Carl Lewis: a legend who was vegan.

August 15, 2016

Carl Lewis is one of the best athletes of the last century. He set world records in the 100 m, 4 x 100 m and 4 x 200 m relays in the 80’s and 90’s. However, he had another particularity which is not really common in athletes’ world: he was vegan.

This is an extract from a book that he wrote with Jannequin Bennett, Very Vegetarian:

“In May of 1990 I decided to change the way I ate when I realized that controlling my weight by skipping meals was not good for me. Within the space of a few weeks, I met two men who changed my way of thinking and eating. The first was Jay Cordich, the Juice Man, whom I met at the Houston radio station where I worked in the early morning. He was there to talk about his juicer, which makes fresh juice from fruits and vegetables. He said that drinking at least sixteen ounces of freshly squeezed juice each day will increase a person’s energy, strengthen the immune system, and reduce the risk of disease. A few weeks later while doing publicity for a meet in Minneapolis, I met Dr. John McDougall, a medical doctor who teaches about the link between good nutrition and good health and was promoting his latest book. Dr. McDougall challenged me to make a commitment to eating a vegetarian diet and then to just do it. I remember vividly making the decision in July of 1990 to become a vegan. I was competing in Europe and ate a meal of Spanish sausage on a Saturday and on the following Monday started eating vegan. The hardest thing for me was changing my eating habits from skipping meals to eating throughout the day–which is much healthier. I also missed salt and so substituted lemon juice for flavour.

In the spring of 1991 – eight months after beginning to eat vegan – I was feeling listless and thought I might need to add protein from meat to my diet. Dr. McDougall, however, explained that my listlessness was due to my needing more calories because I was training so many hours each day, not because I needed more animal-based protein. When I increased my calorie intake, I regained my energy. I was drinking 24 to 32 ounces of juice a day. I ate no dairy products. And I had my best year as an athlete ever!“

And so, in the Olympics Games of Barcelona in 1992, Lewis set another world record. He was part of the US 4 × 100 m relay and they ran it in 37.40 s, a time which stood for 16 years. He covered the final leg in 8.85 seconds, the fastest officially leg recorded.





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