Athletes who are vegan: Ranking the 15 most successful vegan athletes

Athletes who are vegan: Ranking the 15 most successful vegan athletes

Babu Tendu
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:14 PM

Many participants in the athletic world care a lot about their health since it actively affects their performance on the field. The more energetic you are, the more performance is expected from you. This then narrows down to the food they eat, increasing the number of athletes who are vegan.

Athletes who are vegan
Today's post will focus on the famous athletes who decided to switch to a vegan lifestyle for the good of their careers. Photo by Clive Mason. (Modified by author).
Source: Getty Images

This also has led many athletes to change their eating habits to improve their game power. However, some have completely different reasons for veganism depending on their upbringing or environmental-related issues. We will then take a look at the top vegan athletes in the world.

15. Rob Bigwood

Rob took up arm wrestling in 2000. After a tournament in 2002, he felt uncomfortable eating meat and decided to move towards a vegetarian diet. Like many people, he believed that meat was essential for building strength.

Top vegan athletes in the world
April 29, 2014: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Rob Bigwood, and Mike Fortuna appear on NBC News' "Today" show. Photo by Peter Kramer.
Source: Getty Images

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"My body did not feel right at the beginning, and it took a couple of weeks to adjust without the meat. Eventually, I began to gain energy and consistently lost weight. I have never felt better in my entire life and it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made."

14. Ryan Stills

Ryan has been a world-class powerlifter for several years, making his mark at the highest level against the strongest opponents. In 2021, he bagged a category win at the World Championships in Sweden. He also took the Best Lifter award.

"Once I came to the determination that I could not allow myself to have excuses as to why I couldn't do this, I vowed to find a way to do it. And I have."

13. Pat Reeves

In 1977, when she was 32 years old, Pat was diagnosed with a serious genetic. The devastating news led to her adopting a wholefood vegetable diet. As a result, her health has improved, and the 'terminal' cancer has been in remission. Meanwhile, she continues to live a full and incredible life.

"I have now followed a plant-based eating regime for forty-four years," said Pat in 2009 "– wow – that's so long! I credit my current excellent health and phenomenal energy to this food preparation method and my ability to stay on top of genetically-fueled cancer."

12. Mike Fremont

Mike Fremont has set the boundaries of what is believed to be done. He retains world records and a level of incredible fitness level. At age 99, he runs regularly. He retains a sharp mind and excitement for the sport.

He broke national US records for his age category through his 80s, where the categories are five years periods. Mike broke world records for single-year age categories, and ten years on still holds them both. He has run the world's fastest marathons for those aged 88 and 90.

11. Nick Kyrgios

A plant-based diet fuels the controversial sportsman's impressive prowess. However, unlike many athletes whose primary motivation for being plant-based is their health, Kyrgios is also vegan for the environment. The Australian tennis star was inspired to go vegan after the devastating fires that ravaged Australia in 2020 and killed many animals.

What do vegan athletes eat
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) puts red trainers on after his match against Filip Krajinovic (SRB) at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 30, 2022, in London, England. Photo by Simon Stacpoole.
Source: Getty Images

10. Venus Williams

The tennis pro went plant-based after being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease. The syndrome causes joint pain and fatigue, which could have led to the end of her tennis career. Nonetheless, a vegetarian lifestyle allowed the tennis champion to manage her disease without a dose and continue playing the sport she adores.

Greatest vegan athletes
Venus Williams speaks onstage at GLAM SLAM: The Shows 2022 at Spring Studios on September 11, 2022, in New York City. Photo by Bryan Bedder.
Source: Getty Images

Moreover, she launched her vegan protein brand, Happy Viking, to help aspiring vegetable-eating athletes recover after workouts and maintain muscle. She has even inspired her sister Serena to adopt a plant-based diet during her tours, adding to the list of famous vegan athletes.

She reportedly fuels herself with meals such as oats with strawberries, toasted Ezekiel bread, and brown rice with hemp and chia seeds answering the question of what vegan athletes eat.

9. Patrik Bouboumian

In 2011, he became Germany's strongest man – the first-ever vegetarian to do so. Bouboumian is impossibly strong, and watching him power lift could convert any meat-eating gym-goer to veganism. He became among the male athletes who are vegan.

Olympic athletes who are vegan
Patrik Baboumian poses for portraits after discussing his veganism and the documentary Game Changers during Plant Powered Expo on February 2, 2020, in London, England. Photo by Ollie Millington.
Source: Getty Images
"This is a message to all those out there who think that you need animal products to be fit and strong. Almost two years after becoming vegan I am stronger than ever before and I am still improving day by day. There are plenty of plant-based protein sources and your body is going to thank you for stopping feeding it with dead food. Go vegan and feel the power!"

8. Hannah Teter

The snowboarding Olympic gold champion cut out animal products completely and is now one of the Olympic athletes who are vegan, changing the face of the sports world.

Female athletes who are vegan
Hannah Teter poses for a photo prior to the 'NHL Outdoors At Lake Tahoe' between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers on February 21, 2021, in Stateline, Nevada. Photo by Ezra Shaw.
Source: Getty Images
"My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete. It's a whole other level that I'm elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it's a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete."

7. Morgan Mitchell

Two years after commencing the plant-based diet, the sprinter, at 21 years, won the 2016 Olympics in Rio, marking herself among the female vegan athletes. When asked what her teammates thought of her diet by Great Vegan Athletes, she explained:

famous athletes who are vegan
Morgan Mitchell attends the 2022 ESPYs at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on July 20, 2022. Photo by Momodu Mansaray.
Source: Getty Images
"After running PB after PB on my vegan diet I don't think they could argue at all. There is still banter sometimes but you just have to shake it off and laugh. I just have to reiterate the fact that the life of an animal and the wellbeing of the environment means more to me than any amount of money or the career path I wish to take because without them we wouldn't have life."

6. Alex Morgan

The FIFA Women's World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist is now a fierce proponent of a plant-based diet for peak athletic performance. Furthermore, in 2019, she was named PETA's most beautiful vegan celebrity alongside her fellow Kyrie Irving.

Male athletes who are vegan
Alex Morgan of the United States strikes the ball during warmups before a game between Nigeria and USWNT at Audi Field on September 6, 2022, in Washington, DC. Photo by Brad Smith.
Source: Getty Images
"I never thought it was possible I could be playing at an elite level as a professional athlete with a plant-based diet. Then I realized it wasn't detrimental at all. I am passionate about giving animals a voice. I adopted a vegetable diet because it didn't feel fair to have a dog I adore and yet eat meat all the time."

5. Dotsie Bausch

The American Olympic silver medalist is a growing vegan speed cyclist and passionate lover of animals. 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 being a vegan would impede her performance, explaining:

"I found, however, the switch to plants had the exact opposite effect—I felt like it became my secret weapon. I could breathe better during training and literally ride circles around my teammates who were many years my junior."

4. Novak Djokovic

The world's number one tennis player follows a plant-based diet for optimal athleticism. At 34, Djokovic should be nearing sporting retirement, but he is still at the top of his performance.

"It's a lifestyle more than just a diet because you have ethical reasons as well, being conscious of what is happening in the animal world.
The slaughtering of animals and farming and everything, that's obviously also a huge impact on climate change which maybe people don't talk about as much. It's more than a performance reason for me, it's a lifestyle, it's something I'm really proud of."

3. Tia Blanco

The plant-based surfer's sporting career positively turned in 2013 after switching to a purely plant-based diet. 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.

Popular athletes who are vegan
Tia Blanco attends the 23rd Anniversary Mercy for Animals Gala at the Skirball Cultural Center on September 16, 2022, in Los Angeles, California. Photo by David Livingston.
Source: Getty Images

Being brought up in a vegetarian home has made the athlete a vocalist about her passion for veganism on her social media platforms. She recently posted about celebrating World Vegan Day with a plate of plant-based goodness.

2. Scott Jurek

The ultra-runner proves that you don't need meat or dairy to scale the heights of athletic performance. He covered the distance of the Appalachian Trail in a record-setting 46 days, eight hours, and seven minutes. Not to mention that he's taken first place in just about all the ultra-running world's most high-profile races.

Successful athletes who are vegan
Thomas Panek prepares to run guided by his guide dog Gus, accompanied by ultra-runner Scott Jurek, kicking off the Guiding Eyes Wag-a-thon on April 14, 2018. Photo by Scott Eisen.
Source: Getty Images
"A lot of people assume that one needs to eat animal products to gain a lot of muscle mass or sufficient muscle mass for even power sports, and that's definitely been proved false time and time again."

1. Lewis Hamilton

This one may not surprise some vegetarians, as the racing champion has his chain of vegan fast-food restaurants, Neat Burger. Hamilton is an outspoken supporter of animal rights, having made the plant-based switch in 2017 after watching the Netflix documentary What the Health and is ranked among the greatest vegan athletes.

Before watching it, he claimed he was "on a mission to go plant-based" as "animal cruelty, global warming, and our personal health is at stake." His success so far and changing energy have been credited to his vegan diet. Speaking to Men's Health magazine, Hamilton explained: "I have more energy; I'm so much more productive. I wake up feeling way better, clearer in thought and fresher in my body."

"I recover quicker; I sleep better. My skin cleared up. I have fewer allergies. There are just so many impacts. I'm physically in better shape than I've ever been, and I'm more successful than ever right now, and my plant-based program has played such a big role in that."

With the common and proven perception that animal products are not good for sportspeople, there exists athletes who are vegan. Big names in the sporting world, such as Lewis Hamilton and Novak Djokovic, grace the list.

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Babu Tendu
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