Powered Fitness Edge

A wide receiver wide open to something new

One of Whalen’s go-to vegan staples is coconut water, which he drinks before, during, and after exercise. “I’ll often mix other things with it, like spirulina or lemon juice,” he says. “Spirulina adds amino acids, and lemon juice is alkalizing.”“A healthy plant-based diet has had an extremely positive effect on my athletic performance and overall health,” says Griff Whalen, a wide receiver who’s played for the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. “I’ve become stronger, leaner, and faster, all critical for my career. I feel much less soreness in my joints and tendons, feel like I can breathe easier while training or competing, and feel more recovered the next day.”

This NFL athlete has convinced many people to give veganism a try, including his teammates. “My biggest recommendation is to educate yourself … and find some great resources,” Whalen says, since the switch can be quite a change. “Have someone help you make a plan … so you can be successful.”

Plants for the goldi

Rebecca Soni has won dozens of medals at the world’s top international swimming competitions, including three Olympic gold medals. She switched to a plant-based diet simply to try something new. “I thought it would be a fun challenge,” she says. The positive results were more than she’d imagined

“The breakthrough was realizing how sluggish animal foods made me, and especially the effect of dairy on my allergies,” she says. “When I dropped the allergy meds I’d been taking for 15 years, I knew I was onto something good!

“I just feel better. My mood is lighter. I’m more ready to take on anything. I feel I can go for longer, whether it’s a run, a swim, or anything else. I recover faster—soreness is much less intense and passes quickly. And I have a growing respect and connection to all people and living beings.”

Soni starts every morning with a vegan smoothie, adding superfoods such as hemp and chlorella. “The most important is the greens,” she notes, such as spinach and chard. “Blended greens are much easier to digest than simply munching on them.”

Soni says the top worry she hears from people is about having to give up cheese. “I was a cheese lover in my past too,” she laughs. “Focus on what you have to look forward to, not what you’re missing out on.”

A swell ideaOlympics.

“I’ve been vegan for three years now,” says Blanco. She made the jump after watching Forks Over Knives and similar documentaries on traditional Western diets.

“Prior to being vegan, I ate a lot of dairy products that made me fatigued,” she recalls. “Cutting the dairy helped with my energy levels. I feel lean and toned from a plant-based diet.”

Blanco has become an advocate for a vegan lifestyle, doing ads for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and appearing in documentaries, such as the sequel to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cowspiracy (2014). “I’m [a huge fan] of the team that produces the documentaries, so for me it was a no-brainer to be involved,” she says. “I want [viewers] to take away that eating a plant-based diet will benefit your health.”

A lean, green fighting machine

Heavyweight boxer Cam F. Awesome—a four-time USA Boxing national champion and self-proclaimed peanut butter addict—did a vegan challenge when he lost a bet. He hated the first few weeks as he went through junk

food withdrawals, but then he began feeling better and turned the challenge into a lifestyle.

“Since becoming vegan, I’ve learned how to realize what my body needs,” says Awesome. “My goal is to change what a ‘vegan’ is considered. You can be vegan and cool and strong.”

While many of us may think being plant based is an all-or-nothing switch, Awesome sees no problem easing into it. “I’m 100-percent vegan,” he says, “and I understand that not everyone wants to make that commitment. If you just eat plant-based once a week, you can be one-seventh healthier!”