Vegans and vegetarians are quite common in terms of their diet but they also have their differences. Vegetarians are people who do not eat any meat, whether it be fish, beef, pork, chicken, or any by-products that have resulted in animal slaughter. Vegans, on the other hand, just like vegetarians, also exclude any form of meat but the difference is that aside from meat and animal flesh, these people also exclude dairy products and any animal-derived ingredients such as honey and gelatin from their diet.
“Veganism is expensive”, “You won’t have a source of protein”, “Weight loss is the only benefit you’ll gain”, are some of the complaints that initially come to mind when talking about a vegetarian or a vegan diet. Although these are considered as some of the assumptions associated with healthy lifestyles, a number of vegetarian and vegan athletes today prove that these are mere generalizations and phony myths.
Breaking down stereotypes
The global list of athletes recognized as world champions and known vegetarians is extensive. Dave Scott, six-time winner of the Ironman; Chris Campbell, an Olympic wrestling champion; Keith Holmes, a world-champion middleweight boxer; Ridgely Abele, winner of eight national championships in karate; Andreas Cahling, Swedish champion bodybuilder; A number of NBA players who have subscribed are also loud and proud vegetarians. The list is endless.
On a local scale, Ralph Go, an international Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter was the first Filipino vegan athlete who was recognized and awarded medals in some of the world’s most prestigious Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions, including the World Championship, Brazilian Nationals, the Asian Championship, and the European Championship.
Tarak Cabrido (III, AB-POM) from the Green Paddlers shares how he, along with his siblings have been vegetarians since birth. This diet began with their parents, who met at a yoga group which promoted vegetarianism, and decided to stick with the diet once they got married. Although his family lives this kind of lifestyle, Cabrido says that he wasn’t forced into becoming a vegetarian but if given the chance to eat meat, he would easily be able to decline as he is familiar with the reason behind their refusal to eat any kind of meat. He also mentions that he would continue on with his diet even after marriage and promote this to his future family as well.
When it comes to preparing for the season, athletes usually shift their diets and include more protein in order to build muscle faster and bulk up. For Cabrido, being a vegetarian doesn’t hinder him from bulking up as he is able to find alternatives for meat such as tofu and beans. “Malaking bagay kasi ‘yun eh pag may source of protein ka. Hindi naman ako kumakain nyan [meat] so kailangan ko maghanap ng kapalit,” he states.
(It’s a big factor when you have a source of protein. I don’t eat meat so I have to look for an alternative.)
No meat, no problem
The Green Paddler is aware of the many preconceived notions, assumptions, and generalizations towards vegetarian and vegan athletes. Having said that tofu and beans are his primary sources of protein, there is a tendency to assume that athletes like Cabrido have difficulties in their build-up. “Marami naman athletes na vegetarian o kahit vegan pa nga eh na nag-cocompete. Meron din ata bodybuilder na vegan kaya wala naman mahirap sa mga ganon,” Cabrido says.
(There are a lot of vegetarian, even vegan, athletes. I even think there is a vegan bodybuilder too, which is why there is not much difficulty in those things.)
One of the most common stereotypes associated to the vegetarian lifestyle is that a lot of people think salad are the only thing vegetarians eat. On the contrary, Cabrido shares that he actually does not eat salad because he dislikes the taste. Another misconception the athlete wanted to address was the effect of a vegetarian diet on an athlete’s body, “Kapag vegetarian, since konti lang source of protein, mas madaling mapagod parang bumibigay katawan, hindi yun totoo.”
(If you’re vegetarian, since you only have a little source of protein. You get tired easily, your body gives up easily. That’s not true.)
Cabrido affirms that he is planning on becoming vegan as that is a step up to the next level. Also, he explains that the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle is something one can promote to others, as in his own experience, he believes in its psychological effects. He said, “Nadedevelop yung pagiging compassionate mo sa ibang creatures. Di lang sa kapwa tao pero sa animals din.”
(You develop compassion towards other creatures, not only towards your fellow human beings but also towards animals as well.)