Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap buildings in a single bound. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a...
Ok, so vegetarians don't leap buildings, and maybe they can't fly. But they do save lives! And most people find they have more energy when they give meat and dairy the flick. In fact many star athletes have left animal products in a cloud of dust to enhance their super-human efforts. Check out these heroes of the sporting world, who all got an edge by going veg.
You don’t need to look past track and field legend Carl Lewis to find a veggie powered speed machine. Lewis won a whopping 10 Olympic medals (9 of them gold) and 10 World Championship medals (8 gold). These amazing accomplishments earned him the title “World Athlete of the Century” from the International Association of Athletics Federations, “Sportsman of the Century” from the International Olympic Committee and “Olymipian of the Century” from Sports Illustrated. Lewis proudly says “My best performances were when I was 30 years old and I was a vegan.”
With 900 gold medals (covering every distance of running: from 100m to ultra marathons and triathlons) under her belt it’s no surprise Ruth Heidrich was named one of the “Ten Fittest Women in North America” in 1999. What is surprising is that when she was listed in this top ten she was 64 years of age and 17 years earlier she was diagnosed with inoperable breast cancer! Rather than undergoing conventional cancer treatment, Ruth put her life in the hands of doctors researching the effects of a vegan diet on breast cancer. Ruth has been cancer free for more than 20 years and attributes her recovery and great health to her regular exercise and being vegan. “It’s great what your body can do with the right type of nutrition.” says Ruth, “There is no question that the combination of a vegan low-fat diet and daily vigorous exercise are keys to radiant good health. It is my vegan diet that powers me through triathlons and marathons and 50-60 races per year!”
Dave Scott, aka “The Man”, is one of only 2 people to ever win 6 World Ironman Triathlon Championships! And how did Dave pack that iron into his manly meals? This lean, mean, running, cycling and swimming machine followed an energy packed vegan diet.
Murray Rose is one of Australia’s great Olympic swimming legends. He was the first man to ever swim the 1,500m freestyle in less than 18 minutes and he did it when he was just 17! He became an instant hero in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, snatching 3 gold medals in the 400m, 1500m and 4x200m relay. This tally rose to a total of 6 Olympic medals in years to come. Murray was certainly ahead of his time in Australia in the 1950s, and not just in the pool, he also went vegetarian at a very early age. Murray’s aquatic feats and green eating even earned him the nick-name “The Seaweed Streak”.
“Peter Perfect”, “The King of the Mountain”, “The Bradman of Bathurst” or simply “Brockie”... now when you’ve been dubbed with that many nicknames you must have been bloody good at something! And Peter Brock most definitely was. Brockie was one of Australia’s most successful race drivers. He was nine-time winner of the Bathurst 1000 endurance race, nine-time winner of the Sandown 500 Touring Car Race and was named Australian Touring Car Champion three times. After becoming physically and emotionally drained a third of the way into his career Brockie gave himself a life-long energy boost, by ditching meat and dairy. This powered him through the next 20 years of racing cars at world level!
Bill Pearl was Mr. Universe body building Champion an amazing 4 times. He was one of the strongest bodybuilders ever — he could twist a horseshoe like a pretzel, tear a license plate like it was cardboard, and bend a railroad spike into a ‘U’ shape! This meat-free muscle man may be built like a tank with killer ‘guns’ but he has no time for violence; “I’m more healthy, I can train with more energy ... I have now been vegetarian for almost 20 years. We have no fish, fowl, or red meat in our diet. Yet I can still carry the same amount of muscle as I did in winning my four Mr. Universe titles. ... Take it from me, there’s nothing magic about eating meat that’s going to make you a champion bodybuilder. Anything you can find in a piece of meat, you can find in other foods as well.”
Mac Danzig is a US Mixed martial arts fighter who’s been crowned the Ultimate Fighter, King of the Cage, Gladiator Challenge Champion and Extreme Challenge Trials 2001 U.S. MMA National Champion. But you won’t find this “Gladiator” doing any real killing. In fact he’s a proud vegan. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a profound respect and interest in nature and animals. I guess it’s just in my blood... I remember being 13 and seeing a truck on the interstate filled with pigs all headed to the slaughterhouse. One of them made eye contact with me for a while. It was one of the saddest moments I can remember. There was so much intelligence and spirit in him, and here he was, being sent to an awful death.” So how does being vegan affect Mac’s training? “When I decided to go vegan, I was able to make the 155-pound weight class much easier, and I haven’t lost an ounce of muscle. I’m leaner than I used to be, and I have much more energy than I used to.”
Martina Navratilova was described by another tennis great, Billie Jean King, as “the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived.” Martina won 18 major international championships and was runner up in another 14. As renowned as she was for her sporting brilliance, Navratilova, a passionate vegetarian, is also famous off the court for her progressive thinking and for championing Gay and Lesbian Rights and Animal Rights.
Former Australian cricket captain, Greg Chappell is considered one of the best all-round cricketers of all time. This Aussie legend was even named in the starting 11 for the Australian Cricket Board’s ‘Test Team of the Century’! Greg also takes an all-round approach to health and fitness, being a passionate vegan who has written two books on the subject! Giving up meat and dairy products in favour of healthier foods like soya and vegetables, Chappell says, made him feel stronger and healthier.
