As a former athlete, I know from personal experience what it takes to get your body into peak condition. What I didn’t realize during my professional career is that being able to perform as a top athlete doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve achieved optimal health. What do I mean by that?
In decades past, athletes would appear on TV commercials promoting “healthy” cereals, sports drinks or various pieces of athletic apparel. These days, though, more athletes are appearing on commercials promoting medications for arthritis, blood clots, osteoporosis and pain relief. They’re also appearing on commercials for depression, eating disorders, diabetes, and shingles vaccines.
Now, I totally get that there are some health conditions that are genetic or that science doesn’t know much about. However, I do believe that a lot of the chronic diseases we face are a result of unhealthy foods and/or lifestyle.
There are quite a few athletes that agree with me. These athletes have made healthy eating changes throughout their lives and careers, and have not only achieved peak condition, but optimal health.
Here is my list of the world’s healthiest athletes, what they eat and what they do to maintain their health.
My Top Picks for the World’s Healthiest Athletes
These 4 healthy athletes have not only changed their health and athletic performance, they want others to know what they know about healthy eating.
1. Brendan Brazier
My fellow Canadian, Brendan Brazier, is a former Ironman triathlete. Brazier started training as a teenager and ate a diet recommended by his coach and other athletes. What he found is that he started gaining weight, despite all of his training, and a severe lack of energy.
Brazier decided to take his health into his own hands. He did his research until he found a diet that works best for him – a plant-based diet.
With this diet, Brazier lost the excess weight, regained his energy and went on to become a two-time winner of the Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon. He has since retired from competition and focuses on coaching, writing health books and formulating products for his plant-based food company, Vega.
2. Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez is a former NFL player who is known for his durability. In his 17 year career he only missed 2 games. What contributed to such incredible resilience during his long career? Not only was it his strong work ethic, it was his healthy eating habits.
Gonzalez is mostly plant based – he eats 80 percent plant foods and 20 percent fish or chicken. He started eating this way when he was introduced to The China Study. The transition wasn’t easy. Not only was he surrounded by other athletes who believed eating meat is the best way to get their protein, he wasn’t very well educated about how to eat properly. Instead of giving up, he consulted his doctors and found out how to eat more healthfully and has been unstoppable ever since.
Gonzalez had some of his best seasons after he switched his diet. He felt the new diet gave him more energy, better focus, and more endurance.
3. Venus Williams
In 2011, Williams was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease affecting the salivary glands and tear glands. She decided to see what effect a raw vegan diet would have on her condition. Williams attributes her new diet to her tennis comeback and improved health.
The part of her story that I particularly love, aside from the fact that her health has improved, is that she is a big fan of green juices and smoothies. An athlete after my own heart! She and her sister, Serena Williams, both try to eat a raw vegan diet. Their refrigerator is packed with wheatgrass, quinoa sprouts and lots of green veggies.
Based on the performance of this powerhouse athletic duo, it’s easy to see that eating a nutrient-dense diet full of whole foods is totally healthy. With all of the greens, sprouts, nuts and beans they eat, there is no question of whether they’re getting enough protein.
4. Tom Brady
At 39 years old, Tom Brady is “getting up there” in age. While this sounds ridiculous to most people, American football is a high-impact sport and takes a toll on the body. Not many athletes are able to compete past their mid-thirties.
Tom Brady, however, is still going strong. Despite the recent controversy surrounding him right now, Tom Brady is a good example of how healthy eating promotes optimal health. He and his wife, model and actress Gisele Bündchen, eat a diet consisting of 80 percent fresh vegetables and whole grains and 20 percent lean protein. They avoid coffee, white sugars and flours, and chemicals like MSG.
Brady recently launched a $200 nutrition manual in his unique philosophy of nutrition. The 103-page “living document” is hand-assembled and screw-bound between twin slabs of “laser-etched” maple and comes complete with 89 aggressively healthy recipes pulled straight from Brady’s spacious contemporary country kitchen (via personal chef Allen Campbell).
Healthy Eating: The Key To Your Optimal Health
If you are reading this, I know you’re interested in improving your health through dietary changes. This can be done; many people have turned their health around with healthy foods, even reversing disease and getting off of their prescription medications.
Of the athletes listed above, my diet is probably closest to Tony Gonzalez and Tom Brady.
Maybe I should of been a football player? :-)
Either way, my #1 tip is to eat greens every day. If you need a little more motivation to eat more greens, read my post about why greens are so awesome.
You don’t need to go overboard. Simply add more of them to your diet, eventually eating greens at least once every day. When I started making this change in my own diet I was amazed by the results. I know you will see similar results and eventually achieve your optimal health.
Who are your favorite healthy athletes? Have you incorporated any of their healthy eating tips? If so, let us know in the comments below or on Facebook. I’m looking forward to this conversation!