If you wanna be a serious weightlifter, you have to eat meat—or so goes the theory, anyway.
But there’s at least one reason that old gym myth doesn’t hold up, and he can clean-and-jerk 438 pounds.
Kendrick Farris, a 29-year-old American champion weightlifter who will be battling for a gold medal in the 94kg division at the Rio Olympics on Saturday, has followed a vegan diet for years.
“When I first told my wife, she laughed at me, because she didn’t think I was serious,” Farris told KTBS in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. “But I was like, nah, I’m serious…[and] I’ve just been sticking to it ever since.”
The decision was inspired by the birth of his son in September of 2014, he says. “I was like, ‘I need to do something different.’ How do you get back to the purest form of our life? And it started with food.”
Farris, who started weightlifting competitively when he was 12, won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, a Pan-Am Games championship at 85kg in 2010, and at 94kg in 2015 and 2016. He also competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Here’s a video of Farris’ American record-setting performance at the U.S. Olympic weightlifting trials in Salt Lake City on May 8, when he snatched 168kg (370 lbs) and cleaned 209kg (460 lbs).
Of course, Farris isn’t the first elite athlete to follow a vegan diet. Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, who eats roughly 5,000–8,000 calories a day, is vegan. Running back-turned-bobsledder-turned-MMA fighter Herschel Walker is a vegetarian, as is track and field legend Carl Lewis—plus a host of top-tier bodybuilders who opt for plant protein.
But Farris is a pure strength athlete—and an Olympic caliber one, at that.
Considering a foray into veganism like Farris? Check out our coverage on the best veggie foods to get plenty of protein, balance your macros, and supplement with the right vegan protein powders:
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