The Daily Beet

26 Mar Plant-Strong Athletes Consume Power Through Plants

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Plant-Strong Athletes Consume Power Through Plants

From watching Forks Over Knives, and reading The China Study, Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease, Engine 2 Diet and My Beef With Meat, we know that a plant-based diet can reverse the effects of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and even cardiovascular disease. We also know that the participants in the studies mentioned in the books listed above were able to regain their strength and exercise in ways that they had never dreamed were possible again. It is evident and proven by the concrete research that has already been conducted by the forerunners in plant-based nutrition, that exercise plays a major role in the body’s healing, recovery, muscle and stamina promotion processes.

So not only does a plant-based diet – diet as in lifestyle, not as in restriction! – allow for the body to shed excess or unwanted pounds, but it also fuels the body and mind to allow for physical exertion in ways that you may not have thought possible before. More and more athletes, such as football player Tony Gonzalez, six-time Hawaii Ironman Dave Scott and 78 year-old triathlete Dr. Ruth Heidrich are embracing this lifestyle and cutting animal products out of their daily routine – even though the athletic community seems to be obsessed with animal protein. That does not mean that these athletes are simply throwing caution to the wind and waiting for their bodies to give out because they are no longer consuming milk from cows and the flesh of once living, breathing things. They have simply obtained the incredibly evident knowledge that their athletic performance does not rely solely on animal protein consumption.

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Tony Gonzalez, nicknamed, “China Study” by his teammates, is the league’s highest paid tight-end playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, weighing in at 247lbs.

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Dave Scott, six-time Hawaii Ironman fuels his body on plant-foods

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Dr. Ruth Heidrich, 78 year-old breast cancer survivor and plant-based triathlete, cured herself of cancer by eating a low-fat, plant-based diet and has since one over one thousand triathlons.

And even if protein consumption is still a hang up, plant foods do have a protein content – contrary to some popular beliefs. Quinoa, brown rice, broccoli, asparagus, green peas, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach, mushrooms and oatmeal (avocados & nuts if you’re not suffering from or at risk for cardiovascular disease), are some of the top plant-based protein sources! In a previous post on the E2 blog, Rip writes that spinach is 51% protein, beans are 26%, mushrooms are 35% and oatmeal is 16% protein. And while the average American protein intake comes in at around 20% of total daily calories, most nutritional organizations only recommend 2.5-4.5% of daily calories should come from protein! So where, they ask, do we get OUR protein:

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As a certified yoga instructor, I depend on the foods I eat to fuel my workouts. No matter what your sport or daily exercise routine, you can rely on plant power to get you through it. The pace of a yoga practice, in particular, while known for it’s nourishing mind-body benefits, can range anywhere from gentle to extremely rigorous. I believe that yoga is a universal practice, and that no matter what your age, size or ability, you can do yoga for YOU. It is a practice that is meant to be modified for each and every body. Your yoga mat is a strict non-judgment zone; any shape or move you make on it that feels right for your body is the right move to make for you. Just a few weeks ago I attended a yoga class with my grandmother who was going through all the same movements I was, at her own pace, at age 75. Sri Dharma Mittra, founder of the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City and one of the most well known yogis in the world, is a huge proponent of plant-based living. In an interview, Dharma discusses simple truth that in our culture, it is customary to only extend compassion to humans and pets, disregarding other living things. What he is talking about, the yogic practice of ahimsa, refers to the practice of non-violence toward ALL living things. In short, ahimsa means love. And Dharma Mittra claims that practicing ahimsa (through eating a plant-based diet) is overall better for your body and your mind, both in and out of yogic poses. 

Plant-based, nutrient-dense foods will sustain and support, nourish and enrich your body in all that you do. From recovering from illness to exercising regularly, from professional athletics to running to practicing yoga, your plant-based lifestyle will take you farther and farther toward where you would like to go, and where your body needs to be.


1. E2 Blog Post: http://engine2diet.com/question/can-i-get-enough-protein-eating-a-plant-based-diet/

2. All nutritional information from http:calorieking.com

3. Dharma Interview: https://www.pranamaya.com/blog/special-features/qa-sri-dharma-mittra-on-ahimsa-and-vegetarianism/

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E2 Intern Grace
Grace Farren

Grace Farren is a junior at New York University studying Nutrition & Dietetics. After going plant-based at eighteen years old, Grace became passionate about health, wellness and overall plant-based living. Grace also loves to exercise and is a certified yoga instructor. Upon graduation, she hopes to become a Registered Dietitian and continue to spread the word about plant-based eating and living!

  • Tedi
    Posted at 13:51h, 26 March

    Great post Grace! Going to pass this on to some of the athletes I know 🙂

    • Grace
      Posted at 15:28h, 05 April

      Thanks so much, Tedi!

  • Pat B
    Posted at 13:52h, 26 March

    Tony Gonzalez, now retired, played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1997–2008, and the Atlanta Falcons from 2009–2013. I don’t think his diet is vegan, but I think he realizes the benefit of having plenty of plant-based food in his diet.

    • tammy
      Posted at 15:40h, 26 March

      he is 80% vegan according to his cookbook

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