Serbian’s tennis record shows it is possible to be a gluten-free vegan and the world number one
Five-time Wimbledon tennis champion Novak Djokovic follows a plant-based diet but doesn’t like labels or being called a vegan. The 32-year-old Serbian has won 16 Grand Slam singles titles, the third best record in men’s professional tennis behind Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (18).
Almost a decade ago, Djokovic discovered he has a gluten allergy by pressing a piece of bread against his stomach with his arm, on the advice of a nutritionist, and observing the immediate loss of strength in that arm. He later learned he has an intolerance to dairy and is highly sensitive to refined sugars.
This shocked Djokovic, whose family owns a pizza restaurant, and who claims he ate so much bread growing up, that he would even have a side of bread with his pizza.
Djokovic not only decided to change his diet based on his food allergies, but also because of his low-energy performances. During tennis tournaments, he felt exhausted and would suffer from breathing problems, vomiting, blurred vision, and an inability to handle heat.
After changing his eating habits, he says he has better recovery and improved overall health. His plant-based diet extends beyond the tennis court. He opened a vegan restaurant with his wife in Monte Carlo and was an executive producer of the recent documentary, The Game Changers, which examines the connection between plant-based eating and sports.
But what exactly does Djokovic eat?
A big feature of his healthy diet is that Djokovic himself cooks as much as possible, even when staying in hotels – he’ll insist he stay somewhere with a kitchen. He also likes to buy organic produce and avoids processed foods and refined sugars completely.
Djokovic will start his day off with a Power Bowl, which he describes in his book, Serve to Win as having a base of gluten-free grains, nuts, plant milk, fruit and coconut oil.
Djokovic might opt for a smoothie in the morning, too. He has tweeted about his favourite smoothie recipe consisting of banana, plant milk, cinnamon, chia seeds, protein powder, flax seed and cacao powder.
For his main meals, Djokovic will eat nutrient-dense carbohydrates such as brown rice or quinoa, paired with veggies such as roasted peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and green beans. He’ll often go for a gluten-free pasta with veggies to energise himself and also eats plenty of beans and lentils.
Djokovic is also a fan of soups and salads, such as carrot ginger soup and kale salad, and can be seen drinking various green juices on social media. Fruits are also consumed, but not to the extreme, as he doesn’t want to go “overboard” with the sugars.
For snacks, Djokovic will indulge in hummus, crackers with avocado, nuts, or an apple with cashew butter.
Being a gluten-free vegan and the number one tennis player in the world may seem impossible, but Djokovic is living proof that a plant-based diet is a key to his success.
Note – This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website