How Matt Frazier Became A No Meat Athlete

Matt Frazier

Matt Frazier has built an amazing community of plant-based athletes.

His blog, No Meat Athlete, shows you how a plant-based diet can make you fitter, faster and happier.

Although I am not plant-based, I am a huge fan of No Meat Athlete and Matt’s approach to nutrition, running and life.

His posts are helpful and heartfelt.

I partly blame Matt for convincing me to buy the Lamborghini of blenders, the Vitamix!

I hope you enjoy this interview and if you liked it, please leave the podcast a review over on iTunes.

In this podcast we talk about:

You can listen or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

You can also listen to the podcast on Stitcher Radio or by clicking here to listen now.

Book Giveaway!

Okay, here’s the deal.

Matt has kindly agreed to giveaway away one copy of his new book.

I will also chip in a copy so, we have two copies to giveaway.

How to Enter

Entering is easy. Simply leave a comment below for one entry. Write anything.

For two entries, tell us what your favorite smoothie ingredient or recipe is.

Leave your comment by October 15, 2013 to be eligible.

I will pick two entrants at random to win a copy of No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self.

Good luck!

Items mentioned in this post:

No Meat Athlete – Matt’s site

The perfect smoothie formula – This is a post on Matt’s site and is an excellent resource to help you come up with your own smoothie recipes.

Brendan Brazier – Brendan Brazier is a Canadian endurance athlete, author of Thrive Foods, advocate of a vegan diet, and creator of the Vega line of food products and supplements.

Matt’s current favorite health / fitness websites:

If you enjoyed this episode with Matt Frazier or any other Healthynomics Podcast episode, please leave a review on iTunes. Reviews go a long way in helping the podcast reach more listeners.

Full Transcription

Mark: All right everybody, I am very excited to introduce my guests today. Today I have Matt Frazier from, Matt welcome, thanks so much for joining us today.

Matt: Thank you Mark, I’m looking forward to being on the podcast.

Mark: Yeah we’ve been, sort of in touch for probably a couple of years now. Yeah, you did an interview on my site probably a year and a half or so ago and I’ve been following you work for probably two or three years now. Although, I’m not a plant-based athlete, I love the info you put out on your site and that definitely makes me think, from my own nutritional standpoint about what I’m putting into my body and all that good stuff. So, anyways why don’t we start, like I start with most of my guests. If you can give us a background on who you are, where you grew up, where you went to University all that good stuff.

Matt: Sure yeah, I grew up in a town called Bel Air, Maryland in the United States. I was an athlete like a lot of kids, did soccer, baseball things like that, but we never focused on healthy eating. I mean, I didn’t know anything about it, certainly not vegetarian or vegan. Just very normal average typical childhood and was therefore the first 20 years of my life so. I went to college at James Madison University in Virginia, about three and a half hours away and finished up there with a finance degree.

While I was there, I got into running and I hated running before that, but some friends and I decided that we were going to run a marathon. It was just kind of like a college, what college guys do, get all competitive and like, one guy says, he’s going to run a half marathon on and then the other guys like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to do a full.” And then by the end of the night, all three of us have signed up for a full marathon on and no one has ever run more than three miles at once.

But we got it done I mean it wasn’t pretty but it did get finished and for some reason I kind of got the running back from that. I didn’t expect to at all, but I kind of just became obsessed with the idea of qualifying for the Boston Marathon and I was good over 100 minutes lower than I needed to be to do that in the first marathon and I just kind of dedicated myself to learning how to train and how to run an over time, over the course of seven years gradually got there.

And it took me, I was about 10 minutes shy of qualifying for Boston, this was back in 2009, when I just said, I’m going to fool around with my diet. I didn’t know, I had kind of had an ethical pull to go vegetarian but I was under the impression that, you just can’t do that and still train for marathons. I didn’t know that people could do that at all. So I thought you couldn’t do it, finally I just got to a point where I was like, “You know what, I’ve kind of plateaued with my training. I’m just going to give this diet a try and see what happens because where the course I’m currently on, because I don’t think I’m going to qualify for Boston as it is, so why not just try something else and see what happens.”

And that’s when I started my blog, really as an experiment and amazingly, to me, the diet actually worked and within a month, I was noticing that I was running faster already, partly because I had lost five pounds or so and not a very big guy to begin with. So, that’s five pounds were significant and luckily it stabilize there, I really didn’t lose a lot of more weight or any strength and had the best training summer of my life and six months after I made that diet change, I actually qualified for Boston.

So from then on, it was just, I started writing more on the side about kind of how do you, it went from being an experiment to more of teaching and just kind of showing what I had done that made this works so well and I had interviewed a lot of people. I had just kind of learnt a whole lot about how it all worked, wherein when I started to train, I really didn’t know anything about plant-based diet at all. I just knew about running.

Mark: What resources did you use when you first started experimenting with the plant-based diet? Did you have any books that guided you or had big effects or any other resources?

Matt: You know I had read Chris Carmichael’s book, “Food for Fitness” is what it’s called, it’s for indoor athletes and I noticed that he recommends, I think it’s like 65% carbohydrates, 15% protein and then whatever the rest is, 20% fat. So I just had that book and again, I thought about nutrition somewhat as a marathoner, but hadn’t really ever thought of vegetarian stuff. But I looked at that book and I realized how easy it would be to apply, to make a vegetarian diet fit to his guidelines. So it didn’t really occur to me at the time, but now looking back it’s like, that was a pretty good sign that this was a diet that does work well for endurance athletes.

