A Crew of Elite NFL Athletes are Betting on a Vegan Diet

by Joshua Katcher

More pro-athletes are turning to a plant-based diet to get the most out of their workouts, training, and recoveries. But what might seem like a new trend in the NFL is nothing new to strength sports in general. Back in June 2017, for example, the totally vegan PlantBuilt team competed at the Naturally Fit Games in Austin, Texas in CrossFit, powerlifting, bodybuilding, Olympic weightlifting, and kettlebell – taking home 32 medals. Teammate Sara Lee set an American and world record in kettlebell. Icelandic vegan powerlifter Hulda B. Waage set a record back squat in 2016, and America’s strongest weightlifter, Kendrick Farris “is 100% vegan”, according to both Men’s Fittness and his own testimony from a fun interview during the Rio Olympics where he said, “I’m not missing out on anything…I weigh over two hundred pounds.”

The rewards of a plant-based diet are also becoming popular among elite NFL athletes. Ravens wide receiver Griff Whalen, has followed a strictly vegan diet for almost four years.


Follow Griff on Instagram @griffwhalen

When I tried a whole food vegan diet I felt a major impact in less than 2 weeks. That was enough motivation for me to stick with it. – Griff Whalen

Whalen even eschews leather for ethical reasons. He spoke exclusively with thediscerningbrute.com about why he thinks this trend is happening in his sport:

I think the league is so competitive that many of the guys are looking for any edge they can find, including nutrition. Better nutrition allows us to recover faster, train harder and longer, and ultimately become better athletes. There are many different opinions on the best dietary methods for athletes, and tons of false or partial truths out there, so it can be very difficult to wade through all that to find out what the real facts and research support… Today things are slowly changing with the resources we have online, and also in books and documentaries. I think the real evidence is starting to get some exposure and word is spreading.

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)


Griff is not alone in his experience with the physical rewards of a vegan diet. The Detroit Lion’s running back, Theo Riddick, was interviewed in The Detroit News regarding his switch after suffering a wrist injury.

“I turned vegan over the summer. I’ve noticed a difference just with my energy level. I’m not a junk-food type of eater. I’m like a smoothie guy; I do a lot of fruit and throw my kale and all my protein in there and that’s how I get everything.” – The Detroit News

Arie Kouandjio went vegan with the encouragement of teammate Trent Williams. Photo: Redskins.com


Two Washington Redskins players have also gone vegan; offensive tackle Trent Williams and guard Arie Kouandjio. In an interview with NFL.com Williams said:

“I just wanted to find ways to improve at healthy living, and hopefully it will help me with longevity in my career.” – NFL.com

Trent Williams interviewed on NFL.com


Williams is encouraging others to try it, too, like New Orleans Saints running back, Adrian Peterson, with whom he co-owns O Athletic Gym in Houston. Peterson admitted to being tempted to make the switch himself. He was interviewed by NOLA.com as saying that his diet is about 85% plant-based now. Time will tell if he joins the ranks and gets from aspiring-vegan to 100%. He said:

“I’ve always been kind of leery about processed food, so I’ve always kind of (avoided) it. But once I watched the documentary [What The Health] after I heard about it from Trent, I watched it, and it just kind of puts it in your face. I was just like, it’s time to really kind of change some things up.” – NOLA.com

Filmmaker Santino Panico, whose forthcoming film “From The Ground Up” – which takes a in-depth look at vegetarian and vegan athletes across a spectrum of sports, has spent time with many of these elite athletes, and has gotten to know how they think. I asked Panico for his opinion on this, and he said a trend like this “several years ago would have seemed impossible”.

“Inflammation is an athlete’s worst enemy, especially if that athlete is an NFL player. So these players are seeing research showing that plant-based diets reduce inflammation while diets heavy in meat and animal products cause inflammation.”

Panico also explained that “the culture of the NFL tends to lean towards machismo and food is tied to that.”

“Players believe they need meat to be strong and masculine,” he said. “But now even that is being proven wrong”.

This all begs the question, if a plant-based diet is good enough for athletes in some of the most physically demanding sports, isn’t it sufficient for average people?

Jean-Georges’ Vegetables, Printing Hair & Vegan Muscle


• It seems that the entire design world will be fundamentally changed by 3D printing technologies, and the replication of animal hairs and fibers is next. As i-D reported, one of the more advanced innovations that has a fashion application is MIT’s Cilllia project, where the ability to print incredibly dense collections of strands, like hair, as small as 50 microns will make replicating pelts, feathers, furs and hairs infinitely more realistic, and customizable. One of the more challenging aspects of making faux fur look realistic is the blunt end. Animal hairs naturally taper off to a fine point, and with Cilllia, this is possible. According to the Cilllia website, “now there is a chance that less animals will be harmed for their fur just by using the Cilllia project.”


• Neal Harden (formerly of M.O.B) will be the chef de cuisine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s collaboration with ABC Carpet for a vegetable restaurant. According to New York Magazine’s Grub Street, the restaurant, ABCV, will open in September and “will celebrate roots and shoots and leaves without trying to mimic meat.”  



Saffron Dosa, Photo: Courtesy of ABC Carpet & Home

• According to Rise of the Vegan, bodybuilders Karl Bruder and Miles Ludlow recently took 1st place in their respective categories at WABBA Amateur Grand Prix. Ludlow has been vegan for over 6 years, and as a recent vegan, Bruder gained muscle after going vegan almost 8 months ago. Watch in November as both of these guys compete for the title of Mr. Universe!karl bruder1

Discerning Selects: August 11, 2016



Here are a few picks from some of my favorite fashion brands, grooming companies, and shoe and accessory lines. Aside from nailing the design game, these companies make superior vegan products with innovative and sustainable materials and ingredients, as well as fair labor practices.
MRKT Weekender Bag $135
Pangea Organics Egyptian Calendula/ Blood Orange Facial Cleanser $34
Modo-Eco, Dubai Honey Recycled Sunglasses $159.95
Run & Fell, Black Rose Shirt $84
Glass House Shirt Makers $225
Ethletic, Monochrome Hi Cut Glow Blue $83.45

Powerlifter Vs. Vegan Strongman, Plus Metal


What happens when a champion powerlifter goes up against a vegan strongman and you throw in some pulsing metal and a headbanging host for good measure? Strength Wars! Patrik Baboumian, a 282 lb. vegan Strongman battles Jiří Tkadlčík, a 231 lb. Powerlifter in a challenge including 10 reps of 250 kg deadlifts, 50m of a 180kg prowler, 10 keg lifts at 80kg, and then another 50m with the prowler!

Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek Sets New Record

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photo: Scott Jurek Instagram

Scott Jurek, one of the best endurance athletes in the world, has set yet another record by averaging about 50 miles per day while journeying from Atlanta to Maine on the famed 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail. He did it in 46 days, eight hours and seven minutes, beating the existing record by over three hours. Jurek, like many top athletes, is a vegan. An article from The Denver Post reads:

Jurek is one of the most famous and accomplished ultramarathoners in history and has hinted that this feat might be his last before retirement. He has won some of the sport’s most revered races, including the Western States 100 in California seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005 and the 2007 Hardrock 100, which starts and ends in Silverton and winds through the San Juan Mountains through Lake City, Ouray and Telluride. At that race, he bested the course record at the time by more than half an hour while running with a sprained ankle.




Check out the video documenting the completion of this historic race: