As the number of vegans is growing, so is the number of vegan athletes. A vegan diet can not only meet their nutritional needs but also offer many advantages (Amit, CPS, 2010). Plant-based foods are easier to digest, providing the body with enough energy through carbohydrates, plentiful protein and a wealth of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. As such, vegan diets can help faster recovery and supply easily accessible energy.
Here are a few examples of vegan athletes illustrating the wide range of sports and achievements (for more information and an updated list please see www.greatveganathletes.com):
Scott Jurek, USA - ultramarathon runner, vegan since 1997
Scott won Western States 100 mile endurance run seven times, Millwok 100k three times, he was the first American winner of the Spartathon (246k), he also won Leona Divide 50 mile run four times, set ten ultramarathon course records and won at least 24 ultramarathons between 77km and 246km. He became the American record-setter for the 24 hour run in Greece where he ran 165 miles. And in July 2015, he set the world record on the Apalachian trail – in just over 46 days he managed to run 2,189 miles, across 14 states and 515,000 feet of elevation change. He averaged nearly 50 miles a day.
Patrik Baboumian, Germany - Germany's strongest man, vegan since 2011
He holds the world record for carrying a staggering 550 kilos for a length of over 10 metres. He holds the world log lift record for under 105kg, with a 165kg lift, as well as the German heavyweight log lift record. His heaviest log lift is 190kg. In 2012 he won the German log lift title for the fourth time in a row and set a keg lift world record (115 kg). He took the European Powerlifting title in Finland and in 2012 he competed in the European Powerlifting Championships where he squatted 300kg, bench pressed 200kg and deadlifted 330kg. In 2013 Patrik was invited to compete in the FIBO Champions League against some of the sport's elite and he recorded a win in the crucifix hold.
Mac Danzig, USA - a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitor, vegan since 2004
Being actively involved and competing at top levels of Mixed Martial Arts, Mac came across a vegan trainer who aided him in transitioning to a plant-based diet in 2004. In 2005, he won the King Of The Cage Lightweight Championship. He defended the title four times. Later that year Mac entered The Ultimate Fighter 6 competition which he won. Among other achievements, he was awarded Knockout of the Night when he beat Joe Stephenson in December 2010.
Brendan Brazier, Canada – Ironman Triathlete and endurance runner, long-term vegan
Canadian triathlete Brendan Brazier has won triathlons at Olympic distance, Half Ironman and full Ironman, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and marathon (26.2 mile) run. He has set the Bigfoot Half Ironman course record twice and was twice Canadian 50k champion. Brendan is a big supporter of a plant-based diet, especially for athletes, and openly speaks about the advantages of this lifestyle as it allows one to train harder and recover faster.
Tim Shieff, UK – freerunner and parkour athlete, vegan since 2012
Also known by his freerunning name ‘Livewire’, Tim Shieff is one of the best known and most successful athletes in freerunning and parkour. In 2014 he completed stage one of the American Ninja Warrior competition in 62 seconds, beating the existing record by ten seconds. He was also captain of team Europe and led the team to victory.
Fiona Oakes, UK - marathon runner, long-term vegan
Fiona ran countless marathons in the last 10 years and is also a firefighter. She was previously an award winning cyclist in the UK as well and has won many marathons. In 2013 she ran the North Pole Marathon which she not only completed but also won the women's race, came third to two male competitors and broke the women's course record by an incredible 45 minutes. Later that year she became the fastest woman ever to complete a marathon on all continents. She also set the Guiness world record for the shortest aggregate time for those runs and as part of that marathon series she set the course record for the Antarctic Ice Marathon. In July 2014 she ran the Rio marathon and in doing so broke two of her own Guiness world records. Later that year Fiona ran seven marathons in seven consecutive days and in 2015 she took on the challenge of running a marathon a day for seven days, each on a different continent.
Catherine Johnson, USA - cyclocross champion, vegan since 1998
After running several marathons over 1999-2000, Catherine worked as a cycle messenger and started serious cyclocross racing. Highlights include finishing 8th in the Capital Cross Classic 2006 and 6th in the Boulder Short Track Series 2006. She won the Boulder Cyclocross Series in 2005. Catherine retains a passionate determination to excel as a cyclist and is proud of her veganism.
Catra Corbett, USA - ultramarathon runner, long-term vegan
Catra has run over 250 ultramarathons. She holds the womens' record for completing the John Muir Trail twice (out and back), a total of 424 miles, and has the second best all time result for a woman running one way (212 miles). In November 2011 she ran her 80th 100 mile race. In early 2013 she ran her 86th race at 100 miles, the Razorback 100. She finished as the overall winner, beating all male competitors as well as winning the women's race.
Steph Davis, USA – climber, vegan since 2002
Steph made US history for women in the athletic world of rock climbing. She has been the only woman to ever free-climb a number of popular peaks such as Torre Egger in Patagonia in just one day and was the second to free-climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in one day. As well as pioneering a number of difficult climbs, Steph has undertaken many challenging base jumps and is an experienced wingsuit flyer.
Ruth Heidrich, USA - endurance athlete, vegan since 1982
Ruth was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and turned vegan in 1982, aged 47, in response to the diagnosis. She has won over 900 medals for running of all distances such as the first age-group place in the New Zealand Ironman Triathlon and the Japan Ironman Triathlon in 1988. In 1997 she won the same in the US National Senior Olympics Triathlon and later that year she won the first place in age-group at Hawaii State Senior Olympics in seven seperate track and 10k road races.