So after that I found a friend in [inaudible 08:46] who was a former Canadian professional triathlete at the Ironman distance. He also won the Canadian ultra marathon championships once or twice and he had a book called “Thrive”, which I’m sure you’ve heard of.

Mark: I’m heard of it, I haven’t read it, but actually you are the second guess I’ve interviewed Paul Jarvis, who is a week in, not a no meat athlete, but he also really, really liked that book.

Matt: Yeah, it’s interesting I mean, it’s definitely not your traditional nutritional book. Aside from the fact that it’s entirely vegan. It’s a lot about energy and stress and some of the alkaline acid stuff, a lot of people really question whether how legitimate that is. I don’t have too much reason to doubt it, but a lot of different ideas in their and that really opened my mind to a lot of things, the most obvious of which was that a vegan diet can work and for Brendan actually, that was a diet that best work for endurance sports and that’s why he chose it.

So if there was a lot in there and it’s not a diet that I can follow as a dad with two kids. I mean if I made that food, my kids would never eat it, but that works for very serious athletes and it’s a lot of raw stuff and lot of super foods like, if I put that on a table for my kids, they’d be like, “What are you doing?”

Mark: I should back up for one second. When you first became plant-based or experimenting, was your wife, was she also plant-based or was she also willing to be a guinea pig with you?

Matt: No, she was just really supportive and thought it was a cool idea. I mean we had to have this conversation before that we were dog owners and loved our dogs so much and, for some reason kind of both at the same time started feeling strangely about eating animals. And she’s also a runner, also a marathon runner and when I came home and said, “I really want to just try this”, she was like totally supportive. I think she was kind of waiting for someone to say, “Let’s actually jump in and do this.” Because it is hard, if you don’t have both in there, it would be hard to do that and to eat separately for the rest of your family, eat differently, that would be very difficult for sure.

Mark: Yeah exactly, so I wanted to ask the question because yeah, that could be very challenging especially in kids too I mean, how old are you kids now?

Matt: My son is 3 1/2 and my daughter is about four months.

Mark: Now, what’s their diet like? Do they, I guess your youngest not so much, but your three-year-old, does he started eating what you guys eat or?

Matt: Yeah, I mean as much as we can get him to. He eats more of the vegetarian vegan junk food like, the chicken tenders made out of who knows what, soy and wheat and whatnot. But we try to limit that and I accept that, that small cost of feeding him that food which I think is not that great for him, comes with the enormous benefit that he really, really understands, he loves that we grow food in the garden and, he often, he won’t eat vegetables and find out that we grow it in the garden and all of a sudden, then he wants it. He has a really good relationship with food that I certainly didn’t have when I was a kid.

We are ethical vegans like, we do it for ethical reasons but, we’re not the pushy types at all. We don’t want him to ever feel like he’s the weird kid who is not allowed to eat meat at a birthday party or whatever. It will totally be his decision what he wants to do and we’ll cook vegan food at home of course and teach him how to appreciate it, but what he does, that will be his decision, we don’t want to push that on him.

Mark: Yeah: a funny story. Actually my little guy, he is 21 months old and he’s pretty much a vegetarian. He just doesn’t like meat already. And I certainly do, but that’s a whole other podcast, but yeah it’s pretty funny. So have you done any, measured any of your metrics things like, or documented how you felt as you did this transition? I know obviously you felt the positive effects on your endurance endeavors, but what about permeable things like sleep and energy and maybe you did some cholesterol reading, blood pressure, all that stuff?

Matt: Yeah, I’ve never really been serious enough as an athlete or even like a self experimenter to really keep track of that kind of stuff. I wish that I would have more careful measurements at the beginning, so that I could honestly and fairly compare how I am now to that. Because I really totally want to be scientific about this. I don’t want to be someone who’s out there, proclaiming that this is the best diet in the world without really knowing it or it could just be for ethical reasons. Like, deciding that I’m going to tell everybody that this is healthy. But unfortunately I don’t have that kind of data.

It’s very much anecdotal because it’s me and also it’s very, in some ways subjective but I found that I was not able to, that I didn’t have nearly as many injury issues, after I switched my diet. So after I qualified for Boston, which was like the first really the first marathon on in years and years that I didn’t have any injuries with and I was training very hard, harder than I ever had. I was like, “Well if I didn’t get injured for that, maybe I could go further.” And that’s what I always wanted to do but I always thought it was impossible.

So I got into running, I did a couple of 50 milers and then recently I did 100 miler and really had just no injuries in all this time, it’s been like a nonissue. So I mean that’s one the recovery time which is if you talk to vegan athletes, a lot of them will say that as the reason they do it, not for ethical reasons. That they notice that they can get out there again for another workout sooner and be just as good as they would after a few days on a different diet.

Mark: Yeah, I’ve seen that come up a few times. I read Scott [inaudible 14:38] book, [inaudible 14:42] and I think both of them mentioned just they changed their diets, and all of a sudden they were recovering from these tough, tough workouts very quickly.
Matt: Yeah and it’s interesting and I don’t know if it’s coincidently or just because this is where it started or if it’s something about the diet, but it seems like most of the people who are saying this are endurance athletes. In endurance sports obviously there is an advantage to not having a lot of excess muscle, whereas in the strength and speed sports, having excess weight and muscle may actually be an advantage, at the very least won’t hurt you.

