Why Was Venus Williams Raw Vegan Diet Unsustainable?

You may have recently come across this article on Insider.com

https://www.insider.com/venus-williams-raw-vegan-diet-what-she-eats-now-2019-10

The article states that Venus Williams, a former Tennis Grand Slam champion, no longer follows her strict raw vegan diet.

Venus said:

“That way of eating was just hard to maintain for long periods of time,” Williams told Insider. “Sometimes you just need something more substantial — some rice, some potatoes — after a workout.” Lentils are also one of her favorite post-training meals, she said. 

So why did Venus go raw vegan in the first place?

It turns out that she was having problems with an automimmune condition known as Sjogrens syndrome. Sjögren’s syndrome, is an autoimmune disorder that can cause extreme fatigue, joint pain, and digestive issues.

It certainly makes sense for Venus to have followed a raw vegan diet in this situation. It does appear that Sjogren sydrome responds well to dietary change.

What was the issue she experienced with the raw vegan diet that made her add in more cooked food?

Was it some kind of deficiency of nutrients lacking in fruits and vegetables? Was it a lack of good fruit where she lived? Was it the cold weather?

No, as she clearly states, she was looking for something “more substantial”, in other words she was looking to feel fuller and more satiated with her meals.

The article says many positive things about the raw vegan diet. That it is a healthier option due to eliminating a number of disease promoting foods and that it is an anti inflammatory diet. But it claims that the problem is that we can struggle to get enough calories on a raw vegan diet (inevitably this can lead to not feeling full, as Venus experienced). The article says:

Williams’ choice to add cooked foods into her still-vegan diet makes dietary and athletic sense. For one, it can be difficult to get enough calories on a raw vegan diet, especially if you’re an athlete.

Does It Make Sense For Athletes To Go Back To Cooked Food?

But does this really make sense? Is it simply not possible to eat enough calories on a raw vegan diet?

This is clearly not the case, as many ultra athletes have been able to train and gain enough calories on a raw vegan diet. Famous cases of this include Michael Arnstein, who labels himself as The Fruitarian and has won some of the most gruelling Ultra marathon races in the world. Harriet Kjaer from Denmark has competed in 350km races as a raw vegan and became Denmark’s top ultra runner on a 100% raw vegan lifestyle.

The TRUTH: What Was Venus Williams Really Eating?

To look into this further firstly, we must work out what Venus Williams was ACTUALLY eating. Unfortunately, it is hard to figure out exactly what kind of raw vegan diet she was eating.

One article, seems to suggest that Venus was not on a raw vegan diet:

https://www.health.com/nutrition/venus-williams-raw-vegan-diet

In it, Venus states:

” One of my favorite recipes is celery-root soup. I get celery root, tomato, and some Silk almond milk as a base to thicken it a little bit, and then maybe I’ll add pan-fried garlic on top, maybe some truffle oil—whatever I have at the time, I’ll throw it in. It makes for some interesting dishes”

The article comes from an event promoting “Silk” soya milk. This article would suggest that Venus was eating a plant based diet with more raw foods rather than a strictly raw vegan diet.

Looking further into this, is it unclear as to whether Venus was even vegan at all:

“While the superstar sisters technically consider themselves ‘chegan’—because they occasionally indulge in cooked fish or chicken if they feel the need/want to celebrate—their foundational diet for health and training is both raw and vegan. “

Taken from https://www.ecowatch.com/venus-and-serena-williams-raw-vegan-powerhouses-1882106143.html

This article for example ( https://www.self.com/story/this-is-what-venus-williams-really-eats-in-a-day ) talks about what Venus eats in a day. It includes chicken breast salad. Another article mentions her eating egg white omelettes.

The conclusion from this is that it is not clear what type of raw vegan diet Venus ate or whether she was ever truly raw or vegan at all. It would seem that this is another article throwing negative light on a the raw vegan diet, when it seems clear that the person in question did not even follow this diet.

Big Mistake: Blaming The Diet Instead Of Looking At What The Person Is Actually Eating

This is a big mistake even experienced raw vegan educators make. When someone comes to them saying they are experiencing challenges on a raw vegan diet, they can be too quick to look into potential deficiencies and other issues that are very unlikely to be the real reason that the person is experiencing challenges on a raw vegan diet.

Usually, we just have to look further into what the person is actually eating to realise either that they are not eating a raw vegan diet, or that the diet they are eating is not a sufficient raw vegan diet.

However, if Venus did go raw vegan and felt it was not substantial enough it is most likely the case that she made one of the biggest errors that many people make when they try to eat a raw vegan diet.

The Most Likely Mistake Made

It is likely that she simply did not eat enough calories. This can particularly be the case if someone focuses on green juices and salads and forget that in order to get the carbohydrates we require for optimal performance we must make fruit the focus of our raw vegan diet.

Our suggestion to Venus and to all athletes would be:

The next time you go raw, make sure to eat enough fruit to fuel you adequately for success!