Is it Possible to Fuel Properly and Recover as a Vegetarian Runner? Interview with Matt Frazier of NoMeatAthlete

vegeterian runningMany runners believe that being a vegetarian or vegan runner is impossible if they want to maximize their training and racing potential. Luckily, for those that are interested in becoming vegetarian (or that already are), there are now fantastic resources and examples of elite runners that prove it is possible to run well, if not better, as a vegetarian runner.

On our show today, we’re joined by one of the foremost experts in vegetarian running, Matt Frazier. Matt is the writer behind the blog No Meat Athlete, which is a comprehensive source of training information, especially as it relates to vegetarian and general nutrition.

In addition to being a vegetarian runner himself, Matt also has a great story about how he transformed himself from a 4:50 marathoner to a 3:10 Boston qualifier. And of course, becoming a vegetarian during that process was a big step.

On the show today, Matt’s going to share his story and also help us dig deep into some of the myths and challenges of being a vegetarian runner and, most importantly, how to overcome them. In this interview, we specifically discuss:

  • The challenges he faced when he first started as a vegetarian runner. Matt’s also going to share some super helpful advice for those of you who are thinking about going vegetarian – or any diet for that matter.
  • Matt’s also going to discuss some of the biggest myths he had to overcome when he first started as a vegetarian athlete and what he’s since learned.
  • Finally, Matt’s going to provide some helpful tips for vegetarian runners about how to get enough complete sources of protein and to fuel their caloric needs.

This is a must listen if you’re a vegetarian runner or you’re thinking of trying it out. Enjoy the show!

Watch this week’s show now

Download the podcast version here

Links and resources mentioned in this interview:

No Meat Athlete

Turnover/stride rate for runners

Some good carbohydrate sources for runners

Protein supplements for runners

Guide to shin splints

Read the Transcript

Jeff:                 Hey everybody, welcome back to the Runners Connect podcast.  We’re really excited on our show tonight to interview Matt Frazier who is the author behind the blog No Meat Athlete, which in addition to being a great resource about training in general.  It’s also one of the best blogs on the internet for vegetarian and vegan runners.

On our show today, Matt is going to discuss the challenges he faced when he first started as a vegetarian runner and he is going to share some super helpful advice for those of you who are thinking about going vegetarian or any diet for that matter.  Matt is also going to discuss some of the biggest myths he encountered and what he has learned since.  Finally, Matt is going to provide some helpful tips for vegetarian runners about how to get enough complete sources of protein and to fuel your caloric needs.

If you want to visit any of the resources that we mentioned in this podcast, you can visit our site at runnersconnect.net/RC19.  So without further ado, let’s hear Matt’s story.  Hi Matt, welcome to the show and thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join us on our show and share your wisdom.

Matt:               Sure, thank you for having me Jeff.  I’m excited to be here.

Jeff:                 Awesome!  So I did a brief introduction about you in the introduction flow of this podcast, but let’s tell the audience in your own words about yourself.  Let’s get started with kind of your running, your journey as a runner, how did you get started and how have you progressed over the years?  I know some of that is going to overlap with you becoming a vegetarian, but let’s just tell your story.

Matt:               Sure.  Yeah, I was someone who always really hated running when I was a kid.  I just — the mile run in gym class would be the day that I would dread all year and then I quit several sports team just because of the amount of running.  I just hated it and I thought, “I’m not a runner.  This isn’t for me.”  So I pretty much didn’t do any running until college when I started kind of getting in shape and did some weightlifting and stuff.  My friends and I who were also in the weightlifting, the friends who are in the weightlifting with me, we decided that we wanted to lose fat.  We’ve been going [inaudible 00:02:15], “Okay, well, let’s run marathon.”  Because if you run a marathon, then obviously you would do a plenty of cardio and you wouldn’t be fat anymore.

So we all decided to it and amazingly, the three of us who decided to actually get — finished our marathon.  None of us were runners at all, but we just started doing it.  Everyone got some sort of injury in the process, but managed to cross the finish line.  So mine, I finished in 04:50 something.  I trained hard, but injury kind of just made it tough.

So after that, I had some shin problems like stress fractures really because the shin has been — I don’t know what I was doing.  I just got shin’s burns kept running through the pain [inaudible 00:02:54] the stress fractures.  So I really wanted to run the marathon after that first run because I felt like I could make up for that and just — I never really felt right [inaudible 00:03:02] going to do I had ran a marathon because I walked so much like the last eight miles of it.

