by Dr. Benjamin Spock

Fortunately, today we have the information as well as the testimonies of many athletes to substantiate the benefits of plant-based diets. Dave Scott, considered to be the world’s greatest triathlete, holds a degree in exercise physiology. In his own words, it’s a “ridiculous fallacy” to think that athletes need animal protein. He is joined in his views by such Olympians as Edwin Moses, the gold medalist who went eight years without losing the 400-meter hurdle competition, and Murray Rose who, at age 17, won three gold medals in the Olympic swim competition.

This year, I was glad to see Olympic champion Carl Lewis crown his career with his best long jump in two years to win a record-tying ninth gold medal. Lewis, of course, is a longtime vegetarian [vegan] whose dietary changes developed out of his moral and religious convictions. Several years ago Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis traded titles back and forth when they were being hailed as the fastest sprinters in the world – both were vegetarians.

Whether you are a world class athlete, a weekend athlete, or simply a recreational exerciser, we now know that you can meet your performance objectives, and improve your health by eating a plant-based diet that meets your energy needs. Even at my present age, 93, I found that switching to a plant-based diet improved my health dramatically.

Dr. Benjamin Spock, New Century Nutrition, Sept. 1996

Pro athletes are turning vegetarian

by Bernie Thimian, CTM

Recently there have been some interesting tidbits in the news on the eating habits of pro athletes in Toronto and around the world, including the following indication that some of the Toronto Maple Leafs might be vegetarian.

After Wendel Clark’s return to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Sun on March 17, 1996 described Clark as “a meat-eater on offence coming to a team where vegetarians have taken over.”

Veteran Toronto Raptor John Salley upon seeing rookie teammate Damon Stoudamire eating a ham sandwich on a return charter flight from Chicago, stated: “I got on him to stop it…. You learn that you don’t eat meat, it just sits in your stomach” (Hamilton Spectator, Nov. 9, 1995.)

Local jocks aren’t the only ones kicking the meat habit. An article that appeared in the Hamilton Spectator, July 7, 1995, on Tour de France cyclists, shows a similar trend. Every year the Tour de France organizes a three week trek complete with gourmet cuisine, but the cyclists have to avoid all the fine food. Team chefs prepare carbohydrates, not cassoulet or coq au vin.

As one team chef explained, “They are like high powered engines. You put some funny motor oil in and it all explodes”. Instead (of meat and high fat foods), the riders got low fat foodstuffs for the road and a seemingly endless supply of pasta, rice and muesli.

“They used to say, eat meat, eat meat. Meat in the morning and meat at night,” said Bernard Hinault, who won five tours between 1978 and 1985 on a more refined diet after it was found that steaks did more harm than good.

Even the Toronto Blue Jays are putting a greater emphasis on nutrition. This past season a TV reporter interviewed the Blue Jays food service provider who noted that the players were eating less meat and fatty foods and more carbohydrates. The meals consisted of more whole grains, breads, pastas, etc., than in previous years.

From my own experience at the 1992 World Triathlon Championships in Huntsville, Ontario, the meatless trend was quite evident. Of the two pre-race meals I attended for the athletes from around the world, there wasn’t a single meat dish served. This was not unusual for endurance sports. Out of nearly 35 triathlons, duathlons and road races I have done, I recall seeing meat served at a pre-race or post-race meal about half-a-dozen times.

Bernie Thimian is past-president of the Mississauga Vegetarian Association and owner of “One Step Closer,” a venture providing vegetarian merchandise from clothing and accessories to placemats and fridge magnets. Bernie is an accomplished athlete.

From January/February ’97 Lifelines