So I mean you’re seeing like they are the MMA fighters and NFL players here and there and NHL players who are trying it and having success with it in doing it. But I’ll be interested to see kind of what happens the next few years and whether they start you know really saying the same thing, that they can recover faster, even when they’re tearing down serious muscle and having to rebuild it on this kind of diet.

Mark: Yeah exactly. Actually I just listened to part of [inaudible 15:43] podcast today and he mentioned. There’s a vegan sort of strongman from Germany and he was in Toronto and he broke the worlds Guinness world record for carrying the most amounts of weight or something for 10 meters and that’s like, that’s insane. I don’t care what he’s eating, but it’s even more impressive because it breaks a lot of those stigmas about the whole, being strong and getting enough protein. And so I think it’s, yeah I think it’s a cool thing.

I wanted to touch on some challenges and actually what made me want to ask you this question. I read a really good post by Leo [About a] over on his blog over at Zen habits and it was on overcoming the social costs of being different. Have you read that post?

Matt: Yes. I did too, that one.

Mark: Yeah, so anyways I was reading through that and a lot of times I think he’s a vegan as well, so he mentioned a couple of times being a vegan and plant-based and some other things. So I want to just from your standpoint, what challenges have you had just being a vegan athlete or vegan plant-based athlete in general, just from sort of a social standpoint?

Matt: We haven’t had that much issues with it at all. I mean, partly it’s because and just like Leo, I think we are very, very laid-back about it. We do not go out to dinner with the goal of making a scene so that everybody sees that we’re vegan and therefore wants to change their diet. That’s not our goal at all. We’re very laid-back about it.

Until very recently, I kind of had the policy where if I went to a restaurant or friends house and they served me something, not meet like if they put cheese on something when it wasn’t supposed to be there or like a friend who just like really didn’t understand what vegan was and cooked with butter, I would still eat that food and not even say anything about it. Just because I didn’t want it to interfere with social things like that and I didn’t want to create weirdness with friends.

And recently I have questioned that a little bit more as a vegan and I’ve thought that maybe that’s not, may be as someone who’s somewhat visible as a vegan, like with the blog and everything that maybe that’s not the most responsible thing to do. And honestly not quite sure how I still feel about that but, so there’s that little thing but really it’s been, people have been totally understanding. If you just explain to them ahead of time and you don’t get mad and make a fuss when there’s no food for you at a party.

I mean we just learned that, if you are going to go to a party or if you’re going to go to a dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t have vegan food, but it’s like what ever a business dinner or a family thing. I mean you just eat beforehand and one of the nice things about that is that it makes you plan ahead.

So let’s say, I’m going to go watch a football game at a friend’s house and everyone there is going to be eating pizza and chicken wings, there’s not going to be any thing, there aren’t even going to be healthy choices there. The good thing about it is that I eat at home and I’ll eat lentils and rice or whatever we would usually eat I just end up. You don’t realize how many situations there are like that. Like even when I thought I was a really healthy eater, there were a lot of situations where I just think about them now, where I made those exceptions and just a total junk food for a whole day. So I kind of like that it forces us to plan more.

Besides that not that much, I mean I’m not quite the fan of cooking as I used to be. I used to really be into cooking like these elaborate gourmet meals that would take four or five hours to make on a weekend and . . .

Mark: Now you have kids.

Matt: That could be a reason too, more than the diet who knows. But that doesn’t happen as much and I’ve always thought it was just because, I feel like my family is not going to be quite as excited to come over when I tell them that we’re having pasta with beans in it versus whatever the gourmet ragu or whatever we make before. So, there have been small little costs there but, really they’ve been just negligible compared to, for me the benefits that have happened as a result of the diet.

Mark: Cool. So let’s shift gears a little bit here. What kind of advice would you have for people, active people most notably that are looking to explore a plant-based diet? I’m sure you probably get a lot of readers like me. I’m not plant-based but I am certainly curious and I read your blog all the time. So what sort of advice do you have for people like me or others looking to get into plant-based diet?

Matt: Yeah well I mean if it’s someone like you and I really don’t need to tell you to learn about it and do the research before you do it because I made the mistake. When I first tried to go vegetarian, of just jumping into it, and not knowing at all like what I was going to eat. Just one week and I was like, “I’m going to be vegetarian now.” And that lasted less than a week because I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t have any recipes, probably wasn’t getting the right nutrition and I was just eating whatever we had.

And I didn’t realize that if you want to make it work, you have to eat really healthy vegan food. I mean if you are eating junky vegan food, you’re not going to probably be getting enough calories and I really don’t think protein is the issue, people make it but I think if you’re eating total junk food, it’s not a good thing regardless of the protein.

And it’s easy to do that, I mean if you don’t know what you’re doing when you jump into a plant-based diet. But once you do that and once you kind of know what you’re getting into and I don’t mean serious study, I mean read a site like mine or Leo’s posts about plant-based diets. I mean anything that just gives you the basics of what we eat for the most part.

After that just set up a little experiment for yourself because one of the hardest things for me when I started was worrying that, “Oh, I can never eat buffalo wings again or I can never eat pork barbecue sandwich.” These are foods that I loved and often even made a long trip like seven hour car trip just to get up talk barbecue sandwich in college . . . another good college idea of mine.

