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10 great sportspersons who are vegan

  • Veganism, as a movement, has been capturing the imagination of the world in recent times.
  • Many top athletes have chosen to take it up too - and with positive results.
ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 15 Apr 2020, 00:37 IST
Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli

To vegan, or not to vegan...that is the question. Well, one of the major questions at least.

We are, of course, talking about a pre-COVID-19 world, a world yet to be beset by a pandemic of devastating consequences. However, human civilization has overcome worse - the Black Death and Spanish Flu spring to mind - and we can expect the world to regain some semblance of normalcy in the distant future.

That is when the question of veganism would regain relevance. Is it merely a coincidence that the novel coronavirus purportedly began its reign of terror in a Chinese wet market that sells exotic meat? Purveyors of veganism will say no.

After all, the movement espouses the renunciation of all kinds of animal products (including bags, shoes and a whole lot else) on the grounds of morality and environmental conservation. And many top athletes are beginning to concur.

A host of vegan sportspersons, like India football captain Sunil Chhetri, believe that their fitness has been enhanced by choosing this lifestyle.

The jury is still be out on whether veganism does work to the benefit of a top sportsperson. While many on this list believe their fitness levels and sharpness have changed for the better after making the shift, some sports scientists and nutritionists still believe going vegan might not be the best choice for an elite athlete.

Whatever may be the truth, one cannot deny that a change is upon us. Gone are the days when it was deemed essential for a top athlete to depend on animal protein for nutrition and veganism. A movement has started to make inroads into the top echelons of sports, and it has made everyone sit up and take notice.

On that note, here is a look at 10 world-class athletes who are vegan.


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#10 Tom Brady

Tom Brady.
Tom Brady.

We begin our around-the-world quest for vegan sports superstars in the realm of the NFL.

Tom Brady is an absolute legend of American football. He is a six-time Super Bowl winner (a record), a four-time Super Bowl MVP (also a record), a three-time NFL MVP, and a vegan. And not just your run-of-the-mill vegan either.

The 42-year-old, often considered the greatest quarterback the high-octane sport has ever produced, follows a highly-restrictive plant-based diet which eschews many kinds of fruit, bread, gluten and even potatoes. This TB12 diet is also followed by Brady's family and has a cult following among some other professional athletes. Food for thought, indeed.

#9 Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling
Chris Smalling

Loaned-out Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has looked like a rejuvenated footballer during his current stint with Serie A side Roma. Does his diet have something to do with that?

That is possible, with the England international having gone on record to say that the switch to a plant-based diet has considerably helped with his fitness.

The centre-back, who won two Premier League titles at Old Trafford, has chosen an eco-friendly lifestyle to boot. He credits his wife for bringing about the change in him.

#8 Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri
Sunil Chhetri

Indian football's Captain Fantastic believes his digestion and recovery time have improved significantly since he switched to a plant-based lifestyle.

Chhetri, 35, has seemingly turned back the clock and his prolific career shows no signs of slowing down. With 72 goals, Chhetri is only behind Crisitiano Ronaldo among active players with the most goals in international football. Elite company, that.

It is highly likely that the Bengaluru FC mainstay will keep winning more awards, both individually and collectively in the last phase of his career. Maybe his dietary change has played a role in prolonging it.

#7 Neil Robertson

Neil Robertson
Neil Robertson

Many outside snooker might not be familiar with the name Neil Robertson, but he is one of the top pros in the money-spinning cue sport. Robertson chose the vegan life both for the energy boost he purportedly acquired from the switch and the ethical concerns he had about using animal products.

The 38-year-old is the most successful snooker player from outside the UK, and he won the coveted World Championship back in 2010.

Though snooker is not a physically demanding sport in the traditional sense of the term, it requires extreme levels of concentration and endurance. And many believe a plant-based diet helps in improving your focus.

Robertson became a vegan way back in 2014 and is still one of the top players on the tour.

