50 Famous Vegetarians
|1. Mac Danzig
(Born Jan. 2, 1980)
US mixed martial arts fighter; winner of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter (2007)
"At a ripped 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Danzig is a rising star in mixed martial arts. He fights under the direction of the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas, training with some of the biggest names in the sport. To succeed in mixed martial arts, competitors must wield explosive strength, the kind typically linked to high-protein foods. When your job is to clobber other men into submission, a meaty diet seems like a given.
'I believed what everybody said,' Danzig confirmed, 'that you need animal protein in your diet if you're going to train hard and win.'
That path butted up against beliefs he'd held since childhood. Raised by his single mom in western Pennsylvania, Danzig loved animals and has owned pets throughout his life...
As his career evolved, so did his diet. He'd already cut out all dairy products years ago, as they'd given him health problems, all the way up to debilitating ear infections, sinus problems and even vertigo. He then stopped eating mammals entirely. But poultry and fish remained staples of his diet. In 2004, he took the next step, cutting out poultry and fish and going entirely vegan...
Though Danzig at first feared a meatless diet would hurt his performance, he now says it has helped him recover faster from fights and workouts...
Other challenges remain. Though his training partners and fellow competitors have respected his dietary decisions, some MMA fans have lashed out at Danzig.
'I've noticed a lot of negative things said about me, saying 'Who does he think he is?'' Danzig explained. 'So many people who are vegetarian or especially vegan, really wear it on their sleeve, like they're part of some exclusive club. That's not my style.'"
Jonah Keri, "Who Says You Have to Eat Meat to Be a Successful Athlete?," espn.go.com, July 22, 2008
Photo source: www.vegan-fighter.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
|2. Walter "Killer" Kowalski (aka Wladek Kowalski)
(Born Oct 13, 1926; Died Aug. 30, 2008)
Canadian professional wrestler; world tag team champion, US tag team champion; signature move: Iron Claw
"In the beginning it [becoming a vegetarian] was for athletic reasons, but later I became more concerned about life itself. I won't go too deeply into it, but there is a religious part and meditative part of vegetarianism for me.
After I made the change, people asked me different questions about being a vegetarian such as 'Where do you get your protein?' I would say to them, 'Elephants, they're vegetarians. They grow up big and strong. And horses, they have tremendous endurance, and they are vegetarians. But meat eaters, like lions and tigers, they have a short lifespan.' The meat industry cons people into thinking you must eat decaying rotting flesh to get your protein. Bulls**t, that's a lot of baloney. Big, healthy, strong animals get their protein from vegetarian sources, grass even!...
Let me explain something. If you can take a raw almond, which is high protein in protein, put it in the ground and get a big tree, that's protein for you!... That's why summertime is the best time for me. Why? Because I mow all my neighbor's lawns with my teeth!...
As far as I know, I was the only vegetarian wrestler around. To this day, it's the same. They still drink beer, booze, they go after broads, you know, it's all the same. Even today, I'm still considered a nutball in the wrestling world. In my day, as a wrestler, they thought I was a real crackpot anyway..."
Interview with Walter "Killer" Kowalski, Vegetarian Travel Guide website (accessed Dec. 8, 2011)
Photo source: www.deadwrestlers.net (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
|3. Andy Lally
(Born Feb. 11, 1975)
US race car driver and street luge racer; first three-time Rolex Grand Am Champion (2001, 2004, 2006); three-time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona winner (2001, 2009, 2011); record holder for the most top 3 and top 5 finishes in Grand Am Rolex Series history
"Andy Lally wants a hamburger. Badly. The bloodier the better.
Yet the former sportscar champion turned NASCAR driver won't have one. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.
He'll deal with the craving, internalize it and put it aside just like he's done every day for the last seven years, since he decided every living thing was entitled to the same rights he enjoys.
Two years ago Lally took it a step further, moving from vegetarian to vegan, which means he's cut out dairy products, too. Though the 36-year-old from New York's Long Island considers it an ethical choice, he understands it's not for everybody, particularly the largely meat-and-potatoes crowd that crams the grandstand every weekend at a Cup race.
That doesn't mean he's not open to educating whenever possible.
'If (people) were able to see the mistreatment and what goes on and see what shows up to them in a nice shiny package,' Lally begins then cuts himself off, saying 'I don't want to go there.'"
Will Graves, "Lally Finding His Way on NASCAR's Fringe," Associated Press, available at www.standard.net, July 14, 2011
Photo source: www.blogcdn.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
|4. Carl Lewis
(Born July 1, 1961)
US track and field athlete; nine-time Olympic gold medalist
"Can a world-class athlete get enough protein from a vegetarian diet to compete? I've found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet. Moreover, by continuing to eat a vegan diet, my weight is under control, I like the way I look (I know that sounds vain, but all of us want to like the way we look), I enjoy eating more, and I feel great...