But when I actually made it work, what I did was said, “Okay, I’m just going to take 10 days and I’m going to do this diet for 10 days.” And actually at this point, I was still eating fish, but it was basically a vegan plus fish diet. And I said, “I’m going to try that for 10 days and I’m going to stick to it and I’m not going to cheat and then when that 10 days is up, I can evaluate how I feel and just everything. How it’s working and if I want to keep going on with it. And I can decide if I want at that point to quit and it won’t be a failure.” I didn’t want it to be a failure if I just got there and decided that this wasn’t just working for me.

So I did it and it was very easy because I knew at any difficult points, I knew that I had only three days left and I knew I could stick it out till then. And then at the end of that, I felt great and loved it and I said, “I’m just going to do that again, this time for 30 days.” And that work and then from there it was very easy because I was by then, not really in the mood to eat meat or anything. I loved how I felt, I was sleeping better. I had so much more energy after late after dinners, when I used to be so bloated, I would all of a sudden not be tired and I would just want to all of a sudden work or something. So many things happened and I don’t know that that will happen for everybody. Maybe I had an exceptionally good experience, but it just worked so well. Setting it up like that where I was meeting those short-term challenges, that was really helpful.

So many people talk about it and say, “I’m really interested in this and I’d like to do that but I don’t think I could ever make that work.” What I tried to tell them as much as possible is, “Just try it, just give yourself 10 days, seven days or whatever and then see how you like it and if you don’t, then go back and try again another time if you still feel like it. And if not, at least you won’t feel like, you’ll know what it’s like when you tried it out.”

Mark: Yeah, I like that approach. I mean I think if I ever decided to do that or even like you said, I’d make it an experiment, try it out for a week and see how I felt. Keep a diary, what I eat, how I felt eating each day and go from there. And if it’s something I wanted to keep going ahead with, then I would and if I didn’t and I wouldn’t. Anyways I think that’s the way to look at it, as an experiment and give it a go.

Matt: Yeah and it’s also important to really know why you are doing it because I mean, if you are just kind of curious about it, I’m not saying that you should just do it but, I think without a strong reason like if you fully believe that there might be tremendous health benefits to this, short-term or long-term or if you had a really strong ethical reason that you really wanted to do it. But I having something like that really helps. So if your goal is to become vegetarian or vegan and it’s for ethical reasons, then I mean you can’t visit a factory farm very easily but, go watch a movie about what goes on there or go visit like an animal sanctuary that place and you can do these little experiments that will really heighten your desire to do it, for whatever your reason may be.

So I think it’s really good to, if your goal is to become vegetarian or vegan, then ant that up and kind of like, do what you can to make yourself want it even more.

Mark: Yeah, not taking a step further I mean you get the person was curious about the diet in general. But also, what about from the athlete’s perspective? What are the common questions you get from someone whose active? I mean, I mean probably protein that’s obviously a big question and just the energy demands of training. How do you manage that or is it any different you just you know, you got your diet, that’s what it is and all the nutritional requirements are met?

Matt: Yeah I mean, once you’re used to it, once you’ve done it for some amount of time, then it is like what you said. It just kind of becomes that is your diet and if I want to start getting 20% protein, instead of 15% then, I just know how to do it within that framework. But, the common questions are, of course protein like you mentioned and I tend not to think that protein is a big deal that, that we make it. As far as I know, there’s never been a case of protein deficiency. So I think maybe if you just ate nothing but processed foods that were basically carbohydrates away from anything else, then maybe it’s possible you could get protein deficient.

But, if you are basing your diets on whole foods, which I think most people who are listening to I’m sure are, it’s just really not an issue. The lowest protein whole foods still have 5 to 8% of calories from proteins. So if you are eating even a bunch of those with some other foods which have more like, beans and even whole grains that I always considered a carbohydrate, or at least before I was vegan. Even some of those are like 15% proteins.

So it’s really just not an issue. Like I don’t think about protein, I just kind of eat whole foods. I try to make sure I just don’t eat only whole grains or only foods that I generally think of as carbohydrate foods, but honestly I think even if I did, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, I think it would probably be fine.

Mark: Do you supplement your diet at all with any supplements?

Matt: No, I’ve stopped doing that. I used to take, put protein supplement like a hemp protein or a P hemp rice combination because that gives you a complete amino acids profile. I put that in the smoothie in the morning, but I’ve recently just gotten away from that and I put a few more knots and things in the smoothie because we have one of those fancy blenders that just grinds up anything. And I’ve added the protein in that way, but I’ve gotten rid of it as a supplement.

I’ve also stopped adding oils and things like that just because oil is not a whole food and gradually becoming more and more convincing that it’s not a health food either for the most part. Some athletes would argue, Scott [Gerritsen] is a fan of oils and Brendan Brazier is too, but I just don’t know if they are necessary or helpful. They certainly are helpful in getting calories though and that’s the one, the difficult thing about this diet as an athlete for me has been, just getting the number of calories that you need. So if you’re like, if you’re training for 100 miler and running 70 or 80 miles a week, which I didn’t. I actually managed to do it in less than that.

If you need 4000 calories a day, it’s just kind of tough to get that from whole plant foods because they are not as dense as meat or dairy products are and it’s difficult to fill your stomach. An obvious example is probably, which everyone says is so high in protein. Again everyone in most circles don’t, but in the vegan circles, that’s like everyone’s favorite thing and broccoli is 50% protein and whatever, but you just can’t eat enough because it takes so much volume in your stomach, that you could never treat that as a serious protein source.