So the next really like I guess probably six years of my life — no, not probably six, maybe four or five years, I kept starting training programs and that would stop because my shin will start hurting me or even the knee issues started happening.  So it took me another four — at least four years before I ran another marathon.  I did that in 03:50 or so because I figure out all these different things about what was causing the shin problems where I started like increasing my turnover and all these different things running on softer surfaces, trying different shoes, just trying anything that might possibly fix it.

Once I’ve got that one, once I figured out how to do it, I kind of had this period of steady improvement and I started running in 03:30s, 03:20 and I really wanted to do was qualify for Boston.  That was 03:10 at the time for me.  So I kind of got stuck at 03:20, I couldn’t really get much past that and that was when this vegetarian idea came to me, not as a training idea, but just more of like an ethical thing.  It was kind of a big conflict like should I do it or should I not because I thought if I did it, it would kind of ruin my chances forever qualifying the Boston.  I have decided to [inaudible 00:04:14].  It was going to be totally conflicting with any good training principles, but I did it and then just decided I’m going to keep training hard and see what happens and it worked out.

So I qualified six months later in 2009 and then after that, just kind of felt like I needed because they could break some fast running and training and just kind of [inaudible 00:04:34] ultra running.  So I’ve gone to 50 milers since then.  My current goal is to run a hundred miler, which I think is going to happen this year.  I’ve set that goal several times before and having that, but yeah, next time it will.

Jeff:                 No, that’s great.  I appreciate you sharing because I think your story is definitely on the long lines of probably a lot of the audience numbers that are listening who didn’t run as a younger person and then got into running and then probably struggled with injuries like you did with your shins.

You said actually, let’s go and talk a little bit about that.  Do you have shin problems now?  Have you seem to kind of fix everything?

Matt:               No, yeah, I could pretty much injury free.  Since I figured that out, my shins got taken care of.  Like really the big — I’m fairly certain that the big thing was increasing the [inaudible 00:05:20] because I was running much slower than like the 180 [inaudible 00:05:26] when I recommend.  So that took care of the [inaudible 00:05:29].  I still — that was a need, it’s on and off.  But then after I went vegetarian, a lot of that — all went away and I don’t — it’s hard for me to like point to it and say it’s definitely because of the diet and I know some people would do that, but I’m reluctant to say it was any one factor.  But I did something [inaudible 00:05:46] so I’ve been lucky having to deal with many injuries.  Every once in a while, I have a [inaudible 00:05:50] bad thing, but really nothing else besides that.

Jeff:                 Right, yeah, and I think when you’re running any good amounts especially if you’re training for a hundred miler, I mean, there’s always going to be some little [inaudible 00:05:58] here and there that affects you.  But when you mentioned when you decided if you go vegetarian that it was an ethical reason.  Did I touch that correct?

Matt:               Yes, yeah, that was the big part of it.

Jeff:                 Okay, so it wasn’t so much that you are actually looking to improve your performance in the marathon by thinking that going vegetarian is the way to go.  You actually — probably what most people think before they start to do — go vegetarian or to live vegetarian lifestyle is that it was going to hurt you running.

Matt:               Yeah, exactly.  I think it was not at all about getting faster for me.  I did think that there was — I’ve kind of become convinced from a couple of different sources that it could be a good long-term thing for health.  But just general health would probably improve it like — at this versus the way I was eating, which — and I wasn’t eating bad.  I just — I ate a lot of chicken breast in the grill, probably very standard runner’s diet.  I mean I ate — what’s in my [inaudible 00:06:48], a lot of starchy carbohydrates, a lot of chicken breasts, some lean steaks and things like that.

So I thought I would improve my health by going vegetarian just because I’d be getting so many more vegetables and probably mixing up my diet and brunching out more.  But as far as training, I thought that could be the end of the Boston Marathon journey for me.  But figured because of the ethical pull that I just started to feel in the past year or so before that, I figured that it was worth it and like I said, I’d also kind of plateaud like it wasn’t like I was still taking 10 and 20 minutes of my marathons now.  The past ones, I felt like I was really prying for one like a [inaudible 00:07:28] fast horse after a 03:25 marathon and I ran it in like 03:21 or something.

It was really disappointing and I felt like I kind of hit this little plateau where I wasn’t my [inaudible 00:07:41] — I wasn’t seeking out a change, but at the point where I was, I was like, “What I’m doing — staying with what things are probably isn’t going to get me to take 10 or 15 more minutes off my time, so why not just try something else.”

