When you think of a football player, a hockey player or a bodybuilder, veganism doesn’t necessarily come to mind right away. But with increased popularity, a vegan lifestyle has become more prominent for athletes.
At this year’s Montreal Vegan Festival, former CFL safety for the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, was the spokesperson. On Sunday, Brouillette was on the All Gain, No Pain: World-Class Vegan Athletes Break Stereotypes panel to talk about his life as a vegan athlete. Also on the panel was former NHL player Georges Laraque, nationally certified fitness trainer John Lewis, as well as wellness coaches and couple Josh Goldman and Rebecca Theofanis.
During the hourlong panel, a moderator asked questions, the first being “how long have you been vegan?” Brouillette began by saying he’s been vegan for four years, having played his last three seasons in the CFL as a vegan, and citing the 2016 season as his best ever.
“As a professional athlete, when you get to that level, everyone’s good,” said Brouillette as he explains why he made the switch to being vegan. “How am I going to find that extra edge, that’s going to make me, Marc-O. Brouillette a better football player?” After doing research and after a short period of time implementing veganism, he realized the benefits and hasn’t looked back since.
Lewis was already a vegetarian. When his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and doctors told her it was due to too much animal protein and fatty foods, he did more research and finally made the switch to being vegan. In Theofanis’s case, she made the switch after doing her research and with the aim of reducing inflammation in the body, increasing her ability as an athlete and increasing her longevity in life.
As for Laraque, he’s been vegan since 2009, which was his final NHL season. For him, the switch to a vegan lifestyle happened after seeing the documentary film, Earthlings, which asks the viewer why we, as a society, tend to value some animals above others – which the film labels “speciesism.”
The next question was where the athletes got their protein since they don’t consume animal products. For protein, a general consensus was that it can be found in everything, just not every food has the same amount. Laraque brought up a popular argument that humans need to eat meat just as animals do. The difference between us, though, is that when animals eat meat, their prey is still alive so they’re receiving all the nutrients as their body breaks down the meat. When humans eat meat, it’s already dead and processed, so we don’t get nearly the same benefits.
As for misconceptions they’ve dealt with as vegan athletes, Laraque brought up how not all vegans are necessarily healthy. Some turn vegan and don’t fuel their body with nutrient-filled whole foods, often eating meat alternatives. “The reason why I stopped [eating meat] is not to find something that tastes the same that’s actually really unhealthy,” Laraque said.
Also spoken about throughout the hour were intermittent fasting, food pairings, the amount of protein you actually need, each panelist’s favourite food and more.
Feature photo by Cecilia Piga, Video by Calvin Cashen