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Vegan Athlete Profiles: Inspiring Stories of Plant-Powered Success

Vegan Athlete Profiles: Inspiring Stories of Plant-Powered Success

A couple of decades ago, the transition of an athlete to a plant-based diet was groundbreaking enough to dominate sports headlines across the country.

Now, the adoption of vegan sports nutrition is not just common but celebrated for its significant impact on maintaining peak performance and achieving new personal bests.

The world of professional sports is brimming with plant-powered athletic performance stories, showcasing the dietary impacts on athletic achievement.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the success stories of notable vegan athletes, exploring how veganism in professional sports has become a game-changer.

These inspirational Vegan athletes may just be the motivation you need to power through your next workout.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Plant-Powered Champions: Learn about athletes like Jehina Malik, the first IFBB bodybuilder born vegan, and Cam Newton, the NFL quarterback setting records on a vegan diet.
  2. Plant-Based Sports Icons: Discover how Lewis Hamilton, Pat Neshek, Neil Robertson, and John Rush are excelling in Formula 1, MLB, snooker, and CFL respectively, fueled by plant-based nutrition.
  3. Veganism in Sports: Explore how veganism is gaining momentum in professional sports, with athletes like Venus Williams, Neymar, Novak Djokovic, David Haye, and Andreas Kraniotakes leading the way.

The Biggest Vegan Fitness Role Models

Many famous sports stars have quietly made the switch to plant-based diets for health reasons, probably following a recommendation by personal nutritionists.

Such is the case with Lionel Messi (one of the greatest living soccer players) who apparently cut out meat and dairy a number of years ago (although he doesn’t seem to have gone 100% plant-based).

But others are fully invested in the lifestyle and have become role models as a result. The biggest of these Vegan athlete success stories include:

Jehina Malik - Vegan IFBB Pro Bodybuilder - Plant-based - Clean Machine

Jehina Malik

Jehina Malik is an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder. In 2014, she won her first international show and picked up her Pro Card. Thanks to this plant-powered performance, she became the first IFBB bodybuilder to have been born Vegan.

She spoke to Great Vegan Athletes about this achievement, saying that veganism was second nature to her and she never wanted to change her lifestyle, “…animals in my opinion were not meant to be eaten, animals never been a food choice to me.”

Jehina is proof that veganism works even on the biggest stage, and her exploits have inspired many young Vegans to follow suit.

She also works as a personal trainer and founded her own athletic apparel brand, J Up First Athletics. You can learn more about Jehina via her Instagram and website.


Cam Newton - NFL Quarterback - Vegan Plant Based Professional Athlete - Clean Machine

Cam Newton

Cam Newton is an NFL quarterback who currently holds the record for the most quarterback-rushing touchdowns. He’s tall, fast, fit, and strong, and he’s also Vegan.

He turned Vegan in 2019 after initially being a pescetarian and seems to be enjoying the effects that the diet has had on his body.

Newton began with the Carolina Panthers and then re-signed with the franchise in 2021 after a short spell with the New England Patriots. The 3x Pro Bowler has won a number of accolades over his 12+ year-long career, including the MVP back in 2015.

Check out Cam’s Instagram here.

Lewis Hamilton - Formula 1 Driver World Championships - Vegan Plant Based Pro Athlete - Clean Machine

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is a Formula 1 driver with multiple world championships under his belt. The Brit is one of the sport’s most recognizable faces, as well as its greatest advocate.

He is also a Vegan athlete, having made the switch to a plant-based diet back in 2017.

Just like Cam Newton, Hamilton was primarily a pescetarian before he gave up fish for plants. Apparently, he was warned that he wouldn’t be able to get enough protein, but that clearly hasn’t been an issue for the rapid sports star, nor was it an issue for every other Vegan athlete on this list.

In a Vanity Fair interview, Hamilton stated that veganism wasn’t even on his radar when he was growing up in the 1990s. But after a chance meeting with a friend in New York, his eyes were opened. In the same interview, he sought to quieten the doubters by stating that he has won 5 world titles since turning Vegan and has been “more consistent than [he] ever was in the past.”

Hamilton has over 34 million followers on Instagram, where he shares pictures from race days at locations all over the world.

Pat Neshek - MLB Major League Baseball Player - Vegan Plant Based Pro Athlete - Clean Machine

Pat Neshek

Pat Neshek is a former Major League Baseball player who was voted the Upper Midwest Player of the Year in 2008.

When he was in the minor leagues, Neshek had a very limited food budget and limited time to spend it, so he spent a lot of his money at McDonald’s. After meeting his wife, she complained about his eating habits and encouraged him to make the switch to plant-based foods.

He did, and he felt much better for it. Pat became Vegan in 2007 and remains devoted to plant-based eating to this day. He played his last season in the MLB for the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2018 to 2019.

You can find Pat on Instagram and X.

Neil Robertson - Snooker World Champion - Vegan Plant Based Pro Athlete - Clean Machine

Neil Robertson

Although Neil Robertson is not a big name in the United States, he is very big across Europe, Australia, and Canada.

The Aussie snooker player is a former world champion and current record-holder. He is one of the greatest snooker players still active in the game, and holds a seemingly unbeatable record for scoring 103-century breaks (over 100 points in a single break) during one season.

He was also the first player not from the UK to win the Triple Crown. Robertson, who became Vegan in 2015, can often be seen cradling a green smoothie, a plant-powered drink that helps him through tight frames and long games.

He was inspired to turn began from fellow snooker professional Peter Ebdon, a Brit who won the World Championship in 2002.

You can follow Neil Robertson on Instagram here. He posts images from practice sessions and games, as well as family pictures and shots of his hobbies (which include painting figurines).

John Rush - Canadian Football League (CFL) - Vegan Plant Based Pro Athletes - Clean Machine


John Rush

John Rush played football in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The fullback switched to a plant-based diet in 2017. Initially, his goal was to lose a little weight and improve his athletic performance.

After noticing how much better it made him feel, he stuck with the diet.

John signed for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2016 and spent multiple seasons with the Manitoba team before becoming a free agent. See what John is up to on Instagram here.

Born Vegan vs Plant-Based Athletic Transformations

Jehina Malik is one of the few plant-based fitness role models who have been following a plant-based diet since birth. Many were introduced to the diet in their adult years, making the switch for health, ethical, or performance reasons.

Of the other athletes that were born Vegan, one of the most notable is Seba Johnson, a Winter Olympic skier who has previously represented The United States Virgin Islands.

But you don’t need to be born Vegan to get the respect of the Vegan community, and you definitely don’t need to be born Vegan to reap the benefits. 

Being able to watch these plant-based athletic journeys has been an inspiration for Vegans everywhere, especially those who aspire to similar plant-based athletic achievements.

Summary: Vegan Athletes and Plant-Based Sports Achievements

There are hundreds of mainstream Vegan athletes out there, with more breaking through all of the time. Some adopt veganism for ethical reasons, but many switch for health and performance reasons. Such is the case with Venus Williams, for instance, a self-described “Cheetan” who primarily eats a raw vegan diet. Neymar (soccer), Novak Djokovic (tennis), David Haye (boxing), and Andreas Kraniotakes (MMA) are also mainly plant-based.

You can read about their preferences and reasons in countless Vegan athlete interviews published by newspapers and sports sites, but as veganism becomes increasingly widespread in the world of professional sports, these preferences will become less newsworthy and more normalized.

At this rate, it could be a matter of time before plant-based diets are the norm and embraced by the majority of athletes.

The Essential Guide to Rest and Recovery in Plant-Based Fitness
Maximizing Athletic Performance: The Vegan Supplement Advantage