I remember vividly making the decision in July of 1990 to become a vegan. I was competing in Europe and ate a meal of Spanish sausage on a Saturday and on the following Monday started eating vegan."
Carl Lewis, "Introduction," in Very Vegetarian by Jannequin Bennett, 2001
"...[Y]ou think athletes have the best diets. Most athletes have the worst diet in the world, and... they compete in spite of it...
...Everyone says 'Where's your protein.' Well I ate tons of lentils, loved beans, had the juice; I did the things that I needed to do to replace what you would get with this tremendous amounts of meat that most people eat."
"Carl Lewis: Olympic Medals Through the Vegan Diet," www.youtube.com (accessed Nov. 28, 2011)
Photo source: www.sportingheroes.net (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
|5. Martina Navratilova
(Born Oct. 18, 1956)
Czech-born US tennis player; winner of 59 Grand Slam titles; second player in modern tennis to win 1,000 matches; gay rights activist
"Navratilova believes her whole-foods diet of raw fruits and vegetables, some rice, pasta and a few grains is helping extend the twilight of her professional tennis career. 'I've noticed that I have an easier time getting going in the morning, and a faster recovery after a tough workout. My muscle cramps have lessened. During all of last year, I had six ibuprofen pills. Most tennis players eat them like candy.
Navratilova always has been a little different, from her left-handedness to her outspoken views on politics and her own homosexuality. She now embraces a life that is more introspective than most athletes'; her vegetarianism, for example, isn't for health or political correctness. 'I did it for the animals. How can you have one animal for a pet and another for lunch?'"
Toni Apgar, "Off Court with Martina Navratilova," Vegetarian Times, May 1994
Photo source: www.dailymail.co.uk (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
6. Bill Pearl
(Born Oct. 31, 1930)
US bodybuilder; five-time Mr. Universe winner; named WBBG (World Bodybuilding Guild) World's Best Built Man (1971); author; bodybuilding coach
"My wife Judy and I first gave up red meat, but continued eating chicken and fish. Then one night at a fried chicken take-out place I cracked open a piece of chicken and saw a large growth on the joints. When I found out that this was due to the female hormones they feed the chickens to make them grow faster, I decided I didn't want excess female hormones floating around in my system, so Judy and I gave up chicken.
Then, when we were down to fish as our only animal flesh, the mercury scare came along and we gave up fish as well...
Judy and I have now been vegetarians for almost 35 years. We have no fish, fowl or red meat in our diet. Yet I can still carry the same amount of muscle mass as I did in winning my four Mr. Universe titles.
People can't believe it. They think that to have big muscles you have to eat meat—it's a persistent and recurring myth. But take it from me, there's nothing magic about eating meat that's going to make you a champion bodybuilder. Anything you can find in a piece of meat, you can find in other foods as well."
Bill Pearl, Getting Stronger: Weight Training for Sports, 2005
Photo source: International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness website (accessed Jan. 11, 2012)
|7. Rich Roll
(Born Oct. 20, 1965)
US ultra-endurance athlete
"Having competed as a competitive swimmer at Stanford University in the late 80’s, Richard has an accomplished athletic background... But by age 40, Richard was close to 50 pounds overweight and completely out of shape. It was time for a major life change. To celebrate his 40th natal birthday as well as his 10th anniversary in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, in 2006 he overhauled his diet, became a dedicated vegan, put on his running shoes and jumped back into the pool. It wasn’t long before ambition took hold and his quest to participate in Ultraman slowly began. Two years later and close to 50 pounds lighter, he surprised the triathlon & ultra communities by not only becoming the first vegan to complete the event, but by finishing in the top 10 males, despite never having even previously competed in a single ironman distance event."
"Profile," www.richroll.com (accessed Nov. 28, 2011)
"I feel quite strongly that a nutrition program built entirely around plant-based foods and completely devoid of animal products is optimal. Conventional wisdom would say that an athlete cannot perform on plants alone. But I am living proof that this is false, and I have ample research to support this position. Personally, I cannot overemphasize the difference this has made in my own life, a secret weapon for enhanced athletic performance and overall long-term wellness. (In the last two years, I have not gotten sick or even suffered a cold.)..."
Rich Roll, "From Miserable Man to 'Ultraman': A Fitness Journey," www.cnn.com, July 21, 2009
Photo source: blog.nativefoods.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
|8. Hannah Teter
(Born Jan 27, 1987)
US snowboarder; two-time Olympic medalist (Gold, 2006; Silver, 2010); US Snowboard Overall Grand Prix halfpipe champion and X Games superpipe champion (2004); Founder, Hannah's Gold charity
"Q: How did you decide to go vegetarian?
