Vegan diet questioned after NFL star’s lackluster performance


NFL star quarterback Cam Newton’s 2019 season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start, as he is struggling to perform to past standards and dealing with an injury to his foot.

In his ninth season with the Carolina Panthers, Newton has been sidelined, recovering from his foot injury. The player has not looked like his old self this season and one notable difference has been his diet. The Charlotte Observer reported that since February, Newton has been a vegan and is eating no animal products.

The quarterback reportedly said at a recent news conference that he was getting “vegan strong.”

The Observer said it spoke to sports nutritionists, dietitians and trainers about Newton’s plant-based diet.

They all agreed that what Newton is or is not eating “may be contributing to his on-field struggles and his body’s ability to recovery from injury,” the newspaper reported.

One of the experts cited was Chris Howard, a certified nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach.

“Go back to 2015 Cam, badass Cam. He was a pescatarian,” Howard said. Pescatarians eat a lot of fish and seafood. “Salmon, shrimp, you get a lot of good fats and complete proteins. In fact, (fish) is one of the best protein sources there is.”

“Now you take away the most valuable part of that (diet), and … there’s just no way around it: He can’t recover as well with less nutrients, with less calories and with less muscle mass. It’s just not going to happen,” he added.

The player said in a March episode of his vlog that he wanted to “try something different,” adding, “I’m loving how I’m feeling.”

Nancy Clark, a Boston-based sports nutritionist, told the Observer it’s possible for professional athletes to perform at a high level as vegans, but it takes extensive overcompensating to get enough protein and enough calories.

Newton had a teammate, Gerald McCoy, also go vegan earlier this year and he told the Observer that he had to go back to animal proteins.

“Realistically for me, what I’ve had to do is I’m not fully vegan anymore,” he said. “What I found out is, a guy my size, my stature, I was dropping body fat at a rapid rate. I was building muscle at a rapid rate, but it wasn’t sustainable for me.”

“So I had to add some type of animal protein in, like now I eat eggs and I may throw one animal protein in during the week,” McCoy added. “Because being a vegan at my size, and the mass that I carry around, it just wasn’t sustainable.”

Newton, who signed a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension in 2015, has lost his last eight starts.

The NFL athlete appeared in a video Friday, smoking a cigar and drinking a glass of wine, to say he suffered a mild Lisfranc sprain in the third preseason game of the season and aggravated it in the second game of the regular season.

Newton explained that he was initially “hiding” the injury before deciding to “take time away from the game.”

“This is me being the bigger person and being real with myself and saying, ‘Look, what’s the ultimate goal you’re trying to accomplish? Win the Super Bowl. OK, if you want to win the Super Bowl, this is the step you’ve got to take,'” he said.

Newton was open-ended on how long that break will be.

“It could very well be a week. Or two weeks. It could be three weeks, it could be four weeks, it could be six weeks,” he explained. “But I have to understand and know if it takes that time, I trust in this team that they will — we will — still be in a great situation by the time I get back.”

One thing is certain, the story has prompted plenty of feedback online, from all sides — to include some defensive vegans.

Here’s a sampling of responses from Twitter:


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