Are Vegans Better Athletes?

Written by
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Are Vegans Better Athletes?

Written by
Steve Rimmer

Are Vegans Better Athletes?

Written by
Steve Rimmer

I finished watching The Game Changers, and I think it was the best vegan documentary I have ever seen. And that is not just because it is the only vegan documentary I have ever seen. The production was incredible.

The use of footage from professional sports, interviews with world-class athletes, tests performed by renowned physicians, illustrative graphics, global destinations, and the inclusion of the most famous host of the celebrity apprentice all combine to make a compelling case for why you should become a vegan.

I have been researching and implementing diets for years, and I was still momentarily hypnotized by the film.

Fortunately, the illusion lifted the moment that Dr. Spitz pulled out his cock. It wasn't just because I am a little suspicious of someone named Dr. Spitz who is this comfortable around penises in public, it's because unless they are using Snapchat, most men try not to ejaculate on camera.

Which scenario seems more likely to triple your erections? A) You ate one burrito that had beans instead of beef? or B) You didn't ejaculate for an entire day because Dr. Spitz was recording your boners?

I guess that the latter would lead more men to veganism and more boner pills to bankruptcy.

I'm not opposed to a vegan diet. I followed one myself for three weeks and saw some positive results. What I do oppose is people ignoring facts to evangelize their lifestyle. Even though I heard Joe Rogan say, "there are fewer views in debunking a film like this, nobody is going to do it", I will take on that task. I have been testing diets for years and feel obligated to illuminate some of the half-truths mentioned in this film, starting with athletic performance.

The film opens with footage of superstar athletes, which got me hooked. I did not know that Tom Brady or the Williams sisters were vegan, and I wanted to learn how they became top athletes without eating meat.

After conveniently being left out of the rest of the film, I learned that it's because they're not actually vegans. Similar to UFC fighter Nate Diaz.


On March 5, 2016, the 145 lb UFC champion Conor McGregor was scheduled to fight the 155 lb champion Rafael Dos Anjos. This fight was a historic moment because it was the only second time in UFC history that a champion would move up a weight class to compete for his second belt.

Unfortunately for everyone, Dos Anjos broke his foot, forcing him to drop out of the fight less than two weeks before the event.

Losing this fight would be a financial disaster for the UFC. So, they offered vegan fighter Nate Diaz a huge purse to fight Connor, an offer which he happily accepted. The problem for Connor was that he had to fight at 170lbs, two weight classes above his normal fighting weight.

The documentary strongly implies that Nate Diaz won because he was vegan and Connor ate too many steaks, but while Nate was cutting weight for the fight, Connor was gaining weight to fight 30lbs heavier than usual.

The implication that Connor lost the fight because he ate meat while Nate ate vegetables seems a little disingenuous when you know that he was initially training for a different opponent at a lighter weight.

The framing of the fight had me questioning the integrity of the film, but when I heard Joe Rogan say that "Nate is not vegan, he sometimes eats vegan", the film's credibility on claims of athletic performance took a serious hit. And, that is only the beginning.


The documentary features players on the Tennessee Titans who follow a vegan diet. Despite only making the playoffs once and holding a losing record for four of the six years preceding this documentary, they are still portrayed as paragons of athletic performance. Which, to be fair, compared to me, they definitely are. However, they are not the pinnacle athletic performance when you compare them with other NFL athletes. Take, for example, NFL Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.

Tony, who is arguably the best tight end in NFL history, attempted a vegan diet. He said that within three weeks, “The 100-pound dumbbells I used to easily throw around felt like lead weights. I was scared out of my mind”. And he is not the only one who may have suffered from going vegan.

I can't say that if these guys ate meat the team would perform better, but the documentary definitely can't argue that they excel because of the diet. Similarly, they can't say that Olympic athletes excel because of their vegan diet.


Dotsie Bausch, the US Olympic cyclist, went vegan in 2009. Three years later, her team won the silver medal, the most impressive accomplishment of any Olympian featured in the film.

After switching to a vegan diet, Morgan Mitchel finished 24th in the 400m at the 2016 Olympics. Now at age 25, she is quitting the 400m in favour of the longer distance, 800m run.

Similarly, weightlifter Kendrick Farris went vegan in 2014. In the 2016 Olympics, he finished in 11th place, competing at a heavier weight and lifting less than he did in 2008.

