Why America's Best Olympic Weightlifter Is Vegan

Kendrick Farris competes in the Men's 94kg snatch weight class at the USA Olympic Team Trials for weightlifting at the Calvin L. Rampton Convention Center on May 8, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Melissa Majchrzak / Getty Images

Think a boring diet of grilled chicken and steamed broccoli is the only way to maximize your time pumping iron? Allow Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Farris to prove you wrong. Since 2014, the Louisiana native has followed a vegan diet, and has set records to keep critics quiet.

Farris, who is the only male weightlifter from Team USA to qualify for the Rio Olympics, has moved up a weight class (he now competes in the 94kg class, aka 207 pounds) and claimed an American record after lifting a total 377kg (831 pounds) at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in May since adopting the plant-based diet.

Before becoming vegan in 2014, Farris competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, fueling his training with a meat-inclusive diet—with a favorite meal being a classic burger. But after the birth of his son, Farris decided to make a change. For him, the best place to start was with his diet and adhering to a plant-based way of eating. 

Farris researched his heritage, and after finding that he has bloodlines tied to ancient Israel, decided to adapt a diet that his ancestors would have eaten. “I knew I needed to do more research to understand the ways of the ancient,” which includes their kosher diet, he told HuffPost. That led to removing meat completely out of respect for animals. “I don’t necessarily trust the way the food is being processed,” he says. “I don’t agree with the way the animals are mass-slaughtered. So that’s one thing that kind of got me looking at what they call a vegan diet.”

The change shocked even his wife, Katrina. “I didn’t think he was going to stick with it. But two years later, I think it’s made him better,” she told HuffPost. The diet has improved the 5’7”, 24-year-old athlete’s performance on and off the stage. He is lifting heavier and feeling better than ever. Aside from breaking records, Farris says the diet has helped him control his mood, and made him feel clearer-headed and more energetic.

On a typical day, Farris will consume oats, black beans, avocados, and protein shakes to get in necessary calories and nutrients. A typical breakfast usually consists of vegan oat pancakes and a protein shake (we like Vega Protein). For the rest of the day, Farris’s favorites include avocado quesadillas with vegan cheese, back bean chips and guacamole, vegan cheese lasagna, and more vegan protein shakes. For Farris, it’s not about what he can’t eat—but what he can.

Watch him make his third Olympic appearance and gold medal bid during the men’s 94kg weightlifting competition on Saturday, August 13 at 6 p.m. EST.