Plant Powered Pros

Eating clean and green fuels athletes’ dreams

Plant Powered Pros
Photo: Rose Serpico

The myth is long dead and my partner and I are living proof. The myth is athletes need animal protein to compete at the highest levels. The reality is, you don’t. I race pro triathlons and my partner, Griff Whalen, is a wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League. We eat plants for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and yes, even at snack time. Green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, rice, seeds, nut butters and nut milks, smoothies and salads, spices and every kind of fruit imaginable. It’s all delicious and it’s all good for you.

When I became a vegan six years ago, my motivation was health. Training takes its toll, and I was struggling with fatigue, hormonal fluctuation, injuries and my weight was inconsistent. This caused a lot of mental struggle, feeling like I had absolutely no control. It didn’t take much to realize the one thing I could control was how I fuelled my body.

I decided to try a plant-based diet and the results were almost immediate. I lost weight, my energy skyrocketed and my hormone issues disappeared. My recovery between workouts was so much better, too. I honestly felt like a completely different person.

Almost every day, I’m asked about my diet — how I fuel my body, where my energy comes from and where someone would start a plant-based lifestyle. Changing the way you eat can seem overwhelming at the beginning, but it truly is simple. You just eat plants. Super easy to do.

For some, transitioning to veganism is easiest by cutting out meat, then fish and starting as a vegetarian. Eliminate dairy and eggs and you’re all the way home.

Griff has been an NFL wide-receiver for 6 years and he’s been vegan for 4 years. He’s never shy about telling teammates his nutrition secrets. He’s leaner now at 190 pounds, faster and recovers quicker. He supplements with iron and vitamins, but whole foods are the foundation of our diets.

There are amazing resources to learn about a plant-based diet. One of the best is my friend, Brendan Brazier, creator of Vega products, author of the Thrive series of fitness and nutrition books and a fellow member of IMPACT’s Vegan Influencer club. He is an exceptional athlete and an expert in plant-based nutrition. There’s Rich Roll, who hosts an awesome podcast. His guests include plant-based athletes and advocates, as well as doctors and community leaders. They’re all amazing.

If you’re considering a whole-food, plant-based diet, there really are no downsides. Make sure you surround yourself with a supportive community and people who understand plant-based nutrition for performance. There are social media groups to join and other athletes to follow, such as such as Ultraman world champion Hillary Biscay, ultra-runner Scott Jurek, Olympic swimmer Rebecca Soni. There are many vegan companies out there with great products, too. Not hard to find.

As a high-perfromance athlete, I am a work in progress, but my meal plan is set for life. Being plant-based is the best decision I ever made.