Jeff:                 Yup, now, that makes still a sense.  When you first started with the vegetarian, did you find that there was anything that you really struggled with that first that you found really hard to balance especially with the running?

Matt:               I didn’t have too much trouble.  I didn’t realize it at that time, but I did a pretty good job of transitioning pretty slowly like — I’m actually now vegan and I think had I go in vegan right then off the bat, I would have had a tremendous drop in the number of calories I was eating.  Just because I wouldn’t really known much about how to get sufficient calories as vegan.  I was eating all kinds of cheese and pizza and I like the fake meat substitutes and things at that time.

Just because I didn’t — I didn’t really know what else you get eat, what else there was, how to get your calories and I’m glad because that allowed me to keep those calories up and still take in some food and it probably wasn’t the healthiest.  I mean I don’t think it was that obvious of it all now.  But that allowed me to keep getting the protein because dairy has a lot of protein.  It’s not — I don’t think it’s a great choice, but it did let me keep getting that, a lot of calories from that, too.

So I didn’t really struggled with anything and like the improvements really started to come right away and I just kind of kept doing what I was doing.

Jeff:                 Yeah, now, I think that’s great and actually leads into a question that I was going to ask later is for people that are thinking about going vegetarian or want to start, would your advice be to kind of jump right in cold turkey or to kind of graduate transition?  I guess you kind of answered that question, but probably a little bit more in terms of — I guess the way I was thinking of it is should you start off with just eating more a vegetarian diet and still including normal meats and those types of things or should you just say, “I’m going to do it and start doing some research about those things that you can eat?”

Matt:               Right, and that’s a tough question because people do tend to be different like some people really — and I was this type — the type that want to when they get a new idea and new goal, they want to just go all the way right away.  For some reason, I didn’t do that with vegetarianism.  I actually did spend — before I decided to even go vegetarian, I cut out the red meat from my diet.  What I actually did was [inaudible 00:09:59] and stop eating four legged animals for just — for as long as I feel like.  So I was like a year like that and then I just said, “Okay, I’m ready to actually just go vegetarian.”  Again, that was all ethical stuff.  I just didn’t really like eating those kind of animals.

So that allowed me to that in that way versus — that made it a little bit different from my normal tendency of like trying to jump all the way and go cold turkey with stuff.  Since then, I’ve learned so much about how we change habits and how we make changes and now, I’m a total believer that even when you feel like making a big drastic all at once change.  It’s probably best to have some restraint and set out a plan to do it over a long period because it’s — those big changes.  They work for a little while and then willpower runs out as everyone points out nowadays that it’s like an expendable resource.

A plan that involves a bunch of small changes at kind of planned spots like maybe every — maybe after a month, you would — maybe for a month you’d eat four legged animals.  Then after — then the next month, eat no — cut out the chickens and turkeys, two legged animals.  Then you’d be locked to just fish and vegetables.  Not so pretty healthy diet there, but if there’s an ethical reason for going further with it, then cut out the fish too like I did.  Yeah, I’m a total fan of that kind of change now, doing things — very small changes rather than big ones all at once.

Jeff:                 Yeah, now I think that’s fantastic advice because I’m like you in a lot of ways.  When I kind of set my mind to something, I’m like a hundred percent all in and I know a lot of runners are like that especially when it comes to — and then I’m sure you’ve seen it comes at training where they are like, “Ah, I want to –.”  You probably did this actually with your first marathon, “Oh, I want to run a marathon,” and you started running 40 miles a week when you never — have run before at all.  So I’m glad to know that — I think that’s the [inaudible 00:11:50] transition is probably the way to go for people.

When you first started, what were some of the biggest myths that you had had in your mind about what it was to be a vegetarian and then what were some of those big myths that you now know are definitely false?

Matt:               Yeah, well one we mentioned already where at least it’s kind of been in the background here.  The idea that — just it’s a very pervasive idea and I didn’t realize that I believe that if it was kind of just like you can’t be a vegetarian and also be performing well in sports.  It just — I had this idea — I just didn’t know of vegetarian athletes and they were out there.  Scott Jurek is [inaudible 00:12:29] sites now, one of the greatest ultra runners and he’s really completely vegan.  I just didn’t know about him.  Ultra running is kind of a — not really a main [inaudible 00:12:39] sports so even as a runner and someone who [inaudible 00:12:40] into marathons, I didn’t really never heard of him.