So that’s how a lot of plant foods are. They are not chronically dense, which makes them very healthy because I tend to think that less calories is a good thing even for people who metabolize the food quickly, but as an athlete if I were doing something when I needed 4000 calories a day, I think I would need a supplement in some way or just kind of be gifted and be really good at eating a lot of food.

Mark: Yeah exactly. What about B12, vitamin B12?

Matt: Yeah, I should have mentioned that. I do supplement with B12 because I am pretty much convinced that you can’t get them from plant foods unless they are fortified. There is certainly some argument about it, but where I was going and forgot to go was that I do take a multi-vitamin, but one that has very minimal. It’s not like mega doses, it has some vitamin A, I some may be vitamin D, B12 and like a few other little things. It is really formulated for vegan diets and then I take a DHAPA just drip a little bit of that in the smoothie in the morning, supplement with that.

So I do have those supplements. I don’t think of them in the way that I kind of used to because I was in college and a bodybuilder, I took all kinds of supplements. I mean everything you could imagine, I was taking as long as it was vegan and seemed safe enough.

Mark: Oh I think a lot of guys went through that phase, taking the creatine and protein shakes and actually my last podcast was Sol [inaudible 30:06]. I creatine has kind of gone a full circle. It was popular but no one really knew if it had any sort of long term damaging effects and then, I people kind of stopped taking it and now it looks like, it’s something that’s quite fine to take. It’s interesting to see what happens over time.

Matt: Actually I started to wonder about it and actually it was from reading Sol’s site, where he wrote and Tim Ferriss mentioned this in the four hour body too, in like a little footnote. That vegetarians actually improve in intelligence in some studies showed that basically some vegetarians got smarter when they took creatine. And Sol I think posited that may be what it is, is that vegans do have a slight creatine deficiency because it’s not present in plant foods in any significant amounts and your body makes a very small amount of it.

So I’ve wondered if that could be almost done overall health supplement, not just like a gaining mass of it but, taking in small amounts, I don’t know three, four, five milligrams a day. So I don’t know, I’d like to see more research about it and more of it is coming out.

Mark: Yeah, same here. Sol has his mum taking it, but yeah, he’s got his mum taking a couple of things and creatine is one of them so.

Matt: And is she vegetarian or vegan or just?

Mark: No, he didn’t state that, so I’m assuming she’s not, but I thought it was interesting.

Matt: It is.

Mark: Yeah. Actually he wrote another post recently which I’d like to chat about it quickly is, the post about why vegans and paleos should stop hating each other. I thought it was good because I do a lot of reading, read blogs, listen to podcasts and everyone is very quick to . . . they just want to label themselves with something. I guess I don’t know if it is an identity thing or what it is, but I think ultimately I these people want the same thing you know. So I think that’s where your posts went, but I if you could chat about your mindset about writing that post and some of the feedback you have got from it.

Matt: Yeah. That was an interesting post. I didn’t expect it to be as controversial as it was. A lot of people hated that idea, did not like that idea on both sides. There were vegans who said, “How can you possibly say that such a cool diet is good?” I didn’t really say that, I said that I thought it was reasonably healthy and not that different as far as health goes, from a healthy plant-based diet and I said, “Let’s keep ethics hours of this, it’s not part of that.”

But even if you do consider that. I mean there is the fact that paleos, at least the ones that were doing it the way it is really meant to be done, are choosing meat sources that are far more sustainably raised and whatever the word is, slaughtered or whatever than in factory farms. So, even if you go to that part I think, the diets have a lot in common, but anyway the main point of it was that we both eat really, really similar. I think of these diets as being totally opposite. The other day someone asked me, “Why do you think these two opposite diets have gotten popular at the same time?”

And it’s funny, people within these health circles like you and I, think of them as opposites because they seem like it, under the assumption that everybody eats whole foods. But if you look at just the general culture, just the general Western culture at least, everybody eats not whole foods for the most part and we are the weirdos, the paleos and vegans over on this one side who, are one very small part of the spectrum, eat almost entirely whole foods. So a true paleo, I don’t think is stopping at McDonald’s very much and I know that a vegan is not either. So I for the most part, our diets are really not that different. We vegetarians and vegans eat a lot of grains for the most part and paleos do not, but paleos of course eat meat. Although the diet is maybe as not based quite as much on meat as the marketing has made it out to be and how the critics have made it out to be. At least some paleos have told me that it’s really not about made. It’s about lots and lots of vegetables and some meat.

Mark: Yeah, that’s my understanding as well and I think, people have this misunderstanding that all they’re eating is steak and bacon and throwing in a veggie here and there.

Matt: Yeah, and that’s not how the paleo diet is supposed to be, I don’t think it’s certainly not how the actual paleos ate back in the day. But unfortunately that’s kind of what’s going to happen. If that’s the way you can market a diet, then people are going to do it and think that they are doing a really good thing for themselves, but that’s not really the point. So I think in the purest forms of these two diets, they are really, really not that different, maybe 20% of the calories are different from each other. You are just kind of trading beans and grains for meat. Besides that, they are really, really similar and they both I think, have similar goals in terms of sustainability too.

