Have you heard the Tony Gonzalez vegan story?
Let me start by saying that he's not 100% vegan. He eats fish oil and an occasional piece of fish and chicken. But, anyone willing to put himself on the line with a bunch of football players and call himself a vegan is a star in my book.
In case you don't know, Tony Gonzalez is a tight-end for the Atlanta Falcons (formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs.) He weighs in at 247 pounds, 6'5", and at 31 years-old, he decided that he wanted to eat a healthier diet.
Here's how it happened... He changed his diet before the 2007 NFL season. He was flying in first class next to a businessman named David Pulaski who wouldn't eat the standard meat and cheese dishes offered to him. When Tony asked why, Mr. Pulaski told him about The China Study.
The China Study reviews a decades-long science experiment done on the people of China who eat very few, if any, animal products. What the scientists found is that people who eat the fewest animal products are the most protected against serious illnesses, and conversely, people who eat the most animal products are most likely to develop degenerative diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancers, obesity, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and numerous other illnesses.
Tony picked up the book and allegedly, within the first 40 pages, he decided to change his diet. He was convinced that American diets (that included his favorite food: cheeseburgers) were the source of many illnesses.
Tony felt like the football diet was doomed, so he thought his only two choices were to a) leave football, or b) change his diet. Since he's an incredibly successful football player, he went with option B and changed his diet.
The problem is, going vegan worked too well for Tony. When he started training camp a few weeks later, he had lost 10 pounds and wasn't strong enough to lift weights.
He immediately considered going back to his original meaty diet, but first called Dr. Campbell (yes, the one who wrote the book!) and was referred to a specialist who had worked with the LA Clippers as a strength coach, Jon Hinds.
Mr. Hinds told him to eat more plant protein like beans, legumes, whole grains, and dark green vegetables, but the Chief's nutritionist convinced him that he needed some animal protein, so he agreed to eat a small amount of fish and chicken, and fish oil.
He learned how to use soy protein powder to bulk up and incorporated oatmeal, soy milk, smoothies, whole grain breads, nuts, seeds, and acai juice into his diet. He now eats vegan banana bread with soy whipped cream instead of cheeseburgers.
And, he quickly regained the lost weight and strength. The guys on the team teased him incessantly, and still do, but he stuck to his guns.
Do you know what happened to Tony during his first season on the new diet? Yep, he broke the touchdown record halfway through the season AND he set the new career reception record (for his position) by the end of the season.
Now he talks about how much faster he recovers from game day, and how his energy has sky-rocketed. "It's unbelievable how good I feel," Gonzalez said. "Seriously, my recovery is so much better than it's ever been, and my endurance is tremendous. The best part is that during games I really don't get tired. I have more focus, too. I'm even staying awake in meetings."
Looks like you can be a professional athlete and a vegan...er... almost vegan! Maybe more NFL players should try the Tony Gonzalez vegan diet.
Tony has his own vegetarian nutrition book called The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Love Like a Champion and he also posed for the PETA "I'd rather go naked" campaign with his wife to showcase his protest against wearing fur. I can't wait to hear more about the Tony Gonzalez vegan diet, and am hoping that when he finally retires, he plans to stop eating animals entirely.
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