Colin Kaepernick is Fitter Than Ever on a Vegan Diet, But Will He Get Picked Up?
Whether or not Colin Kaepernick will be signed by the Ravens, the Chiefs, the Chargers or the Titans is anyone's bet –and the betting is on–but one thing is for sure: His vegan diet is not standing in the way of a comeback for the ages. In fact, it's making him stronger, healthier, and fitter.
During the 2016 season, Kaepernick's last year in the NFL, the public discourse was so caught up in his kneeling during the national anthem that most fans completely missed the news that he revealed he'd switched over to a vegan diet. Kaepernick made the dietary lifestyle change with his longtime girlfriend, radio personality Nessa Diab, to help him recover from a series of injuries.
Diab revealed on MTV2's Facebook page in 2018 that the couple went vegan for health reasons. “We did it together. Because we feel like, it's true that... the more animal products you eat ... your body becomes more acidic, which allows more diseases to basically breed within you," said Diab, referring to studies that animal products raise chronic inflammation and your risk of serious diseases.
The QB's vegan diet was criticized by media analysts and league insiders at the time, who doubted whether Kaepernick could regain his strength and recover from his injuries on a vegan diet. During that season with the 49ers, he underwent three surgeries, one for his left shoulder, another on his right thumb, and at the same time a third on his left knee.
The recovery from these setbacks left Kaepernick unable to train in the offseason, and ultimately he dropped weight and got lean, which caused further criticism related to his diet. "He lost a ton of weight this offseason, had three surgeries, couldn’t work out, lost that double threat, that size-speed ratio," said Jay Glazer, NFL insider for Fox Sports.
Media outlets speculated the weight loss was connected to his vegan diet since they mistakenly believed that in order to build bulk you need to eat animal protein. Since then the release of the documentary The Game Changers has shown some of the strongest athletes on the planet build bulk and dominate their sports on a diet of plant-based protein: The strongest man alive, Patrik Baboumian famously wins his strong-man competitions on a vegan diet. And Tennis ace Novak Djokovic went from being ranked 3rd in the world to 1st after ditching meat and dairy which were causing his asthma to flare up. He now credits plant-based eating with a better ability to focus on the court and recovery time between workouts.
The criticism that a vegan diet robs athletes of strength would have been enough to discourage and convince some active or competitive people that a vegan diet should be left behind, but not Kaepernick. A healthy diet of plant-based protein and dedication in the gym has led Kaepernick to not only fully recover from injury but to appear to be stronger than ever.
In 2018 he tweeted a picture showing off his muscular physique captioned, "Always ready #NotBadForAVegan." Twitter followers were quick to take notice, and one user said: "You’re a vegan with muscles like that? Wow!"
Here's How Kaepernick Builds a #VeganStrong Body?
Kaepernick breaks his workouts into two parts: Fieldwork and gym work, according to an extensive feature that he did with Stack. The fieldwork focuses on cardio, agility and endurance with drills like speed ladder, band-resisted shuffle and medicine ball lateral toss. Then he mimick on-field situations: The lateral tire toss with side to side shuffle is similar to what he has to do when he throws the ball, to avoid getting hit.
The second portion of the workout in the gym consists of strength training like bench presses, speed training like "box touches" and lower back and leg strengtheners, like basic squats.
With his vegan diet no longer an issue, Kaepernick is ready to be signed
Sports outlets have long speculated that Kaepernick's activism is what's keeping teams from signing him but Commissioner Goodell released a video statement and apology to him during the summer's height of the Black Lives Matter movement, that appeared to clear at least some of the hurdles that had stood in his way. Kaepernick's social justice activism now appears to have been ahead of its time and the rest of the world is aligned with the idea that players are allowed to express their views, especially when it relates to social justice issues. Nike created an ad featuring Kaepernick's social justice stance back in 2018, with the line "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything." The ad won an Emmy and did wonders for Nike's stock and Kaepernick's too.
Now, with the 2020 season upon us, one can only wonder if teams are less likely to have issues with vegan athletes since both Tom Brady, who is mostly plant-based and Cam Newton, who went vegan last year to overcome injuries, are two QBs at the top of their game.
The odds appear to still be stocked against Kaepernick even though his career highlights include leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2013, followed by a winning 12-4 season in 2014 which brought them to a second straight NFC championship. After playing his last game in January 2017, when Kaepernick was told he would be cut or could choose to opt-out of his contract, fans hadn't seen Kaepernick in action until he much-anticipated tryout practice that he videotaped last fall.
Kaepernick has stayed active as a social justice leader off the field
Kaepernick continues his activism and has started a social justice youth organization called Know Your Rights Camp. His latest plant-based project was a partnership between Know Your Rights Camp and Impossible foods to both support food security for those who need it and social justice reforms. Kaepernick is currently focused on activism but could he be about to also make a career comeback?
NFL analysts are opening up to the idea that Kaepernick could be returning to the field. Speculation was rampant in June that one of five teams could be ready to sign him and the betting odds have been fluctuating since then. The oddsmakers are handicapping these changes every day.
The top five picks according to Jeffri Chadiha, NFL Columnist and Co-Host of Gameday First are the Baltimore Ravens, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans, but every day that a team doesn't tap Kaepernick the odds get longer of seeing him back on the field. We're putting our money on the Ravens: Kaepernick is a mobile QB like Lamar Jackson, making him an ideal backup for the current starter and the team wouldn't have to change game plans.
You can be vegan and recovery time is helped by being vegan.
The Game Changers has brought more awareness about athletes choosing a vegan diet as a way to perform at their highest levels. Meanwhile, more studies are adding evidence to the argument that plant-based protein works as well as animal protein to fuel an active body.
A recent study found vegans outperformed omnivores in endurance and strength tests. No wonder athletes like Alex Morgan and Chris Paul continue to win on a plant-based diet. The Beet routinely covers plant-based athletes and how to work out and train effectively on a vegan diet isn't any different than when eating a meat-based diet.
As long as athletes are eating protein-rich whole foods like vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and fruit, they will hit all their daily goals. Adding in plant-based protein like tofu, tempeh and seitan is also a great way for athletes to fuel.
If someone like Kaepernick can recover from three surgeries while eating a vegan diet, it's safe to say weekend warriors can too. We're hoping he makes a comeback and would love to see another vegan football player dominate on the field.