In this post you’ll learn about how a vegan diet benefits athletes, and about how these athletes broke the mold and used a plant-based diet to trail-blaze new paths!
If you’ve been thinking about your state of health and fitness, but lack motivation to start exercising a little more or eating more nutrient-rich plant foods, I have some brilliant gems of inspiration for you in this post.
These three powerhouse athletes defied convention and attribute their remarkable accomplishments to their vegan diets.
By the end of this article, you’ll have the tools with which you can begin implementing an even better version of yourself.
First, I want to share a bit about my experience as a person striving to be plant-based in an athlete’s environment, which is what inspired me to write this post.
The Carnivore Athletes I Knew
Many years ago, I spent several hours a week in intensive martial arts training, and put in even more training hours during competition season. This was during my pre-vegan days, when I was trying to be vegetarian. My last task toward pure vegetarianism was to completely cut the occasional helping of chicken or fish out of my diet.
One of the things that stand out in my mind about that time is the decent amount of teasing I routinely got from my fellow students for trying not to eat meat (yes, it was kind of like high school all over again!).
When I mentioned in passing something to another student about trying not to eat meat, one of the most senior instructors in our school happened to overhear what I’d said.
The Senior Instructor
This guy had super-quick reflexes and generated a ridiculous amount of power with strikes and kicks. I thought he was pretty scary, even though he didn’t fit into a traditional idea of what scary looks like.
He was all of maybe 5’8″, an older guy with glasses and an IT job. His thin build was so wiry that his belly was almost concave and every shirt hung on his frame as if he were a bone-thin model walking a runway in Milan during Fashion Week.
It was common knowledge that once, he had decimated a heavy bag, literally knocking the stuffing out of it, with a single palm strike. Also well-known was his ability to throw an orange in the air and pierce it clean with his index finger.
I really didn’t want to deal with this guy at all, but now, he overheard me.
No Meat, No Energy
“What?” he turned to me and said defiantly, “You want to be a vegetarian? You’ll get no energy that way.”
He continued with his point for several more seconds, and finally unloaded his conclusion in detectable disgust:
“Not eating meat is crazy. If I don’t eat meat, I lose my will to kill,” he said, grinning incredulously.
Everyone around within earshot agreed and the teasing resumed.
Ugh, well this has been fun. Me and my big mouth, I thought.
Being the oddball has its hardships, and I’ve been that oddball in more ways than I can count. But it’s never steered me off the path of who I am, for better or for worse.
From a certain perspective, being a oddball is something of a stubbornly dedicated art form. It can force you to operate with minimal concern about what others will think of you, and past the pre-conceived notions that society has of you.
This is the kind of inspiration that I find in these three individuals who have persevered and succeeded through their understanding of how a vegan diet benefits athletes.
Rocky Luedeker is a 63-year-old, multiple-record-holding powerlifter that I was lucky to initially learn about from Women’s Health. In the four years that she has been a competitive powerlifter, she has broken 14 world records and 33 national and state records, and holds six Best Lifter awards.
As Luedeker tells Vegan Health and Fitness, she has been vegan for 16 years.
“I believe that the vegan way of life is paramount for all humans. No animal should have to suffer or be enslaved for archaic human lifestyles. I am also very concerned about all the insects that are rapidly disappearing since they are so important to the environment, as insects are my favorite entities.”
She typically competes in the 97 lb. class, but will occasionally compete in the 105 lb. class in pursuit of more records.
“My best squat is 124 lbs. My best bench press is 89 lbs. And my best deadlift 184 lbs., twice my body weight. My top weight for arm curl is 45 lbs. I do 8-to-10 competitions a year, usually weighing in at about 92 lbs.”
She also competes in the Raw division, which means no support garments! I didn’t even know there existed such a division.
But Isn’t Protein Necessary to Build Strength?
Yes. And plants are the only place where Luedeker gets her protein. There are so many sources of plant protein. Luedeker credits her strength and endurance to daily helpings of beans, rice, and lettuce.
“A common myth is we don’t have enough protein, and we have more than enough protein,” she told azfamily.com.
