The award-winning documentary on Netflix, The Game Changers, promotes the controversial message that “vegan is best.” In fact, the documentary not only proposes a vegan diet for better health, it also pushes it as most ideal for exceptionally performing athletes as well.
While far from being mainstream, the diet has been embraced by some young athletes. One of them is Héctor Bellerín, “the world’s best dressed footballer,” according to High snobiety. He is very vocal about the benefits he enjoys from a plant-based diet.
Bellerín just transferred from FC Barcelona to Sporting Clube de Portugal a few days ago.
View this post on Instagram
It was in 2016 when Bellerín shifted to a vegan diet. Fans were alarmed then that it might affect his performance. A little over his mid-20s, the Spanish athlete was recently on the cover of GQ Spain as one of 2022’s men of the year. He has also been featured in the British editions of Vogue, GQ and Esquire.
Bellerín mentioned in an interview that he was always bothered by inflammation of his ankles. They would get sore after hard games. He noticed that when he went vegan, the inflammation and pain went away, so he doesn’t strap his ankles anymore.
At the onset, he just wanted to be vegan as a detox strategy. However, he felt so great and renewed from the change. And that’s why he made it a part of his lifestyle.
On our shores, one of the elite lady footballers of our national team, right back Eva Madarang, is a proud vegan.
Madarang historically earned the right to represent the country in the World Cup this year. With more than 45 caps for the Filipinas and 11 national team goals to her name, she has played a pivotal role in the recent successes of our Women’s National Team, such as their 2021 SEA Games third place-finish, and the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship, earning a gold medal.
View this post on Instagram
In the past, she has played for clubs such as Doncaster Rovers Belles Ladies Football Club, Roma C.F., and CD Pozoalbense. She has previously played as a midfielder and a striker as well, showing versatility in her roles on the field.
Madarang became vegan out of necessity. In 2017, she dislocated her elbow in the 2017 SEA Games. She became out of shape and it was also a time when she was transferring to a new college. Her active lifestyle was affected by the injury so she researched on what she could do. One of the options that she got interested in was a plant-based diet.
Madarang just took the big leap. She didn’t even transition into it. She just gave herself one month to test if it worked.
Her strategy was to make two or three meals she really enjoys and stick to that for a whole month. She lost 20 pounds, mostly fat, as she has retained her muscle. The results motivated her.
In an interview, she claimed that being vegan increased her fitness level significantly. While she adopted it as a means to get in shape for soccer—the love of her life—she also appreciates the environmental benefits.
The struggle, according to her, is the lack of education on veganism for athletes. She was advised to eat more protein, for example. A full convert, Madarang said that she feels great and her body now recovers a lot faster than before.
Prodded on what her go-to vegan meals are, she quickly suggested the easy-to-prepare burrito or burrito bowl. She cooks a mixture of rice, beans, and vegetables like bell pepper, spinach, or cabbage and a little bit of tomato sauce then places the mixture on a tortilla topped with guacamole.
Fried rice or fried noodles are other staples for her, which she tops with vegetables and tofu. She mixes the carbohydrates with vegetable, and uses soy sauce as a seasoning, but mixes it with agave syrup for a little sweetness.
A quick one to prepare for a snack or meal is oatmeal. She is allergic to nuts so she uses sunflower seed butter instead. She gets creative in preparing her oatmeal by mixing seeds and fruits to ensure that she never develops taste fatigue.