A few years back, when I was still toying with the idea of making the switch to a plant based vegan diet, I came across an awesome blog called “No Meat Athlete” written by Matt Frazier. I was immediately hooked. I read through the archives and bookmarked posts on grocery lists and plant based proteins to refer back to them.
I wrote him an email about my concerns about getting enough protein through my marathon training. An email I’d be willing to bet he gets a few times a week. An email that I now often get. Regardless, Matt’s kind and very helpful response was perhaps my final push to “go vegan”.
Matt’s first book, No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self, was released today.
I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions…
Tori: When making the decision to go plant based, your blog (NoMeatAthlete.com) was a major source of encouragement for me. It gave me the reassurance that I could be both an endurance athlete and vegan. What inspired you to “go vegan”?
Matt: A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that my decision to go vegetarian (and then vegan) was driven by ethics first. In fact, the reason I didn’t go vegetarian sooner was that I thought I could never keep up my marathon training without the calories and protein from meat! I was training to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the time and thought the decision to go vegetarian would also be the the decision to give up on Boston. But I couldn’t seem to put diet out of my mind; I just didn’t feel right about eating animals anymore. So I started to learn about the long-term health benefits of a plant-based diet, I wondered if maybe I could make it work for running, too … and that’s how my blog started, as an experiment, really.
Tori: You recently ran 100 mile race — like a boss. What was your go-to nutrition during your training?
Matt: Yeah, the 100 was quite an experience! I actually really enjoyed all the training — it was nice to have an excuse to run slowly and just put on some music or an audiobook and chill out for 20 or 25 miles. I ate a lot of dates during my runs; I learned from Michael Arnstein (the Fruitarian) that they’re essentially nature’s energy gel, and my stomach tolerates them so much better.
Outside of running, though, I ate more whole foods than ever before — it wasn’t a deliberate training decision; I just sort of stopped wanting anything processed. So lots of beans, nuts, rice, salads, fruits, raw and cooked vegetables like broccoli and kale, and each day a smoothie with seeds, nuts, fruits and greens and all sorts of high-energy foods in them (no protein powder for the most part, though). It’s amazing how good all of that stuff starts to taste once you get used to it! And I really believe eating this way played a big part in my not having any injury issues during the training or the race itself.
Tori: Writing a book is a dream of most bloggers, what made this the right time for you to write yours?
Matt: I think it comes down to experience, and as a result, confidence. Like I said, when I started my blog — only four and a half years ago — it was an experiment. I knew a lot about running and nutrition, and I loved cooking, but I didn’t know the first thing about being a vegetarian or vegan. Now that it’s been close to five years, I’ve learned how to live this way, not just proving to myself in the process that this diet can work for running a fast marathon or an ultramarathon, but also figuring how to make this lifestyle work with a family and running a business and everything else. And that’s a message I really wanted to get out into the world — that you can be vegan without your whole life having to revolve around your diet, so you have the time and energy to enjoy all sorts of other passions and hobbies, including being an athlete.
Tori: Tell us a little about your new book, No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self.
Matt: The easiest way I’ve found to describe it is as a guidebook, cookbook, and training manual for anyone who wants to eat a plant-based diet and be fit and active. I made sure to include information for beginners who want to know, say, how to transition to a plant-based diet or run a first 5K, but also for people who are more advanced and want to improve their diet and understand what and when to eat around their workouts. The training plans and detailed discussions are in the context of running, since that’s what I do, but my hope is that people will apply the principles to other sports as well.
Tori: You said you wrote this book to appeal to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. What is one message you hope ALL readers will take away from this book?
Matt: That the key to health — in terms of both short-term performance in sports and long-term disease prevention — is a diet based on whole foods. Most of which are plants. Even if you have no desire to be vegetarian or vegan, you can still benefit from this advice. And the good news — and perhaps where my approach has its biggest strength — is that eating this way doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t have to feel extreme, and you can make it work with your lifestyle. And when you do, your health, the planet’s health, and the well-being of animals will change for the better.
I’ve had a chance to read through this book and had a hard time putting it down. I love how it breaks down nutrition and plant based eating in a simple, easy to understand way, while still really getting into the issues. As Matt said, it’s a guide book of sorts for anyone who is curious about plant based eating. A training manual including plans from 5K to half marathon. And a cook book with some awesome vegan meals. Want to know how to make your own energy gel? You’ll find it in Matt’s book. Curious what the difference between plant-based, raw foods, whole foods, and vegan foods are? There’s a chapter on that. And the “how do you get your protein” question? There is a very detailed answer to that question, as well as a list of protein sources.
Also, sprinkled throughout the pages of the book are stories from real life people. Like this one…
Yep, that me!
The idea of it still makes me giddy. I was at a Veggie Grill in Portland after the Wine County Half Marathon wearing my “No Meat Athlete” shirt. A woman (Hi Marybeth!) approached and asked if I knew Matt had a book coming out soon. I was so excited to not only be able to say yes, but to also mention that I’d made a small contribution to it.
Thank you Matt for letting me share my story!