So I haven’t seen these examples and I just thought that there weren’t really vegetarian athletes who excel.  Maybe I heard of like Toni Gonzales in NFL — I probably heard that on the news or something, but I just thought you couldn’t do it.  So that was like the biggest thing.  Once I started experiencing these results and seeing that I was actually getting faster and seemed to be recovering better, too.  That kind of got me to that mix, which is good.

I thought some questions about long-term.  I said, “Well maybe, this is just taking me a couple of years before my body starts to shut down from [inaudible 00:13:17] approaching or something,” but I did eventually learn that that wasn’t going to happen and I’ve seen not happening.

So that was the big myth.  Speaking of protein though that’s the other one.  You can’t get enough protein or even that protein is the hardest part.  I’m a vegetarian or vegan diet.  If you’re eating all this pure junk food, then yeah, you’re probably be deficient in protein and a bunch of other stuff too, but as far as protein, I don’t really think of it as a big focus in my diet.  I do try to make sure that in every meal or snack, I have something that I consider protein [inaudible 00:13:54] like I won’t generally try to eat a plate of pasta with a red sauce as a meal because I want to add in like beans or something that is a little bit more protein rich, but even though eating pasta is terribly low in protein.

Now, if you’re talking about paleo diet type standards where — I don’t know, maybe they’re going to be 40% of calories plus it come from protein.  Something up there like that.  That’s tough to do with a vegan or vegetarian diet, but there’s a lot of research and I also just think that I think the body can run pretty well on a lot of different nutrient mixes.

So I’ve seen people — I talk to people after [inaudible 00:14:27] time who get 10% to 15% of their calories from protein and they’re elites.  They’re some of the best in their sport.  I’m talking about endurance sports.  I think there probably are higher protein needs per more things like bodybuilding especially.  But I don’t think we need as much protein as people tend to think and I think you can do it fine with a higher protein diet, but I think you can also do just fine with a lower protein diet.  So that was another big one.  That has not been a problem.

The last big myth that I really had believed at that time was that as a vegetarian, you really didn’t eat anything other than like basically salad and raw fruits and vegetables.  I kind of thought that was kind of just — I couldn’t really imagine — it was just hard to think about what else you would eat [inaudible 00:15:11].  But now, it’s just a second nature and like I feel like the meals I eat are completely the same as so many meals I used to eat.  It’s just they’re missing meat.  It’s hard to say — I mean, I’m not — it’s not to say that I’m in the same meals with just the meat removed.  What I mean is it’s still a full hardy meal that I’m eating.  It just happened to be one that doesn’t have meat in it.

Jeff:                 Right, and I know what you’re saying.

Matt:               Yes, so I mentioned grains and there are all kinds of grains that people don’t eat.  People will just eat wheat for the most part in the United States especially, but there are so many other grains out there that have higher protein contents, gluten free, whatever you want from different grains:  beans, fruits, nuts.  You can make nut butters out of the nuts.  You can make [inaudible 00:15:56] out of beans.  It’s hard — I’m not [inaudible 00:16:01] much of foods here.

But I mean if you go to [inaudible 00:16:02] or to the grocery store, you probably don’t realize, but you’re ignoring 75% of the foods in there and just picking the three or four that you kind of are used to eating.  But once you kind of force to eat that and you start going to farmer’s markets and pretty much buying whatever there is and trying it, you just kind of discover all these different foods that most people will never eat in their life.  It’s not just saying that eating a variety is necessarily better than eating the same healthy stuff every single day, but at least I discovered that there were all these different foods out there.  It wasn’t like you’re just eating lettuce leaves and carrots for your dinner.

Jeff:                 Right, I know where you’re coming from because I think those are definitely [inaudible 00:16:38] the miss that I kind of had going in especially probably five or 10 years ago when I first heard about being a vegetarian and I would laugh and say, “Well, you’re just seeing carrots and iceberg lettuce.”  So that makes sense.

Going back to the protein issue, there’s a lot of talk about kind of the complete proteins and the incomplete proteins and how it’s — some people believe that it’s impossible to be a vegetarian and get a lot of those complete proteins that come in with the meats.  How do you approach that challenge in your diet?

Matt:               That’s a good question.  A lot of people takes supplements like amino acid supplements.  I don’t, but I do take a protein power for — I guess you would call that a supplement, but it’s pretty much whole food based.  But if you blend pea rice and hemp proteins, those three, they form a complete amino acid profile.  So that’s one way of getting it.  That’s only one meal a day of course, but rice and beans are known as a complete protein meal.