Deadlifting twice one’s own body weight is a very difficult and highly admirable feat. With the help of her vegan diet – not to mention her own tenacity and dedication – Luedeker has obliterated every stereotype we hold – from weakly vegan to sedentary-sixty-year-old, and I absolutely love this about her.
With her relentless go-getter attitude and clean, plant-powered vegan diet, there is no stopping Rocky Luedeker! I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next.
Also featured in Women’s Health, Heidrich had been running marathons for 14 years by the time she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. It’s baffling and difficult to hear about someone so fit and active being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
As she tells it to Forks Over Knives:
“At the time of my breast cancer diagnosis, I had already been running daily for 14 years. In fact, I had run several marathons, so I was quite fit and found it hard to believe that I could have cancer. I didn’t smoke or drink, and ate what I thought was a healthy diet; this meant lots of chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy.”
After her diagnosis, she participated in breast cancer vegan diet research, and some of the cancer began reversing. Encouraged by this progress, Heidrich set out to beat the cancer and become the first vegan and oldest woman (she was 47 years old at the time) to compete in the Ironman Triathlon. After she crossed that finish line, Heidrich completed the Ironman Triathlon five more times!
Over the past 30+ years, Ruth Heidrich has healed her body from Stage 4 breast cancer and amplified her enduring athletic prowess by maintaining a plant-based vegan diet.
Now at 83 years old, she has competed in over 900 races!
Try to keep up with Ruth Heidrich at https://ruthheidrich.com/.
Standing strong at 4-feet 9-inches of plant-based power, Pat Reeves has competed in marathons and is a multiple world-record-holder in powerlifting.
Sometime between 1977 and 1983, Reeves was diagnosed with brain cancer. Refusing to submit to the drug protocol prescribed by her doctor, she altered her lifestyle by choosing weightlifting and becoming a plant-based vegan.
Following a 1994 diagnosis of 14 bone cancer tumors, Reeves still believed she could heal without drugs and altered her lifestyle further. Already vegan, she turned to a raw plant-based diet under the guidance of private doctors.
Tougher with A Vegan Diet for Over 40 Years
“It was very tough to discover I had the cancer again after those 10 years,” she told Daily Mail UK, “but I was tougher.”
“I have now followed a plant-based eating regime for forty-four years” said Pat in 2009 “ – wow – that’s so long! Substantially, I have been eating raw and living foods (around 95% living foods) for the last seventeen of those. I credit my current excellent health and phenomenal energy to this method of food preparation – and also my ability to stay on top of the genetically-fuelled cancer.”
As of 2014, according to the Daily Mail UK:
She carries the deadlifting World Champion title and British Champion title for her weight and age category, as well as being the oldest female competitor in Europe.
The latest information I could find about Pat Reeves was that she was still competing in the 70 – 74 age category.
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Inspired Yet? Great! Here Comes the Food 🙂
These amazing stories of perseverance and healing through a plant-based diet are pretty good inspiration for incorporating a few more vegan meals into your daily rotation. Am I right?!
Luckily, you need not be a kitchen whiz to whip up flavorful, nutritious meals with these two subscription meal services that specialize in vegan deliciousness!
I love Purple Carrot not only for their gratifying meals, but also for their philosophy:
This is exactly in line with how I approach plant-based vegan eating for omnivores.
Like I’ll say until the end of time, food is extremely personal. If eventually you can make the full transformation to plant-based vegan, great! If that’s not possible for you, try to incorporate as many plant-based vegan meals as you can enjoy.
And Purple Carrot is one of the easiest ways to do just that, in a truly inspired way! With a vast array of culinary influences, Purple Carrot will win you over with the variety of flavor profiles available on their rotating weekly menus. Give them a look and see for yourself!
Green Chef is a certified-organic company that delivers organic ingredients, pre-prepared sauces, and easy-to-follow recipes in every box.
Since they cater to a number of dietary lifestyles, be sure to select the “plant-powered option.” If you are going for all-out vegan instead of vegetarian, opt for meals without dairy components included in them. Green Chef has earned a pretty positive reputation among vegan consumers, so they’ll ensure that you get meat- and dairy-free meals if you are opting for vegan.
