Fueling up with Plants with No Meat Athlete’s Matt Frazier

October 28, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have on the show with us today Matt Frazier. He’s the owner, founder, and author of No Meat Athlete and NoMeatAthlete.com. Welcome to Green is Good, Matt Frazier. MATT FRAZIER: Thanks, John. I’m excited to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re excited to have you on. As our listeners out there know, I am a vegan and not only am I a vegan, I also like to work out every day, and I’m a big fan of yours, Matt, and I read your blog, NoMeatAthlete.com. I’m on it right now. For our listeners out there, NoMeatAthlete.com. It’s one of the better vegan plant-based logs out there just giving real life tips but before we get to your great website and blog and your upcoming book, share a little bit about the Matt Frazier story. You are an athlete. You’re a vegan. You’ve done so much in your young life. Share a little bit how you even got to this place. MATT FRAZIER: Sure. I’d be happy to and I guess the first thing to point out is that although I am an athlete, I’m by no means an elite athlete or a professional athlete or anything like that. I’m a regular guy who got into running and ended up getting into serious running. I’m actually training for a 100-mile race right now but it’s been step by step and I’m not gifted with any particular athletic talent or anything like that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re a humble man, but anyone who runs 100 miles I call an elite athlete. You and I can have a difference on that one but we’re so thrilled that you’re on. Share a little bit how you’ve come to this point. MATT FRAZIER: Sure. My childhood growing up was very typical, standard American diet. We had a cholesterol scare one day from the doctors and we all had to stop eating hot dogs and whatever else but within a year, we were back to the hot dogs and everything else so it was very, very typical and then in college, for some reason, I just started to think about fitness and bought a diet book. Body for Life was the book, not vegetarian or vegan at all, just typical diet, and got into just general fitness and lifting with my friends and then one day, we were like, ‘Let’s all try to lose some fat. Let’s all run a marathon,’ and that was like our way to lose fat that we decided and it turned out to be a pretty bad idea. We all got hurt in the training and just did horribly essentially but something about that lit a spark in me and I realized how much I love setting a goal like that. A marathon is 26.2 miles, for those who don’t know, and we weren’t runners when we started but we did it and we all did cross the finish line as ugly as it was and from then on, I was just kind of addicted to it and I decided I wanted to do more and more and I had a few dogs after college and I just started thinking about animals and I just kind of decided that I didn’t want to eat them, just didn’t quite feel right about it, but I had this thought in my head that there’s no way I can do that and still be an athlete, like, I can’t be a serious marathoner and be vegetarian. It’s just not possible. That’s what I thought at the time. Gradually, I became convinced that it was possible and that going vegetarian or vegan in the long term, at least, probably would have a big benefit on my health so I just decided to sort of take the plunge and I said I was going to start a blog about it and kind of journal my transition here and talk about what’s happening. I was sure it would be interesting to some people and it built a following and then just kind of went from there so gradually, I’ve shifted to be amore about teaching as I’ve really learned about this but when it started, it was really just an experiment and I was learning about it just like everybody else reading the blog. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What year did you start that? MATT FRAZIER: That was 2009, so about four years ago. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. That is so great. So, talk a little bit about your blog. I’m on it right now, NoMeatAthlete.com. It’s wonderful. I read it. Whenever it comes out, I always make it a must read. Talk a little bit about what do you put in it besides the obvious mix of fitness and plant-based diet? MATT FRAZIER: I talk about some running tips, training tips, a lot of recipes. I used to put a lot of recipes up. I don’t post quite so many anymore but just lots of nutrition articles, different things like that but what I think makes it unique, and I think people are kind of starting to catch on to this, is my approach to kind of spreading this message about the plant-based diet. I’ve never been the type that was influenced by the militant vegan crowd, people who would kind of shove it down your throat, and I’m not saying that they’re doing the wrong thing. There are probably people who would respond to that but I never did and in fact, that kept me away from this for a long time. That was one of my big hesitations of getting into it was I don’t want to be like that so I really have strived to make the tone as friendly as possible, as no pressure as possible and I just want it to be fun and friendly and I want this diet and this whole message to be something that’s thought of as a fun thing, not this cold, scary, militant thing that makes you seem so different if you’re vegan. