Many people were surprised to learn that the only American to compete in men’s weightlifting at the 2016 Rio Olympics follows a strict vegan diet. Kendrick Farris — who lifted a combined 357 kg (787 lbs) in this year’s games and holds the 94 kg (207 lbs) U.S. record — reportedly switched to a vegan diet, free of any animal products, in 2014.

“When people think about particular diets, they often think about it in terms of what they can’t eat,” Farris told Men’s Fitness from Rio. “People ask me, ‘Do you walk around and eat salads all day?’ I actually don’t even eat salads that often. But I like to think of it as having a lot of options. There are a lot of things you can eat.” Embarking on a vegan-diet adventure comes with some health benefits, such as lower BMIs and a reduced risk of premature death, according to The Vegan Society, but those switching over will want to take certain precautions to stay healthy. 

A vegan diet isn't right for everyone; there are potential health risks associated with cutting meat out of your life — like the possibility of not getting enough protein, B12, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc and others. The most effective way to avoid vitamin deficiencies is by educating yourself and doing research on alternative sources of nutrients. Additionally, always take a multivitamin everyday.

The weightlifter eats a slew of black beans, avocado and vanilla, or chocolate flavored plant-based protein shakes. Other vegan protein sources and meat alternatives include soy foods, seeds, tofu, lentils, quinoa, and nuts. 

“I don’t necessarily trust the way the food is being processed,” Farris told Huffington Post about why he chose to go vegan. “I don’t agree with the way the animals are mass-slaughtered. So that’s one thing that kind of got me looking at what they call a vegan diet.”

In addition to weight loss, improved heart health and some extra pocket change, embracing a plant-based lifestyle has major environmental benefits and supports animal rights. The Vegan Society also reports that vegans have a reduced risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and even a reduced risk of prostate cancer. 

Celebrities like Bill Clinton, Alicia Silverstone, Jay Z and Beyoncé have also practiced veganism, abstaining from eating meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey and gelatin.

 

Read more:

Vegetarian Diet Benefits: What Happens When You Quit Eating Meat?

Vegans Eat Carbs And Still Lose The Weight: Why You Should Give The Diet A Shot