To the average viewer, this year’s Wimbledon Finals matchup was nothing shocking, with two distinctly different players vying for the Cup, but the two finalists share one unique characteristic: They both follow vegan diets. Defying claims that plant-based diets lack for protein or hinder athletic performance, vegan athletes worldwide have proved otherwise, including some of the most accomplished competitors in the world. The latest to prove the naysayers wrong: Vegan runner Mike Fremont, who turned 100 years old in February and celebrated with a run around Vero Beach in Florida.

Fremont adopted a vegan diet at the age of 69 after receiving a daunting cancer diagnosis. He turned down what his doctors told him was life-saving surgery in favor of switching to a whole food plant-based diet. Now, Fremont, the oldest known vegan runner, holds the marathon distance world records for single-year age groups of 88 and 90.

“I said no, I was going on a diet!” Fremont told Great Vegan Athletes. “In two and a quarter years the tumor began to bleed, and I was operated upon. The surgeon looked for metastasis in 35 places and found zero. In other words, my macrobiotic diet, [which became] a vegan diet, [which became] a whole-foods plant-based diet, killed the metastases!”

This week, Fremont joined the legendary plant-based athlete, author and podcaster Rich Roll to discuss his prolonged competitive career and unwavering strength and endurance. Fremont claimed that the past few years leading up to his 100th have been “the very best years” of his life. Roll asked the 100-year-old athlete what he credits his longevity to, and Fremont unhesitatingly claimed that his diet plays a major role.

“No question in my mind, absolutely, it is [my] diet that has determined my existence. My continued existence and my beautiful health,” Fremont told Roll on the show.

Fremont has no plans of stopping, or even slowing down. Fremont’s running partner Harvey Lewis – a 46-year-old ultrarunner and fellow vegan – told Great Vegan Athletes that he suggested a 5K run with Fremont for his 100th birthday. Fremont turned down the idea and instead suggested they run twice the distance.

“I asked him about the Flying Pig Marathon and if he was interested in doing the 5K, as we have done it the past couple of years,” Harvey said. “He said, ‘I don’t feel it’s really a race unless we do 10K' with a big grin. No arguing with Mike. 10K it is!”

Prolonging Life Expectancy with a Plant-Based Diet

Though a whole food plant-based diet is not a recommended treatment for cancer or a substitute for medical treatment, a growing body of research indicates that following a vegan diet can significantly reduce the risk of ever contracting several types of cancer including breast, prostate, and others. This February, a study published in Plos Medicine Journal claimed that you could prolong your life expectancy by 10 years or even more if you start eating plant-based early enough. The report asserts that a plant-based diet can help lower risk factors for several fatal diseases including heart disease and stroke.

Previous generations have historically avoided plant-based dieting due to traditional meal preferences centered around meat and dairy. However, that is changing as more information comes out yearly highlighting the health benefits of a plant-based diet for people over 65. One survey found that 54 percent of UK consumers over 65 have set out to reduce their meat consumption, motivated by the health benefits of lowering saturated fat intake.

An ever-growing body of research has shown that plant-based diets can significantly minimize the risk of heart disease in later life. And the earlier you make the switch the better: Adopting a plant-centered diet between the ages of 18 and 30 can reduce the risk of heart disease some 30 years later. In Fremont’s case, following a plant-based approach since he was 60, he proves it is never too late to switch to a plant-based diet, especially for athletes.

Athletes Turning to Vegan Diets to Optimize Performance

Fremont, Tom Brady, Novak Djokovic, and Nick Kyrgios (who lost in the Wimbledon finals) join an impressive list of talented athletes who count themselves as part of the plant-based community. Notably, Phoenix Suns player Chris Paul credits his plant-based diet to improved performance on the court and in life. This year, the NBA player made his 12th appearance on the NBA All-Star team

“When I first went plant-based, it was for performance purposes but once I saw how my body changed and how I felt — it was for life,” Paul said to GQ. “Years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even gone outside to run around with my kids and all the other activities because my body would be aching. Now, with the constant lifting and making sure that my body is always ready, it’s been a good lifestyle change for me.”

Two years ago, director Louie Psihoyos released The Game Changers documentary, showing the world how athletes do not need meat or dairy to perform professionally. Since then, high-profile athletes have converted to vegan diets to reduce inflammation, improve endurance, and better their overall health including Paul, Fremont, and many others.

For more inspiring plant-based eaters, visit The Beet's Success Stories

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