A: I went vegetarian after watching Earthlings [2005 documentary]. I had no idea how intense and how horrible factory farms are. I have such a love for animals that I can't justify having their heads cut off for me. And the slavery of the dairy industry motivates me to go more vegan. I can't justify animal slavery for my enjoyment. I love the Gandhi quote [possibly misattributed]: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Animals can't speak for themselves, but scientifically we know that they don't want to die.
Q: Isn't it difficult to be a vegetarian athlete?
A: I feel stronger than I've ever been, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete. It's a whole other level that I'm elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it's a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete."
Avital Binshtock, "Hannah Teter, Gold-Medal Snowboarder, Carves a Meaningful Life," www.huffingtonpost.com, Feb. 19, 2010
Photo source: www.peta2.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
|9. Mike Tyson
(Born June 30, 1966)
Retired US boxer; former undisputed heavyweight champion
"Details [Magazine]: I hear you're vegan now.
Mike Tyson: Yeah, it's been eight months with this vegan stuff, but I get these explosions of energy. I don't know how long they last, but they're like explosions. So powerful.
Details: Is it a calmer energy?
Mike Tyson: Oh, I don't know if I'd go that far. I don't think it's been long enough for that kind of Zen s**t.
Details: So you're going to go the rest of your life without eating a candy bar?
Mike Tyson: Maybe so. I'm pretty f**king extreme.
Details: Not even a Baby Ruth?
Mike Tyson: Oh, man, that's the best. Chocolate and peanuts. Nah. I ate, like, the tiniest piece of meat, and I woke up violently sick. It was vicious pain. I was throwing up. And I realized meat's become a poison for me now.
Details: You mentioned your upcoming pigeon-racing reality show on Animal Planet. Your first fight was with a bigger kid over his mistreatment of one of your birds.
Mike Tyson: Gary Flowers. Got one of my birds and [wrings his hands and yanks]. A**hole."
Ivan Solotaroff, "Everything You Think You Know About Mike Tyson Is Wrong," Details Magazine, Aug. 2010
Photo source: www.ameyawdebrah.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
|10. Ricky Williams
(Born May 21, 1977)
Professional football running back for the Baltimore Ravens; formerly with the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints; 2002 Pro Bowl player; Heisman Trophy winner
"There was a time when Williams would shuffle the aisles of Wild Oats [market] on South Beach [FL], brushing an errant dreadlock from his eyes to get a good look at that perfect rack of pork. His one-time dietician, Sari Mellman, who formulates specific eating plans for athletes all over the NFL by testing their blood, advised a fat and fumbling Williams that holding onto the pigskin would come easier if he, well ... consumed pig skin... But—once compassion and enlightenment came to Williams in that now-infamous marijuana-induced moment of lucidity that he experienced while meditating in an Australian tent—he not only forsook football, he gave up eating animals.
'Not even chicken?' I ask, having tried to convert him to vegetarianism years ago.
'I wouldn't eat a chicken,' Williams says, 'if it dropped dead in front of me holding up a sign that said, 'Eat Me.'"
Jennifer Santiago, "Ricky Williams: Taking the Veggie Plunge," www.peta2.com (accessed Jan. 11, 2012)
"Few NFL players have had as much success and as much self-defeating behavior as Baltimore Ravens running back Ricky Williams. The one-time Heisman Trophy winner eats what his former coach Tony Sparano jokingly refers to as 'Ricky food.' Williams even opened a vegetarian-friendly restaurant that features entrees such as black bean burgers and noodles and tofu."
S. Alexander Cooke, "Five NFL Stars That Are Vegetarians," sports.yahoo.com, Dec. 8, 2011
Photo source: www.nflgridirongab.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)
(Born May 15, 1970)
Falsely identified as vegetarian
Former college and professional football player; Heisman Trophy winner (University of Michigan, 1991); named Most Valuable Player in the NFL Super Bowl XXXI (Green Bay Packers, 1997)
"I definitely watch what I eat. First of all, I don't eat beef and I don't eat pork, so that eliminates a lot of different unhealthy dishes. I substitute those things though, with lean ground turkey. I eat a lot of chicken and fish too.
...I cut out pork while I was in high school, and beef while I was in college. So, it's been a while.
...There are great substitutions for both. You can have lasagna without the beef, just make it with ground turkey, or make it a vegetable lasagna."
Fitz Koehler, "Celebrity Fitzness Report: Heisman Trophy Winner & Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard," AOL That's Fit website, May 29, 2008
Photo source: packershalloffame.com (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)