What should athletes eat? I eat plants — fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, oatmeal, rice — and things made from plants — homemade bread, homemade cookies. I’ve been eating this way for about 2 years now. Before that, I ate eggs and dairy products, mainly cheese and occasionally ice cream. Then I read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live and saw the film Forks Over Knives and decided the ideas presented made a lot of sense, so I gave up dairy, eggs and most processed foods. I lost 30 pounds, the pain in my ankles disappeared and I started running faster and farther than ever before. For me, a whole foods, plant-based diet works, and I highly recommend it.
But what do other athletes eat? I read comments to the blog 9 in 90 in which readers talked about Micheal Phelps’ diet. Phelps, you’ll recall, was a competitive swimmer who won more medals than any other Olympian. He won more gold medals than anyone. He is possibly the greatest swimmer who ever entered a pool. He also eats lots and lots of eggs, cheese, ham, pasta, pizzas. Seemingly an athlete of his training can eat anything. I wish him luck.
As I read about Phelps’ diet, I thought back to a blog author John Robbins wrote after Jack LaLanne died a few years ago. Robbins compared LaLanne’s diet, which apparently was plant-based, to Jim Fixx’s. Fixx bragged that because he was runner he could eat anything he wanted. Fixx also died age 43 while out on a run. LaLanne lived into his 90s. Running did not keep Fixx’s arteries clear. I hope swimming keeps Phelps’ arteries clear because all those eggs, the ham and cheese, are full of cholesterol.
So the greatest swimmer eats lots of eggs and other animal products. Scott Jurek, the seven-time winner of the Western States ultramarathon, eats plants. Rich Roll, who does ultratriathlons, eats plants. Serena Williams started eating plants, and her career took off, and she is one of the oldest players on the women’s tour. Jurek’s experience and Williams’ experience suggest to me that plants are what athletes should eat. Oh yeah, Tony Gonzalez, the best tight end in football who just retired from the NFL, eats plants. And Carl Lewis, the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete, eats plants. Plants are the way to go.