Right now they are offering $60 off your first three orders, and free shipping on your first order – so feel good about diving in. 🙂
Finding Fun Ways to Move
All of this talk of marathoning and powerlifting, courtesy of the three dynamic athletes featured here, might have you catching the compulsion to test your muscles and endurance!
Here are my two favorite ways of doing just that. And they’re free!
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, and this husband-and-wife team BRING IT!
Their workouts are broken up into categories: Full Body, Cardio, Upper Body, Lower Body, and Low Impact. Many of their more recent videos include modifications to make the workouts possible for everyone.
Their average video is about 10 minutes long and contains four exercises. The four exercises are intended to be performed in four rounds of 30 second maximum intensity, 10 seconds rest. If you choose not to perform the exercises in this HIIT format, they provide an alternative for how you can do it, and still reap all the benefits!
Beginners can choose to do a single video. MMM suggest that intermediate/advanced exercisers try putting two to four videos together in one session for a more challenging workout.
My personal average is three videos at a time, but after some of their videos, I’m already heaving after one round, lol.
Why They’re The Best Online Workout I’ve Ever Experienced
Over the past 10+ years, I have experienced literally a ton of HIIT videos on YouTube. In the past, exercise videos have been a thing I just endured, despite mediocre production, presentation, and content. With MMM, I am beyond impressed with the quality and content of their HIIT workouts.
There has been no one and nothing like Mr. and Mrs. Muscle, and I’m happy that I’ve found them! One of the things that used to annoy me about many exercise videos is the many minutes of talking at the beginning of the videos. Most of MMM’s videos get straight to the exercises. Their moves are easy to follow, straightforward and clear.
And their production? The cleanest and clearest I’ve ever seen. Presentation? Also the cleanest and clearest I’ve ever seen. The pair are in perfect sync with each other, making it super easy for anyone to follow. You can workout in real time right alongside them, as you (try not to) watch the countdown clock while you’re working up a wicked sweat!
Whenever I need to slow down and work through my muscle kinks more mindfully and intentionally, I turn straight to doyogawithme.com. I was lucky to stumble upon their platform in 2014, and have been using it regularly ever since.
Classes from Beginner Kids to Advanced
The videos are high-quality, and the instructors wonderful. As you become more familiar with the classes available on the platform, you’ll figure out who your favorite teachers are, as I have. Big shout to Fiji McAlpine and Tracy Noseworthy for kindly moving me through some agonizing asanas and challenging sequences!
Giving to Their Community
Over the past 2 1/2 months that much of the world has been unable to leave their homes or go to a gym due to covid-19, DYWM has been running a special offer. The offer is for those quarantined by the coronavirus. It’s two free months of full access to every class on their site. Even while restrictions are slowly lifting as of this writing, their offer still remains prominently displayed on their home page!
If there’s any one online yoga site I would recommend, it would be doyogawithme.com, without a doubt. Not only for the consistently wonderful classes they’ll bring you, but also for their generous spirits and big hearts.
Paid Subscription Offers All-Access, But Free Access Is Still Amazing Too
DYWM has grown quite a bit over the several years that I have been doing their classes. More recently, they’ve added an option to become a paid subscriber – in which case you’d have access to every video on their site. As of this writing, a subscription is $99/annually or $10/monthly.
Whether you use their free services or become a paid member (which I think is well worth it), DYWM has a ton of content from which anyone at any age, at any level, can greatly benefit!
Take This Inspiration and Run With It!
Maybe they’ve emboldened you to think differently about your perceived limitations. Maybe they’ve instilled in you the drive to accomplish the health and fitness goals that you want to achieve. Or maybe they’ve helped you rediscover and reignite those ambitions!
Whichever the case, I hope that learning about them – along with the vegan meal plans and online exercise programs – will collectively help you move toward the better version of yourself that you strive for.
Have you been thinking about going plant-based vegan to accelerate your athletic goals?
Or simply to feel better?
What are some of the challenges or unexpected joys you’ve found so far in trying to cut meat from your diet?
There are so many things we can discuss here.
Please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them!