Mark: Yeah, I would agree. I mean am not either, but I’ve done enough reading where I think that there’s a lot of similarities, but I just think you know people are touchy when it comes to this stuff and they would really like to, they really like to be a part of their tribe and they’ll defend it and that’s the way. But that’s cool too because they are passionate about it.

Matt: Yeah, I agree with you.

Mark: That’s a good thing as well. Okay Matt, all well let’s switch gears again and I want you, you can take us through a typical day from a nutritional perspective. So when you wake up, what’s for breakfast?

Matt: Breakfast is always exactly the same. It is I shouldn’t say exactly the same, it is always a smoothie, based on I throw in some walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds in there to start it. Then some frozen fruit, some sort of leafy greens like frozen kale or spinach. What we do is we just by kale and spinach anyway and if it starts to go bad, we’ll put it in the freezer and just use it in the smoothie. A banana, some ice, I think that’s really it, not that much else. So I mean, so just a great way I think everyday to start the day with raw fruits and vegetables and raw nuts, which I think, to me that’s three fantastic foods that you can’t really get enough of.

So that’s pretty much everyday’s breakfast. Then, some days I will eat, maybe like a sprouted green, English muffin type thing after that, but usually that’s my breakfast. Maybe some fruit later on. And then I probably eat, I don’t really count, but I eat three big meals a day and then, snacks in between which might be nuts, it might be as big as like a salad with some beans on it. Tofu, I will eat here and there. Tempe, I don’t think soy is necessarily a bad thing at all. Just like wheat, I think it’s weird to eat any one food for three meals a day. Like a lot of people do with meat, with wheat, with soy.

I don’t think we are really meant to eat any food that much. I know food usually should have been that abundant in our environment that I know of. So I don’t like to eat a whole lot of any one food. I eat as much variety as I possibly can and so I mean, lunch will be the previous day’s leftover but, often it’s, we try to do like beans and rice in as many possible ways as we can. There’s, lentils and rice, then we will replace the rice with quinoa, but like beans, grain, green in a meal, that’s very, very common in our house.

And then maybe a pasta dish for dinner, I don’t have any problem with pasta, whether it’s whole wheat or some sort of alternative grain pasta. Very often we’ll find a way to put beans in the sauce, which is actually not as weird as it sounds. A lot of like the traditional Italian meals that we look up, are really based on like having beans right there with the pasta, potatoes with the pasta and it sounds like a lot of carbohydrates but it certainly is, but like I said, it’s wholegrain pasta for the most part, so it’s not just like all carbohydrates. There’s a good amount of proteins in there.

And try to eat a salad every single day, so like the salad and the smoothie our everyday foods and then everything else kind of just revolves around that and really, it changes all the time. There aren’t any foods that I won’t eat, as long as they are within the vegan framework and as long as they are whole foods, we try to eat pretty much everything.

Mark: What about shopping? Do you try to shop local markets, farmers markets or what you try to do there?

Matt: Yeah, I like the idea of eating locally. I am admittedly not that into the economics of it. I don’t know that much about how it works. I’ve learned a little bit more about it recently and even with the environmental stuff. I’ve never been really passionate about saving and protecting the environment. As important as I realize that it is, am so glad that there are people who are really passionate about that.

So it’s more of like a selfish thing, but I like eating locally because the food tastes better and because like you can get bananas that were . . . like there’s not that many bananas that were grown locally, but they are good example because you can eat. Ripe bananas, when they are really right, are great and delicious for you, but when they pick them months ahead of time or whatever, weeks ahead of time and then they have to kind of ripen off the vine, I think you lose out on a lot of nutrition and flavor there. And bananas are just one example, tomatoes, whatever else. So I like eating locally for that and it’s fun to go to the co-op or farmers market.

We’re lucky, in the town where we live, is very, very into the local scene. There are several food co-op’s and a farmers market every single day if you want to go to one. And so we do that. There is a Whole Foods owned store here that we try to shop at, but like everyone else, we are concerned about money too. So like we can’t go spending $ 500 a week on groceries.

Mark: Yeah, whole paycheck is the nickname, right?

Matt: We get what we can’t get anywhere else, we’ll get that there. But we go to the regular grocery store and it’s nice that so many stores these days, like so many normal grocery stores are starting to have decent produce sections and decent organic sections within there and have natural food aisles and all that. So, that’s really nice compared to, I even remember 10 years ago, it was not like that at all, so that’s a good sign.

Mark: Yeah I would agree, I mean I remember 10 years ago, I saw something labeled organic and I didn’t really know what the hell that meant.

Matt: Yeah, it’s amazing how much of a buzzword it is now.

Mark: I thought like, is this a totally different food or you know? What is this? Back to your point about the local produce. My wife and I were in Thailand a couple of years ago and just the fruits there were, the taste was so much better than, in particular the bananas. I remember you mentioned bananas there, when I ate a banana there, I was like oh my God, this is what a banana is supposed to taste like.

Matt: Right. I’ve had a similar experience with tomatoes. Recently, I used to hate tomatoes, I more recently started eating them and yeah, the difference between a trucked in pink tomato and one that and heirloom tomato grown at the local farm, they are different foods basically.

Mark: Yeah I know exactly. So let’s talk about some exciting news and you have got a book coming out, “No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self”. So tell us a bit about the book and when it comes out? Why you decided to write it? Who is it for and all that stuff?

