Let the games begin! The nation and world have been captivated by the Olympic spirit for the past few weeks. Like most, we have been glued to our devices trying to catch all the games, especially soccer. While watching, we started to wonder, are there any Olympic athletes who stick to a plant-based diet? Turns out there are plenty! Some might balk at a vegetarian athlete and feel they wouldn’t be able to keep up due to lack of protein and such, but many have proven that wrong, becoming elite athletes and Olympic winners. In case you aren’t sure who to root for or just want to copy their awesome healthy diet, we thought we’d discuss some of the best of the best.
Since the Olympics are being hosted by the Brits, we thought we’d start there. Early in the games you may have heard the name Lizzie Armistead, as she won Britain’s first medal of the games in women’s cycling. She was the apple of Britain’s eye for bringing in their very first medal of the London games, but her diet was also being highly publicized. The 23-year-old athlete has been living a vegetarian lifestyle since the age of 10, when she decided to hold the meat.
But it isn’t just our friends across the pond who are going plant-based. A month or so before the games began, veteran Olympic swimmer, Natalie Coughlin discussed her mostly plant-based diet in an interview with Fitness magazine. She said she needs to be in tip-top shape while competing and for her that means following a vegetarian diet. Coughlin talks of how she grows her own veggies, sticks to a lot of greens, and loves to make smoothies with “coconut water, kale, spinach and romaine lettuce mixed with apples, celery, or pineapple.” She finished the London games by winning a Bronze along with her US swimming teammates.
Our neighbors to the North also have a plant-based athlete to boast of. Dylan Wykes, a champion marathon runner who will be competing in the London Olympics this weekend, first went vegetarian based on personal ethics. Preparing for the 2012 Olympics, his diet garnered some press. He discussed how protein intake is highly important for distance runners, but he eats protein rich foods such as quinoa, beans, and leafy greens while training. Wykes is one of the best runners hailing from Canada in decades and veggie fueled performance is highly anticipated.
London will not only be hosting vegetarian athletes on the field, but off as well. Former US soccer Olympian Kara Lang, whose career was cut short due to a knee injury, is a women’s soccer analyst this summer. She went vegan while she was still playing soccer and received plenty of flack for it. Her coaches and trainers were worried it would affect her performance, but she pushed on and proved them wrong. She eats mostly whole foods and limits her intake of faux meats. Of her experience with the vegan diet, she stated “My body was just more efficient…If you become a vegan and you do it properly, you’re not eating processed food anymore. Instead of spending all this energy clearing out toxins and metabolizing food we’re not meant to eat, your body can focus on recovery.”
It is definitely inspiring to see these top of the line Olympians thriving on a plant-based diet and receiving publicity for it. It’s not only current athletes, there are plenty of famous historic veggie Olympians including Carl Lewis, Murray “Seaweed Streak” Rose, and Charlene Wong to name a few. Check out Ecorazzi’s great article on the Top 10 Historic Vegetarian and Vegan Olympians for more information. We salute all the awesome veg top athletes competing in the London Olympics!