Lewis Hamilton, Chris Smalling and Veganuary’s own Ambassador Anthony Mullally are not the only athletes finding a vegan diet helps boost performance and recovery, and you don’t need to be an elite athlete to make the change and reap the rewards.
Here, three former Veganuary participants talk about how becoming vegan helped enhance their own athletic performance.
Harald Schlindwein, Galway
Harald had become vegetarian just a few months before Veganuary 2020, when his 12-year- old daughter asked him to, but when he watched The Game Changers, he realised that his journey would not stop there. “I realized that meat consumption might be the worst form of animal harm but milk and egg aren’t that much better. Accepting that eating meat is not really good, not necessary and most of all just cruel didn’t leave much argument for going on with milk or eggs either.”
Harald said he felt betrayed and manipulated into believing that animal products were needed and humanely sourced, and his motivations for trying vegan were purely ethical. But the wonderful thing about Veganuary is that it often has a surprise up its sleeve, and Harald’s entire family have felt health improvements since eating a vegan diet. Not only that, Harald’s sporting ability has really taken off.
“I picked up running in 2017 after almost two years of not training,” he told us “Back then, I had okay results but I got injured and couldn’t run for more than 9 months. I lost so much of my pace that I gave up and just stopped altogether. With the start of Veganuary I thought it would be a good time to pick it up again. Despite several kilos of weight gained since my last run and such a long break, I could instantly run my old pace from before. More importantly, I recovered much faster, both directly after a run and between more intense intervals. I found the same for my bodyweight training and kayaking, too. My muscles hurt less and recovered much quicker.”
Harald’s daughter set him on this journey, and we are delighted to have been able to help him, too.
“I could cry that it took us so long, that we did eat meat and all for so many years. I couldn’t go back now, not for any reason.”Harald Schlindwein
Morné Rossouw, London
The Game Changers movie was also pivotal in inspiring Morné to try veganism. Both he and his partner have a keen interest in health, one being a yoga teacher and the other a medical doctor. Together, they signed up to Veganuary, little knowing the changes it would bring.
Morné comes from a family where some of the males are prone to having high cholesterol levels, and so he would get a yearly test to make sure his own levels did not get dangerously high.
“I was so amazed to see a great decrease into the healthy range after only three or four months. It’s the lowest it been in the last ten years and I feel the best I’ve ever felt!”Morné Rossouw
Not only that but his digestion improved, he lost visceral fat around his organs and his energy increased. All this has had a fantastic knock-on effect to his fitness. Morné reports that his stamina has improved, that he suffers much less from joint pain and inflammation after exercise, and that he recovers quicker, too. This is feedback we hear a lot at Veganuary, but for a yoga teacher with an active lifestyle, this is especially wonderful news.
Perhaps it’s no wonder that Morné describes becoming vegan as “the best life decision I have ever made”.
Jack Delahunty-Jones, London
Jack and his husband had decided together to take part in Veganuary 2020, but were nervous about the change. On New Years’ Eve, they went out for a meat-filled meal, and came home to snack some more on their favourite cheese tortilla. As the countdown to midnight began, they polished off the last of the non-vegan items in the flat reminding themselves that it would be just for one month and then they would go back to their old ways. But the next day they watched The Game Changers and Land of Hope and Glory. By the end of the second documentary, Jack says he knew he would be vegan for life.
After years of a serious and painful debilitating illness, Jack was finally diagnosed in 2018 as having Acquired von Willebrand’s Syndrome. With medications to help ease the pain, he was able to start getting his life and fitness back. He started running. “As I continued, I became stronger and a little faster. Fast forward to December 2019, my average running pace was about 10-minute miles and no matter what I tried, I could not get faster than that.
“In January 2020 I noticed that my pace had changed to 9½-minute miles – maybe I just got better, maybe it was a one-off – a fluke? As January turned to February, I noticed that keeping a 9½-minute mile pace was much easier than I had ever found it, in fact, I couldn’t work out why or how, I could reach an 8-minute mile!”
“I started to think about what the reason could be and it was then I realised the only thing I had changed was my diet.”Jack Delahunty-Jones
No matter what the sport, no matter what the level, we hear so many stories like these, and we know just how much these improvements mean to professional athletes and amateurs alike. Harald, Morné and Jack may not have taken part in Veganuary specifically to boost their fitness and sporting performance, but you never know the changes veganism could bring unless you try it for yourself.