You might be wondering if a vegan diet helps Olympic athletes, where are all the vegan gold medalists? How did Usain Bolt eat 1000 Chicken McNuggets leading into his record-breaking sprint? Or Michael Phelps can eat several pizzas per day?

There is one vegan gold medalist featured in the film. Weightlifter Ilya Ilyin won two Olympic golds, which seems like a big win for veganism. Unfortunately, he had to return them. It turns out that it was a bigger win for steroids than veganism, a common thread amongst strength athletes.


Patrik Baboumian is the epitome of vegan strength. That said, the only thing that this portion of the documentary proves is that you don't need to eat mutton to get the world's best mutton chops.

Although Wolveroid's feats of strength are undoubtedly impressive, they don't match the world's strongest men. According to Wikipedia, Patrik has a max bench of 474 lbs compared to Robert's 650 lb bench. Patrik's deadlift is 793 lbs and his squat is 815 lbs compared to Robert's 880 lb deadlift and 950 lb squat. That's about a 400 lb difference across just three lifts, and Robert's diet consists almost entirely of meat and rice.

Patrik has some impressive records for a vegan strongman, but compared to Robert, whose best performance ever at the world's strongest man was 8th place, his numbers don't even register.


It's like how Veggie builder Nimai Delgado looks jacked. But this is another steroid sport, and when you compare him to other bodybuilders, you might ask if he even lifts. You don't even have to compare him with modern-day bodybuilders to see the contrast.

The film features Arnold Schwarzenegger as a vegan. Assuming he is a vegan now, he definitely was not vegan back in his championship days.

In these steroid sports, it's not surprising that the meat-eaters became the biggest meatheads. What about sports where strength and muscle mass are less important?


Vegan athlete Scott Jurik ran the Appalachian Trail in a record-breaking 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes.

I'm starting to think that the vegan diet impairs memory because the film forgets to mention that Belgian Dentist Karel Sabbe beat Jurek's record by over 5 days while eating pizza and bacon. I should say, he beat Joe McConaughy's record, who beat Karl Meltzer's record, who beat Scott Jurek's record.

While impressive, Jurek's accomplishment is not a compelling reason for dropping meat to improve endurance. Neither is documentarian James Wilk's performance on the battle ropes.

James says that at his gym, a 20-minute battle rope session is the maximum time that most peak athletes can reach. When James went vegan, his battle rope performance skyrockets. He goes for an hour, only stopping because he got bored. Impressive, but as Joe Rogan points out, he wasn't even sweating.

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he really did hit one hour before they started filming, but is that because he switched to a vegan diet? Or, is it because he had a career-ending knee injury that forced him to focus on upper body endurance exercises.

I had a shoulder injury once, and the time that I could run at an 8 on the treadmill nearly tripled. That doesn't mean that shoulder injuries lead to better cardio. It means that people adapt their workouts to accommodate their injuries and improve at the exercises they regularly perform. I'm sure that during his knee injury, James' jump rope performance suffered more than his battle rope performance improved.

That's not to say that a vegan diet can't help improve cardiovascular health. It just means that you can't say he improved solely because he went vegan, just like Bryant Jennings became a better boxer when he switched to a vegan diet.


Unlike the first vegan fighter, Bryant appears to actually be a vegan. What they forgot to mention this time is that he had a record of 17-0 before going vegan and a record of 7-4 after switching.

This decline doesn't necessarily mean that he performed worse because of his diet. As a Boxer's record improves, they tend to face stronger opponents. However, it's tough to justify an improvement from the vegan diet when his record suffers after his switch.

Despite the record, I actually believe Bryant when he says he performs better after going vegan. He says that when he was growing up, he didn't know what asparagus was and regularly ate food that almost everyone agrees is unhealthy.

And this gets to the heart of the issue. Switching from canned food and fried chicken to quinoa and kale will probably make anyone healthier. That doesn't mean that adding a steak will make you feel worse. Heavyweight champion boxers like Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder continue to dominate the competition at the upper ranks while eating meat.

So, if you want to improve your athletic performance, can you follow a vegan diet? This documentary shows that yes, clearly you can. But should you?

The only way that you can know what will work best is by measuring your performance before starting the diet while continuing to monitor it as you go. As you continue, add in meats and see if things change. You may find that performance improves when adding meat to a whole food vegan diet.

In the new year, I will be following a carnivore diet for three months while measuring my strength, body fat, blood panels, personality traits, and more. If you want help with your diet or workout plan, send me a message through the contact page on the website.

Until next time, Get in The Game and Get After It.