Seattle Seahawks guard Deuce Lutui. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. Kansas City Chief tight-end Tony Gonzalez. Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ricky Williams. Dallas Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta. These football players have something in common: they are all entirely or nearly vegan.
That means no animal products: no meat (including fish), dairy or eggs. Instead, vegans eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains. That is a smart move for athletes: “Vegan foods, which are usually high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, provide the power and energy that athletes need, without the artery-clogging fat and cholesterol they don’t.”
For Lutui, the impetus for changing what he ate was failing a physical with the Cincinnati Bengals, reports the Mother Nature Network. A nutritionist recommended a vegan diet last spring, and his excess weight started to come off. Lutui says he is in the best shape of his life. Impressed with the results, his whole family is now going vegan.
Pro Bowler Foster may have faced the most criticism for his new diet. “Everybody cares what I eat now,” Foster told Yahoo! Sports.”They didn’t care before, but they do now. Everybody is a nutritionist now and they’re an expert on protein. Every day, every single day somebody knows something new to do. I just smile and say, ‘OK.’ ”
“Foster believes he’s creating a healthier, stronger body that will make him a better player,” despite all the warnings and discouragement he hears. For him the bottom line is that he doesn’t feel good when he eats meat.
He is philosophical about the reason people are so resistant to his new diet. “We’re emotionally attached to food, bad food. Think about every big event in America, it’s attached to food. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, holidays … it’s with food. That’s why people feel so strongly about it; they’re emotionally attached to it.”
Gonzalez is not entirely vegan, but, inspired by The China Study, he worked hard to create a diet as free of animal products as possible that makes him feel and perform at his peak.
Jon Hinds, a vegan and former strength coach for a pro basketball team, helped Gonzalez when he feared he was losing his strength. Hinds took Gonzalez grocery shopping and taught him what to look for and how to incorporate different foods into his diet, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Pro Bowler Willliams “had five relatively successful seasons, including 1,121 yards in 2009, after becoming a vegetarian.” He was vegan except for Greek yogurt. Williams pointed out to ESPN that veganism is a much more efficient way to consume energy than eating animals. He says that we get our energy from the sun, which plants convert through photosynthesis into nutrition that people can thrive on. Eating animals just inserts an unnecessary and unhealthful intermediary into that process.
Fiammetta said it took him only a week to make the change from omnivore to vegan after he read some books that persuaded him to try the diet. “I’ve actually felt better on the field and off the field” since making the dietary change, he told ESPN. At 6 feet and 242 pounds, some might be skeptical that he could maintain his size and strength without meat. Those people have some educational reading to do.
Football players aren’t the only ones catching on to the benefits of veganism. To read some inspirational stories from other sports, visit Great Vegan Athletes.