Vegetable schnitzel and muesli with an oatmeal drink? More and more athletes are opting for a vegan diet, without meat, eggs and dairy, and many are still performing at their best. We introduce you to people from Germany who, for a variety of reasons, eat exclusively plant-based foods.
Why do athletes choose a vegan diet?
The step towards a vegan lifestyle can usually have different reasons. For many people, including athletes, it is a moral compulsion and they want to avoid the suffering of animals in the mainstream, for example by making a conscious change. Environmental aspects also play a role, as animal food production has been shown to have a significant effect on climate change.
In sporting events, however, motivation is first and foremost a healthy diet. More and more professional athletes are choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and are reporting positive effects on their health.
Are there any disadvantages to eating vegan as an athlete?
Due to their high energy intake, competitive athletes depend on a balanced diet that covers their nutrient needs. Regarding this, it does not matter what form of diet is used at first, as it is important to find out what micronutrients, proteins, and vitamins are important for the body.
With a purely plant-based diet, this seems a bit more difficult at first, as some important nutrients can only be absorbed from a few specific foods. A particularly valuable vitamin, namely B12, needs to be supplemented by vegans, for example, as today it can only be obtained from animal products.
10 Vegan athletes from Germany
As already mentioned, a vegan lifestyle is becoming more and more common among athletes. Many of them are also happy vegetarians or believe in eating mostly plant foods with a few animal products. Below, we present 10 professional athletes from Germany and their experiences with diets without animal products.
1. Patrick Babumian, strongman, world record holder
Patrick Babumian is the head of the vegan sports scene. The strongman hasn't eaten meat since 2005, then switched to a completely plant-based diet in 2011. In the same year, he cemented his title as "Germany's strongest man".
Luck was not lacking, on the contrary - in 2012 Babumian broke the world record for lifting a beer keg, in 2015 he carried 560 kg over 10 meters in a walk-off and thus set another world record. The committed vegan achieves these groundbreaking achievements without animal products.
Patrick Babumian has even written a book entitled Quite differently vegans: a guide to getting big and strong.
2. Christopher Fischer, German Hockey League
Christopher Fischer has been playing for Schwenninger Wild Wings in the German Hockey League since 2019. His career has been consistently successful, as evidenced, for example, by his participation in the 2006 Under-18 World Junior Championship and the 2012 World Hockey Championship. In 2015, he became the German Adler Mannheim champion.
The hockey player has been a vegan for more than seven years. Above all, ethical reasons forced him to do so because he wondered where his food came from. "After that, I very quickly switched to vegetarianism, and soon also to veganism," he told the SÜDKURIER newspaper.
Fischer focuses on a healthy, balanced diet and supplements with vitamins B12, D3, K2, and rice protein. "It makes me feel more alert, fresher, more active, and less tired.
3. Dirk Nowitzki, basketball legend
Basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki has long avoided cow's milk and has been testing a purely vegan diet since 2019. He only started the transition after his NBA career. He used to try to eat only plant-based foods during training but said he lacked energy during that time during the day.
"An athlete has to draw a positive attitude from food. If it becomes a negative part of everyday life, it does not contribute to performance" (Uwe von Renteln, nutrition expert and adviser to top athletes)
Nowicki reported that it is easier than expected and that he is doing well. His environmental responsibility led the basketball star to try a vegan diet again.
4. Catherine Schäfer, marathon runner
Qualified ecotrophologist and yoga teacher Catherine Schäfer also works as a running coach and is a gifted runner herself. She shares her passion with her partner Daniel Roth and her enthusiasm for the vegan lifestyle. They are the founders of one of the biggest platforms for vegan eating, fitness and running BeVegt.
5. Johanna Janke, former national rugby team player
Johanna Janke played rugby for the German women's national team and is still a passionate sportswoman, specializing in cycling. She has also been a committed vegan since 2000.
A plant-based diet and sporting activities go well together for Johanna Jahnke. She is in top form for fixed gear, road cycling, gravel, and long-distance riding. With her partner Marion Divnick, she achieved a particularly great success: they were the first women's team to master the transcontinental race - 4,000 km across Europe in the saddle in 15 days.
6. Alexander Dargatz, world champion bodybuilder
Bodybuilder, doctor and vegan - three passions connected in the person of Alexander Dargatz. On his website, the confident vegan explains how plant-based eating and weight training can work well together.
Dargatz has been a vegan since 2000. His bodybuilding career peaked five years later when he won the WFF world fitness title.
7. Christopher Lenz, Football Bundesliga
Christopher Lenz is a German Bundesliga footballer from 1. FC Union Berlin, predominantly in the left-back position. Born in Berlin, he has been testing a vegan diet since late 2019. He achieved his goal of testing it all within six months and then even extended the time.
"I first came across this when I got injured and had surgery. A teammate at the time told me I could minimize inflammation in my body this way," he told Tagesspiegel.
8. Alin Kamara, sports soldier, two-time Olympian
Athletics has been a hobby of Alin Kamara since childhood. His focus is the long jump, a discipline in which he even competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He has also been successful in many German championships. His personal best is an astonishing 8.29 metres outdoors.
In 2017, Kamara's sour muscle problems worsened, so she learned about other types of eating. "So, I didn't eat meat for 10 days without feeling like I was missing something. And my legs got lighter again," he told nutritionist Alexandra Keleman in an interview.
"Since then it's been a matter of course for me to eat vegan food."
9. Louise Schulze, national handball team
Professional handball player Louise Schulze had many successes in her youth. Among her achievements are German championships, participation in the Champions League, and European and World Championships with the German women's national team. The athlete follows a conscious and controlled vegan diet and has regular blood tests.
"I definitely feel better after going vegan, and I think nutrition plays an important and big role. But I would argue that my personal successes are not down to nutrition. There are many other important factors and personal values that influence professional sports." (Athlete One magazine interview)
10. Moritz Schenkel, Water Polo Goalkeeper
Moritz Schenkel is a water polo goalkeeper for Waspo Hannover and the German national team, with whom he finished 9th at the 2018 European Championships. When it comes to nutrition, it is especially important for him that it supplies him with enough energy, so he has tried different options and is now a vegan.
"They say that without dairy and animal products, muscles don't get acidified as quickly. But I'm not an expert and can't say for sure. Anyway, I just feel better and no longer feel the midday slump after eating," he explained in an interview with DerWesten newspaper.
Competing in sports and eating vegan - is it possible?
The 10 athletes on our list and many other well-known leading vegans, such as F1 driver Lewis Hamilton or tennis professional Novak Djokovic, show that competitive sport and an exclusively plant-based diet can go very well together. And their sporting achievements, as can be seen at https://betting-sider.net/betting-uden-nemid/, speak for themselves.
In science, opinions differ. But it is always clear that a conscious and balanced diet is not just the healthy way to go in high-performance sports, with or without animal products.
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