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11 Vegan Athletes Who Validate the Power of Plants

Famous Vegan Athletes

As a vegan athlete, I know firsthand the power of plants. But don’t just take my word for it. Some of the world’s top athletes are crushing it on a vegan diet. 

From ultra-runners and tennis champions to Formula One drivers and strongman athletes, more and more professional athletes are tapping into the recovery benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.

A testament to the recovery power of plants, these famous vegan athletes are living proof that a plant-based lifestyle can fuel success at the highest levels of sport.

1. Venus Williams

Venus Williams is an American tennis legend with 7 Grand Slam titles and 4 Olympic gold medals to her name. But in 2011, she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and fatigue. 

Determined to manage her symptoms and continue competing, Venus adopted a plant-based diet on the recommendation of her doctors. The results were game-changing. 

“I literally couldn’t play tennis anymore, so it really changed my life,” Venus told Health magazine. “Thankfully, I was able to find something that helped me get back to doing what I loved.” 

Now a passionate advocate for veganism, Venus has said her plant-powered diet has given her more energy, reduced inflammation, and helped her stay at the top of her game well into her 40s.

She even launched her own vegan protein company, Happy Viking, to help others experience the benefits.

“Plant-based definitely changed my life, it made my body feel so much better. I lost weight really fast, but I didn’t lose strength, I gained strength.” – Venus Williams via Women’s Health

While Venus is “chegan” (a vegan who cheats on occasion), she is still a famous vegan athlete in my book.

Follow Venus on Instagram.

2. Kyrie Irving

When NBA star Kyrie Irving decided to adopt a vegan diet in 2017, he had his doubts. Could he maintain his elite athletic performance without meat?

The answer was a resounding yes. Irving credits his plant-based diet for his increased energy levels and faster recovery times. 

As a professional athlete, Irving understands the importance of proper nutrition. But he was pleasantly surprised by how good he felt after ditching animal products.

“I had to get away from that,” he said of his previous meat-heavy diet. “So my energy is up, my body feels amazing. Just understanding what the diet is like for me…means I’ve been able to sustain my energy at the highest level.” he told ESPN on air. 

Irving’s experience highlights how a vegan diet can fuel peak performance, even in the most physically demanding sports. His story is a testament to the power of plants.

Follow Kyrie on Instagram.

3. Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek is a true vegan athlete pioneer. He’s been plant-based since 1999, long before it was trendy. And he’s achieved incredible feats in ultramarathon running, all on a vegan diet. 

Jurek has won the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race through Death Valley, twice. He’s also won the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run a record seven consecutive times. How does he fuel such extreme endurance on a plant-based diet

“The biggest myth is that you can’t get enough protein from plant sources,” Jurek told Runner’s World. “I’ve found that a well-balanced whole-food diet provides plenty of protein, even for ultrarunners,” he said. 

“The other big myth is that you need meat to be strong. I haven’t eaten meat in 20 years, and I’ve never been stronger.” 

Jurek’s accomplishments shatter the notion that vegans are weak or malnourished. In fact, his plant-powered feats of endurance are a compelling argument for the athletic benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

Follow Scott on Instagram.

4. Patrik Baboumian

In 2011, Patrik Baboumian achieved the impossible. He became the first vegan to be crowned Germany’s Strongest Man.

Baboumian didn’t just compete in power sports as a raw vegan. He dominated. In 2012, he won the European Powerlifting Championships. In 2013, he set a world record by carrying a 555 kg yoke for 10 meters. 

How did he maintain peak performance on plants? “This is a message to all those out there who think that you need animal products to be fit and strong,” Baboumian said. Almost two years after going vegan, he proclaimed: “I am stronger than ever before and I am still improving day by day.” 

Baboumian’s superhuman feats, all fueled by plants, are enough to make any meat-eating gym-goer consider veganism. He’s living proof that you can thrive in strength sports on a plant-based diet.

Follow Patrick on Instagram.

5. Morgan Mitchell

Sprinter Morgan Mitchell was just 21 years of age when she competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, two years after switching to a plant-based diet.

She appeared in The Game Changers documentary alongside other famous vegan athletes like Dotsie Bauch and Scott Jurek, discussing the positive impacts a plant-based diet has had on her performance.

“Being vegan has helped me immensely. I don’t feel sluggish like I did when I was eating meat, and my recovery from training really took off. It felt like an overall cleanse for my body, and I started seeing greater results on the track.” said the 2-time Olympian in the documentary.

6. Novak Djokovic

Consistently ranked the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic has an astounding 20 Grand Slam titles under his belt. The secret to his success? A plant-based diet, he says.

Djokovic switched to a vegan diet in 2016 and has since raved about the impact on his health, energy levels, and recovery time. 

“Eating vegan makes me more aware of my body on the court,” he explained to GQ. “I removed toxins from my body and with that, I healed. I healed my allergies, the eczema I used to have. Digestion-wise, I have no more issues like I used to.” 

Djokovic believes that his plant-based diet gives him an edge over his competitors, allowing him to train harder, recover faster, and perform better. He even opened a vegan restaurant, Eqvita, in Monte Carlo to make plant-based eating more accessible.