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Talk a little bit about being a vegan or a vegetarian or a plant-based eater and fitness and running and just practicing in athletics because it’s now coming out more and more that you can be a very good athlete and you won’t lose performance. You won’t lose strength if you’re living on a plant-based diet. Talk about your own experience and experience of others you’ve highlighted on your great blog. MATT FRAZIER: Sure. Like I said, I was hesitant to do this because I thought it was going to just destroy my marathon training and I decided that I just wanted to. I was going to do it no matter what and just see what happened and amazingly to me, like a month after I made this switch, I went for a run, a twelve mile run, like a very standard loop that I had done, and I ran it about 30 seconds faster than I had ever run that 12 miles before. Now, I don’t like to say it’s automatically because of the diet and that’s the only reason I did it just because there could have been other factors and I think that could be a huge improvement but I think that said a lot to me and that told me that this was working and I kind of just kept going at it and I had my best training summer ever that summer and was able to do a hard workout and get out there the next day or two days later and recover in a way that I hadn’t before. I think partly this is due to weight loss. I lost about 5 pounds and I’m only 140 pounds to begin with, so 5 pounds off of that frame is a lot and when you’re running a marathon distance, that makes a big difference in weight so I think the weight loss improved recovery. I think that can go a really long way for endurance sports but you’re even seeing people in the speed and strength sports like the mixed martial arts. They’re even doing this diet now, I think for the recovery benefits and it just seems like what everyone thought was like a you can’t get enough protein issue, it seems like that is, first of all, completely false, and second, even if it were true, it would just be so far outweighed by the benefits that come from eating all those fresh vegetables and fruits and I think typically, people just don’t make room for those on their plate when they eat a standard diet that’s full of meat just because meat takes up so many calories and fills you up so much that when you eliminate it, there’s all of a sudden room for all these other foods and this variety of whole fresh foods, and I really think that’s what the difference. As opposed to eliminating these other products, I think it’s more about bringing in more fruits and vegetables. That’s just my preference, John. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We would love to talk about on the show we have so many questions and I’m going to have you back on, obviously, when your book comes out. By the way, your great book coming out is called No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self, and we’re going to have you back in the studio to talk about that when you go on your book tour later this year but before we even get to that great development in your professional life and personal life, can you share with our listeners some solutions? Because you’re always so practical on your blog, there’s listeners out there right now that want to start moving towards a plant-based life. Can you give four or five ideas to help move our listeners towards that if they’re just thinking about it and you want to give them some practical windows of opportunity to step through? MATT FRAZIER: Yeah, absolutely, and I can speak to this well because I actually tried to go vegetarian once before the time that it actually stuck so I went once and it lasted about a week and I failed miserably so I’ve seen what failed and I saw what was successful and I have since seen the same things in other people and I think really, the most important thing that I can recommend is to go about it gradually. I know our temptation is to want to do it all at once and we’ll get massively inspired to go vegan so everyone will eliminate the meat and the dairy and everything from their diet at once, which I think it’s great to be that excited about something. