Manchester United defender Chris Smalling originally tried a vegan lifestyle to make things easier for his vegan wife, but now claims his plant-based diet is how he keeps healthy and injury-free on the football pitch.
Smalling is convinced that eating a guilt-free, plant-based diet has helped him to strengthen his immune system and avoid stress-related muscle injuries.
Speaking of how he was introduced to vegan meals, Smalling told The Telegraph: ‘My wife is vegan and has been for a few years. She’s often tried to persuade me. She cooks a lot at home and half the time I was eating vegan anyway. I wasn’t fully vegan. When we ate out, I would have what I normally have.’
Sam Smalling, who was once a model and is now a photographer and animal rights container, is considering releasing a book of recipes to encourage others to go vegan.
Chris Smalling continued: ‘Adter a while I started to cut out red meat, because red meat causes quite a lot of inflammation and I had a lot of tendinitis in my knee, which many footballers get. Red meat causes a lot of that inflammation and when I was cutting that down, the tendinitis started to go. It used to be a problem in terms of warm-ups, because getting going was a bit of a nightmare. My tendinitis has got better and better.’
According to the athlete, this change led to cutting out meat from his diet altogether, and eventually going fully vegan. He spoke about how it has impacted his football games.
‘Since [turning vegan], I’ve played a lot of games,’ he said. ‘Normally the second day after a game would be the worst. I would feel very tired, but I felt like I was recovering very quickly. In terms of the vegan diet there were a lot of factors that helped with that and I was able to keep banging out games without being too sore.’
Smalling was already eating vegan food at home, but his lifestyle change has caused him to make changes to his football club diet as well.
He said: ‘Mike [the chef] has been very accommodating and when I told him, we worked out different menus and options. Some of the staff are vegetarian and some of the players try bits and pieces, even though none of them are vegan. It’s about eating more good things. The club have been very good, the transition has been quite easy.’
In this football season, Smalling hopes to play well enough to help his team beat Manchester City. He is confident that his diet will play a part in this.
‘Ultimately, what you’re feeding yourself has a bearing on how you’re going to perform,’ he said. ‘You’re never going to be bulletproof, but if you’re feeding yourself good food and making sure you’re eating the right supplements, I think you reduce the chances of getting any niggling injuries. Touch wood, I’ve not had any major problems since then and hopefully I can keep fit and play as many games as I can.’