Eight times world champion and pioneer of the sport
David Meyer has competed for years at the top of the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Over the years he has won numerous international titles at the top level and is recognised as a pioneer of the sport as one of the first non-Brazilian to achieve black belt. One of the most impressive things about David is that into his 50s he competes against top class opponents in their 20s.
His competition achievements include World Championship Gold medals, four American National Golds, an American Open Gold and two Pan American Golds, among others. All of these were achieved as a vegan.
David is proud of his success in competition, although his black belts are valued too. “Being awarded black belts in different styles is a big deal. One of the biggest was getting my black belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu. I was one of the first 10 people outside Brazil to get a black belt in BJJ and was known as one of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ – the first non Brazilians to get a black belt. It’s very hard to get a black belt from outside Brazil and it was harder back then.”
“Another was being the first American to win a medal in a Black belt competition in Brazil competition. I’ve won various World Championships and each one of those are very proud moments for me, but really it’s just the culmination of a lot of hard work.”
David has a strong belief in the rights of animals which led him ultimately towards veganism.
“I heard about vegetarianism at college and tried vegetarianism. I started working for animal advocacy and people pointed out the hypocrisy of working for animals and eating animal products. Someone called milk ‘liquid meat and that really got me thinking.”
David is also gluten-free, which he describes as unrelated to veganism but something that works for him as he feels better. “I never eat animal products when I’m travelling and I travel a lot.” He explains. This can mean that he sometimes eats a non-ideal meal, maybe a baked potato or salad when on the move. When cooking for himself his diet is more varied and healthy.
“I eat a lot of everything – a well rounded diet. A lot of quinoa, tofu, fresh vegetables, salads, fruits and grain. Every morning I eat rolled oats with blueberries, walnuts, bananas, raisins, soy or almond milk. I love Thai and Ethiopian food.”
Outside his sport, David has also been keen to assist animals further by starting Adopt-a-Pet.com. This is now the world largest non profit companion animal adoption website. “We assist 15000 animal shelters in North America to help get their pets into good homes. It’s just an outgrowth of my love for all animals.”
He also started Fuel for the fighter.com, a website highlighting fighters eating no or reduced amounts of animal products. “I wanted people to see that you could be a tough fighter and eat less or no meat. I try to give good information and not tell people they have to be vegan but just that they can eat less animal products.”
The world of BJJ is very receptive to vegetarian and vegan diets and David doesn’t come across the prejudice that some sports people experience. Many of his training partners eat plant based diets, including some professional MMA fighters. Part of this is due to the legacy of the founding father of BJJ.
“Brazillian Jui Jitsu was started the Gracie family by Helio and Carlos Gracie” David explained. “Carlos was a nutritionist and created the Gracie diet which was largely vegetarian so most BJJ black bets are familiar with veganism and many black belts are vegan.”
Had this not been the case, David’s exceptional performance into his 50s would surely have endorsed his choices. “One of the reasons I’ve got fairly good is that I’m able to train longer and a lot of that I attribute to my vegan diet” he explains. And David is not looking to slow down at any time soon.
“I am 52 years old and still competing at the highest levels in my age group and I frequently compete in younger age groups. My hope is to stay healthy and continue training. I want to find ways to train with good partners that keep my body feeling good and keep my injury free.”
Another hope is that more people recognise the value and validity of a vegan diet. “I hope that as more and more people hear about veganism they will be open to considering it and realise that it’s a natural and smart way to eat. I hope people will be brave enough to speak for themselves and recognise that as we evolve and learn more about ourselves they will be open to being smart and re-evaluating things they learned when they were kids that were wrong. When they look at consumption of animals they will learn that animals have a right to live.”
“You’ll be healthier, it’s much better for the environment, much better use of natural resources, and to me, it’s the single best thing that any human being can do on their own, to eat less, and ultimately no animal products.”