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the thing that makes change last for most people so I think the more gradually you can do it, the better and what I actually did, and I’m not saying you need to spend quite this long on it, but I spent an entire year where I wasn’t eating just red meat so I just cut out beef and any kind of four-legged animal. That was my thing, no beef, no pigs and then for about three months after that, I decided there would be no two-legged animals and then from there, I was left with fish, which of course, zero legs, and then no more fish, so I think lessening the legs on the animal that you’re eating, for me, that worked well and then from there, I went to vegan over the course of another year or two so it’s been very, very, very gradual for me. I’m not saying you need to take that long but I think it’s really helpful to just have a plan like that and say. ‘I’m going to do this over the course of, say, a month,’ rather than doing it all now because when you try to do it all right away, the problem is first of all, you’re not used to that so your body is going to react somewhat strangely perhaps if you do a drastic change and you’re going to have cravings and all sorts of things and second of all, you won’t have time to plan for each step. You won’t really know what’s in store for you so my reason I failed when I tried to do this the first time all at once was because I didn’t plan. I didn’t have food in my house for the recipes that I needed to make it work so I’d say gradual is definitely the key. JOHN SHEGERIAN: One of the hottest issues when it comes to plant-based diets is people always get worried because they’ve been so inundated since childhood with the issue of protein, Matt. Given that you are an endurance athlete and an elite athlete in many ways and you know a lot of people that are, can you share a little bit why our listeners shouldn’t be worried about this protein issues or is it an issue at all? MATT FRAZIER: I really don’t think it is. I don’t know the exact facts on this but I’ve heard many, many times that there’s never really been a case of protein deficiency that wasn’t also linked to a caloric deficiency so basically, if you’re getting enough calories, especially if you’re getting those calories from actually real whole foods, to where the high fructose corn syrup has been extracted and removed from anything containing protein, if you’re eating especially whole foods, it’s impossible not to get enough protein. You just naturally do in your food and it’s 10 to 15% of your calories from protein is plenty for endurance athletes and, I think, even other athletes. There’s these diets out there now that have 20 and 25% of your calories coming from protein and I think not only is that unnecessary. I think it might be dangerous in some ways but yeah, most whole foods that you look at contain a tremendous amount of protein. Even broccoli is something like 50% protein. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, then when you start talking about quinoa and rice and beans, there’s plenty of protein for a plant-based diet. MATT FRAZIER: There is, and you’re mentioning whole foods, which is exactly the point. You can’t eat candy and expect to get the protein that you need and potato chips. You have to eat actual foods but yeah, if you do that, it’s really not a problem to get protein and I do it very, very simply. I just try to include in every meal or snack, I just try to make sure there’s some sort of food in there that I think of as a protein food so that may be nuts, certain whole grains, you mentioned quinoa, beans, those thing are very, very easy to get. Spread almond butter on your bagel or whatever or add nuts to a salad or add a little bit of tofu to a salad if you like tofu. A tiny little bit here and there just kind of, for me, prevents me from ever getting into like a full-on carbohydrate meal, which people tend sometimes to do, and I think the vegan diet has gotten a bad rap for that, but yeah, I think if you’re eating whole foods, it just comes down to that. It’s not hard to get protein when you eat whole foods. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there, you gotta go to NoMeatAthlete.com because Matt has so many great posts, the perfect smoothie formula, the ultimate energy bar formula, the newcomer’s guide to the No Meat Athlete, protein; a primer for vegetarians. It’s just chock full of information like no other and I just love it. We’re down to the last 45 seconds or so, Matt. Anything you want to say to our listeners before we have to say goodbye? And we’re going to have you back on to talk about your upcoming book, No Meat Athlete. Share anything you want here. MATT FRAZIER: Yeah, 45 seconds isn’t long, so yeah, check out the website and there are so many resources there that you’ll find anything you want. My advice for if you’re thinking about doing this is just give it a try. Set yourself a little limit. Say, ‘I’m going to do 10 days and when I get to the end of that, then I’ll reevaluate, but that will be a success if I make it 10 days.’ I think that’s the way to get started. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We can’t wait to have you back on, Matt, because we’ll have you in the studio and we’ll be talking then about your new book, No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self. I learn every week from your blog so our listeners out there should go to that blog and that website, www.nomeatathlete.com. You’ll learn a lot about being a vegan, about living on plant-based food, It’s just an amazing blog and people gotta get on it and read it and we’re so appreciative that you do it. Matt Frazier, you are the No Meat Athlete and an inspiring vegan evangelist and truly living proof that green is good.