Most people assume linebacker is synonymous with carnivore. How else is a person supposed to bulk up enough to fend off massive offensive linemen? Steaks and protein shakes seem like the only viable options. But back in 2014, NFL Defensive Lineman David Carter broke the mold.

Despite being 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 310 pounds, Carter made the switch to an entirely plant-based diet. Although he has since stepped away from the game, he continues to run an organization called The 300-Pound Vegan and speaks at animal rights and food justice events throughout the country.

I know you're probably wondering – how does a 300-pound guy go from Arizona Cardinal to vegan activist? Here's how:

Why Did He Go Vegan?

Carter made the decision to go plant-based as a Valentine's Day present to his longtime-vegan wife. After watching a documentary called Forks Over Knives, he learned that animal-based foods are linked to countless ailments and injuries.

Mere months after cutting animal products from his diet, Carter was free of the tendonitis, inflammation, scar tissue, nerve damage, and chronic muscle fatigue that had been bothering him throughout his career. He also feels more energized, sleeps better, and recovers more quickly.  

Now he shares this life-changing experience via The 300-Pound Vegan organization, in which he not only promotes veganism as a whole, but also focuses on bringing more people of color into the vegan movement. 

What Does He Eat?

Protein isn't a problem for Carter, who has been able to maintain his athletic build through plant-power alone. NFL linemen need up to 10,000 calories and 400 grams of protein a day, and Carter tackles this with ease. His reliance on vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes is more than enough to build muscle. 

He includes a sample meal plan on his website featuring plenty of options since he eats three large meals and at least three major snacks everyday. 

He typically starts the day with energizing oatmeal, an avocado and quinoa-stuffed breakfast burrito, scrambled veggies, or a loaded smoothie bowl

This is followed by a sprouted grain-based lunch: brown rice, millet, quinoa, or couscous with black beans and roasted vegetables, and sometimes stuffed into bell peppers or crunchy tacos.

Vegan chili, spinach salad, and minestrone soup, are often components of Carter's dinners. Sweet potato and black bean burgers, coconut chickpea curry, tofu teriyaki stir-fry, and plant-powered pad thai are some of his go-to main courses.

He snacks on a variety of fruits and nuts, coconut yogurt, hummus and veggies, and whole wheat crackers throughout the day, and, instead of traditional protein shakes, he drinks smoothies enhanced with hemp and spirulina supplements. Another one of his favorite vegan alternatives is cashew cheese, and he swore by sweet potatoes, dates, chia seeds, and beets on game day.

So instead of speculating about the dietary restrictions of vegans, now you can start paying attention to what your own body needs. If you experience any of the same symptoms that Carter described, maybe cutting back on animal products is worth considering. Based on Carter's mouthwatering meal plan, replacing meat and dairy with plants seems like an upgrade rather than a sacrifice anyway.