Global Trend to Veganism
According to statistical analysis from research company GlobalData, survey data shows an increasing trend of people converting to veganism in countries across the world. Health-conscious individuals from highly developed first-world countries initially being the primary drivers behind the move. In the US alone statistics show the number of people following a vegan lifestyle rose from 1% to 6% from 2014 to 2017. The question is why are vegan diets on the rise?
Always in search of a performance edge, many top sportspeople competing in virtually all types of sports on the global stage have already successfully adopted a vegan lifestyle. Once known for living hard lives professional footballers have increasingly become conscious of their health. They are becoming aware of the long-term effects of their lifestyles on their daily performance as well as the length of their careers.
With the proper precautions such as a healthy lifestyle off the field football stars enjoy relatively long careers despite having to continue meeting the grueling demands placed on their physique and psyche year after year. Under these circumstances it is imperative they utilize all possible means which could provide them with an advantage. Thus ensuring they can continue performing at their physical and mental peaks while competing at the highest level of the world’s most-followed sport. This not only refers to their immediate future but also in the long term.
We discover which of football’s star athletes have already joined the sizable, ever-growing contingent of top-flight competitors who successfully converted to an entirely plant-based diet. Most notably, we will also attempt to determine what difference their vegan lifestyle made and if it gave them any performance advantage.
Veganism in World Sports
Not only have tennis stars like Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic become vegan converts, today many athletes are on a vegan diet. Increasing numbers of athletes from all types of sports at all levels of their respective disciplines are taking up vegan lifestyles. They do so for a wide variety of mostly health-related reasons but eventually, it boils down to just two key factors – finding the performance difference they need to take them to the next level or to significantly extend the length of their careers at the top.
The Turning Point
Gone are the days where stars like Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) picked up food thrown onto the pitch by jeering fans and eating it without a care in the world. Gone are the seasons-long cocaine-fuelled alcohol frenzies and zero hydration during break periods at games.
In contrast to most of their peers on the pitch, vegan footballers consume no meat such as beef, pork, chicken, or fish. Nor do they use any other animal-derived products such as milk, eggs, and cheese in their food or during its preparation.
Now professional athletes follow strict culinary plans and pay careful attention to adhere to scheduled hydration regimes. The level of competition forces athletes to take all the advantages they can find from all available resources if they wish to remain at the top of their very lucrative careers.
Most sports stars employ an extensive panel of physical and professional sports-health experts that monitor their oral intake, record, and analyze their performance on and off the field. They prescribe carefully planned dietary plans and advice allowing athletes to keep performing at peak physical condition for far longer than sportsmen and women have in the past.
- Lionel Messi: football’s undisputed top playmaker in the world and widely considered as one of the greatest to have ever played the game adopted veganism to lose weight, improve his speed, resistance, and health. He also became well-known for making trips off the pitch during games to deal with sudden bouts of vomiting. This problem also mended itself after he converted to a plant-based diet.
- Alex Morgan: lauded as one of the most successful female football stars of her generation. The US international player believes her vegan lifestyle allows her body to recover from post-game fatigue far quicker by reducing inflammation.
- Sergio Aguero: one of the English Premier League’s most underrated superstars became a vegan convert in 2015. He followed the advice of a doctor whom he consulted within Italy to rid himself of certain chronic injuries, reduce the severity of them, and speed up post-injury recuperation. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina Sergio rose from humble beginnings to major league player.
- Hector Bellerin: after his decision to adhere to a vegan lifestyle became quite passionate about the effect the diet had on his physique. The Arsenal defender was adamant that following a vegan diet quite noticeably reduced post-game inflammation in his body which shortened the time needed to make a full recovery. Bellerin says he always suffered from sore, stiff ankles after particularly hard games but since his conversion to veganism, he even stopped strapping his ankles up before games.
- Chris Smalling: who under wife Sam Cooke’s influence also converted to a fully vegan lifestyle and diet. The Manchester United center-back revealed in an interview his new dietary regime drastically improved tendonitis in his knees that he previously suffered from.
- Jack Wilshere: embraced a vegan diet to improve his lifestyle. According to statements by the Westham United midfielder following an injury-prone career, adopting a vegan diet allowed him to lose weight, it also improved his endurance and appearance.
- Fabian Delph: believes his new vegan lifestyle played a key role in how he matured as a football player in recent months. The Everton midfielder reportedly feels stronger as a result of his switch to veganism.
- Russell Martin: said in a 2016 press statement that he started following a vegan diet to improve his health. The Scotland international and Norwich City captain put in over 200 appearances in a Canaries jersey. He is also a chronic sufferer of ulcerative colitis and initially following a vegan diet was to alleviate this issue but in time it made his problem disappear which made him a lifelong convert.
- Sebastian Perez: the Colombian international chose to go completely vegan on moral grounds. In 2018 he said to the press, people say animals are there to be eaten but he believes the world belongs to every living creature.
- Jermain Defoe: frequently praises veganism after personally trying the diet but admits his preference for fish causes him to lean more toward being a pescatarian.
The Vegan Difference
Vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, pescatarian, and flexitarian all describe diets where the primary basic ingredients consist, mainly but not purely, of whole, unprocessed plant-based foods. The inclusion of some animal products is the key difference between these and a vegan diet. Vegans follow an entirely plant-based diet, eschewing all animal-based products such as eggs, dairy, fish, and seafood that other forms of vegetarian diets allow. Moreover, veganism is much more comprehensive than just a simple change in diet! It is a philosophy that requires complete abstinence from the consumption and use of animal products.
Key Benefits of Veganism
A vegan lifestyle lowers the risk of contracting heart disease, individuals new to the diet report an overall improvement in health and well-being. Plant-based foods contain mostly heart-healthy fats, low levels of saturated fats, and generally offer higher levels of fiber. Plants are also rich sources of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals increase the body’s resistance; their key purpose is to serve as natural protection against disease.
Considering the length of time that sportspeople have now been following vegan diets, the careful detailed monitoring by their health experts, and tons of data generated and collected by their healthcare professionals, data confirms veganism offers a significant performance benefit. Despite the natural resistance most people have to the idea of going against centuries of accepted practice to never consume animal products again veganism is on the rise worldwide and pop culture, retail, and sports, have taken notice.
Independent research studies have shown individuals following vegan or vegetarian diets generally have lower blood pressure levels as well as lower levels of LDL cholesterol compared to non-vegetarians. Combined these factors create overall healthier lifestyles. Well-planned vegan diets also reduce inflammation throughout the body and control blood sugar levels.