When I decided to write an Awesome Vegan Athlete series, I chose to start with Arian Foster of the Houston Texans for several reasons. For one, football season is just wrapping up, so this is a good time to write about Arian’s success during the regular season. Another reason was that I loved his attitude. He did his research, decided that a plant based diet was the way to go for optimum health, and he was not going to be deterred by anyone’s opinion. And finally, I discovered that he is a graduate of Mission Bay High School in San Diego, which is where my husband Alan when to school. We’re almost related!
When Arian Foster announced that he was following a vegan diet, he had a lot of doubters, including his teammates. In a sport known for a carnivore spirit, and in Texas of all places, land of 10 gallon hats and 16 ounce steaks, Arian was definitely going against the grain when he chose to give up eating animal products. Linebacker and teammate Brian Cushing told him, “If this doesn’t work I’m going to kick your ass!”
Arian just smiles at this and other comments. He says that suddenly, everyone he knows is a nutritionist and is worried about his protein intake. “No one ever cared before,” he has stated, “but now they do.”
Before the start of the 2012 NFL season, Arian spent a lot of time with real nutritionists. He had done his research and made the decision to follow a plant based diet, but he wanted to do it correctly. He knew he had a requirement for more calories, not just from protein, but from fat and carbohydrates as well, than most people. He didn’t want to lose weight, and most particularly, didn’t want to lose muscle. He stated, “I didn’t do this blindly. I knew what I was doing.”
Arian’s path toward a vegan diet began in high school, when he saw a documentary that affected him. He says he didn’t change his diet then, but knew that he wanted to even then. The idea of heart disease and young people with diabetes shocked him. He assumed that being in shape for football required that he eat meat. He first thought that he would give it up when he quit football, but after more research Arian realized that it was possible to get adequate nutrition from a plant based diet.
Arian says that he understands why people have such strong feelings about diet. “We’re emotionally attached to food. Think about every big holiday, it’s attached to food. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, holidays, it’s all about food.” He also says that it’s not that he doesn’t love hamburgers. It is just that he can think it through and know that the taste of those hamburgers isn’t worth the potential damage they can do. He says, “the bad food we eat, it stays in your body, in your heart.”
Now, Arian isn’t perfect. He ate some chicken back in November, and it was reported like he’d been caught cheating on his taxes. He wasn’t worried about it. “I felt like I needed a piece of chicken. I will stick with my plant based diet.” That’s good enough for me. He is eating a mostly vegan diet, and that is good for his health, the environment, and the animals.
So, I’m sure your asking the big question: Did his vegan diet fuel him as well as a diet that included animal products? Oh, I don’t know, let’s check out his stats:
In 2011, Arian ran for 1,224 yards, with 10 touchdowns (he did miss three games due to injury). In 2012, he ran for 1,424 yards and had 15 touchdowns. Sounds pretty good to me! (Full stats here.)
While this is the first in my Awesome Vegan Athlete Series, I did write about another Awesome Vegan Athlete, Timothy Bradley last year. I plan to make this an ongoing series. What Awesome Vegan Athlete would you like to read about?