Top Ten Vegan Athletes

Top Ten Vegan Athletes

More and more top athletes are ditching meat in their diets to become healthy plant-based vegans, proving that animal protein is not necessary for developing strength, building muscle and performing at a high level. Citing longer endurance and more energy, as well as personal beliefs as reasons for going vegan, several athletes have completely overhauled their diets with successful results. Below is a list of the top 10 athletes who have embraced a plant-based diet and have remained at the top of their game. 

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Formula One) 

    Seven-time British Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton is considered one of the best drivers of all time. Realizing he didn’t need meat to fuel his success, he became vegan in 2017 after watching “What the Health”, an investigative documentary that examines how the relationship between big business and government adversely affects the health of our nation. Hamilton went vegan not only to benefit his own health but also to live in accordance with a personal conviction that exploiting and killing animals is wrong. A strong animal advocate, Hamilton uses his fame and success to bring attention to animal cruelty and to promote a vegan lifestyle. He urges his social media followers to go vegan and forgo meat and leather, once sharing a disturbing video on instagram of pigs heading to slaughter that were visibly distressed. He captioned the video with “It is those of us that eat animal products that are complicit with this happening. Please don’t turn a blind eye, please don’t ignore it. Go plant-based.”

  1. Chris Paul (NBA)

    Chris Paul is a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA. Paul became vegan in 2019 and has experienced significant improvements on the court since he made the switch. After experiencing career lows during his last season with the Houston Rockets during the 2018-2019 season, Paul went vegan and improved his overall performance including points scored per game. Paul noticed benefits quickly stating, “I do feel really good right now. I think the biggest change for me is the aches and pains of the season.” Paul continues to follow a vegan lifestyle and is an ambassador and investor in the Beyond Meat company, which makes plant-based burgers, crumbles and sausages designed to resemble meat.  

  1. Alex Morgan (Soccer)

    Alex Morgan is an American female professional soccer player, former co-captain of the women’s national soccer team and an Olympic athlete. She began her vegan journey in 2017, citing her love for animals as her primary motivation, explaining “it didn’t feel fair to have a dog I adore, and yet eat meat all the time,” referring to her rescue dog Blue. Not only has Morgan saved animals and helped the environment with her lifestyle, she credits being injury-free and feeling better overall to her diet. In conjunction with her vegan lifestyle, Morgan works with PETA to support animal advocacy. 

  1. Venus Williams (Tennis)

    Venus Williams is a professional tennis player. Regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Williams was the former number one player in the world in both singles and doubles. Williams believes it was both hard work and overall wellness that propelled her to the top. Unfortunately, her trajectory took a turn in 2011 when she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that ended her professional tennis career. Following advice from doctors, Williams switched to a vegan diet which has helped her manage her disease by controlling inflammation levels in her body. Williams continues to workout and remains incredibly mindful of every food she consumes. However, she allows herself some balance and the opportunity to occasionally indulge in a few comfort foods. In 2020, Williams co-founded Happy Viking, a company that sells a line of plant-based protein powders. Plant-based protein shakes remain an important part of Williams’ workouts, and she relies on them for recovery and to maintain muscle.

  1. Dianna Taurasi (WNBA)

    Dianna Taurasi plays in the WNBA for the Phoenix Mercury, and was drafted first overall in the 2004 draft. Taurasi and her partner Penny Taylor began following a vegan diet in 2015 in order to improve their overall health. Taurasi attributes her longevity in the sport and her continued high achievement to her vegan diet. According to Taurasi, following a more healthful plant-based diet has helped her stay away from fats and sugars that can often lead to inflammation, and helped her maintain good health. “I think it is something I have really benefited from,” the basketball pro said in a 2018 interview with Women Fitness. Since going vegan, Taurasi has won two additional Olympic gold medals, bringing her total to five. 