The other important thing and this isn’t something that I’m totally sure what the current consensus is, but up until the past year, I have heard of the idea that this idea of complete proteins.  Yes, it’s important where you do need to get all the amino acids, but you don’t need to be getting them all in a single meal.  So as long as you’re getting them, I think — what I heard them was throughout the course of the week as long as you’re getting the correct ratios of one to another or getting adequate amounts of each essential amino acid, then you’re fine.

Now, that was kind of what I — that’s sort of what I still live by and I do happen to eat rice and beans pretty frequently so that’s another meal that is a complete protein meal on its own.  But I read this thing in the nutrition book an idea about that there was some truth to this eating all the complete — eating all the amino acids in one meal that it was important.  I haven’t seen it that much anywhere else so I’m not sure [inaudible 00:18:29] sure enough, but it is something to think about.

But I mean, protein is only different as far as what the amino acids are as far as I know.  So if you do make sure that you’re getting all these amino acids ideal from whole food, ideally from whole foods and not from supplements, then you can essentially replicate the protein in a meat based diet.

Basically, the answer is, it’s hard to get them all at one time with the exception of a few meals or some food supplements, but I think getting them eating a live [inaudible 00:19:04] foods, that’s kind of one of my big keys that that for me ensures that I’m going to start — I’m not going to get stuck in a [inaudible 00:19:10] where I’m not eating a certain amino acid or a certain vitamin or whatever, just because I’m eating so much different stuff that it’s pretty much half of the [inaudible 00:19:18] everything.

Jeff:                 Right, now that was very helpful.  If you don’t mind, I know this is always an individual questions, but I know my readers are going to ask.  What is the supplement that you — you said you take a protein powder, what is that?  What is the one that you take?  What’s the brand and name?

Matt:               Yeah, I [inaudible 00:19:32].  One is called Vega, V-E-G-A.

Jeff:                 I’ve heard of it.

Matt:               It’s a company that — yeah, Brendan Brazier was a pro triathlete and he was a vegan and he since go on to be involved with this company Vega and I think he maybe [inaudible 00:19:44] founded it, but he [inaudible 00:19:] formerly [inaudible 00:19:48] supplements.  So that’s one of them.  It’s not cheap.  So a lot of times, I’ll pick like a cheaper one.  There’s one that’s called — I think it’s called Life Basic’s.  If you Googled Life Basic’s pea rice, hemp and [inaudible 00:20:02] and that [inaudible 00:20:03], too.  That is much cheaper and you can get it on Amazon.  I’m not sure if the quality is quite the same.  I am pretty sure that it’s not, but it’s much, much cheaper.

Then a lot of times what I’ll also use is get a hemp protein from like ENC.  I think it’s — I know Nutiva makes one and [inaudible 00:20:23] on the other name [inaudible 00:20:25], but that mixed with like the ENC’s — I’m saying ENC [inaudible 00:20:29] vitamin, sorry.  Their vitamin [inaudible 00:20:32] has like a soy-free protein powered, vegetable [inaudible 00:20:36] protein powered that I sometimes mix the hemp [inaudible 00:20:39] and get pretty close to what I’m trying to do.

Jeff:                 Okay, yeah, I mean, I noticed that with protein supplements too, it’s always tempting to go with the cheapest brand or the cheapest one that you find, but usually, the quality is so terrible that it’s not even worth the lesser cost because you’re just getting so much less quality, which is tough because it can get expensive.  I know what you mean.

You’ve touched on it a little bit here, but now that you’ve been a vegetarian for a while and you’ve been an athlete for a while, what are some of the challenges that you still face if any?  I guess now that you’re vegan as well, what are some of the challenges that you still face kind of in a daily or weekly kind of diet with trying to train hard?

Matt:               Yeah, I mean, the biggest challenge of being vegan is totally unrelated to sports and it’s just the idea of that, but it’s tough to go out to eat to a restaurant and enjoy, it’s tough to go to a party and eat the foods that’s at that party.  I mean, you pretty much need to adjust your lifestyle.  It’s how to eat food on the road like to go — but you can’t stop in a fast-food restaurant and get anything substantial at all.  Not that that’s a good thing to do, but before I was vegetarian, I’d stop once or twice a month to fast-food places and —

Jeff:                 Right, that’s a lot easier from the planning perspective.

Matt:               Yes.  So, you have to plan a lot more.  It’s just kind of more of an inconvenience, but I don’t want that it sound like a totally bad thing because the plus side of that inconvenience is that you — once or twice a month now, I don’t go to the fast-food when I used to and that [inaudible 00:22:03] like a lot, but over three or four years, that’s a lot of fast-food chips that I haven’t done.

