The Protein Myth | Vegan Athletes

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When people first switch to a plant-based lifestyle, many well-meaning family members and friends suddenly become nutrition experts and express their concern that plants may not provide enough protein because they have heard the Protein Myth.

Protein Myth Vegan Athletes

Interestingly, if asked how much protein is enough, they don’t know but are convinced that more is always better.

They are unaware that the majority of people in the United States get 1.5 to 2 times the recommended allowance of protein and are much more likely to suffer from protein excess than protein deficiency.

Protein excess can lead to ‘renal dysfunction, increased cancer risk, disorders of liver function, and progression of coronary artery disease.’ –The Great Protein Fiasco

The Game Changers documentary that came out in 2019 has made a huge impact in the sports arena. If you haven’t already seen the film, check out my review here, Film Review of The Game Changers.

dark black and white photo of body builder squatting

A frequent concern regarding vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diets is that they may lack sufficient protein. However, research demonstrates that a healthy meatless diet can provide all the nutrients needed including protein.

Plant-based professional athletes

There are a number of professional plant-based athletes that get enough protein from a plant-based diet like NFL defensive lineman David Carter, prominent tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, Ultra Athlete Rich Roll, professional boxer Mike Tyson, Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, and Patrik Baboumian, Strongest Man in Germany, among others. Here are just a few.

Patrik Baboumian, World Record Strongman

“Two years after going vegan, Germany’s Strongest Man, Patrik Baboumian, demonstrated that a plant-based diet had not diminished his phenomenal strength or physical performance.

In fall of 2013, Baboumian set a world record for heaviest weight carried a distance of 10 meters, shouldering a yoke weighing more than 1200 pounds (550 kg).

Baboumian said, “It’s a bit stupid to do things like that, it really hurts,” but added that he wants to disprove the myth that anyone, including athletes and strength performers, needs animal products to excel.”–By Free From Harm Staff Writers


David Carter, NFL Linebacker

People ask me if I want to get a steak and I tell them I actually don’t eat that, or any meat or dairy.

They’re usually thinking, ‘Wait, you’re supposed to be small and weak.’ But of course they can’t say that when they’re looking at me.”


Antjuane Sims, Body Builder, Athlete

Although I’ve been a natural, drug-free, competitive athlete all of my life, I have never felt as healthy or as strong as I do now, since I’ve been eating plant-based.

Not only is my post-workout recovery better than before, it’s better than that of younger competitive athletes….I’ve been certified in personal training and sports nutrition for many years.

Now that I understand the truth about nutrition, my message to my clients is quite different: plant-based eating is the healthy way to live.”–Antijuane Sims

vegan athletes. sims
Antijuane Sims, body builder and athlete.


Rich Roll, named one of “25 Fittest Men” by Men’s Fitness Magazine

In May 2010, Rich and his ultra-colleague Jason Lester accomplished an unprecedented feat of staggering endurance many said was not possible.

Something they call the EPIC5 CHALLENGE – a odyssey that entailed completing 5 ironman-distance triathlons on 5 islands of Hawaii in under a week.

Commencing on Kauai, they travelled to Oahu, Molokai and Maui before finishing on the Big Island, following the course of the Ironman World Championships on the Kona coast….  

Rich’s plant-fueled feats of boundary-pushing athleticism have been featured on CNN and in the pages of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, The Huffington Post, Stanford Magazine, Men’s Health Living, VegNews, Triathlete, Outside, 3/GO Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, which named Rich as one of the 25 Fittest Men in the World.”

vegan athletes. rich roll
Rich Roll, Men’s Fitness Magazine


Venus Williams Professional Tennis Player

I started for health reasons. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I wanted to maintain my performance on the court.

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.”–Health

More professional plant-based athletes

See more professional plant-based athletes in these articles and short video clips

Take a look at these Top 10 Plant-Based Athletes from MDNS

VegNews announces Vegan Bodybuilders Win 32 Metals at 2017 Fit Games

Film Review of The Game Changers. This is a powerful new documentary about meat, protein, and strength that attempts to dispel the myth that real men eat meat.


About Terri Edwards

Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy.  I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…

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  1. I would like to see an article from the WFPB point of view on the folks who already following WFPB but who are not athletes but are exercising either at home or in exercise gyms or are starting out in that direction and may be thinking about working with an exercise coach as well. Invariably I see information on protein powders and especially on vegan protein powders. Are there any WFPB exercise coaches? I’ve never heard of any. Exercise coaches who are vegan, yes. How would the advice of WFPB exercise coaches differ from that of exercise coaches who are vegan? My guess is that they would differ largely on the issue of using any protein powders. I might be wrong about that. Would exercise coaches who are truly WFPB absolutely avoid the use of any vegan protein powders? I’m not really seeing anyone addressing this space. I feel there is an information void in this space. I’ve been following WFPB 10 years, but I haven’t developed an exercise program yet and am moving in that direction. Are there any WFPB exercise support groups, either on FB or elsewhere? I haven’t been able to find any yet. Thank you for listening!

  2. This is an eye opener for me. I used to think a veggie only diet will not be enough. We can be vegans after all.

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