NBA star Chris Paul—known affectionately as “CP3”—credits his plant-based diet for helping him gain energy and tame muscle aches, on and off the court. The Phoenix Suns point guard made his 12th appearance on the NBA All-Star team in February and has been vegan since 2019. While he initially intended to transition to a plant-based diet temporarily, the 37-year-old star veteran basketball player decided to stick with it after experiencing myriad benefits.  

“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 in an interview with 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.” 

In October 2022, Paul will lead the Phoenix Suns into his 18th season playing professional basketball—a feat that only a few have achieved. “I’m not saying going plant-based is for everybody but for me, that was one of the first things I focused on,” Paul said. “To play the amount of games and minutes that I’ve played and still feel good is a win for me.” 

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Chris Paul’s plant-based diet

Prior to going vegan at age 34, the North Carolina-born athlete’s favorite pre-game foods included fried chicken and burgers and his commitment to a plant-based diet has led him to rethink a lot of foods. However, his favorites, like chocolate chip cookies and pancakes, are still on the menu—with the only difference being that they’re now vegan. “There are so many different foods that you’re able to eat,” Paul said. “I have pancakes all the time. A lot of people don’t realize that the only difference between plant-based pancakes and regular ones are eggs.” 

After being a fan of JUST Egg for some time, Paul recently became an athlete ambassador for the mung bean-based vegan egg replacer and counts JUST Egg scrambles with vegetables as a staple breakfast item, alongside Beyond Meat sausage, and fruit. Lunch typically includes a salad, veggie bowl, and protein drink while dinner is a chef-prepared meal with plenty of beans, grains, and veggies. “The biggest thing when I went plant-based is it opened me up to the diversity of foods that you can have,” he said. 

And Paul is not just fueling himself with plant-based foods but bringing his family onboard, too. During Father’s Day last month, Paul enlisted his father, Charles Paul, as JUST Egg’s first dad ambassador. Charles Paul has also noticed health benefits—such as lower cholesterol—since he began replacing animal-derived eggs with JUST Egg

“When it comes to health and wellness, the one thing we can’t purchase is health. You can buy cars, houses, clothes, and jewelry but not health,” Paul said. “The only way to get more educated on health and wellness is by communicating with one another and finding out things that you’re not necessarily taught in school, and a lot of times aren’t taught in the Black and Brown communities. I was blessed to be able to find this information out at 34 and I’m still learning.”

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Top athletes are vegan food ambassadors

Paul is part of a growing cohort of athletes who have shifted their endorsement deals to align with their ethics and lifestyles. In addition to his JUST Egg deal, Paul also works with plant-based nutrition brand Koia, and has helped to get the brand into the hands of students at HBCUs through a vending machine initiative. 

In 2019, Paul and a dozen other athletes—including NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, NFL star Derrick Morgan, and Olympic skier Lyndsay Vonn—invested in Beyond Meat and joined the vegan brand as ambassadors of its “Go Beyond” campaign. 

And incoming NBA superstars are also looking to older athletes for inspiration and are partnering with plant-based companies, too, including 2021 first draft pick Cade Cunningham. Before heading to play for the Detroit Pistons, the young star—who has been vegan since high school—teamed up with Eat Just as an ambassador for JUST Egg and was the inspiration behind the “Cade Stack,” a vegan egg sandwich inspired by Cunningham served at Detroit’s popular FOLK Cafe for a limited time. 

Now a star player on the Pistons, Cunningham is eyeing 2023 as the year the beloved Detroit team makes it to the NBA finals. Who does he hope to go up against? During a recent interview at the NBA 2K23 event in Las Vegas, the 20-year-old revealed that fellow vegan athlete Paul is his ultimate match up. 

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“Favorite guy to match up with? Chris Paul was really fun to play against,” Cunningham said. “Just because he is always making the right read. I feel like watching him, and being on the opposite side of it, I feel like I learned a lot in those games, I’d say Chris Paul.”

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