There was a time when the question of athletes following a plant-based diet was unheard of. The diet, however; became popular with athletes after NFL lineman David Carter began following it. Carter, who was formerly the lineman for the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys, was one of the first players of the sport to emphasize the advantages of the complete vegan diet.
David Carter is 30 years of age now and spends his life post-football talking about nutrition and diet around the country, emphasizing communities of color as they cannot as easily access fresh and healthy foods. There is an ever-expanding society of colored people who have taken on a vegan diet and are talking about it; David Carter is part of that community.
There was a time when David Carter disliked vegetables intensely and thought that he was allergic to them. He went around telling people that he was allergic to vegetables. But gradually the realization came that his teammates were struggling with their diets and even his family members were often ill because of the food they ate.
The turning point came when he watched a documentary on TV; ‘Forks over Knives.’ At the time, vegan diets were not linked to athleticism and strength. Carter had been suffering from pain for a while and at one time, he even recalls that just pushing himself out of the bathtub felt like someone had stabbed him with a knife on his elbow.
The pain was worse than any pain he would generally get while playing football on the field. Apart from that, he would also have recurrent bouts of tendinitis, high blood pressure and inflammation. Carter realized that the pain was exacerbated by the food he was eating. He was eating chicken and pork chops apart from the normal diet of a defensive lineman. After a grueling practice session, a defensive lineman’s diet can consist of six double hamburgers.
The documentary, ‘Forks over Knives,’ took a look at the claim that most degenerative diseases can not only be controlled but also reversed if you got rid of the animal-based and processed foods from your diet. As David Carter was suffering from muscle fatigue and tendonitis apart from other pains, he decided to go vegan after watching the documentary. The first thing he ate the next day was a bean burger. He stopped eating meat thereafter.
For a defensive lineman, it’s important to maintain a good weight. Defense linemen are regularly weighed and no player wants to look frail at a mere 250 pounds. However, in the first month, after he started his vegan diet, David Carter lost 40 pounds. But amazingly, his fitness improved; he was running faster and going further, could lift weights that were heavy and the most surprising thing of all; his joint pain and tendonitis disappeared totally within two months of starting the diet.
Eventually, David Carter was able to get back to his original weight of 300 pounds but was now faster and leaner than when he was consuming animals and their by-products. He then began to play officially for the Chicago Bears. Carter says that the transition to a vegan diet was easy when he understood that the quality of life meant more to him than the act of pampering his taste buds. The changes in his body too were instantly evident.
In the first month, the tendonitis disappeared. His weight on the bench press increased to 465 pounds from 315 pounds. He felt his legs become stronger and his blood pressure too decrease. He stopped taking medication for blood pressure. Mentally too, he felt better as he could now do things more easily than before.
Carter enjoys his vegan diet. He loves his cashew cheese, the oatmeal that has hemp protein, black beans, brown rice, spinach salads and giant smoothies. These are just a few of the things that make up his diet. Carter wanted to set an example by not just talking, but acting on it. He explains that the NFL only gives five years of medical coverage after retirement and he wants to live a long and healthy life.
Carter is not alone, however. There are many sportspersons and athletes who have also switched to a diet that is plant-based. This has proved, without doubt, that sourcing protein is not difficult if you stop eating meat. An example is Rocky Luedeker, a 62-year-old weightlifter. She currently holds 13 world records for weightlifting and follows a vegan diet.
However, it is not only top athletes who are switching over to a vegan diet. As per current research, as many as 58% of Americans say that they prefer vegan protein to animal protein. At first glance, the efficacy of a vegan diet seems farfetched in comparison to the animal protein diet; but facts speak for themselves.