Meat and animal protein have long been considered necessary fuel for athletes. But a growing number of professional athletes have turned their focus toward a plant-based diet for gains, reduced injury recovery time, and overall health improvements. Tom Brady, four-time SuperBowl winning quarterback for the New England Patriots, adheres to a predominantly plant-based diet; multiple title-winning wrestler Austin Aries is a vocal vegan proving plants do indeed have protein, as are all of the elite power athletes featured in the documentary “The Game Changers,” which follows and interviews some of the strongest and most accomplished athletes in the world who all adhere to a plant-based diet. As fans around the world will be glued to their television sets over the next month for the 2018 FIFA World Cup series, there are three players to keep an eye on as they’re all following a vegan or plant-based diet.
1. Fabian Delph
Fabian Delph, 28, will represent England in the World Cup. His switch to a vegan diet helped him to recover from an injury in record time. “I studied its weak parts, researched my injuries, began to strengthen my body and moved from rehab into pre-hab. I carried out mindfulness exercises like the moving meditation of Tai Chi. And I changed the fuel I put into my body and switched to a vegan diet,” he said in a recent interview with the Manchester Evening News.
2. Sergio Agüero
Representing Argentina, 30-year-old Sergio Agüero says switching to a plant-based diet helped speed his post-injury recovery and reduces the severities of injuries. “I started the season very well, but then got injured,” he said in 2015. “So I went to a doctor in Italy and he checked everything we did, and I had to change quite a bit – no more pasta, no more sugar and no meat, which I used to eat quite a bit.”
3. Lionel Messi
Also hailing from Argentina is Lionel Messi, considered one of the best players in the world and gets his fuel from the plants. The South American says the regional diets are often heavily focused on animal products but he feels better when he reduces his meat intake and focuses instead on whole grains, fresh fruits, and lots of vegetables.
Image Credit: Lionel Messi/Instagram