New England Patriots' Lawrence Guy: Vegan diet has prolonged my career

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots starting defensive tackle Lawrence Guy is on the other end of the telephone, and he's discussing how he's preparing his meals for the start of training camp July 28.

Spaghetti squash.

Cauliflower hash browns.

Spiralized zucchini.

Broccoli chips.

Raw peach cobbler.

A green shake with carrots, chickpeas, kale and spinach.

Beans and quinoa.

Guy, 31, is passionate about his primarily vegan-based diet. So passionate, in fact, that he believes it's a primary factor in how he has lasted 10 seasons in the NFL and was able to sign a four-year contract in March with a base value of $11.5 million, and $4 million guaranteed.

"I've been eating vegan in the offseason for many years," Guy said, pinpointing 2012-13 as the starting point, with his wife, Andrea, leading him in that direction. "To me, it's an aspect of replacing things with a healthier way of living. It has helped me fully recover and just flush the body out.

"You get beat up on this field every day. Your body needs nutrition more than ever to recover. What's the best way to do that? I think it's plant-based. All you're doing is prolonging your career in a certain way."

Guy, who was selected as a first-time Patriots captain in 2020, has authored an underdog story coming out of Arizona State. He was picked by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round of the 2011 draft and spent the early years of his career on injured reserve and the practice squad, before bouncing around with the Indianapolis Colts (2012-13), then-San Diego Chargers (2013-14) and Baltimore Ravens (2014-16).

The Patriots identified him as an undervalued asset and signed him to a four-year, $20 million contract in 2017. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Guy then put together an impressive four-year stretch that landed him a spot on the media-selected Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team.

Guy's arrival in New England coincided with important alterations to his vegan diet.

"When I got there, I was probably 300 pounds. Knowing the position I was playing, and the style they play, I knew I had to gain a little more weight," he explained. "I'm not one of those people who struggle keeping weight off, but it's always a challenge to put on more weight. So when training camp hits, I have to watch how much I eat to make sure I maintain the weight, because I don't want to drop at all."

Guy credits a food service specializing in vegan cooking as instrumental. He likes seeing the full recipes, identifying those which help him maintain weight compared to those that might promote weight loss. He also appreciates the flexibility to substitute certain ingredients (e.g., he's not a fan of tofu).

Such substitution often sparks conversations with his Patriots teammates, such as fellow defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. and quarterback Cam Newton.

Guy recently gifted Wise, who also has endorsed a vegan diet, a cookbook of some of his favorite recipes.

"We had an hourlong conversation on which vegan pancakes were the best -- 'this mixture is better than that mixture.' And we pulled up pictures in our pantry," Guy said with a laugh.

As for Newton, the conversation began when Guy told him he had some extra plant-based meat substitute that wouldn't fit in his freezer, and he was curious if Newton wanted it. Newton, who has publicly advocated the benefits of a vegan diet, told Guy his joints don't hurt as much.

Guy has noticed the same thing himself, in addition to having more energy.

"I chose to go more toward a vegan-style diet to get a full recovery. The plant-based protein, it's amazing what you can do. You don't need animal protein all the time to gain strength and recover," he said.

"Protein from chicken, fish, cows or bison, your body has to break that down. But when it comes to these vegetables and grains, the body doesn't need to break down as much and as hard, so it constantly gets all the nutrition from it."

Guy doesn't call himself a "full vegan" because there are still times he incorporates meat into his diet, which he said is a result of his position as a defensive tackle.

But his passion for the topic -- such as a simple decision to substitute chips with a fresh pepper cut into slices as a snack -- is a result of how he believes it has changed his life.

"I used to eat so much meat, I would bloat. Once I substituted other stuff in there, the bloating came out," he said. "So I always tell people, 'don't be afraid to try something new.' You never know what's life-changing."