At the age of 35, you’d expect Jermain Defoe to be winding down his top-flight football career.
But the Bournemouth FC striker says he can see no reason why he won’t keep playing in the top tier until his early 40s after dramatically reducing his meat intake and favouring a vegan diet.
The England ace, who became a national hero after befriending cancer-stricken young fan Bradley Lowery, says he was the only player not to get an injury at his last club, Sunderland, last season – something he puts down to his new diet.
Jermain Defoe opened up about his almost-vegan lifestyle, which he credits with extending his Premier League football career
Unfortunately his new lifestyle didn’t prevent him from being ruled out for up to 10 weeks just before Christmas after fracturing his ankle during a tackle against a Chelsea defender in the League Cup quarter-finals.
But otherwise, devout Christian Defoe says he now has more energy than ever since cutting down his meat intake, revealing he never feels lethargic or bloated anymore. He believes it will prolong his career.
Defoe, who has made a new film with Ben Fogle for Quorn about veganism, says anyone has the potential to benefit from a vegan lifestyle, as it potentially could be the secret to better fitness levels.
‘I started [cutting down on meat] and I realised I felt different in terms of energy,’ Defoe, who lives with his girlfriend Rachel, said.
Jermain Defoe won Premier League Goal of the Month for December on Friday. He’s since been ruled out for up to 10 weeks after fracturing his ankle just before Christmas
Jermain Defoe became a national hero last year for his sweet friendship with cancer-stricken Bradley Lowery, who tragically died last year
‘I wasn’t getting any muscle injuries, and I was noticing a difference in my skin.’
He added: ‘The Premier League nowadays is so tough and game goes so fast, you can be out on the pitch and pick up little muscle injuries.
Typical meal plan for Jermain on match day
Porridge, with almond milk, mixed berries and cashew nut butter.
Pasta and baked beans.
Protein shake and a (vegan) pizza. Maybe a sticky toffee pudding!
On a non-match day: vegan Mexican tacos or a Quorn burger.
‘But last season I played every single game and I didn’t get a single muscle injury. I think I was the only player in the whole squad, and I’m one of the senior players.’
Defoe, who only eats salmon once or twice a week but is otherwise vegan, added: ‘I just feel like I can play for as long as I can.
‘I’ll always be honest with myself and listen to my body but if you look after your body, it looks after you.
‘This is me sending a message out to the younger players to say, if you can do what I am doing, and think about what you are eating, then they could play into their late 30s and early 40s.’
Defoe has even convinced his family and even some of his teammates, including striker Benik Afobe, to try cutting down meat and eating more vegan fare.
Defoe’s mainly plant-based diet signals a new era for football, one where players aren’t afraid to eschew a macho culture for wellness practices once associated only with women.
Defoe does Pilates twice a week, as well as yoga, in order to stay healthy – and he says more and more footballers are now taking up the exercises.
Jermain has teamed up with Ben Fogle (left) to make a film for Quorn about how to cut down on meat and a vegan lifestyle
Jermain continues to play in the Premier League with Bournemouth FC, despite being classed as a veteran striker at the age of 35. He hopes to continue playing in the top-flight for years to come, thanks to his near-vegan lifestyle
‘When I first went to yoga, there would only be four players in there, now there’s eight players in there.
‘I get no grief. They’d get it back anyway!
‘People used to make a big deal over gay footballers, but I always believe you shouldn’t judge people anyway, and people should live their life how they wanna live their life.’
Defoe also does cryotherapy: a treatment where your body is subjected to extreme cold temperatures of up to 160C.
Some sportsmen swear by it, as does Defoe, who says it gives him ‘instant muscle recovery’.
Jermain, who was lauded for his sweet friendship with Bradley Lowery (pictured) landed a spot on the England squad again last year despite being well into his 30s, something he puts down to his vegan diet
Jermain also does yoga and pilates every week, as well as cryotherapy, all in a bid to prolong his career for as long as possible
All these wellness practices ensure that Defoe remains at the top of his game.
He said: ‘Sometimes I play two games a week, and a lot of players in their 30s wouldn’t play two games a week.’
Jermain says he doesn’t have fewer calories even though he has cut out almost all meat from his diet, and still carb loads.
And despite cutting out chocolate from his diet, he still indulges in his favourite sticky toffee pudding from time to time.
But does he ever miss meat?
‘I don’t miss any meat really,’ he said.
‘I used to go to my mum’s and have nice bit of lamb in my Sunday Roast but now I wouldn’t even be tempted even if my family have it.’
He added: ‘I don’t even feel like I’m fatigued at the end of a season. I’m 35!
‘I honestly believe it’s down to my diet.’
Jermain Defoe has partnered with Ben Fogle and Quorn to explore how meat reduction can be healthier for you and the planet. Watch their film at quorn.co.uk/whats-new.