#6 Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin
Hector Bellerin

The Arsenal and Spain right-back is another rare elite footballer who has chosen to go completely vegan (more on that later), and has been so since 2016.

Hector Bellerin chose the diet to reduce inflammation and recovery time. But he has had some injury scares where it was suggested that the recovery time was actually more because his diet wasn't providing him with the right nutrients.

Bellerin has a personal chef who provides him with meals that, ostensibly, have the right balance of nutrients to help him play at the elite level. Bellerin has also been a supporter of the ethical and moral crusades associated with the movement.

#5 Serena Williams

Serena Williams
Serena Williams

Yes, one of the current superstars of women's tennis is also a vegan.

The former World No. 1 and winner of 23 Grand Slam titles went vegan way back in 2012. While her sister Venus had to choose veganism because of an autoimmune disease, Serena Williams voluntarily embraced the lifestyle. In fact, her vegan diet has evolved over time.

Some reports suggest Serena chose veganism for health reasons, and that she sometimes relapses to non-vegan food. The tennis legend is renowned for her athleticism and physical strength, having won the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant.

#4 Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan was one of the stars of the US women's soccer team that won the 2019 World Cup. She is also a high-profile vegan.

In the US, women's soccer is very big and Morgan, the co-captain of the national team, is one of the highest-paid female athletes in the country.

Besides the World Cup, Morgan is also an Olympic gold-medallist and novelist! Like others on this list, the 30-year-old also credits her vegan diet to quicker recovery times.

#3 Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli

The India cricket team captain is a self-professed fitness freak and one of the greatest batsmen the game has ever produced.

For a Delhi lad who grew up on the full Punjabi gastronomic experience, switching to a vegan diet was a radical move. But Kohli made the switch to a plant-based diet and, like the others on this list, is happy with the results.

His digestive powers and even his moods have improved after the dietary shift, according to some reports.

Kohli has a 50-plus average in all formats of the game and is on course to set several records as a batsman. And oh yes, he owns a vegan restaurant as well.

#2 Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton.
Lewis Hamilton.

A true modern great of Formula One racing, Lewis Hamilton has been world champion six times. In fact, his world championship wins, race victories and podium finishes are all the second best ever in the history of the sport. In other words, Hamilton is the second most successful F1 racer of all time behind Michael Schumacher.

Like many others on this eclectic list, Hamilton is an activist who has repeatedly expressed his concerns for the environment. He has also dabbled in music and fashion, making him the most high-profile face of the popular sport.

Hamilton has been a vegan since 2017. He even has business interests in the lifestyle, owning a vegan restaurant to boot.

Some have, however, called out Hamilton for being a hypocrite since he plays a sport that involves racing high-octane cars - which is severely damaging to the environment.

#1 Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Now this is a diet story that is as legendary as its protagonist, and hence deserves to top the list.

For a long period of time, Novak Djokovic's ascent to the summit of the sport had been experiencing speed-bumps because of his infamous gluten intolerance. Indeed, many in the world got to know about the existence of gluten allergies only because of Djokovic's public struggles with them.

The 17-time Slam champion also had issues with dairy products and refined sugar. Frequently crippled on the court by his food-related physical struggles, Djokovic decided to take matters into his own hands.

The Serb maestro, who is now well on his way to becoming possibly the greatest player of all time, has been following a strict plant-based diet for close to a decade. But he doesn't like to publicly talk about his veganism.

Djokovic's phenomenal endurance, strength and pace on the court are testament to the fact that for him at least, the change has worked wonders. He is another one with a vegan restaurant, by the way.

Special mentions: Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. The two phenomenal Argentine footballers turn vegan during the football season to keep themselves sharp and increase longevity.

Honorable mentions: Venus Williams (tennis), Scott Jurek (ultra-marathoner), Jermain Defoe (footballer), Barny du Plessis (bodybuilder), Meagan Duhamel (skater).

Published 15 Apr 2020, 00:37 IST
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