Over the past few years, it seems I’ve heard of more NFL players making the switch to a vegan or plant-based diet. And in a country where nearly eighty percent of all vegans are women, it is incredibly refreshing to see men (especially men in such a physically demanding sport) advocating a plant-based lifestyle and actively working to erase the stereotype that men are somehow “unmanly” if they don’t eat meat. Eye roll.
And it seems there’s always also been this long-standing stigma that you need meat in order to gain muscle. Thankfully, the rise in vegan athletes (some even Olympians!) is quickly disproving this notion — further proof that you don’t need meat to compete! Here are a few vegan NFL players who are definitely proving plant-powered is the future of food *and* sports.
NFL Players You Probably Didn’t Know Were Vegan
Sporting number 13 as wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders, Griff Whalen is incredibly vocal about his vegan lifestyle and has adhered to a plant-based diet for over four years now. Whalen says he made the switch at the suggestion of his then-girlfriend (they’re now married — hurray for vegan weddings!), who is also a vegan athlete.
Whalen keeps his pups’ (Kona and Jaia) tummies full with a plant-based diet as well!
Whalen credits the nutritional value of veganism for keeping him in tip-top shape and says his plant-based diet helps his body recover faster following a heavy workout or a game. Although Whalen is a fan of a good green smoothie (like this Coconut Almond Green Protein Smoothie), he says he still likes to treat himself to the occasional vegan dessert.
Although he is currently a free agent (thanks to the league’s inability to support his protest of pervasive police brutality and the oppression of minorities), former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick went vegan back in 2016 and has certainly proven his commitment to raising awareness for social justice issues (like animal rights!) and fundamental human rights. Stay woke.
Retired defensive lineman David Carter (who previously played for the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Chicago Bears) is a vocal advocate of adhering to a vegan lifestyle and a food justice activist. Carter credits the documentary Forks over Knives for inspiring his lifestyle switch and for making him aware of the need to be compassionate to all beings. His go-to dinner of choice? Couscous with onions and garlic and a side of spinach salad with bell peppers. Sounds delicious, right?!
Try recreating one of his favorite meals with this tasty version: vegan North African Quinoa Couscous!
A major advocate for healthy eating, Carter (who formerly went by the nickname “the 300-pound vegan”) is also a public speaker who works to shake the stigma many have about eating and adhering to a plant-based diet.
The keynote speaker at this year’s Michigan VegFest, Theo Riddick—running back for the Detroit Lions—made the switch to a predominantly plant-based diet last year after watching the highly acclaimed documentary What the Health. Riddick says the film made him more aware of what he was putting into his body and credits veganism for leaving him more energized.
Do you know of other awesome vegan athletes? Let us know in the comments below!
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Photos: Griff Whalen, Colin Kaepernick, David Carter, Juhea Kim, Theo Riddick