Noah Hannibal just took the gold medal in the 2021 Oceania Championships’ heavyweight division and what makes his win even more notable is that he is a vegan powerlifter. The athlete credited his plant-based diet with the recent victory and his overall fitness and health. Hannibal competed in the bench press competition at the event, rising to the top and proving that a vegan diet does anything but make you weak.

“Not too bad after 30 years of wasting away as a vegan,” Hannibal wrote on his Instagram. He claims that his secret to success lies in plant-based protein. Every day Hannibal makes sure his diet contains enough protein to keep up with his strenuous workouts, which means eating meals full of seitan, tempeh, tofu, and meat alternatives. 

The Game Changers documentary showcased athletes who follow plant-based or meat-free diets, rising to the top of their fields, including Novak Djokovic, who just won his ninth grand slam title, the Australian Open, which is an unprecedented number of championships for a modern tennis player, but still, people doubt that you can eat enough protein to train seriously on a plant-based diet, Hannibal is proving the exact opposite.

“Sometimes people say that I must have eaten meat to get strong and then gone vegan, but I’ve been vegan for just 30 years now, and before that was vegetarian from birth,” Hannibal said. “When I was first starting out in powerlifting over a decade ago I was told by a coach to leave his club and only come back when I’d eaten a steak. Unfortunately, this mistaken belief that you need to eat a lot of meat and dairy products to get strong is pervasive in the strength community.”

He hopes to challenge the stereotypes and stigma that veganism carries, and his victories broadcast that to the world. Alongside other plant-based athletes like fellow powerlifters Glenda Presutti and Sahy Lalime, these athletes push themselves to the limit to show that sustainable, plant-based lifestyles do not limit a person. Another vegan powerlifter, Nick Squires, broke the deadlift record in California with a 295kg lift. The strength of these plant-based lifters seems limitless.

“Of course, I ignored [the skeptics] and in the following years have won two national bench press championships and most recently the Oceania championship, so hopefully, I’m helping to smash these stereotypes,” Hannibal continued.

The Australian powerlifter uses more than his muscles as proof of the benefits of vegansim. Hannibal also has been a vocal animal activist, advocating for the proper treatment of animals worldwide. He pushes himself as an athlete but goes on to use his platform to face-off with big animal industries. The athlete sponsored a walk where he took 1000,000 steps to raise money for an animal sanctuary in Australia. Hannibal is setting his goals beyond the weights, and working towards a greater appreciation and a more inclusive conversation about the benefits of plant-based eating.