HOW VEGANISM HELPED THE F1 WORLD CHAMPION TO GLORY

  ©Lewis Hamilton

©Lewis Hamilton

It was in September last year that Hamilton revealed that for health and environmental reasons, he was to become a vegan, removing all animal-based products, such as meat, seafood, dairy, even honey, from his diet. Many people questioned this mid-season lifestyle change. They talked of the potential harm to his "racing edge," due to a possible drop in testosterone, the lack of protein, iron and Vitamin D deficiency. However, the dietary change did not do the 32-year-old any harm. Two months after announcing his switch, Hamilton won the world title, creating history in the process by becoming the first Briton to win four F1 world titles and made Hamilton feel "better than ever".

Hamilton has said that he had decided to change his diet after watching a documentary about the meat industry and its potential effects on the environment, animal welfare and human health. Many studies have been conducted on the impact the livestock sector has on global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, an assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations indicated it exceeded that of transportation. A large amount of methane and nitrous oxide are generated through livestock-raising activities.

There is plenty of evidence to support the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Followed correctly, it tends to contain oodles of fiber, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E, while it is also a diet low in saturated fat, which can reduce heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Also, the often debated amount of protein, ion or testorones can be easily reached with plant-based alternatives.

It has never been easier to be vegan and though Hamilton is not the first sportsperson to go meat free, e.g. tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams became vegans in 2012, it is still rare for elite athletes to solely follow such a diet. For elite athletes poor nutrition is catastrophic. Too little protein and the mind will start to lose focus when speed of thought is of the essence, too many carbohydrates and the body may begin to slow under the weight of the extra brawn. For those striving for sporting perfection, every nutrient has a purpose, every calorie must be accounted for. But discipline and focus is part of an athlete's habitual routine which is why nutritionist it is possible for elite athletes to get all the nutrients they need from a vegan diet, says Tara Ostrowe, a consultant for top athletes and sports teams. On the back of Hamilton's success this season, he has been asked about returning to an animal-based diet: "Once you cross the line, once you go over that hill, I can't imagine going back."