By now, you’ve probably heard about The Game Changers, a documentary that attempts to persuade the viewer that a vegan diet provides top athletes an advantage over their peers. Like What The Health, the film is equal parts convincing to the average viewer as it is chock full of misleading information.
There is a real missed opportunity here. The narrative arc of The Game Changers could have simply been that it is possible to perform alongside elite athletes without consuming any meat or animal products. I suspect this would have been persuasive to many, if not most, of the viewers who bought the veganism-will-make-you-win story. And it would have been true.
We should take that opportunity. The following are just a few exceptionally strong vegans, mostly powerlifters (because that’s what I pay attention to, but there are certainly others), some of whom have taken home the gold in one or more competitions. They are presented in no particular order.
You simply can’t talk about strong vegans without talking about Nick Squires. His powerlifting journey started in 2014, six months after going vegan. His progress is summed up nicely in the above photo.
In a follow-up tweet, he clarifies that he’s not attributing his incredible journey to a vegan diet:
Unsurprisingly for someone that can pull seven plates, he’s won the gold multiple times. Last Fall, he won the International Powerlifting League 110kg raw open powerlifting world championship.
Across the pond is Sophia Ellis, a powerlifter and strength coach who can throw around plenty of weight. She can deadlift upwards of 420 lbs, taking home the British Junior Deadlift record last May. She set a total record at the All Englands 2019 competition, taking home the gold. At the World Bench Press Championships in Tokyo, she put up 220 lbs, placing 4th overall. Follow Sophia on Instagram @sophiastrength and on Twitter at @soph_ellis.
Dr. Iron Junkie
I don’t know his real name, but he’s jacked. He appears to be more into bodybuilding than powerlifting, but we won’t hold it against him. Check out his Instagram here and follow him on Twitter @DrIronJunkie.
Nutritional Beast AKA Babu Frik’s sleezy uncle, Baba Ghanoush
I don’t know this guy’s real name either, but he’s a force to be reckoned with. Here he is deadlifting 405 lbs for 10 reps with ease:
And here he benches 385 lbs with reps to spare:
I’ve seen him squat 601 lbs before, but that video is gone. Here he is taking 500 lbs for a ride.
Follow him on Twitter at @roseforthedead.
The Vegan Messiah
Unfortunately I don’t know this guy’s name either (there is apparently something about vegan powerlifters on Twitter remaining pseudonymous).
Watch him squat 345 lbs for 7 reps with ease:
And he’s got a hell of a deadlift. This one appears to be 490 or 500 lbs.
Follow him on Twitter at @vegandemonxvx.
Allow me to self-indulge by adding myself to this not-even-close-to-exhaustive list of strong vegans.
Here’s me squatting 295 lbs for 3 reps earlier this month – the first of five sets. I’ve never tested my one rep maximum squat, but I suspect it’s around 350 lbs.
Here I am benching a measly 195 lbs for 3 reps during the same workout. I’ve also never tested my one rep max bench, but it’s probably around 240.
And this Instagram video shows me deadlifting — with poor form, I know — 505 lbs. My goal this year was to pull 500. I’ll have to see how much I beat that by before the end of the year.
As I said, this list doesn’t even come close to capturing all of the strong vegans (some more listed here). The truth is that we are everywhere.
It’s not that we’re strong despite being vegan, as the average person might interpret it, nor are we strong because of it, as The Game Changers might have convinced you. We’re strong and vegan, the same way we’re strong and many other things. Veganism is not mutually exclusive of health and strength.
I’m confident that message is beginning to get across, even if films like The Game Changers overstate the case. It’s vegans like these proving plants can build powerful beasts, day in and day out. Nobody can deny that.
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