Sports | July 23, 2020 6:30 am

Is Cam Newton’s Vegan Diet Hurting His NFL Career?

Newton is the face of PETA's new "Built Like a Vegan" campaign

Is Cam Newton's Vegan Diet Hurting His NFL Career?
Cam Newton's vegan diet has drawn criticism in some circles. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Getty Images

Cam Newton, who is tentatively expected to start for the Patriots after signing a one-year contract with New England last month, was unveiled as the face of PETA’s new “Built Like a Vegan” campaign earlier this week.

“I’ve seen such a remarkable change in the way my body responds to the food that I eat,” Newton said in an exclusive PETA interview tied to the campaign.

However, as some have pointed out, the way Newton’s body has responded since he switched to a vegan diet in February of 2019 hasn’t exactly been a positive development for him.

In a Charlotte Observer piece written last September after Newton played two poor games for the Panthers to begin the 2019 season (both losses), author Brendan Marks theorized the quarterback’s vegan diet may have been hurting his play and ability to recover from a lingering foot injury that ended up costing him the rest of the year.

According to sports nutritionists, dietitians and trainers Marks spoke with for the piece, a plant-based diet like Newton’s may not provide his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame with enough calories, leading to deficiencies in vitamin B6 and B12 that can contribute to weakness and fatigue.

Prior to being vegan, the winner of the 2015 NFL’s Most Valuable Player award was a pescatarian, a diet that perhaps suited him better, according to certified nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach Chris Howard.

“Go back to 2015 Cam, badass Cam. He was a pescatarian,” Howard told The Observer. “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.”

Essentially, the argument is that while a vegan diet can be a healthy lifestyle choice for the majority of people, it specifically doesn’t make sense for Newton because of the violent hits he takes and his need to recover from injuries quickly and efficiently.

Of course, there are many athletes who have had success with vegan diets like Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul as well as Tyrann Mathieu, Le’Veon Bell and Devin Funchess, all of whom have also teamed with PETA in the past. (Another noted vegan, NBA star Kyrie Irving, has had two of his last three seasons end early due to injury.)

There’s even a film presented by James Cameron that showcases how plant-based food can provide an edge in the gym and on the field for athletes in addition to providing benefits at home so, clearly, there are differences of opinion about the matter.

Regardless of what is on his menu at home, Newton should be able to beat out 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and 11-year veteran Brian Hoyer in training camp if he’s healthy. And, if Newton’s able to do that and return to something close to the form that helped him win MVP in 2015, that’ll go a long way to silencing any lingering concerns about his diet, whether they are legitimate or not.

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