Vegan Athletes

Vegan Athletes

So here we are again in Veganuary. After all the excesses of the Christmas and New Year period, it’s a good time to give your body a bit of a rest and simplify your diet. There are many reasons to consider veganism – feel healthier and regain some energy, help the planet in its fight against climate change and also to reduce the needless treatment of animals for the purpose of human consumption. 

Whatever your reasons for considering going vegan there are also some reservations you may have for not giving it a try. One of the most common ones is that you won’t get enough quality protein in your diet and your training and performance will be effected. Although it has been shown that by having a varied diet, the vegan can include all the essential aminos required. 

So while you do your own research, here’s a few people who do pretty well without meat – 

Lewis Hamilton - Even though he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this year’s Formula 1, Hamilton has done Ok for himself, even since adopting a vegan diet in 2017. His reason’s seem to be based in climate change and animal welfare, telling the BBC “As the human race, what we are doing to the world... the pollution [in terms of emissions of global-warming gases] coming from the amount of cows that are being produced is incredible. They say it is more than what we produce with our flights and our cars, which is kind of crazy to think. The cruelty is horrible and I don't necessarily want to support that." However, the physical demands of driving a Formula 1 car can’t be ignored and I’m pretty sure that Hamilton would not compromise his physical condition if he felt his diet was not optimal. 

Lewis Hamilton

Scott Jurek - From 1999 Jurek’s diet changed from a typical ultra-runner to a vegan one. Named one of the greatest runners of all time, Scott Jurek has since become a living legend.   A passionate advocate for vegetarianism, he follows a 100% plant-based diet, which he credits for his endurance, recovery and consistent twenty year racing career. The gradual transition to a vegan diet has allowed him to perform more consistently across a variety of race lengths. He puts this down to how the vegan diet has impacted his health, recovery, and training.

Before running, he combines a dense source of calories through almonds, coconut, fruit, and protein powder. The odd time when he does feel the need for solid food, he eats wheat bread with almond butter and sometimes multigrain porridge.

Since Jurek is out for six or seven hours running during the week, he needs to refuel constantly. His refuelling strategy is as simple as it gets, eating a hummus wrap on the side of a mountain pass. Although, he has also been known to chomp down on a bean and rice burrito too.

Scott Jurek

David Haye - Haye is a former unified Cruiserweight World Champion and WBA Heavyweight Champion. Haye’s eye-catching power and immense physical conditioning have distinguished him as one of British boxing's most celebrated and successful ring champions of the modern era. The ‘Hayemaker’ closed a record-breaking gap when he defeated Nikolai Valuev who was 11 inches and 7 stone (45kg, 98lbs) heavier than Haye in 2009. Along with Evander Holyfield, Haye is one of only two boxers in history to have unified the cruiserweight world titles and become a world heavyweight champion. Haye researched the benefits of a plant-based diet on healing rates and recovery time after a serious shoulder injury prompted surgery and meant he had to take a break from the ring. He then decided to become vegan after looking into the most efficient ways to recover while also researching the "horrible" way animals are treated. He said: "All roads kept leading back to a plant-based diet." 

Adam Hansen - Hansen is a retired professional racing cyclist, well known for being a vegan. He completed 26 gruelling 3 week tours and became the second Australian to complete all three Grand Tours – the Giro D’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España – in a calendar year. In the sport of professional cycling, energy is key, so how does Hansen get in the required calories? For him, it seems entirely logical for athletes like him to be able to manage on the diet. “We professional tour riders, during the race our primary energy source is carbohydrates either from gels or energy bars, they’re all vegan.” Hansen gets his protein from vegan brown rice and pea protein powder, but he points out that every rider takes protein powder at the end of a race, regardless of their diet. “If someone was to say a vegan diet doesn’t have enough protein in it, you could say the same about any diet. Why are you supplementing with amino acids? Even on a vegan diet it’s more than adequate,” he says with astonishing passion. “I’ve done heaps of Grand Tours without taking animal protein as a recovery. Over the years I’ve never taken animal protein, and I’ve done more Grand Tours than anyone else.” 

Nate Diaz – Arguably MMA's most famous vegan, Diaz stopped eating meat at the age of 18. Similar to his elder brother Nick, he occasionally becomes a pescatarian when out of training camps. However, Nate Diaz is exclusively vegan during fight camp.  After giving up dairy as a teenager it wasn't until he relapsed with a big bowl of cheese-covered pasta after a fight that he realised the effect it had on his health. It made him sick and gave him headaches for a week. "That shit really messed me up," he said. "So after that cleared up, I was like, 'OK, I don't need that anymore.' I felt better and realized I work better without that stuff."
After beating Conor McGregor with a second round submission, Nate's brother Nick was quick to take the piss after the fight, tweeting "Conor McGregor got his ass kicked by a vegan." 

Nate Diaz

Fiona Oakes - As well as being a world record-breaking endurance runner, Fiona Oakes is also known for her advocacy of a vegan diet and tireless work to champion animal rights. With a gruelling training regime currently averaging around 100 miles a week, she manages to stay well-fuelled and energised on a purely vegan diet, which she's followed from a young age.

She has competed internationally in more than 100 marathons, completed the Marathon des Sables 3 times and set five marathon course records around the globe - including The Antarctic Ice Marathon, as well as being the fastest woman to run a marathon on every continent plus the North Pole consecutively. Astonishingly, this is all despite having to undergo 17 radical knee surgeries and having her entire right kneecap removed. You can watch the amazing story of Fiona’s vegan fuelled exploits in the film ‘Running for Good’ on Amazon Prime. 

Fiona Oakes

So if you are curious whether you would benefit from a vegan diet, my advice would be to try it for a month and monitor how you feel. What better way than to take advantage of the Bennobox Veganuary deal??  25% OFF 4-WEEK VEGAN PLANS - Use code Veganuary25 ‼

Andy Bennett 

Andy is George’s Dad, a PT and Cycling Coach. Find out more at