Keeping Meat off the Gridiron: Veg Eating in the NFL

Written by Katie Vann

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Many successful athletes are discovering the benefits of dropping animal products — from decreasing their recovery times to increasing their energy. Veg athletes are reaching the top of their game, and football players are no exception. Just ask Tony Gonzalez,  Joe Namath, Ricky Williams, Deuce Lutui, Tony Fiammetta, or Arian Foster — all players who have significantly reduced or eliminated animal foods from their diets.

Let’s start with Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, a number one pick for many 2013 fantasy football teams. Last year, despite critics, Arian publicly announced his new vegan diet. Today, he describes his diet as “mostly vegan,” and his 2012 season serves as a testament that NFL players can thrive on plant-based foods. During the season, Foster placed fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, and he led the league in rushing touchdowns.

Foster’s dietary choices garnered significant attention, but he’s not the first NFL player to choose meat-free foods. Former NFL running back Ricky Williams went vegetarian before his 2005 season, and he played in five successful subsequent seasons without any meat. In 2012 he surpassed 10,000 career rushing yards, becoming the 26th player in the history of the NFL to do so.

“It changed my game, and it changed my body,” Williams commented about his meat-free diet. “I had tons of energy.”

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (a future hall of famer) had similar praise for plant-based eating: “I have more energy, better focus, and more endurance. I don’t get tired. I hardly ever come out of the game. And I’m strong as ever … The guy who’s eating the steak is sluggish in the fourth quarter. I want to be 100 percent.”

Tony Gonzalez is the most prolific pass-catching tight end in league history and is behind only Jerry Rice for most career receptions.

When Tennessee Titans guard Deuce Lutui needed to drop weight for the 2012 season, he cut out red meat and dairy along with focusing on eating more meat-free foods. He reported to training camp 60 pounds lighter.

Other NFL players have chosen to go vegetarian after their careers. Otto Stowe, a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins team is 64 years old, and he attributes his health to eating vegetarian since 1978.

Think these guys are on to something? Learn more about vegan fitness.

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