Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it from food, clothing, or any other purpose.
Whether it's for health reasons, animals, or the environment, veganism or plant-based diets are continuing to increase in popularity. The trend can be seen in grocery stores, restaurants and even fast food chains such as Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts and Carls Jr., which have all added vegan options to their menus. But, already top players such as Novak Djokovic and Venus Williams are following plant-based diets.
There has been a common stereotype that revolves around sports and veganism, and it's that you simply can't do both. The argument is that you won't get enough protein or amino acids which are building blocks for protein, and so you'll have a protein deficiency and suffer from low energy. But, there are many plant-based protein sources, such as, beans, rice, oats, lentils, peas, grains and wheat—all of which can ensure vegan athletes meet their protein quota.
The other concern is usually around B12 which can easily be supplemented with a daily B12 tablet. And for inflammation which can happen often with the laborious demands of being an athlete, can be managed by adding flax seeds into smoothies or really any dish as they are a good source of omega-3's which help with inflammation.
Athletes can get all the nutrients they need from a vegan diet, but it does take more time and planning. Competitors such as Djokovic and Venus are no strangers to dedication.
Nearly a decade ago, Djokovic's symptoms of exhaustion, vomiting, blurred vision and more came to a peak at the 2010 Australian Open. He discovered he had a gluten allergy and further found that he also had a sensitivity to dairy and refined sugars. It was a shock given that his family owned a pizza shop and he ate bread all of his life.
Since adjusting his diet, which is largely vegan, the world No. 1 has won 15 of his 16 Grand Slams. His eating habits extend even further as the Serbian opened a vegan restaurant with his wife in Monte Carlo and was the executive producer of Game Changers, a documentary discussing the connection between sports and plant-based eating.
Like Djokovic, Venus also adopted plant-based eating due to health concerns. The seven-time major champion was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, and has to manage her health even more thoroughly.
"It definitely changed my whole life. It changed the pace that I live at. It changed everything," Venus stated in an interview with Health.com.
Veganism is resonating with many around the world, even the sports' younger players, like Bianca Andreescu is supportive of the diet. The 19-year-old has openly stated her love for vegan and cruelty-free products.
She's collaborating with a vegan beauty brand called "P8NT," and recently partnered with a vegan restaurant in Canada.
A decade ago, many would say "impossible," but these champions have demonstrated impossible is a reality.