Devin Ellsworth

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Plant-Based All-Stars: NFL Linebacker David Carter aka The 300-lb Vegan

David Carter, an NFL Defensive Lineman, is stronger than you. Way stronger. And at 310 pounds, he is all vegan muscle.

Just signed by the Chicago Bears, Carter is a force to be reckoned with. This guy is for real.

I think the story of Carter, or his avatar “The 300-lb Vegan” is worth sharing for several reasons.

First, he completely crushes the myth that you can’t get enough protein on a vegan, plant-based diet. In fact, let’s see how he crushed that myth.

Carter was following a typical Western diet when he entered the league. As a linebacker, this meant doubling down on that diet. Loads of eggs, meat, milk, whey protein, cheese, etc. Lots of high-calorie, animal protein foods.

Muscle needs meat…

Every nutritionist and team doctor he ever spoke to told him this was the only way for him to grow muscle and be big and strong, ready to compete at the highest level.

So when his wife went vegan 5 years ago, he initially declined joining her. Do you blame him? His career allegedly hung in the balance. There were no vegan defensive lineman… These are the biggest guys on the field — he needed to be big.

Then something changed.

After a night of binge-watching every food related documentary on Netflix, he and his wife landed on Forks Over Knives, the documentary that has turned countless people toward a vegan, whole-foods plant-based diet. Something clicked. Carter went vegan overnight, on Valentine’s Day, 2014. He didn’t have a plan. Didn’t know how it would affect his performance on the field.

But he was thinking beyond that. The stats on former-NFL players are not great. Life expectancy is mid-fifties. Diet is a big reason why. Carter wanted to wrack up his career stats, but this was one he did not want to become.

Over the course of the next couple months, he lost 40 pounds. Normally this is a fantastic result, welcomed by those switching to a plant-based diet. But remember, his career depended on him being big.

You Can Build Serious Muscle on Plants

Training in the offseason, and focusing only on whole plant foods (Read: No Protein Supplements), Carter was able to gain back the 40 pounds he lost and gain an additional 10, putting him at 310 pounds. Of nearly pure muscle. Built with nothing but plants.

Carter immediately began to notice incredible benefits to training on his diet — he had more energy, increased stamina, improved strength, and reduced recovery time. The last one is key. It is sometimes said that the benefits of exercise are not in the activity itself but the recovery. The recovery is when you build your new body. And with quicker recovery times, you can increase the frequency and intensity of the work you do, leading to more muscle building.

Carter has yet to prove himself

On the eve of the 2014 season, Carter suffered a season-ending injury during a preseason game. Every player’s worse nightmare. So over the last year on the sidelines he has been recovering, building strength, and waiting to prove himself.

On July 28, 2015, the Chicago Bears signed Carter to a 1-year deal. This season will be the first full season for a fully vegan defensive lineman in the NFL. I can’t wait to see what he does.

David Carter, the 300-lb vegan, proves that to be manly, to be strong, to be an athlete, to build muscle, you don’t need meat. In fact, he is proving that a plant-based diet is optimal for athletes in all sports, not just endurance athletes.


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