Vegetarian Athletes

Are there or have there been any world class athletes that are or were lifelong vegetarians? There are certainly many successful athletes that have converted later in life. But I’m trying to get a list of those who were vegetarian during their developing years, and then maintained vegetarianism throughout their playing careers.

Even now, at a time when vegetarian food is widely available and often of excellent quality, and plenty of people know that you don’t necessarily need meat to live a healthy lifestyle, only about 3 percent of the US population are vegetarians.

Combine that with the tiny percentage of people who qualify as “world class athletes,” and the number of top athletes who were actually raised vegetarian is likely to be extremely small. We would probably find many more in countries where more people practice vegetarianism. About one-third of Indians do, and i’ll bet that some of those have made it onto the Indian national cricket team, or some other high-level sport.

Cyclists Sean Yates, Levi Leipheimer, Robert Millar, Dave Zabriskie and Mark Cavendish were all vegetarian at some points in their careers.

Yes, but that’s not what he asked.

It’s trivially easy to find athletes who were vegetarian as some point in their careers. The first one that came to mind for me was baseball player Prince Fielder. The OP specifically asked about athletes “who were vegetarian during their developing years, and then maintained vegetarianism throughout their playing careers.”

There’ve been a couple of WWE wrestlers who were vegan (such as Daniel/Bryan/Danielson), but I know he started eating meat because as he said, it was virtually impossible to maintain a vegan diet while on the road 300 days a year.

I know this doesn’t quite meet the requirements of the OP, but Scott Jurek, one of the best Ultra Runners in the history of the sport claims in his book that he didn’t really start reaching his full potential until he switched to a whole foods /vegan diet .

He also set the fastest known time for a supported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (2,168 miles) in 2015 and has been vegetarian since 1997. So not his formative years, but a pretty long time.

This article lists three Olympic medalists who were vegetarian or vegan from childhood:

Lizzie Armistead, UK, cycling silver 2012
Murray Rose, Australia, 4 swimming golds 1956-60
Bode Miller, USA, 5 skiiing golds

It also notes that the typical diet of elite Kenyan runners includes very little meat, and that of typical Kenyan children even less so, which if true would seem pretty conclusive proof that, at least in running, a meat-centered diet isn’t essential for success.

Among NFL stars, the great tight end Tony Gonzalez is the only vegetarian I know of.

I couldn’t imagine a WWE wrestler being able to get enough calories or protein on a vegan diet. Ovo-lacto vegetarian? Maybe.

Killer Kowalski was a highly respected vegetarian during the latter half of his 81 year life.

I don’t understand why you think they can’t get enough protein and calories on a vegan diet.

Me too, as I’ve heard that for years and was thus surprised by this claim on his Wikipedia page:

I seem to recall that former NHL center Bob Bassen was a vegetarian when he played for the Blues. I thought I remembered one of the St. Louis sports writers ribbing him about it. I tried to confirm that but couldn’t find a cite.

It’s really not that hard to get protein in a vegan diet, it’s quite a misconception. I’m a vegan and can easily get 50g a day just by watching stuff carefully – a peanut butter sandwich, with nut/seed bread, can be 20g all by itself.

Here’s an article on a 300 pound vegan NFL defensive lineman. He eats over a pound of protein a day in the offseason. And the diet they list is pretty damn boring, it would be a lot more complex – nutritionally and otherwise – if he ate more tofu and stuff like that. I have a friend that’s a vegan firefighter that eats a slab of tofu on a bagel every morning for part of breakfast and gets like 500 calories and 35g of protein from that alone. With a Vega shake you could have 50g of protein and 700 calories just from breakfast.

Successful wrestler Austin Aries is vegan…

For small values of successful…

Basketball great Bill Walton.

IIRC, when he was still playing pro, he was a deadhead in the off season. I had also heard he was a vegetarian only in the off season while playing.

Timehad this teaser with the rest behind a registration:
Oregon State was coming to town for an important game, so U.C.L.A. Center Bill Walton prepared in typical fashion. He began each day with his regular breakfast diet of yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, cereal, raisins, seeds and honey. He rode his ten-speed bicycle to the beach and contemplated the Pacific. He took his weekly acupuncture treatment: needles in the ears or legs to relieve pain from tendinitis in his knees. On the night before the game, he stayed up until 2 a.m. working on his latest cause—organizing campus opposition to a proposed experimental…

What did he do, kill your pets?

Sushil Kumar, World champion and Olympic silver medallist wrestler is a life long vegetarian, no eggs even.

My pets could take him in a fight.

House Cat

Size/Type: Tiny Animal
Hit Dice: ½ d8 (2 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 14 (+2 size, +2 Dex), touch 14, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/-12
Attack: Claw +4 melee (1d2-4)
Full Attack: 2 claws +4 melee (1d2-4) and bite -1 melee (1d3-4)
Space/Reach: 2½ ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: —
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, scent
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +1
Abilities: Str 3, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 7
Skills: Balance +10, Climb +6, Hide +16*, Jump +10,
Listen +3, Move Silently +8, Spot +3
Feats: Stealthy, Weapon Finesse
Environment: Temperate plains
Organization: Domesticated or solitary
Challenge Rating: ¼