That’s the biggest one, but it’s not really related to training so much.  Related to training, I’d say the biggest thing is just total calorie intake and getting enough — day in, day out [inaudible 00:22:22] it being super expensive, we talked about the price of good supplements, you can get all kinds of great health — like go to whole foods stores like that and stock up and get tons and tons of good quality calories, but it will cost you $500 for a week of food.

So my biggest challenge has been making sure that I do eat enough without it being — it’s very tempting just to add tons of olive oil to [inaudible 00:22:48] or add tons of olive oil every half dish that I eat to put the calories on there.  So getting enough calories, but not making them all fat or — trying to just keep a good balance and still get a lot of calories.

So my solution really has been just eat a lot more, like I’ll eat as many servings as I want.  I’ll even try to eat — like at dinner, I’ll eat — if I’m kind of on the [inaudible 00:23:10] between that first and second — getting second or getting — or not getting out, again, I will make a point of actually doing it just to get another 300 or 400 calories in then.  It hasn’t been a problem.  It’s just something that I do that I have to focus on and pay attention to.

Jeff:                 Right, that’s helpful and I think it’s a great advice for people that to make sure that those calories stay up because I see that being the big issue a lot of people even that aren’t trying to be vegetarian, but just in general they just aren’t eating enough to support the core needs when they’re training hard.

Matt:               Yeah, and that’s [inaudible 00:23:39] when people do go vegetarian to vegan, like a lot of them will try it for a month and then they will find — they feel terrible and they’ll say it didn’t work, being vegan doesn’t work, you don’t [inaudible 00:23:49] recover or you can’t keep up that level of activity.  The problem with so many people and this is another reason why kind of easing into it is good.  When you just all of a sudden go vegan, if you just took the meat and cheese out of your diet and didn’t replace it with a lot of other stuff and put some thought into what you are replacing it with, you’re going to have a 20% or 30% drop in calories perhaps.  That alone will certainly [inaudible 00:24:11] ready to training regardless of what kind of food it is.

Jeff:                 Now absolutely and going back to your point about the expense something.  I’ve had that gripe for — because when I was training competitively, I was eating sometimes 4,000 or 5,000 calories a day and it just gets so expensive to try to eat healthy.  At some point, I was just like, “I just need to eat the cheapest thing or I’m going to go broke.”  I really wish they would like subsidized Twinkies and make Twinkies $6 and an apple like $0.50 cents.

Matt:               One thing I’ve learned about [inaudible 00:24:38].  Oh, I’m sorry.  One good thing I’ve learned about [inaudible 00:24:41] and this is mentioned in the book Born to Run is the idea that one of the coaches in that book suggest that eating like a poor person, that was his diet strategy.  To me, that actually works really well.  Rice and beans and grains and lentils, that stuff is such — as far as being [inaudible 00:25:01], that’s terrific sources of protein and good quality carbohydrates and you can get that in the bulk section of the store for [inaudible 00:25:09] how much a dollar or a pound some of it.  I mean it’s very, very cheap for some of that food.

I don’t know if people get the idea that you have to spend a lot of money to eat healthy as a vegan or as any type of diet.  I mean you really don’t.  You can — I [inaudible 00:25:25] you can eat like a poor person, but not like a very poor person.  Make sure you get enough calorie [inaudible 00:25:30].

Jeff:                 Yeah, now you know, I’m glad you clarified that because I think you’re right.  I think if you do it the right way and you’re right, if you go and buy the beans and stuff like that, that can be very cheap especially if you’re buying them in bulk.

Matt:               Yeah, and so can fast-food unfortunately, that’s one of the cheapest sources of calories there are so you kind of have to make that qualified to you.  You can’t do fast-food.

Jeff:                 Right, that’s true.  So for people that are kind of just getting started and becoming vegetarians, what some of the best advice that you feel like you could give them?

Matt:               I guess my best advice would be — and it’s going to very depending who the person is, but if you’re like me, the best advice I can [inaudible 00:26:09] had back then is don’t worry about the idea like I can never eat a hamburger again or I love buffalo chicken wings so much, I can’t live if I can never eat those again.  That kind of thinking — like then when the craving comes out for that, if you’re thinking not only can I have it now, but I can’t have it ever in my life again, that’s going to be really tough to deal with and it’s very likely that in a moment of weakest time, you will go get that burger or whatever.

