American baseball player Spencer Strider says part of his success is owed to his plant-based diet.
Strider, a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball (MLB), first ditched animal products in 2019. That’s according to sports publication The Athletic, which recently spoke to Strider about his career so far.
The 23-year-old pitcher, who has a 100 mph fastball, took on a plant-based diet whilst recovering from his ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, colloquially known as Tommy John surgery.
Blood pressure concerns also motivated the change. Strider was diagnosed with high blood pressure at just 18; the condition runs in his family too.
“I had high blood pressure, and I was medicated for it,” he told The Athletic, later adding that “it just didn’t seem right for me to be dependent on medication at 19.”
“So I wanted to pursue other methods of getting that down. Within two weeks of starting a plant-based diet, I had normal blood pressure levels without medication and haven’t had any problems since,” Strider said.
It took him 11 months to rehabilitate from the surgery, “with no setbacks,” he added. (In some cases, athletes require up to two years to recover from Tommy John surgery).
Strider continued: “I don’t think it’s entirely because of a plant-based diet; I mean, there’s a lot that goes into any reconstructive process like that. But yeah, since then I’ve recovered well and I haven’t had any problems, knock on wood.
“It’s definitely something I expect to continue doing for the entirety of my life.”
‘I definitely feel better’
Despite the growing ubiquity of veganism, going without meat and other animal-derived foods can raise eyebrows, especially in the sports sector. Amid masses of misinformation surrounding plant-based foods and protein, some athletes shudder at the thought of making their diet animal-free.
“As athletes, we’re so protein-focused. And that’s how I was. And as a result, I was vicariously eating way too much fat and not getting enough carbs, which are really your fuel source,” Strider explained.
“So I was missing out on some vitamins and central minerals and things that the plant-based diet was making up for. It was a quick change and I definitely feel better every day.”
It isn’t just health concerns that keep Strider committed to his vegan lifestyle. Environmental reasons also play a part.
“We’re growing more food to feed the animals that we’re ultimately eating than we’re eating ourselves, and it’s not sustainable,” he explained.
“I can’t solve that problem individually,” Strider said. “But at the very least, I can do my part to help out.”