Being an athlete means being on the clock 24/7, because your physical performance is often also your source of income. You've heard the term "my body is a temple," but for these professionals their body may as well be their office, too. So, it's understandable that physical health is an incredible high priority for them. Many people once believed that meat was a crucial dietary staple in a healthy lifestyle, but that is no longer the case. There are many vegan or vegetarian athletes who—even at peak physical performance—have chosen to forgo meat, and that choice will not stop them from working on their passion. There are a huge number of reasons that people choose to go vegetarian, and being an athlete is certainly no excuse not to.
Going vegan or vegetarian may seem like a massive undertaking, but for some it's simply a lifelong state of being. Yes, even athletes. Bode Miller, a five-time Olympic medalist in alpine skiing, was raised as a vegetarian while growing up on an organic farm. That's right, this athlete has never consumed meat in his entire life and managed to make it all the way to the top of his field. Bode may not have chosen the vegetarian life, but he has chosen to maintain it throughout his sporting career with absolutely no detriment to his physical performance.
Another major reason for forgoing meat is the sheer love of animals. This ethical concern has caused many people to turn away from a meat-eating lifestyle. Both concerns for the treatment of animals in the meat industry and the general morality of killing animals for consumption have caused many a person to turn towards plant-based diets. Leading a lifestyle that aligns with a love of animals and supporting a passion for athletics are not mutually exclusive practices. Just take weightlifter Patrik Baboumian, the world's strongest vegan, for example. Baboumian has been weightlifting since 1999 and in 2005 chose to become a vegetarian, stating that because he could not himself kill the animals he was eating, he "better be honest" with himself and just give it all up. Six years later Baboumian went one step further, becoming a vegan, and now, he is a world record breaking strongman—no animal products necessary.
When you imagine the "typical" vegetarian athlete, you're probably thinking about someone with the lithe silhouette of ultramarathon runner, Scott Jurek. Meat equals protein equals muscle… right? Not necessarily. And if Baboumian's bulked-up frame isn't enough to prove that to you, then here are the facts.
Going vegetarian or vegan was once disparaged as a lifestyle that would inevitably lead to protein deficiency. This is roughly as accurate as saying if you eat the seeds a watermelon will grow in your stomach. Yes, meats are generally high in protein. And yes, consuming protein is essential to building muscle. But there are a huge number of viable vegetarian protein sources that would support that muscle just as well as meat. Maybe they won't be as protein-dense, but people can still get the necessary amount of protein from vegetarian sources without trouble. In fact, eating too much protein can actually negatively impact one's health, specifically the kidneys. Keeping a balanced diet is understandably a high priority for many athletes and there is no reason that meat needs to be involved.
With all that in mind, protein is not the end all be all of an athletic diet. Protein may be necessary to build muscle, but without the energy provided by carbohydrates to power those processes you may as well be eating cardboard. Complex carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, beans, and vegetables, are truly the key to an athletic lifestyle.
Tennis star Venus Williams has actually been living a completely raw vegan diet, which is incredibly rich in complex carbohydrates. This decision was originally due to her being diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, but the diet is recommended to anyone who wants to combat fatigue. The raw vegan way of life has gone so well for Venus that her sister, Serena Williams, decided to adjust her diet as well. Although Serena is more of a "flexitarian," sometimes cheating with chicken or fish. For both of these sporty sisters, meat has been put on the backburner when it comes to their healthy lifestyles and athletic careers.
With all this in mind, there's no reason not to eschew the carnivorous lifestyle for something a little bit greener. You simply do not need meat to be an athlete, and all of the aforementioned examples are proof of that fact. With a balanced diet, a steady intake of vegetarian protein sources, and the continued consumption of healthy complex carbohydrates, these athletes are paving the way to encourage more meateaters to make a change in their lives for the better.
"Who are you meeting for lunch this week?"
Without fail, my former boss would ask me this question in every weekly status we had. And I dreaded the question. Because my answer was generally a stammering "Umm… No One." Occasionally I could remember what I actually had for lunch. And almost always it was sitting in my windowless cube eating a soggy sad sandwich.
I didn't understand why "who I had lunch with this week" was worthy of being a topic on our weekly status. After all, I was only 6 months into this new job. I was still figuring out how to pull data from Nielsen. I was still figuring out how to write an innovation brief. I was still trying to figure out where the bathrooms were in this maze of a building.
And despite knowing this question would come up in every weekly status, I was reluctant to change my behavior. I didn't see the value in the question. I didn't see the importance of it in my career. I didn't understand why I had to have lunch with anyone.
Because I hated the idea of having to network, to meet people, to put myself out there. Because networking was something slimy and strange and weird and scary. It made my stomach hurt, my throat go dry. And I could feel a faint headache coming on.
Even Oxford's definition of networking only reaffirmed my fears of what networking looked like: the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
Because please don't ask me to walk into a room where I don't know anyone. And stand in the corner sipping a bad glass of Chardonnay. Please don't ask me to slide my business card out and not so subtly shove it in your face. And ask you to do something for me. Please don't ask me to network. Because I hate networking.
And I used to hate networking (okay, maybe hate is too strong.) I still really dislike the term. "Networking" seemed about getting something from someone. Or someone getting something from you. A favor, a job, a referral. "Networking" seemed very transactional. And someone shoving a business card at you (which happened to me recently at event) only solidified by feelings.
And over the years, I came to really understand that networking wasn't about "the action or process of interacting with others." It was about building authentic connections. It was about meeting people who were different than you. It was about expanding my community. And creating new communities. It was tapping into more and more communities I could belong to.
And as I slowly started to change my view on networking- I mean building authentic connections- I started to realize my communities were more inclusive than I thought. My best friends from middle school. Former bosses. College Alumni I met after we had graduated. Colleagues from past companies. Vendors and agency partners I had once worked with. Colleagues I had once managed. As my family expanded, my husband, my two sister-in laws and my brother in-law. A whole host of fabulous cousin-in-laws. My baby brother as his career skyrocketed. And fellow parents in my kids' school.
I still hate networking. And I love building connections. And helping to build connections and be a bridge for other people.
Now, when I go to a large event, I try to go with a friend. We have a drink at the bar and then part ways to try and make new friends. If we don't authentically connect with other people, and we have made the effort, we always have each other to back to.
Now, I try to meet one new person a week at my company or in my broader community, or reconnect with someone I miss seeing. (This doesn't always have to be in person, can be text, Zoom or Facetime.) And if you can't commit to doing that, that you should seriously relook at your schedule. I thank my former boss for that constant reminder.
Now, I joined Luminary, a women's collaboration hub in NYC, which has been life changing for me. I am also on the advisory board. It's all about women supporting and lifting each other up- to get more money, get that next big promotion, or start their own venture. It's a built-in community of unwavering support.
Now, I am working on expanding my community of moms. Not too long ago, I worked up the nerve to ask a fellow mom in my daughter's class if she wanted to get together. She thought I meant a playdate. I meant drinks. And after one late night out drinking, I have bonded with a whole new set of badass women.
And all of these communities. I am there for my communities. And they are all there for me. Referral for a job at my company. Coaching on how to survive a bad boss. Advice on how to ask for more money. Supporting each other as we care for aging parents. Candid feedback on why they didn't get that promotion. Commiserating over a cocktail on which working parent had the worst week ever.
So please don't ask me to network. Because I hate it. And well actually I don't have a business card to give you. I haven't printed one in four years.