So treat it like a little trial like a fun thing and say, “For the next 10 days, I’m going to eat this way or for the next 10 days, I’m going to eat this way before five and then after five o’clock, I will eat whatever I want.”  But just — if you’re the type of person who likes challenging yourself and trying little self-experiments and things like that, which it seems like a lot of people are these days, give yourself a 10 days on it and see how you feel at the end of that and know that if you made it to the end of the 10 days, then you reached your goal and you can eat whatever you want at that point and kind of let the results dictate what you do next.

What I did was I went 10 days on a very meal vegan diet and I’m actually eating some fish at that time, but that was still a big difference from what I was doing.  I felt so [inaudible 00:27:18] for those 10 days, I just immediately felt more energy and better.  Like after dinner, I would feel kind of — I want to like go and do something whether it was go for a run or that’s the [inaudible 00:27:28] my blog, work on my blog and stuff like that.  Before, I always kind of wanted just kind of pass out after dinner or like have a beer and go to bed.

After that, I was like, “Okay, I’m going to do this again and I’m going to do it for 30 days this time.”  Again, that put a deadline on there so if I don’t like this, it doesn’t mean I fail if I decided to quit after that point.  Because I didn’t want going back to the foods that I used to love to be a failure.  I just wanted to have — give a little trial.

So [inaudible 00:27:56] treat it to have those kind of apprehension about it then just set a little deadline and they could do a challenge and be religious about it for that short period, but then know that after that, you can choose to do what you want.

Jeff:                 Wow!  That was fantastic.  I think — I mean, that was really awesome.  I appreciate you sharing that and kind of a couple more questions, but your blog No Meat Athlete is a fantastic resource.  I love reading it and I’m not a vegetarian, but I still love the articles that you post and I just enjoy reading about it.  But what are some of the resources that you go to in terms of — when you are first starting and even now, what are some of your favorite resources?

Matt:               I mentioned Brendan Brazier earlier.  He has a couple of books out.  One is called Thrive and he’s [inaudible 00:28:40] more like one is called Thrive Fitness and one is called Thrive Foods.  That’s really good thing.  Thrive is a great kind of introduction to [inaudible 00:28:48] diet for athletes because he, like I said was a pro triathlete at the Ironman distance.  I think he had that — he held the Canadian 50K record for a while [inaudible 00:28:59] so I don’t know.  He’s a good runner, too.

That’s like a good glimpse into what a really serious vegan athlete eats and it’s a lifestyle that me as a dad and having like a wife and a toddler, it’s kind of — it’s not a type of food that we can eat everyday.  That’s serious.  A lot of high raw meals [inaudible 00:29:21] I know big chicken tenders on there, which like every once in a while [inaudible 00:29:25] my son [inaudible 00:29:26] used to eat.  We don’t, but every once in a while, we’ll have them, too.

So it’s not like — I wouldn’t say it’s a lifestyle that I got from that, but it taught me about how you do this and where — how energy works and it’s kind of sort of [inaudible 00:29:44] a lot of the stuff that I had previously learned and kind of talk about how linked our hormones are to our energy levels and the amount of weight in fact that our body holds on to and how food determines how much stress your body feels or how that plays into [inaudible 00:29:59].

So I mean now, there’s a really, really [inaudible 00:30:01].  Next [inaudible 00:30:02] I will really start promoting some things.  Michael Pollan is an author.  He’s kind of a food author.  He wrote a book called In Defense of Food that really talks a lot about the benefits of whole foods and the idea of just — not the story, but eating foods in their natural whole state as opposed to processed foods and just whether you eat meat or not.

I think Michael Pollan actually does eat a little bit of meat, but the whole concept of just eating foods as close to their natural state as possible and how your body handles the nutrition in food so much better that way versus if you’re trying to pull out the omega 3s from something and fortify something else with them from [inaudible 00:30:39].  But your body doesn’t know how to handle that.  It hasn’t evolved to handle that because our food is complete and we [inaudible 00:30:46] to eat these foods as they are because one part of the food helps us [inaudible 00:30:50] another part of the food.  So he’s idea was really big for me.

Other things — I read blogs like Zen Habits, that’s one of my favorites, Leo is a friend of mine and he’s also a vegan and he’s also a marathoner.  He doesn’t write that much about those [inaudible 00:31:05] all kinds of [inaudible 00:31:07] but he dedicate [inaudible 00:31:07] right about those.  But [inaudible 00:31:09] lifestyle stuff, I love that.

