Plant powered athletes, men’s soccer players go vegan



Sophomore forward Brandon Davidson drives down the pitch.

Leah Burtscher

When one first takes a glance at the testosterone oozing 2018 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champion Division II men’s soccer team here at Ashland University, their first thought may be how macho these athletic men are. Little do they know a decent amount of these macho men are powered by plants.

Sophomore finance and economics double major and business analytics minor Brandon Davidson is a forward for the Eagles and is going on his seventh month as a vegan.

“I decided to go vegan for environmental and ethical reasons and how animals are treated today,” Davidson said. “After watching some documentaries and actually reading up on it I decided that it was the best choice for me.”

For many vegans, the main reason behind their choice of lifestyle is in protest of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it from food, clothing or any other purpose. Vegans choose not to support the meat and dairy industry, or any products sourced from animals.

Along with being at peace eating a cruelty-free diet, there are many performance benefits that come with a plant-based lifestyle.

Davidson was the first of the group to transition and played a major role in opening the minds of other players to the idea.

As soon as he got back to campus in August, Davidson was heavily advertising the benefits behind the veganism. At first many of his teammates were skeptical of how they could possibly play without meat and dairy. But, whether it was an epiphany or the relentless promoting, Davidson was able to convince multiple players on his team.

One of the main factors that helped transition fellow players of Davidson was the recently released documentary, Game Changers. The film focuses on the vegan diet in relation to professional athletes as well as the stigmas that surround plant based body muscle mass.

One particular player is sophomore economics major and GLIAC honorable mention starting defender Joseph Renner. Renner began his vegan journey in early October and has not stopped since.

“I have been vegan for two months now since watching Game Changers and my performance has definitely improved,” Renner said. “The recovery process after games is the main one. I feel I can go again after games and train quicker than ever before.”

Renner finds that the most rewarding part of being vegan is the athletic benefits. He says it has raised his game “no question” and has made him feel more energetic and overall healthier.

Since being vegan Renner has even convinced his parents back home in New Castle, England, to try out the vegan lifestyle and are even preparing for an all vegan Christmas.

Senior forward Tomas Cordeiro is another AU soccer player who is currently practicing veganism. His journey started in mid October.

“I’ve been reducing my meat and fish consumption since March of 2019,” Cordeiro said. “I would average about eight meals per week eating meat or fish. I first became a vegetarian in late September and changed to a fully vegan diet in October,” said Cordeiro.

Brett Robinson, a red-shirt freshman goalkeeper on the soccer team, began eating on a vegetarian diet the week before he was named GLIAC defensive player of the week. Hunter Johnson, another red-shirt freshman midfielder, plans on trying out the vegan diet over winter break.

“Although it hasn’t been that long since I changed to a full vegan diet, I’ve started noticing the difference within just a few days after I changed,” Cordeiro said. “My recovery time and inflammation has dropped, I feel more energized before, during and after workouts, practices and games. I’ve also lost body fat without losing strength or body mass.”

According to the guys, eating a vegan diet at Ashland is not as hard as one may initially believe.

Leah Burtscher
A vegan sweet potato burger topped with veggies and a side of chips.

New additions to the everyday Convocation Center menu provide vegans with more options to choose from. Five fully vegan ‘burger’ patties have been added to the sandwich station, including the black bean burger, sweet potato burger, beet burger, garden burger and cauliflower burger. Along with these burger alternatives, the sandwich station also has a variety of dairy-free cheese options to top off the meal.

Davidson’s go-to meal is pasta with red sauce topped with veggies and tofu from the salad bar for protein.

There are also plenty of vegan options around Ashland. Chipotle is a fan favorite for vegans due to the variety of options they offer. Instead of meat they have sofritas or the option of a veggie bowl or burrito with beans and fajita veggies. All that needs to be avoided is the meat, cheese and sour cream. There are other places such as Pulp where there are plenty of smoothies and smoothie bowl options that can be accommodated to the vegan diet by avoiding yogurt and honey.

Burger King and Dunkin Donuts have also recently expanded their offerings by adding plant based meat to the scene.

The Impossible Whopper from Burger King is a great meat-free alternative for someone craving fast food. By asking for the Whopper without mayo one can enjoy the taste of a greasy ‘burger’ without the burden of harming animals. The patties are prepared on a different grill than the original beef patties.

Dunkin also introduced a plant based sausage breakfast sandwich with 10 grams of protein. Although the sandwich comes with egg and cheese, it can easily be made vegan by removing the egg and cheese and adding some hash browns and ketchup for a delicious, protein packed breakfast.

Walmart is also an option for plant-based alternatives with many options, such as frozen tofu ‘chicken’ nuggets, meatballs and burger patties.

According to Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, there are many myths and stereotypes that are associated with the vegan lifestyle, one prominent myth being that vegans are protein deficient. The misconception is that by eliminating meat and dairy, vegans do not get enough protein to function properly, especially as athletes. But contrary to popular belief, plant-based protein is cleaner and healthier for the body.

One hundred calories of steak includes about 8.0 grams of protein and 7.4 grams of fat. One hundred calories of broccoli contains about 11.1 grams of protein and 0.4 grams of fat, as well as many essential nutrients and vitamins not found in animal products.

“At first I thought I was going to be vegan only during the season. I now don’t want to stop being vegan at all now,” Renner said.

These men have not only improved their agility, recovery and overall health, but they are also making a difference by advocating for a cruelty-free lifestyle.

“Try to keep an open mind,” Davidson says, “it’s possible to get all of your essential nutrients and vitamins, while still caring for the planet and the environment. Try giving it a go for a week and see how you like it. It’s worth taking a chance on.”