A typical weightlifter’s diet is full of animal protein–steaks, chicken, burgers. But being a meat-eater isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a world-class weightlifter. Kendrick Farris, who was the only American to compete in men’s weightlifting at the 2016 Olympics, and who lifted a combined 357 kg (787 lbs) to place 11th in the Rio games, also happens to be vegan.
Farris reportedly switched to a vegan diet, free of any animal products, in 2014.
“I don’t necessarily trust the way the food is being processed,” he told the Huffington Post. “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.” Another factor: the birth of his second son, which he says prompted him to reflect on the example he was setting.
With meat off the menu, Farris, who competes in the 94kg division, eats a lot of plant-based nutrition. Sometimes that means trail mix and fruit, other times it’s his wife’s avocado quesadillas or spinach lasagna.
Farris has noticed a difference in his training and performance. “Now, my body recovers a lot faster,” he told Men’s Fitness. “I feel lighter. My mind is a lot more clear. I feel I can focus a lot better.” That focus helped him set a US record of a combined 377 kg at the Olympic trials in May, with a 209-kg clean-and-jerk and 168-kg snatch.
The Rio games marked Farris’ first Olympics as a vegan and his third Olympics overall. While he didn’t medal this time, weightlifting on a world stage without animal protein is still a pretty impressive feat.