Becoming the world’s no. 1 tennis player is not an easy feat, and no one knows this better than Novak Djokovic. His countless triumphs on the tennis court are a combination of several different factors, but is vegan diet one of them?
Yes, Novak Djokovic is vegan. The Serbian tennis player eliminated meat and dairy products from his daily menu, but he avoids describing himself as vegan. He doesn’t like this label, and prefers using the term plant-based diet to describe his approach to healthy eating.
So why is Djokovic so opposed to calling himself vegan, and how did he decide to embrace the plant-based diet in the first place?
Changing His Diet
Novak Djokovic already had several major victories under his belt when he invited nutritionist Igor Cetojevic to join his team in 2010. They only worked together for about a year, but this collaboration completely changed Djokovic’s approach to nutrition.
Dr Cetojevic helped the well-known tennis player realize he could benefit from keeping gluten and dairy products out of his diet, after diagnosing him with gluten intolerance, using a technique known as applied kinesiology.
The Right Choice
Gluten-free diet helped Djokovic feel stronger, healthier, more energetic and focused on the tennis court, and it didn’t take him long to start reaping fruits of his labor. 2011 was one of the most successful years of his career, and he ended up winning three Grand Slam tournaments – the US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon.
After changes to his diet made a positive impact on his career, Djokovic decided to stay on this path, and took things one step further. He eventually settled on a plant-based diet, but some of his fans weren’t too happy about this choice.
It may seem ridiculous to look down on someone for following a vegan diet, but it’s easier to understand once you know where Novak Djokovic is coming from. Most people in his home country of Serbia can’t imagine a single day without eating meat and bread, and that’s why his choice to ditch them seemed so unusual.
That may be part of the reason why he doesn’t label himself as “vegan”. He prefers saying he’s following a plant-based diet, because this term isn’t as scrutinized in certain circles.
“Because of the misinterpretations of labels and misuse of labels, I just don’t like that kind of name. I do eat plant-based. I think that’s one of the reasons why I recover well. I don’t have allergies that I used to have any more. And I like it,” explained Djokovic during a press conference at Wimbledon 2019.
Embracing the Label
Novak Djokovic may not be a huge fan of the word “vegan”, but his diet still mostly consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, even though he occasionally eats fish. He further discussed his plant-based diet in the book Serve to Win and shared his healthy day-to-day meal plan.
Djokovic also opened a vegan restaurant in Monte Carlo, where he resides, and took part in Netflix documentary “The Game Changers” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton, and other high-profile athletes who fully embraced a plant-based diet.
Plant-Based vs. Vegan
Most people would argue that there’s no difference between vegan and plant-based diet, and they often fall under the same umbrella. The term “plant-based eating” can be used to describe different types of diets that exclude meat products – ranging from veganism, that doesn’t feature any sort of animal products, to semi-vegetarianism which includes occasional consumption of meat.
Judging by the daily menus that Novak Djokovic shared in the past, his meal plan falls under the definition of a vegan diet, since it doesn’t include any eggs or dairy, let alone meat.
He completely cut all of these products from his diet, and attributes a great deal of his professional success to this change, but still shies away from labeling himself as “vegan” to avoid misconceptions surrounding this term.