet since birth. He was raised on a farm in New Hampshire where his family grew their own organic fruits and vegetables. Miller won six medals as a downhill skier in the Olympic winter games. Today he still advocates for eating a local, organic, plant-based diet.
6. Hannah Teter
This gold metaling snowboarder has appeared in ads for PETA. She grew up in Vermont where there were “more deer than people,” and her mom had a big organic garden. Teter went vegetarian and gave up most dairy after watching a documentary about the harsh conditions that livestock in factory farms endure.
Teter had this to say about her plant-based diet in an interview with the Huffington Post:
“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. It’s a whole other level that I’m elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it’s a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete.”
7. Debbi Lawrence
Debbi Lawrence is a three-time Olympic race walker who credits her success to hard work and a vegetarian diet. She powered her intense training schedule with plant protein while competing in the Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney Olympic games. She says her intense 12 miles daily workout was aided by a good diet.
Who are your favorite vegan and vegetarian athletes? Does it make you want to go plant-based? How do you power up for your workout? Let us know via Twitter at @OrganicAuthorit
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Swimmer image via Lwp Kommunikáció