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I remember when I was contemplating becoming vegan in 1993. Would I be able to avoid eating animals and still be healthy? The question kept me up at night as I wrestled with my desire to avoid harming animals and my desire to avoid harming myself.

And then, one interview changed my mind.

At the time Carl Lewis was among the most famous athletes on the planet. The star track and field Olympian was akin to perhaps Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps today. And I worshipped him.

To my great shock, Carl noted in that interview that not only did he tend to follow a vegan diet, but he thought it was one of the keys to his athletic success. (See a later interview from him here.)

As you can imagine, I needed no more convincing. I wanted to be like Carl, so I became vegan.

Athletes tend to demand much more from their bodies than the average person, which is why they often have different nutrition requirements than their more sedentary counterparts. Fast recovery from strenuous workouts is key to improving athletic performance, and for many athletes, that means protein. But whereas in the past, protein was pretty much synonymous with meat, today, many athletes are wising up to the reality that plants have plenty of protein, too.

From faster recovery times to reduced risk of various ailments, serious athletes are relying more and more on plants to fuel their workouts and recovery. Part of this is based on the recognition that eating plants is proven to improve athletic performance time and again.

And it turns out that this isn’t only known to modern science. Even in the days of ancient Rome, it turns out that the gladiators apparently enjoyed plant-based diets too. Perhaps there’s something to the saying that what’s old is new.

So if you want to get shredded, run faster, or jump higher, do yourself a favor. Be like Carl Lewis. Put down that steak and think about feasting on an avocado-covered hearty bean and brown rice burrito instead.