It’s not an exaggeration to say Venus Williams, who went pro at 14-years-old, changed the face of tennis—and she’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Now 39, the tennis champion and entrepreneur (who has seven Grand Slam titles and two companies under her belt) continues to perform at an elite level on all fronts. These days, she puts most of her energy into her activewear line, EleVen, which is all about empowering women to kill it on and off the court.
How does Venus keep her endless hot streak going, though? She says her diet deserves a lot of the credit.
“I started eating raw and vegan for health reasons,” Venus tells Women’s Health. “I needed to fuel my body in the best way possible.” (She’s previously opened up about having Sjogren’s syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease that comes with fatigue, muscles aches, and joint pain.) “Knowing how important a role my diet plays keeps me on track,” she says.
Venus leaves room for a little flexibility, though. “I try to make the majority of my meals raw and vegan, but I’m only human and am known to cheat a little bit. I joke that I’m a ‘chegan’ because sometimes I’ve been known to stray.”
Here’s exactly what the tennis legend eats to fuel her training and entrepreneurial ventures.
For Venus, mornings are focused on training. “I’m not a morning person or a big breakfast eater,” Venus tells Women’s Health. “I do need some fuel to get me going, but find it hard to scarf down a big meal first thing when I wake up, so I’ll usually have something light like fruit or a protein shake.”
Since Venus’ calendar is often jam-packed during the day, she switches up her lunch as needed, often opting for mobile meals like smoothies when time is tight. “Depending on how much time I have for lunch and what my schedule looks like, lunch can vary from sweet potatoes and rice to a green smoothie,” she says.
“Eating is part of the job when I’m competing, so I make sure to get some protein and carbs,” she says. “After a match, I’ll usually have a protein shake with a plant-based milk and protein powder and then eat a real meal shortly after.”
Snacks (and lots of them!) also help Venus get through hectic days. “I’m often running from multiple practices to meetings for EleVen or calls with my design company, V Starr, so I am always looking for little things that are easy to bring on-the-go,” she says. “Clif Bars are great when I’m super busy; they are small-but-mighty and fill me up quickly.” (Venus is a Clif Bar athlete, but she’s been a fan since long before the deal.)
Otherwise, Venus loads her snacks with greens and veggies. “You’ll often find me snacking on kale chips in meetings,” she says. “Green juice and smoothies—and protein shakes, if I’m coming straight from practice—are also my go-to’s. I need foods that are tasty and convenient, but still pack a punch and keep me going, whether I’m on the court or in a meeting.”
In the evening, Venus usually goes for a salad. “For dinner, I love vegan Caesar salads because they are super easy,” Venus told Women’s Health. “I can whip it up quickly whether I’m at home or in a hotel room at a tournament.”
Venus isn’t the only one on the vegan train. These other icons swear by eating only plants, too:
Venus’ sweet tooth might rival her powerful swing, but she’s found healthy swaps to satisfy it with. “When I’m training I really try to practice self-control, but sometimes a girl just needs a donut!” she says. “I have found it’s easier to curb those cravings by finding foods that are still sweet but also healthy, like a juice or a smoothie.” Okay, Venus may really be the smoothie queen.
One of her favorite smoothies: a “Green-Colada,” which she makes with pineapple, canned coconut milk, coconut oil, a little vanilla flavoring, and kale. “Sometimes I’ll have some fun and put a rum or prosecco floater on top,” she says. “Work hard, play hard!”
Venus’ ultimate eating MO: “It’s all about moderation. Life is too short to not love what you’re eating.” Right on, Venus. Right on.
Venus Williams’ Must-Haves For Hectic Days
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