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4 Vegan Athletes Who Think You Need to Join the #PlantMilkChallenge

Cruelty-free athletes explain why they ditched dairy and how they fuel their bodies with plant-based milks.

What do a Baywatch star, a professional hockey player, Olympic gold and silver medalists, and an ultra endurance athlete have in common? Beyond their success and amazing bodies, they are also promoting the plant-based movement. Dotsie Bausch, Olympic silver medalist and founder of Compassion Champs, called upon her impressive network of vegan superstars to gain support for her newest campaign, the Plant Milk Challenge. The program—which takes place January 10–20 and includes daily challenges, inspiring videos and recipes, and educational information on the dairy industry—disrupts the misconception of the Milk Life campaign by showing people the benefits of a plant-based diet through the endorsements of these amazing athletes. Join the challenge on Facebook, and encourage your friends and family to do the same, especially if they are not yet vegan. In the meantime, we’ve spoken to a few athletes and celebrities for motivation on how to embrace veganism. Here are their reasons for ditching dairy.

1. Ultra-endurance athlete, author, nutrition advocate, and podcast host Rich Roll

Going vegan:
I went vegan approximately one year prior to my decision to train for Ultraman. During that time, I lost a tremendous amount of weight and achieved a level of fitness I previously didn’t think possible for someone in their 40s. When I made the decision to train for Ultraman, I was already sold on the idea that not only could I do it on a plant-based diet but that eating plant-based would be my secret weapon.

Why he supports the challenge:
There is so much conflicting information about health and nutrition. But one thing is clear—milk does not do a body a good. It pains me to see so many athletes buying into this myth that chocolate milk is a recovery drink every athlete should include into their routines. Not only is it not true but it’s cruel and environmentally damaging. As stewards of this planet, it’s incumbent upon us to find a better way and to lead that charge. The challenge serves that goal, and my hope is that it will leave people thinking about their daily food choices and the implications of those choices on others and the world at large.

Favorite non-dairy fuel:
Vanilla cashew milk yogurt

2. Olympic gold and silver medalist Rebecca Soni

Going vegan:
Being an athlete, we were basically force-fed the idea that we need dairy. I looked into it, and I realized it might be the cause of a lot of my stomach aches, which I experienced all throughout my competitive swimming career. I had terrible allergies growing up, and upon giving up dairy, my environmental allergies are all but gone. I realized that a lot of the popular claims about milk were simply not real—they were just marketing campaigns. Giving it up would make my body cleaner, it would make me healthier all around, and, as an athlete, it would allow me to recover faster and feel better.

Why she supports the challenge:
My hope for the challenge is to inspire the type of eye-opening learning that I experienced five years ago. Once you look at the research, it really makes you question what you’ve been told in the past.

Favorite non-dairy fuel:
Kite Hill’s almond milk cream cheese

3. Actress and health coach Alexandra Paul

Going vegan:
I had been vegetarian since I was 14, and dairy was the last obstacle. I gave it up in 2010 and have never looked back. My big regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I gained a sense of peace. Being a more serene person improved my athletics because dissonance holds back your body.

Why she supports the challenge:
It took a lot of messaging for me to give up dairy, and it is important that we come at this issue from all different angles. Approaching people with a message from athletes is particularly inspiring, as it explodes the myth that animal products are essential for a strong, healthy body. Isn’t that the most persistent lie about being vegan—that we don’t get enough protein, that we are weak? This challenge educates people on the negative consequences and asks them to take a baby step to see how they feel without cow’s milk in their diets.

Favorite non-dairy fuel:
Vanilla almond milk

4. Hockey player Sasha Kozorez

Going vegan:
I went vegan on December 26, 2015. I slowly made the transition after approximately seven months of taking lots of baby steps. A month into it, as I deepened my knowledge of what to eat from the whole-foods, plant-based world, I was thriving. I had the same body weight, but I had more muscle mass and less fat. I also noticed the difference in the way my brain was working. I felt like I was 17 again! The benefits of treating your body right with plants are undeniable!

Why he supports the challenge:
I want people to realize that it is not necessary to consume dairy to be healthy and strong. In fact, consuming dairy is going to make you sick. Unfortunately, most people are born into a culture where it is believed otherwise. I want them to try all the plant-based alternatives and see if they like anything. I love our planet, I love animals, and I love people, and I want the best for all of them.

Favorite non-dairy fuel:
I have two: Miyoko’s cheese, and a Ripple milkshake with bananas and strawberries

Tanya Flink is a certified Master Personal Trainer based in Orange County, CA and host of the The Vegan Potluck podcast.

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