A vegan diet has transformed Newcastle athlete kelly Benson

BEFORE: Kelly Benson with about 23 per cent body fat prior to becoming a vegan, which the athlete claims has transformed his performance.

BEFORE: Kelly Benson with about 23 per cent body fat prior to becoming a vegan, which the athlete claims has transformed his performance.

Macquarie Scorpions A-grade rugby league player Kelly Benson went vegan two years ago and has not looked back. 

In that time, the 23-year-old has dropped 10 per cent off his body fat and made gains, both on and off the field which he attributes to a plant-based diet.  

“I was carrying extra baggage, which was dead weight. Dropping the fat, I felt a lot more mobile,” Benson said. 

“I have quicker turn around times with recovery; less sore the day after.”

The result for the young footballer, who aspires to one day play for the Newcastle Knights, is he has moved from playing in the forward pack to hooker.

“The new position (hooker) is generally a person who will play 80 minutes and run the furthest on the field,” Benson said.

“The hooker position is very demanding.” 

His coaches are shaking their heads in wonder because his results are defying traditional wisdom about the most suitable diet for athletes. 

AFTER: Kelly Benson 12 months into his vegan lifestyle at about 12 per cent body fat. He is now leaner, fitter and faster than when he ate animal products.

AFTER: Kelly Benson 12 months into his vegan lifestyle at about 12 per cent body fat. He is now leaner, fitter and faster than when he ate animal products.

“They are seeing me, one of the fittest guys in the team, thriving on a plant-based diet,” Benson said. “It’s unexplored and there hasn’t been a enough awareness about the benefits of a plant-based diet.”

It was his sister Airlie, 17, who first planted the seed about veganism. 

“She has been a vegetarian since she was 11 and went vegan at 13,” Benson said. “During all that time I was giving her a lot of grief about it.

“Me and my brother were the typical boofhead footy players ... protein, protein, red meat mindset.

“Every dinner she copped it from us. But I get it now.

“She started tagging me into all these vegan posts and after years of seeing that, it sunk in.” 

“One morning something clicked about the sort of food I was putting into my body and I went cold turkey on the spot.”

Benson’s partner Georgia Sciberras, also a vegan, was also an influence on his decision. 

Despite not eating meat or dairy, Benson said vegan food was flavoursome and easy to prepare. 

“A lot of it was quite easy, instead of mince I would just throw in lentils,” he said. “I realised meat is actually quite bland.”

He said his anxiety had also improved because the lifestyle had made him more mindful about his actions.  

Another unexpected improvement was two weeks after transitioning to a vegan diet his snoring stopped. 

Benson, who is also a chef, runs a businesses selling vegan food at Newcastle Farmer’s Market and has just launched a new business, Newcastle Vegan Eats.

The business home delivers vegan meals in the Newcastle area.