The Vegan Society research statistics say that veganism has increased by about 350% in the UK in the span of a decade, with thousands of people cutting out meat and related products from their diet. Animal products and meat have been lauded as necessary fuel for sportsmen, for example, soccer players.
However, recently it has been noticed that a growing number of professional athletes are focusing on plant-based diets for a reduction in recovery time and overall good health. Vegan soccer players have claimed that they have a lot more energy and can make a quicker recovery after an injury due to their vegan diet. They also feel that they are more motivated and in a better mood.
There is no doubt that soccer fans from across the globe must have stationed themselves in front of their TV sets during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Series. A few players who played in the World Cup are of particular note as they follow a vegan or plant-based diet.
1. Lionel Messi
The first player is the ever-popular Lionel Messi. After Argentina failed to score a win in the 2014 world cup, Messi was disheartened and felt that his performance on the field was not up to the mark. It was then that he decided to change his diet. For a player of his caliber to opt for a vegan diet is very unusual. Nutrition is an important part of the training of a professional football player.
This is especially so as a lot of money is at stake and it all rests on the player’s aptitude and performance. Shocking though it may sound, there is no monitoring body that decides what the players eat. They are by and large left to eat whatever they like.
Messi decided that the meat-based diet didn’t suit his body and wanted to do something about it. Going vegan sounded like a good option. Messi has claimed that the vegan diet has changed his performance on the field considerably.
2. Fabian Delph
Another famous player to have gone vegan is Fabian Delph. Fabian, who is 28 years old, is a Yorkshire man. He was recently interviewed by the Manchester Evening News and he stated that it was a vegan diet and mindfulness exercises that came to his aid when he injured himself during the Premier League trophy and the World Cup.
While he was struggling to recover from his injury, Delph debated on the matter; wondering if his performance would be as good if he switched to a vegan diet. He pushed aside his doubts and began to look objectively at his body. The soccer player studied the weaker parts of his body and after thorough research of his injuries; he started to strengthen his body.
Delph also started mindfulness exercises and practiced meditative exercises such as Tai Chi. But most of all, it was the food that he was putting into his body that counted. Cutting out meat totally, Delph went vegan and was astounded by his improved performance.
3. Hector Bellerin
Hector Bellerin who represents Spain has his own story to tell. This well-known Barcelona-born Football player who is 23 years old has seen improved levels of fitness ever since he turned vegan. As per an article that appeared in the Evening Standard, he cut out animal products from his diet at the beginning of the season and gives credit to veganism for his improved performance and quick recovery. The diet helped ease the pressure on the ankles that were causing him trouble.
Hector says that at the start of the diet, he just wanted to try it for a couple of weeks so that he could detox his body. But the diet made him feel so good that he has now decided to continue with it. Hector feels that the diet helped him not only physically, but mentally too. He likes to make veggie patties when he is at home and has a special liking for hummus. He further stated that he wanted to remove toxins from his body. After just six months of following a vegan diet, he felt great.
He has a lot more energy now than before; when he gets up in the morning. Hector says that his decision to switch to a plant-based diet was not just to improve his soccer performance on the field. He also has a conscience about eating animal meat.
4. Jermain Defoe
A lot of people noticed when Jermain Defoe turned vegan. Though a successful player, Defoe didn’t make it to the World Cup Squad this year. Defoe, who is very popular on social media, has 456K followers on Instagram and around a million people follow him on Twitter. That says a lot when it comes to his power to influence the masses. When he spoke to the reporters from The Guardian last year, Defoe said that he gave credit to his plant-based diet for his form. He also attributed his improved recovery time to the vegan diet. Defoe feels that he has managed to adopt veganism very successfully.
It was Defoe’s girlfriend who made the suggestion that he should try veganism. She showed him some documentaries on the benefits of veganism and told him that he should give it a go. Defoe is happy to have someone besides him to drive him on. He further said that giving up a normal diet wasn’t that difficult as he enjoys the feeling he gets when he scores goals.
5. Sergio Aguero
Like Messi, soccer player Sergio Aguero too follows a vegan diet and feels that it has improved his performance considerably. Sergio always suffered from problems in his ankles when he played hard. The ankles would get very stiff and get inflamed. After following a vegan diet, he doesn’t have to strap them to play. Like Hector, Aguero, too, feels that what we are doing to the earth and the animals is not right. It is time to pay back by going vegan.
With the vegan movement gaining momentum, people like Hector, Aguero, and Messi will play a pivotal role in influencing people to give up animal products.
6. Chris Smalling
Chris Smalling is the English center-back that played for famous Manchester United and currently plays for Italian giants AS Roma in Serie A. He holds two English Premier League records, one for the fastest goal by a substitute and second for most goals scored by a substitute in the first half.
Smalling has gone vegan and removed his meat diet in 2017. This was not the decision that he instantly made, as his wife was the one who convinced him to make this nutritional change. Following that decision, he made a video for PETA in which he discussed what led him to embrace the vegan lifestyle.
7. Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere is an English ex-Arsenal player, and his latest team was A.F.C. Bournemouth, where he played as a midfielder. He retired this year, and he stated that the reasons for his retirement were out of his control and that it was difficult to accept that his career had been slipping away.
He embraced a vegan diet to improve his lifestyle. According to his statements following his injury-prone career, adopting a vegan diet allowed him to lose weight and improve his overall endurance and appearance, as well as his lifestyle habits.
8. Sebastian Perez
Sebastian Perez Cardona is a Colombian professional player who plays as a midfielder for the Portuguese Primeira Liga club, Boavista FC, and the Colombian national team. He made a name for himself for his quick reactions and skills on both the offensive and defensive and of field.
Perez decided to go completely vegan on moral grounds. In 2018 he stated to the press that people often claim that animals are on the planet to be eaten, but that it is his belief that the world belongs to every living creature.
9. Serge Gnabry
Serge David Gnabry is a German professional footballer who plays the winger position for Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and the German national team. He made his professional debut back in 2012 in the English Premier League team, Arsenal.
The sensational improvement in Gnabry’s career can also be explained by his decision to become vegan. This was a decision which, as he stated to the German press, came about thanks to TV documentaries he watched, and they helped him make such a lifestyle change.
10. Russel Martin
Martin is a former defender turned coach from England who decided to go vegan after being diagnosed and suffering from ulcerative colitis, which is an inflammatory bowel disease. Ever since he eliminated animal products from his nutrition, he has seen various improvements in his health and performance.
Although Russel Martin went vegan for health reasons, he has stated that now he is more aware of the ethical implications of animal product consumption. He also said that once you investigate and stop eating animal products, you start realizing how badly they are treated and start wondering what right we have to eat them.