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Look Who’s Going Plant-Based!

20 Professional Athletes & Celebrities that Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Throughout the years, many celebrities have chosen a vegan lifestyle to align with their values of animal welfare, social justice, and environmental conservation. However, as new research connects plant-based diets to improvements in athletic performance, longevity, and overall health, even more athletes and stars have begun to take notice.

Collage of plant-based celebrities

Today, countless athletes and celebrities embrace the power of plants, not only for their own well-being but also to inspire and create positive change. From Olympic champions and professional athletes to renowned actors and musicians, these influential individuals are proving that a plant-based lifestyle is not just a trend, but a sustainable way to unlock a more vibrant life.

Is it Healthy for Athletes to be Vegan?

When Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was at the height of his athletic career, his swimming abilities weren’t the only thing that created quite a bit of buzz. Phelps became known for his 10,000-calorie-a-day diet which included fried egg sandwiches, pounds of pasta carbonara, ham and cheese sandwiches, and entire pizzas, among other items. While this might sound like an unbelievable amount of food for the average person, many athletes have much higher daily calorie, protein, and carbohydrate requirements to support their lifestyle. So, is it even possible to fuel an elite level of training and nutritional needs with a vegan diet?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Today, many professional athletes are seeing the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle as they apply to performance, inflammation, and recovery. Sports can take a heavy toll on joints and muscles, and the high concentration of phytonutrients and antioxidants in a plant-based diet can help reduce inflammation and speed injury recovery. In addition, muscles are fueled primarily by glycogen, a form of carbohydrate stored all around the body. Carbohydrates come almost exclusively from plants, making them an optimal source of energy for almost any type of athletic performance.

Of course, good planning is key to ensuring a healthy diet for plant-based performers. A balanced vegan diet that can support high levels of performance must include plenty of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. The wider the variety of plants one consumes, the easier it will be to get all the required macro- and micronutrients. However, some people find that they need to supplement their diet in order to get certain vitamins, like B-12, which is not naturally found in any plant sources. In the planning process, it may be helpful for athletes and performers to partner with a healthcare professional or sports nutritionist to build a diet based on their specific needs.

What do Vegan Athletes Eat?

The diet of a vegan athlete doesn’t look all that different from any other plant-based diet, but there may be greater emphasis on protein, carbohydrates, nutrient density, and overall caloric intake to meet the increased energy needs of a training and recovery schedule. With variety, a bit of extra thought, and a focus on a few key building blocks, a well-planned and balanced vegan diet can provide all the necessary nutrients for athletes and performers.

  • Plant-based protein sources like tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and vegan protein bars provide essential amino acids for muscle growth and repair.
  • Whole grains like brown or wild rice, quinoa, oats, barley, amaranth, and farro provide sustained energy for high-intensity training.
  • Fruits like berries, bananas, citrus, and even dried fruits are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, while fruits higher in sugar can provide a needed energy boost before or during a workout.
  • Vegetables, such as leafy greens, sweet potatoes, broccoli, squash, brussels sprouts, and beets are packed with nutrients that can help improve blood flow, energy levels, and heart health, along with fiber that supports a happy digestive system.
  • Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butters, olive oil, flax seed, or full-fat coconut milk support energy during low-intensity exercise, aid the absorption of vitamins, and support healthy hormones.

Although these foods serve as great foundational elements for plant-based diets, it's important for vegan athletes and performers to pay attention to their individual nutritional needs as they can vary greatly depending on training schedules, energy requirements, and individual metabolism. Consulting with a professional who specializes in plant-based diets is a great, safe way to ensure optimal performance and that all nutritional needs are met.

Famous Vegan Athletes & Celebrities

As elite performers, vegan athletes, and celebrities need to be energized, focused, and healthy to stay on top of their game and busy schedules. Here are 20 vegan celebrities and athletes who are successfully fueled by the power of plants:

1. Venus Williams

With seven Grand Slam titles, five Wimbledon championships, and four Olympic gold medals, tennis legend Venus Williams refused to let her autoimmune disease diagnosis slow her down. In 2011, Sjogren’s syndrome threatened to end her tennis career, but with proper treatment and a raw vegan diet, she was able to get back to the sport she loved. As she told Health, “Once I started, I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I'm doing the right thing for me.”

2. Lewis Hamilton

Today’s Formula One drivers must maintain a healthy diet and fitness routine to stay at the top, and with the record for the most career race victories, it’s safe to say vegan F1 driver Lewis Hamilton is proof. In 2017, he went vegan for both environmental and health reasons after watching the documentary What the Health. Today, he says he’s never felt better and only wishes he’d gone plant-based sooner.

3. Chris Paul

The NBA All-Star and point guard for the Phoenix Suns made the switch to a vegan diet in 2019 with athletic performance in mind. After experiencing how quickly his stats and efficiency went up the following season, he decided to make the change permanent. As he told GQ, “Years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even gone outside to run around with my kids because my body would be aching. Now, with the constant lifting and making sure that my body is always ready, it’s been a good lifestyle change for me.“

4. Billie Eilish

Seven-time Grammy-winning singer Billie Eilish grew up eating a vegetarian diet and transitioned to a fully vegan diet at age 12 after learning how animals were treated in industrial food systems. As she continued to learn about the connection between climate change and animal agriculture, she became even more vocal about advocating for a compassionate, vegan lifestyle. Billie’s mother, Maggie Baird, even launched a non-profit called Support + Feed that’s dedicated to creating an equitable, plant-based food system.