Follow Novak on Instagram.

7. Tia Blanco

Vegan surfer Tia Blanco’s sporting career changed for the better after switching to a purely plant-based diet in 2013. Just three years later in 2016, she became the first surfer to win back-to-back gold medals post-1996 at the World Surfing Championships aged 19. 

Having been raised in a vegetarian household, she told about her transition to veganism: 

“When I was 11 or 12 I started to get the questions, like ‘Why are you vegetarian?’ Meat is good for you. And all I could say was, ‘Shoot, I have no idea.’ Then when I was 15, I watched the documentary Glass Walls and read The China Study, and then it became quite clear to me why I wanted to be vegetarian and why I wanted to adopt a vegan lifestyle.”

The vegan athlete is vocal about her passion for veganism on her social media platforms and has posted about celebrating World Vegan Day with a plate of plant-based goodness.

Follow Tia on Instagram.

8. Lewis Hamilton

7-time Formula One World Champion, Lewis Hamilton is widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. He’s also an outspoken advocate for veganism and animal rights. 

Hamilton switched to a plant-based diet in 2017 after watching the documentary What the Health. He said the film opened his eyes to the environmental impact of animal agriculture and the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle. 

Since then, Hamilton has used his massive platform to promote veganism, even launching his own vegan fast-food chain, Neat Burger, in 2019. He’s spoken openly about how his plant-based diet has improved his energy levels, sleep, and post-race recovery.

“I feel the best I’ve ever felt physically and mentally. All year I’ve felt very strong mentally, but I think physically I’m now taking also a big step and that’s really the decision I made to change my diet.” – Lewis Hamilton via Men’s Health

Hamilton also sees veganism as a way to combat climate change and promote sustainability in the sports industry. He’s worked with Mercedes to reduce the carbon footprint of the team’s facilities and travel.

Follow Lewis on Instagram.

9. Fiona Oakes

Fiona Oakes is more than just a record-breaking vegan athlete. She’s an animal lover and activist who runs an animal sanctuary. Oakes has been vegan since childhood, initially for ethical reasons.

But she soon discovered the athletic advantages of a plant-based diet. As a marathoner, Oakes has achieved incredible things. She holds four world records, including fastest female to run a marathon on all seven continents plus the North Pole.

Fiona is also a dedicated vegan, eschewing all animal products. Oakes credits her plant-based diet for her endurance and quick recovery times.

“I honestly believe that my diet is key to my success and longevity in the sport,” she told Vegan Food & Living. “I have competed for 20 years and I am still improving with age.” 

Oakes’ story illustrates the incredible athletic feats possible on a lifelong vegan diet. Her achievements are a powerful testament to the performance benefits of plant-based living.

Follow Fiona on Instagram.

10. Alex Morgan

US Women’s National Soccer Team star Alex Morgan gave up meat and dairy back in 2017 to adopt a fully vegan lifestyle. The 33-year-old striker said the diet helps her recover faster from intense training sessions and feel less fatigued.

She’s become leaner and fitter than ever, she told The Beet. Soccer star, Alex Morgan is one of the beloved members of the USA National Team that won the World Cup and has shown that female players deserve to get equal pay as their male counterparts by the US Soccer Federation. 

She is also an animal rights advocate and longtime vegan, having given up meat when she decided that “it didn’t feel fair to have a dog, and yet eat meat all the time,” referring to her adorable pup Blue. 

Alex Morgan is now a fierce proponent of a plant-based diet for peak athletic performance. The vegan athlete is vocal about her passion for veganism on her social media platforms.

Follow Alex on Instagram.

11. Dotsie Bausch

American Olympic silver medalist Dotsie Bausch is a thriving plant-based speed cyclist and passionate animal lover. Throughout her career, she also achieved eight US national championships, two Pan American gold medals, and a world record.

After retiring from competitive sport, she founded Switch4Good – a non-profit ‘rattling accepted norms around dairy and health.’ She admitted to OMD that she was worried a plant-based would impede her performance, explaining: 

“I found, however, the switch to plants had the exact opposite effect. It felt like it became my secret weapon. I could breathe better during training and literally ride circles around my teammates… What’s more, my recovery time decreased immensely. I didn’t have to spend nearly as much time resting from the grueling workouts as I used to, which meant I could train more often and get stronger, faster.”

Follow Dotsie on Instagram.

Whether you’re a pro looking to level up or a weekend warrior ready to make a change, take a page from these vegan athletes’ playbooks. Ditch (or minimize) the meat and diry, load up on plants, and watch your performance soar. The vegan athlete revolution is here.

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About the Author

tyler tafelsky vegan protein powder review editor

This article is by Tyler Tafelsky, the lead editor at the Vegan Protein Powder Review. Endurance athlete and experienced writer in the health and nutrition space, Tyler has tried hundreds of different plant-based nutritional products and writes about his favorites here on this blog. View Tyler’s author bio or follow him on LinkedInTwitterFacebookPinterest, or Instagram. You can also visit his site to see what he’s up to.