Matt: Sure yeah. Like you said, it’s called “No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self” comes out on October 1, which is just a few days away from when we are recording this. Half of it is about nutrition and half of it is about running, which is really like what my site is. But I try to keep to keep the running stuff, there are some specific things about running, but a lot of it is, I try to be general enough that you could apply the principles of training, the training principles and the food, eating and workouts those sort of things, apply that to other sports.

Endurance sports, it’s going to apply better to than like strength and speed sports. But I try to make it as though it wasn’t just running, but that’s what I do. So that’s kind of what it was.

But the first section of it, the nutrition section is kind of really what makes it different from other running and fitness books. And it’s, it’s for a lot of different people, which is a risky and tough thing for me to do, but I decided I wanted this thing to reach people who needed it. Like people who were kind of interested in being vegetarian or didn’t even have, like me, did know that you could be vegetarian and be an athlete.

Just because as much as like it seemed like it is getting more and more coverage now, to most people, mainstream culture, they were no more aware of it than I was back then. So I wanted to reach out to those people, and at the same time I wanted my audience that know me as an athlete, to really like it.

So, I tried to incorporate as much as I could, that was for beginners, like how do you actually adopt, how do you transition to a plant-based diet, why should you, what are the benefits and also the kind of like, if you already are, how do you take that died to the next level. How do you make sure you’re getting everything you need for sports and we’ve talked about whole foods several times in this interview now, but as you can imagine, that kind of underlies the entire nutrition section.

There are 50 recipes in it, including some sports drinks and sports gels and energy bars and things like that. In addition to just the normal foods, like the formula that I use to make my smoothies and to make energy bars and things like that.

So you know it’s kind of a guidebook to this lifestyle and it’s for people who are brand new to it. That someone who I definitely had in mind when I wrote it, but people who are already into this lifestyle, but know that there is another level that they can get to all looking for just like the inspiration to do so and then maybe some recipes. It’s also for that person. It was hard to write it for several people, but I really did try to do that with this one.

Mark: That’s cool. And you have got a book tour after the book launch I guess, so I was concurring sort of when the book launches. Tell us a bit about the book tour. So where are you going or where people can find out about where you are going to be?

Matt: Yeah sure and I guess I should mention. The book, if you do want to find out about the book, you can get it obviously in any places that the books are sold for the most part, but if you want to get it on my side and just see more information about it and what a lot of plant-based athletes have said, it’s and the tour as a very similar URL, it is and if you go there, you’ll see all the sites where I will be. Unfortunately I’m not going to make it up to Canada. You are in Toronto, right Mark?

Mark: Correct.

Matt: Yeah, I thought about that, I kind of wanted to get to Vancouver or Toronto but I’m in my car for this thing, I’m driving. So it’s not, I’m hitting 40 cities but I just couldn’t go to any thing that was for lack of a better term, that was remotely remote. So, if it was anywhere that was in between to other cities in my tour, I kind of had to think hard about it.

Mark: You know what, we’ll get you up here at some point.

Matt: There has been a lot of people who’ve asked me why I’m not coming there and apparently it’s like a really, really great city for vegan food. It’s vibrant in every other way too.

Mark: Yeah, there’s some great vegan and vegetarian options and again, he came to the Toronto Veg Fest recently and he mentioned that it was massive.

Matt: Yeah, that’s what people say. I’d really like to check it out and for now, I’m sticking with the US, but across the entire US, like I said 40 cities. Chances are if you are listening to this, and you’re in the US and you are in a big city, then I will be there. So, I’ll be doing just runs and I’ll talk and go get some food, get some drinks whatever. I’m trying to make it like the anti book tour. I don’t want it to be like me talking and then people standing in line and getting book signings as if that’s going to happen anyways. I’m trying to make it just fun and like active and engaging and just kind of fun hanging out more than.

Mark: Yeah I mean that’s cool, they’ll get to meet you, you can meet them and I’m sure you’ll gain some new friends from it. So that’s pretty cool, I respect that totally.

Matt: Yeah. Now you mentioned before, and hopefully I’m not putting you on the spot here but, you are willing to give away one copy of your book?

Mark: Yeah absolutely.

Matt: Cool and actually you know what, I’ll throw in a copy as well. I’ll buy a copy for someone as well. So we’ve got two copies of Matt’s book to give away. I figured we will get people to hop over to and drop a comment on the blog post for this podcast.

Matt: Is it a URL?

Mark: That’s the one, you got plants, that is yours and what should we have people comment on? Post a question or anything related to the questions on the book or any ideas there?

Matt: I didn’t even, let’s see. How about smoothies because I’m a big smoothie guy?

Mark: I like it.

Matt: What is your must have smoothie ingredient?

Mark: Okay, must have smoothie ingredient.

Matt: Do you know about this sort of thing? I don’t.

Mark: Yeah, that’s cool let’s do it. One entry for putting any comment and you will get two entries for putting in your favorite smoothie ingredient or favorite smoothie recipe.

Matt: Nice, perfect.

Mark: And we will pick to people at random and I’ll put a deadline on the blog post, as to when we will accept entries and yeah. So before we end, I wanted to have a little fun here. I got a few quick questions. I haven’t done this to any other previous guests, but I thought I would change it up a bit. So you will be the guinea pig here, but anyways is just some quick questions and then you can come back with some real quick answers and. Is that cool with you?

Matt: I’ll give it my best.

Mark: Cool, okay. Who is your favorite athlete?

