Kazakhstan’s Ilya Ilyin, a vegetarian weightlifter, is currently training to win a third gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in August.
Ilyin decided to cut meat from his diet after the 2012 London Olympics and went on to win the men’s 105kg event at the 2014 world weightlifting championships in Kazakhstan.
In an interview, he said the following:
I just have much better feeling in my body. It is not easy for me to digest meat. I waste too much energy in digesting meat and that’s why I get my proteins from other products. I like beans and other legume plants very much. I need a lot of “live” products such as fruit and vegetables. It has become a very important aspect in my preparations.
Ilyin isn’t the only weightlifter who has decided to ditch meat.
Strongman Patrik Baboumian from Germany is vegan and, in 2013, broke the world record for the most weight ever carried by a human being.
Inspired to become a weightlifter because of the violence that he had witnessed as a child in his native Iran, Baboumian went vegetarian in 2006 and vegan five years later because he wanted to help stop violence against animals. “One day, I just thought, if you see a bird with a broken leg, you really have the urge to do something about it and help the bird,” he says. “Then, at the same time, you go to a restaurant and eat a chicken or something. It doesn’t make any sense.”