A handful of Winter Olympic athletes are ditching meat and dairy to improve their performance like Meagan Duhamel, Bella Wright, and three-time Olympic medalist Hannah Teter, who made the switch to a plant-based diet six years ago and said it changed her life. While not competing in Beijing, she won 3 golds in her career and credits diet for her happiness.

Teter won the 2004 Winter X superpipe, the 2004 US Overall Grand halfpipe tile, and the 2005 FIS World Cup halfpipe, and won the gold medal Winter Olympics, defeating her close friend Gretchen Bleiler. She was featured in the snowboarding documentary First Descent, which also stars Shaun White.

Teter has her own charity called Hannah's Gold, which sells Vermont maple syrup with the proceeds going to World Vision which helps to feed children in Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS – and now she's encouraging other athletes to go plant-based by sharing her inspiring story.

Hannah Teter Went Plant-Based for Animals and the Environment

Growing up in Vermont, the Teter family spent more time outdoors than indoors and challenged each other to work harder and focus on self-improvement, an eventual stepping stone for Teter's plant-based journey. Teter's two older brothers who also became Olympic snowboarders – her oldest, Amen Teter, is her agent and manager.

In 2016, after Teter watched the documentary Earthlings –  a film about humankind's total dependence on animals for economic purposes – she instantly cut meat from her diet, learning she could do better. "I had no idea how intense and how horrible factory farms are. I have such a love for animals that I can't justify having their heads cut off for me, and the slavery of the dairy industry motivates me to go more vegan," Teter told Huffington Post.

In the same conversation, Teter shared one of her favorite quotes by Gandhi: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Teter explained why this resonates with her so much, saying, "Animals can't speak for themselves, but scientifically we know that they don't want to die."

Hannah Teter is an Advocate for the Environment

Teter's reason for being plant-based goes beyond supporting the animals: "As a winter athlete, I'm concerned, but I'm more concerned for reasons outside the snow-sport industry. I'm concerned for the global population, for everyone. No one is really paying enough attention. It's hard to make everyone aware of what's going on because of our unsustainable ways. Africa's tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro, now has no snow," she told the Huffington Post.

One way to reduce environmental impact is by eating plant-based: The UN recently stated that first-world countries need to give up on meat in order to create a sustainable food system. By switching to a  plant-based diet, we reduce carbon gases produced by animals that get released from death into the air, creating a greenhouse effect that heats up the planet.

On the environmental topic, Teter was asked by the Huffington Post what environmental trend she would like to set. "I would make it so that organic products were at the top of everybody's list to buy. I think if that was in, there'd be a big change. I wish that fur and leather products weren't cool and that things that hurt the environment and animals were out. Recycled lines, organic lines, those are just way cooler. But I think that's coming along as people become more aware," Teter replied.

Hannah Teter Credits Her Plant-Based Diet for Success

When Teter cut meat and dairy from her diet, she instantly felt better: "I feel stronger than I’ve ever been, mentally, physically, and emotionally," Teter said. My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete. It’s a whole other level that I’m elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it’s a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete."

Most athletes who ditch meat and dairy have the same reaction, including Novak Djokovic who claims a plant-based diet helped clear his allergies and allows him to breathe more easily. It also allowed him to have a better sense of "mental clarity" and allows him to "feel good."

"Eating meat was hard on my digestion and that took a lot of essential energy that I need for my focus, for recovery, for the next training session, and for the next match," said Djokovic. Others like pro football player Aaron Ñiguez Esclapez had a similar experience after adopting veganism: "I have improved my performance... and my recovery times are shorter between games or high-intensity training."

Here's What Hannah Teter Eats in a Day

Teter shared what she eats in a day with People Magazine. The pro athlete starts her mornings with a high-protein power smoothie, and lunch and dinner are usually interchangeable. She often eats some kind of vegetable dish with whole grains. She loves veggie stir-fry with a side of quinoa – a good source of plant-based protein and fiber. Teter admits she doesn't cook her food too long "because you lose what's good in the food," but she does not follow a raw diet.

If you're interested in trying a plant-based diet, try any one of our free meal plans and start your journey.

20 Athletes Who Went Vegan to Get Stronger

More From The Beet