Vegan Wins National Weightlifting Championships in Croatia

Ana Špac, a vegan athlete and relative newcomer to weightlifting, just became the Senior National Champion for Croatia


4 Minutes Read

Photo shows Ana Špac, a Croatian weightlifer and Senionr National Champion Vegan weightlifter Ana Špac just became Senior National Champion - Media Credit: Ana Špac

A vegan athlete just won Croatia’s National Weightlifting Championship.

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Ana Špac, a full-time student who has been weightlifting for just three years – and followed a plant-based diet for almost the same amount of time – won in the 71 kg and under category and became the Senior National Champion.

The competition took place on April 13 and 14 in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek. It saw approximately 100 athletes from 11 teams attend to compete individually.

Weightlifters are rated on their completion of the two Olympic lifting styles, the “clean and jerk” and “the snatch.” An athlete’s score is then calculated by combining the scores from their best successful lifts, with the overall winner possessing the highest combined total.

In addition to her new title as Senior National Champion, Špac previously competed and became Junior National Champion, and also holds a Junior record in Croatia.

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Vegan weightlifting: ‘I have an above-normal amount of energy’

Photo shows Ana Špac, a Croatian weightlifer and Senionr National Champion
Ana Špac Špac became vegan shortly after she began weightlifting

Špac told Plant Based News (PBN) that she first got into weightlifting through her older brother at the start of 2022. As a relative newcomer to competitive weightlifting, Špac’s growing list of accomplishments is all the more notable.

According to Špac, adopting a vegan diet shortly after she began lifting was a “significant factor” in her rapid progression in the sport. “I know this is my own anecdotal experience,” said Špac. “[But] I noticed that I have an above normal amount of energy.”

According to the athlete, fatigue is a constant phenomenon for competitive weightlifters, sometimes lasting for weeks on end. But Špac feels “more than satisfied” with her metabolism and recovery on a plant-based diet.

“I try to eat as functionally as possible to maximize the efficiency of my body,” said Špac. She generally favors nutrient-dense foods with plenty of carbs and protein and minimal fat, like lentils, beans, quinoa, oats, and wheat, something which she says is particularly easy to achieve on a plant-based diet. “This way I can take a lot of nutrients I need,” she added.

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‘I wasn’t able to justify killing animals for food’

Špac told PBN that she was significantly underweight when she first started lifting, and members of her community suspected she would struggle to gain mass while following a plant-based diet – a common misconception about plant foods.

“As we know that did not happen,” said Špac. “In fact, for the first time in a long time, I actually started to gradually gain weight. Now, two years after, I weigh 68 kilos (148 pounds). That is 40 pounds of weight on my body gained on a vegan diet.”

Despite the physical benefits that Špac feels she has enjoyed from eating plant-based foods, health wasn’t the main motivator for her cutting out meat and dairy. She told PBN that, while the realization came to her gradually, she began to feel “repulsion” over animal products.

“I wasn’t able to justify killing animals for food,” explained Špac. “At first I wasn’t aware of practices occurring in animal agriculture, but as I came to know more about what was happening I was both disgusted and angry. I wanted to share the truth with other people that were like me; living in [a] fallacy created by the industry.”

Špac isn’t the only athlete to recognize the various potential benefits of a plant-based diet, whether ethical, environmental, or nutrition-related. Notable recent examples include several runners, martial artists, bodybuilders, and other weightlifters.

“I am driven by the need to be an example and to show people they don’t have to be scared of plant-based diets,” said Špac. “On the contrary, […] we can thrive on plant-based diets. “

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