Why are some of the world’s best athletes telling their teammates and competitors to try a plant-based diet for a week? Because we launched The Very Good Athlete Challenge to smash the stereotype that plant-based diets cannot support active lifestyles. These high-performance athletes prove that if this can work for them, it can work for anyone.
Who’s on our bean team? Participants include:
- Hannah Teter, Olympic gold and silver medalist in snowboarding, three-time Olympian, seven-time XGames medalist, World Cup champion
- Meagan Duhamel, Olympic gold, silver, and bronze medalist in figure skating, two-time World Champion, seven-time Canadian Champion
- Heather Mitts, three-time Olympic gold medalist, U.S. Women's Soccer, World Cup silver medalist
- Sonya Looney, World Champion professional mountain biker
- Georges “The Rock” Laraque, 13 seasons in the National Hockey League
- TJ Galiardi, 10 seasons in National Hockey League, 2008 Rookie of the Year
- Jehina Malik, IFBB professional bodybuilder with three first-place wins
- Andrew Poje, world champion ice dancer and three-time Canadian national champion
- Indi Cowie, professional soccer freestyler and FIFA Street world champion with three Guinness world records
Athletes go plant-based for a variety of reasons, such as increasing stamina while training and competing, faster recovery, staying lean, and improved mental clarity and focus. The hit Netflix documentary The Game Changers featured dozens of athletes fuelled by plant protein who credited their competitive edge to their diets.
“Athletes starting out on a plant-based diet should know that there are many, many ways to eat plant-based. You can include vegan comfort foods and you don't have to eat low-fat, for example,” said Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD, coauthor of Plant-Based Sports Nutrition: Expert fueling strategies for training, recovery, and performance, No Meat Athlete, and Appetite for Reduction. “In fact the biggest mistake I see athletes make when switching is being too restrictive, not meeting their caloric requirements, and then workouts suffer.”
If you’re a plant-eater you’ve probably heard “but where do you get your protein?” As our pro athletes know, The Very Good Butchers packs more than 20 grams of protein in our burgers, bangers, and steaks, so protein is no worry.
“Despite what we often hear, all plant foods contain all of the essential amino acids and simply eating a variety of foods while meeting caloric needs will give nearly everyone all the protein they need,” Matt explained. “Most vegan meats are high in protein and can help athletes meet their needs. Legumes like beans and lentils are excellent sources, as are whole grains and the pseudo grain, quinoa. Plant-based protein powders are abundant too, if needed.”
What about the rest of us who aren't world-class athletes? If they can do it, so can we.
“Everyone can gain from eating more plant foods! The beneficial phytochemicals that improve recovery for athletes also reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases,” said Matt. “Blueberries, mushrooms, and leafy greens, just to name a few, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and are easy to incorporate into meals while adding only marginal calories. Fruit and nut butters combine for an easy post-workout snack that help restore the glycogen you burned off, preparing you for your next activity.”
Follow along on social media as our Very Good Athletes challenge their omnivore colleagues with the hashtag #VeryGoodAthleteChallenge, and you can challenge your favourite athletes by tagging us @theverygoodbutchers.