Once Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that he hardly eats meat anymore (and actually prefers the taste of plants), is anyone eating plant-based really going to shock you? Even if it's sixteen-time Grand Slam-winning tennis legend Novak Djokovic?

While Djokovic may not be as menacing as The Terminator, he says he’s off the meat, too. And it’s giving him an edge on and off the courts.

Now in the Australian Open quarterfinals, Djokovic holds the number two ranking in the world, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down since going plant-based four years ago. If anything, the diet has reinvigorated him and helped him to his fifth Wimbledon trophy last year (and the longest finals match in the game's history). He's well on his way to breaking another Australian Open record as he heads toward his eighth victory there.

But it hasn't been easy. “[P]eople around me didn’t think I could do that. I’ve been through different phases of adapting to this kind of lifestyle,” he told Essentially Sports.

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'It's a Lifestyle'

Djokovic joined Schwarzenegger and other legends including Jackie Chan and James Cameron as executive producers of “The Game Changers.” The 2018 film sets out to bust the myths that meat is necessary for building and maintaining muscle in competitive sports. Some of the world’s top athletes feature in the film including a number of NFL players, Olympic sprinter Morgan Mitchell, and reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. All of them adhere to a plant-based diet.

And they have science on their side. Coaches, trainers, and team doctors say a vegan diet can speed recovery time, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, and provide other benefits critical to optimal physical performance.

'Eating Plant-Based Makes Me a Better Athlete'

Djokovic has said this way of eating is helping his game. "Eating vegan makes me more aware of my body on the court… more alert," he told an interviewer. "I removed toxins from my body, and with them went all the inflammation and other things that were messing with my energy levels.
"As an athlete, the most important thing is to keep your energy levels consistent—especially as a tennis player, where you’re alone on the court for a best of five match. When playing for 3, 4, 5 hours straight, you need the right fuel… and for me, the right fuel is plant-based.”
 

Djokovic says that for him though, it’s not just about a healthy diet.

“It’s a lifestyle. More than just a diet because you have ethical reasons as well,” he said. "It is about how this diet affects the world, not just personal health, but also sustainability, ecology, animals.”

“Being conscious of what is happening in the animal world[...]. There is obviously a huge impact as well on climate change that people maybe don’t talk about as much.”

He adds: “Hopefully, I can inspire other athletes that it is possible to be plant-based and to recover well, to have strength, to have muscles. I’m not a weightlifter, of course, but I do have an optimal balance between the strength and power and speed. And, you know, nothing seems to be missing, at least from my experience. So I will keep on enjoying that.”