Matt: Scott [Jericho].

Mark: What time of the day you get your best workout?

Matt: Definitely the afternoon, after I can’t do any more work around three o’clock. I will get up and go for a really strong good run.

Mark: Cool. Favorite book?

Matt: Favorite book has nothing to do with any thing we have talked about. It is called [inaudible 48:31] by Douglas Hofstadter. It’s about consciousness and all that kind of stuff. Actually you know what, reading his staff did get me thinking about consciousness and that’s kind of what may be led me to the idea that I think animals were all that different from people. So, maybe that’s related to what we’ve been talking about.

Mark: Interesting, I’ve never heard of it, but I will check it out. Your favorite running race you have done?

Matt: The hundred miler that I just did in July. It’s called Burning River in Cleveland. I know, I haven’t done any of the 100’s, so I can’t compare it to any others, but the experience was incredible. It took me 28 hours, which is not a great hundred miler at the time but just an amazing experience.

Mark: Cool. Coffee or tea or neither?

Matt: Definitely coffee. I wish I could say tea and I have tried to make it tea a lot of times, but it always goes back to being coffee.

Mark: Three health or fitness websites that you like to refer to often?

Matt:, as we mentioned. Sol Orwell site. Zen Habits, which we’ve also mentioned, which I really consider a fitness site, but he does write some good fitness articles on there.

Mark: He does, yeah.

Matt: And I have a friend named Jenna, she writes a blog called and there are a lot of really good recipes in there about foods that are kind of half way raw, but not really like means that have a lot of raw food in them, but isn’t like weird raw foodie foods. You can actually eat it in your regular life with kids and the families. So, that’s my other one, Choosing Raw.

Mark: Wicked. What do you fuel with during your long runs?

Matt: Dates, fresh dates, the ones with the pits in them, not like the dried ones that have already been pitted because for whatever reason, they’re just not as good. But if you get fresh whole dates and just bite the pit out of it, while you are running, it’s like nature’s energy, they’re delicious and patch with a group goes which gets right to your bloodstream.

Mark: Perfect. Early riser or a night owl?

Matt: More an early riser now, not by choice, but by my son’s choice really.

Mark: Same here. Favorite vacation spot?

Matt: I went to Italy and I actually loved it there, for the wine and the food. I don’t know that it would be the same experience now that I’m vegan because pretty much everything they eat has, at least has dairy it. So, I’ll have to pick a new one I guess, soon.

Mark: Go to smoothie recipe?

Matt: I have a formula on my blog, if you just Google like, perfect smoothie formula, No Meat Athlete, you will find it. It was kind of what I told you earlier, all those four different nuts and seeds, frozen fruits and some sort of leafy green, maybe some frozen broccoli if you want to get really weird and hippie-ish and put that in there. And then I put some water. I measure it, I’ve gotten to a point where I just know what the amounts. So fool around with that, you’ll make it.

Mark: Cool. Last one, your favorite strength training exercise?

Matt: Oh, that’s a good one. I really like dead lifts. I’m not by any means an expert at them, my form is not perfect, but I’ve come to really appreciate them after hating them for my entire college career as an amateur weightlifter. I’ve come to finally appreciate lifting legs and doing it right so.

Mark: You know what, I’m with you. I did a lot of sort of heavy squats and dead lifts and that type of thing and during my marathon training, leading up to the marathon training and I had a history of sort of hamstring issues and you know what, I didn’t have any hamstring issues and my legs felt strong throughout the training and. Yeah, you know what I think the dead lifts are, they are great exercise and I think people should shy away from them. Although if you do them, learn proper form before you get going lifting some heavyweight.

Cool Matt, well I do not want to take any more of your time, but thanks so much for chatting and your expertise. Why don’t you let people know where they can stay in touch with you and what you are up to.

Matt: Sure. My blog is, no spaces or dashes, just all one word really and I’m at Twitter at no meat athlete, Facebook, no meat athlete. Yeah, so those are the big places. I’m on Google + too but not too many people are on there yet.

Mark: Awesome, All right Matt, well thanks very much and we look forward to seeing your book.

Matt: Thank you Mark. This was fun.

  • distortedloop

    I enjoyed the discussion. I don’t understand how the term “whole food” can be used by “vegans” to describe their diet if they must take supplements (such as Vitamin B) to maintain health; if your food choices lack essential vitamins/minerals, then there’s something incomplete (note “whole”) about it. In all fairness to Mark, I don’t believe he actually said vegan=whole foods, just that eating particular whole foods was a good idea for anyone.

    I’m not being “tribal”, LOL, I don’t subscribe to any particular branded “lifestyle” or “diet, I’m just a guy who likes to lift heavy weights and eat a lower carb, less processed foods diet.

    Thanks for the podcast!

    • Mark Kennedy

      Thanks for listening and your comment.

      By whole foods I meant unprocessed / unrefined foods.

      Vitamin B12 is found predominantly in meat and is the one nutrient not found in the plant-kingdom.

      So, to your point, one can still eat a “whole food” diet, yet require vitamin B12 as a supplement.

  • R K

    Great discussion. I am a vegetarian and an athlete and I often wonder if my diet is sufficient in nutrients and protein. It’s great to finally see some resources on the subject. Thanks for the podcast! My favorite protein ingredients are kale and pineapple.

    • Mark Kennedy

      Thanks for listening. And you’re entered in the book contest!