  1. Rich Roll (Ultra Marathoner) 

    A former entertainment attorney & Stanford Swimmer, Rich Roll emerged from an almost rock bottom point in his life health-wise and went on to become an ironman competitor, ultra marathoner and podcast host. More than 10 years ago, just before Roll turned 40, Roll’s health was in such a poor state he could barely climb a flight of stairs. He realized then and there if he didn’t do something proactively he would be a candidate for a major heart attack before he turned 50. Determined to turn his health and his life around, Roll overhauled his diet, becoming a full-fledged vegan, and started active fitness training. Gradually, his ambition to compete grew and he eventually successfully competed in multiple ironman competitions and ultra marathons. Roll has proven that success in competitions that push the boundaries of athleticism is possible without following a meat-based diet. 

  1. Kyrie Irving (NBA)

    Kyrie Irving is a professional basketball player in the NBA, currently playing for the Brooklyn Nets. Irving switched to a vegan diet during the 2017-2018 season when he played for the Boston Celtics after watching the “What the Health” documentary. He later credited the team’s 13-game winning streak to his vegan diet. Although Irving was determined to go vegan, finding appetizing alternatives to meat while traveling extensively with the team was difficult. Beyond Meat, which makes plant-based foods that closely resemble meat, sent samples to Irving and he became an investor and ambassador. The move propelled both Irving’s plant-based diet and Beyond Meat’s products into the spotlight. Since he began working with Beyond Meat, Irving has worked to distribute vegan food to communities in need. 

  1. James Wilks (The Game Changers) 

    A retired MMA fighter, current combative instructor, and winner of The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom (season nine), James Wilks began his vegan journey following a knee injury he incurred in 2011. After learning that ancient Roman gladiators followed plant-based diets, he embarked on a quest to understand how a vegan diet could benefit himself and other modern-day athletes. His story is chronicled in the documentary “The Game Changers,” which was released September 2019 and also showcases other elite athletes and their efforts to follow a vegan diet for optimal results. The documentary is executive produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, James Cameron, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul, and is currently available on multiple streaming platforms. 

  1. Colin Kaepernick (NFL, Activist)

    A former NFL player and current activist, Colin Kaepernick is known for his athleticism and for bringing attention to racial injustices. He gained notoriety and generated considerable controversy when he kneeled during the US national anthem to protest police brutality. In August 2016, he told reporters he had been vegan for about nine months. He was motivated to go vegan for both health reasons and for ethical concerns. He has publicly stated that he has never felt healthier and believes his vegan lifestyle is aligned with his overall anti-oppression beliefs. In December 2020, Ben & Jerry’s announced a Kaepernick vegan ice cream flavor, “Change the Whirled.” Proceeds of the ice cream are donated to a camp founded by Kaepernick called Know Your Rights Camp, which works to educate black and brown communicates on their rights. 

  1. Heather Mitts (Soccer)

    Heather Mitts is a former female professional soccer player and three-time Olympic gold medalist. She committed to a vegan after watching the “What the Health” documentary that was released in 2017. She was persuaded to become vegan due to the film’s discussion of how saturated fats from meat can lead to the clogging of arteries or atherosclerosis. Only two weeks after making the jump to a vegan diet, Mills experienced higher energy levels, and shorter recovery periods, exclaiming she “never felt better.” Currently Mitts is a certified fitness trainer, vegan lifestyle coach and advocate, and also works with the non-profit Switch4Good, founded by Dotsie Bausch, a pro cyclist and Olympian, which promotes dairy-free lifestyles. 

  2. Special Honor - DeAndre Jordan & JaVale McGee (NBA)

    Deandre Jordan, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, went vegan in 2018 out of concern for the environment. He now has a cooking show, Cooking Clean with DeAndre Jordan, available on the athlete-owned network PlayersTV, where his show debuted with eight episodes. He is joined by guest chefs to explore various plant-based recipes. His goal is to make vegan foods and cooking more accessible. 

    Javale McGee is a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Suns. McGee became a vegan in 2016. He credits his vegan diet for his speed and agility on the court and for helping his team in 2018, which at the time was the Golden State Warriors, win the NBA championship. McGee is an investor in the company Outstanding Foods, which makes plant-based snack foods. Both Jordan and McGee are also investors in the Beyond Meat company.