Dean Howell is a former professional English football player who is recognized as one of the first soccer players in the UK to go vegan. He made the switch back in 2005 before documentaries like The Game Changers were shining a spotlight on plant-based athletes around the globe. Although Howell always felt considerably healthy before he adopted a vegan diet he says that it took his career and lifestyle one step further.
The Beet chatted with Dean Howell to uncover what it meant to be a professional athlete and a vegan in 2005 when the diet was unfamiliar to many. He talked about the hardships he went through when coaches and managers did not believe in the diet or his passion to create a health and nutrition company, Raw Sport, which sells protein powder, supplements and eventually will have a clothing line.
As a result of eating plant-based, Howell’s athletic performance improved and he was able to recover faster whenever he had a minor injury. Now he eats a whole-food, high alkaline diet, and has eliminated all soy-based products because he believes they were slowing him down. High alkaline foods have a pH level of over 7.365 and are believed to help reduce the risk of diseases since cancer in the lab does not grow in alkaline conditions. The popularity of alkaline diets has grown in the past few months and people are now using it to lower their risk of disease and to lose weight. Alkaline foods are fruits, vegetables, legumes and plants. The most important thing is to avoid foods that are acidic, or with a pH level are below 4.6, which are processed foods, those high in sugar, and meat.
Howell describes high alkaline food as “water-based” (such as fruit) because water increases pH levels and helps the body find balance. The athlete shares what he eats in a day and a go-to plant protein-packed smoothie for energy and fuel.
Here’s How to Eat to Avoid Injury, and Recover Faster, from a Pro Who Knows
Q: How long have you been vegan and what made you start?
DH: “I went vegan when I was 24 years old. I’m 36 now so I’ve been vegan for 12 years. At the time when I was 24, I was fit and healthy but I felt something was missing on a physical level, which then I discovered when I went completely vegan.
“I lost my Nana to breast cancer and felt encouraged to research nutrition and lifestyle on my own. I attended seminars and listened to people speak about diets and health, then came upon the conclusion that I needed to try a plant-based diet. I started slowly, and I recommend doing this for anyone who wants to start a plant-based journey. First, I cut out cheese and dairy and I felt so much better and recovered from injury faster. Once I felt the results, I gave up meat and fish. I realized my body reacts to soy in a negative way, so I don’t eat any soy-baed products, instead, I eat a whole food plant-based diet, foods that are high in alkaline.
“After my experiences, I was considered the World’s second professional football player and faced…