“We are the only species of animal on earth that still consumes milk products after being weaned. To make things worse, we do not even consume our own milk products but get them from another kind of animal,” Chappell wrote in his book, “Dairy milk is a perfectly balanced food for calves but for nothing else. It does contain certain nutrients, but it also contains things which do us much more harm than the nutrients do us good,” he said.
This bad-boy basketballer/ pro-wrestler/ action film star was once called “a sort of basketball genius.” Rodman played for more NBA teams than you could poke a celery stick at, including alongside Michael Jordan for the Chicago Bulls on three championship teams. This inked-up, pierced, fluoro-haired superstar obviously isn’t afraid of standing out, but he’s also not afraid of speaking out. Rodman, a long-time vegetarian, in 2005 became the first man, and the first sports star to pose naked for a campaign against fur.
Esther Hahn is a US pro-surfer with wins and titles in no less than 4 internationally recognised surfing associations! She is also one smart cookie, studying a history major at the prestigious Yale University. Esther became vegan in first year uni after falling very ill. Once she made the switch she soon got better and can now be found jet-setting all over the world, chasing the best breaks, powered by the best diet! “I actually feel more energized as a vegan. I think consuming large amounts of animal products, especially dairy, can take a toll on the body. So I feel better, both physically and mentally, surfing as a vegan... I’m constantly surprised by how easily adaptable a vegan diet can be. Grains, vegetables, and beans are fairly universal foods.”
Steph Davis is an American pro rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer. That’s right, she officially gets paid to scale massive cliffs and jump off them! She is one of the best climbers in the world and only the second woman ever to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan free-solo (i.e. without any ropes). Just like the movie star, Toby Maguire, who used vegan food to build his hot bod for the role of Spiderman, this real life spiderwoman says she got an edge by going vegan. “... I started to make these leaps in my climbing and even in running. That’s when I free-climbed El Cap in a day. Then I climbed even better in Patagonia.”
They don't come much buffer than 2009's Mr Natural Universe winner, Billy Simmonds. This ultra-ripped bodybuilder from Bris-vegas has been a vegetarian since his teens. "People need to realise the impact that they're having on other animals. They may not be able to see it when they drive through KFC and order their food, but there's a hell of a lot of cruelty and a lot of bad karma and there's a lot of unnecessary suffering that's going on. Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't happening."
When not out flexing the rest on stage, Billy surfs, runs, swims, teaches martial arts, rock climbs, powerlifts and runs an online training program for other bodybuilders. "Going veg, I noticed an immediate amount of energy and felt at peace with the world. I felt like I was moving with the laws of nature, not against them. I felt a bond with animals, and felt I was making a difference and that I was standing up for something I believe in."
Click here to watch an exclusive interview with Billy Simmonds.
This pro skater/stunt guy extraordinaire/film-maker/director/actor/juggler and break-dancer can do just about everything, but says “one thing I don’t do is eat meat!” Laban has produced and starred in many skate films, worked on the show “Jackass”, directed music videos and even made a dark sketch comedy about skateboarding and “what not to do with a chainsaw”. Despite his hectic schedule of challenging gravity, challenging authority and challenging anything else that gets in his way, Laban is a vocal vegan and also challenges the idea of eating animals. “Meat is full of steroids, antibiotics, fat, and cholesterol; I don’t want to put that in my body! Farming animals is what is depleting our soil, choking our oceans, and burning our rain forests.”
It wasn’t until Leslie Marx was in uni that she decided to look “for the most exotic” sport she could find, that challenged her mind as well as her body. Fencing fit the bill. Despite her late start, the Assistant Professor of Economics and Management competed all over the world, won the 1995 Pan American Championship and competed at the 1996 Olympics. Juggling lecturing, research and world competition would be considered a challenge for some, but this swashbuckling academic took it all in her stride, fuelled by veggies!
Most of us would be pretty chuffed if we were talented enough to compete in one sport at an international level. But that just wasn’t enough for Phoebe Mills. An Olympic gymnast and vegetarian, Phoebe also took up diving, speed skating and snowboarding. Phoebe made history in the 1988 Seoul Olympics when she took home a bronze in the balance beam. She was the first ever American female gymnast to win a medal in a fully-attended Olympics. Whether performing flips over a beam, ice or water, Phoebe got plenty of get up and go from her green gourmet!
Now not all super-heroes fight the good fight with massive biceps. Some master a different type of strength — mental strength. It takes precision thinking, amazing concentration and mathematical genius to become a Grandmaster Chess player like Jonathan Speelman. A three time British Champion, Speelman flexed his mental muscles to climb his way to equal 4th in the world. With a pro chess career spanning 30 years, this Doctor of Mathematics obviously did the math: great health + saving lives = being vegetarian.
Super-human health and well-being is not just reserved for professional athletes—anyone can feel lighter, healthier and have more energy simply by leaving sickly animal products off the menu. Best of all it’s never been easier or tastier to be vegetarian! Here’s the proof...