5. Kyrie Irving

Like Chris Paul, Dallas Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving is among the NBA stars who have made the switch to a plant-based diet. Irving says he’s noticed improvements in his performance and recovery. In fact, his prior head coach, Brad Stevens, even commented on his improved energy.

6. Ariana Grande

Grammy-winning singer Ariana Grande is an incredible vocalist – but she’s also vocal about her vegan lifestyle. While she’s been a vegetarian much of her life, she made the change to a vegan diet in 2013 because of her love of animals. Along with animal advocacy, she is a firm believer in eating a plant-based, whole-foods diet for longevity and health.

7. Joaquin Phoenix

The Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix has been vegan since the age of three, and now, in his late 40s, he’s using his platform to raise awareness about animal cruelty. In fact, in February of 2020, the day after winning best actor at the Academy Awards, Joaquin rescued a mother cow and newborn calf from a slaughterhouse, bringing them to safety at Farm Sanctuary – our May Give Back partner.

8. Lizzo

Award-winning musical artist Lizzo has been following a plant-based diet since 2019 and often shares many of her favorite vegan foods on TikTok. In an interview with Vanity Fair, she mentioned that she made the change for health reasons: “I’m not a vegan to lose weight, I just feel better when I eat plants…I lead a very healthy lifestyle – mentally, spiritually, I try to keep everything I put in my body super clean.”

9. Stevie Wonder

Legendary musician Stevie Wonder has been vegan since 2014 – a decision he made for both health and environmental reasons. When asked about the benefits of veganism in an interview, Stevie said, “People have to make their choices in life, and so I say, for me, it feels good to not eat meat, I think you have to do what’s gonna be healthy for your body.”

10. Natalie Portman

Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman has been a vegetarian since age nine but decided to go vegan in 2011. She now uses her platform and influence to advocate for animal rights, including narrating and producing a documentary called Eating Animals based on the book by Safran Foer that first influenced her to go vegan.

11. Hannah Teter

Hannah Teter, two-time Olympic medalist snowboarder, went vegan after watching the documentary Earthlings in 2016, and she’s never looked back. The abuses of the factory farming industry and the dangers of climate change may have inspired her to make the switch, but she’s also noticed a difference in how she feels. “My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete,” Teter told The Beet, “It’s a whole other level that I’m elevating to. I feel like a new person, a new athlete."

12. Travis Barker

Punk rock musician Travis Barker may be most well known as the drummer of Blink-182, but today he’s also passionate about ethical, plant-based living and investing. In various interviews, he’s said that following a plant-based diet gives him more energy and aligns with his compassionate views as an animal lover.

13. Alicia Silverstone

Actress Alicia Silverstone, best known for her role as Cher in Clueless, has been an outspoken advocate in the vegan movement since transitioning from a vegetarian to a fully plant-based diet in 1998 when she was 21 years old. In the years since she’s written two books on veganism. The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet became a New York Times bestseller and The Kind Mama focuses on pregnancy and fertility.

14. Tia Blanco

Professional surfer and vegan athlete Tia Blanco has won multiple surfing competitions, all fueled by a plant-based diet. As a vegetarian since age 12, Blanco decided to go vegan in 2013 after watching the short film Glass Walls. She recognizes the benefits of a vegan diet from an animal welfare and environmental perspective, but also credits her diet with higher energy and improved athletic performance.

15. Woody Harrelson

Actor and environmental activist Woody Harrelson has been a vocal advocate for animal rights, but he first committed to a vegan lifestyle more than 30 years ago after realizing how much more energized he felt eating plant-based. Today, he raises awareness about the environmental benefits of a vegan diet and has even invested in several vegan businesses.

16. Jermain Defoe

Professional English soccer player Jermain Defoe credits his athletic comeback to his transition to a vegan diet. In a Daily Mail article, he reported, “...last season I played every single game and I didn’t get a single muscle injury. I think I was the only player in the whole squad, and I’m one of the senior players.” He added, “This is me sending a message out to the younger players to say, if you can do what I am doing, and think about what you are eating, then they could play into their late 30s and early 40s.”

17. Scott Jurek

As one of the top ultrarunners in the world, Scott Jurek has been outspoken about his vegan lifestyle since 1997. He’s set at least ten-course records and run races up to 246 kilometers - all fueled by plants. In his book Eat and Run, he credits his plant-based diet with faster recovery times, improved body composition, and better endurance.

18. Novak Djokovic

In his book, Serve to Win, tennis champion Novak Djokovic cited health benefits as a primary motivation for adopting a plant-based lifestyle. Widely considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Djokovic credits his vegan diet for improving his stamina, reducing inflammation, and aiding in quicker recovery from matches.

19. Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, professional soccer player, and Olympic gold medalist, adopted a vegan lifestyle primarily for health and performance reasons, but also to align with her environmental values. In interviews, she’s mentioned that she made the switch to a plant-based diet to optimize her energy levels, enhance her recovery, and improve her overall athletic performance on the field.

20. Fiona Oakes

World record marathon runner Fiona Oakes went vegan at the age of six and has continued to embrace a plant-based lifestyle to support her endurance running. She’s also a well-known animal rights advocate and founded Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary in England, where she provides a home for rescued animals and raises awareness about animal welfare.

From Olympic champions to A-list actors, these influential individuals are changing the narrative around vegan diets. By harnessing the transformative benefits of plant-based eating for their own well-being, performance, the environment, and animal welfare, their stories encourage us all to consider the impact of the food choices we make. Together, we can pursue thoughtful, balanced lifestyles that nourish our bodies and our world.