Then, the other things — these aren’t really current things I read now, but the big ones that I learned from Chris Carmichael who was [inaudible 00:31:19] for a while.  His book was kind of what I paid a lot of attention to it at first because he recommends pretty high carbohydrate diet, which a lot of endurance athletes eat, but that is different from the newer paleo idea that some of the people do now.  So looking at Chris Carmichael’s kind of guidelines and trying to make the vegetarian diet fit with those, that was really helpful to me because it gave me some kind of foundation like a little some structure to what I was doing.  Because I didn’t really know what a vegetarian athlete diet was been.  I got to [inaudible 00:31:52] know that — like I said, a few [inaudible 00:31:53] out there doing it.

Scott Jurek like I mentioned, he has a book out that’s great, some good [inaudible 00:32:00] rituals and other vegan and all [inaudible 00:32:03] triathlete.  He has a good book about a lot of good stuff like that.  So those guys are [inaudible 00:32:09] and there are probably women too.  Hillary Biscay is a vegetarian triathlete.  She writes a good blog.  There are plenty more if you look for her.

Jeff:                 Yeah, those are tremendous resources and I’m glad you mentioned them all because I think people listening to this podcast are obviously really interested in this subject and definitely giving them more resources to check out.  So obviously, we talked — we mentioned your website No Meat Athlete and then we talked a little bit about this before, but you’re writing a book that’s coming out this fall.  What’s the title or if it’s a working title, what’s the title and talk a little bit about it?

Matt:               Yeah, I’m fairly sure the title is going to be No Meat Athlete.  That will be the main title.  There will be some sort of subtitle that’s currently being worked on by the power of [inaudible 00:32:52] they’re trying to figure out how best to say what [inaudible 00:32:55].  But it’s pretty much a distillation of what my blog has been about for the past four years.  So the first half of the book is entirely about nutrition and kind of how you make the transition to a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet if you’re not yet — how you avoid the pitfalls.  I mean, many of the topics we’ve talked about and important thing, guidelines for healthy eating, a bunch of recipes.

Then there’s the second section which is all about mainly about running.  It has a couple of training plans in there all the running concepts that I learned when I was dealing with injury and figuring out how to become a runner.  So people who have never run before, it helps you get started, it helps you [inaudible 00:33:33] for me.  Habit out of running, we talked about habit change a little bit.  That kind of stuff is all there.

So it’s about the diet and the fitness side of it.  It touches a little bit on other sports besides running, not all that much, but I can’t talk about this too much because I [inaudible 00:33:49].

Jeff:                 That’s all right.  So great, so we’ll throw up some links to your site and again, for those that missed it, it’s NoMeatAthlete.com and it’s a tremendous resource, definitely check it out.  Matt, I really want to thank you so much for being so gracious with your time today and really sharing your knowledge with us.  This is a great interview.

Matt:               Absolutely, it’s been fun and I’m happy to spread the word and help [inaudible 00:34:10] will just try out the site, that’s kind of the message I hope we will take home is you can just try it for a couple of days and see how it goes.

Jeff:                 Awesome.!

Matt:               Thank you very much.

Jeff:                 Thanks Matt.

Like What You've Read?

If so, join our newsletter and get access to our FREE Marathon Training eBook , which is a step-by-step guide to help you achieve a new PR at your next race and where we reveal the secrets of marathon training and nutrition, including:
  • 140 pages broken into 4 specific sections with specific marathon workouts, guidance on marathon nutrition, and how to master the taper.
  • Training tips, anecdotes, and lessons learned directly from the world's top marathon runners.
  • A detailed 16-week marathon training schedule so you can see the plan in action
Get My eBook Now!
Connect with Jeff Gaudette on Google+

One Response on “Is it Possible to Fuel Properly and Recover as a Vegetarian Runner? Interview with Matt Frazier of NoMeatAthlete

  1. Great interview Jeff and Matt! My husband found Matt’s website a while back and got us started on a vegetarian diet last fall. He is now totally vegan. I’m mostly vegan. I’m getting there a little more slowly, as I still love cheese. Advances have been made though, as I’ve totally given up my life long, nightly ice cream habit and that wasn’t easy! Cooking was something we enjoy doing together and I’m happy to say, there are tons of awesome vegan recipes out there. We’ve had something new for dinner, just about everyday since August. It’s all about being healthier and we appreciate all you’ve both done to help us get there! Still waiting for my running carrot t-shirt though. Looking forward to wearing it soon! Thanks for the post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>