Last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Frazier, the ultramarathoner, author, food enthusiast and healthy living expert behind No Meat Athlete. I love what Matt promotes over on the site - real food, fitness for fun (and competition), mindfulness, setting big goals - and asked him to share a little of his wisdom with the FTGU community.
Read on for the inside scoop on living well; whether you run, eat a plant-based or omnivorous diet, or just sometimes struggle with getting motivated, there's great info for everyone! Happy running + refueling...
What do you consider the toughest part of training, regardless of what kind of diet you follow?
Consistency. I've learned that when it comes to health, it really doesn't matter what you do for a week or a month or even a year. What matters is what becomes your lifestyle. My biggest struggle is finding the motivation to consistently get out and run or hit the gym, even when I don't have a goal race in mind that's pulling me forward.
How many times a day do you eat? Do you time your meals specifically around your training?
I eat the three main meals each day, but snack all the time in between. Usually I eat a fairly large snack between breakfast and lunch, and another between lunch and dinner.
Idon't really time these around training, but it works out that the afternoon snack often ends up being my pre-workout meal and dinner my post-workout meal. So I try to keep the afternoon snack pretty light -- maybe some fruit with a little bit of nut butter, or sometimes a smoothie.
What are your favorite go-to foods for refueling?
Soon after a workout, I try to eat something that's high in simple carbohydrate -- could be fruit, juice, a smoothie, or even white rice or bread (about the only time in the day I eat refined grains). Then an hour or two later, I eat a bigger meal that's higher in protein, like beans and rice or a pasta dish with beans in it.
When choosing food brands, what's most important to you?
Mostly I'm just looking for as few ingredients as possible, and all of them whole foods. I've gotten away from buying food from "brands," since almost all of my shopping is in produce section or the bulk section (beans and grains, mostly). These are still produced by brands, of course, but the brand element isn't prominent with these foods.
But that's about it -- whole! I look for organic when possible, but eat plenty of conventionally grown food as well.
What's the single most important thing a vegan athlete should keep in mind when making decisions about food?
I think mostly you should ask yourself if someone who lived ten thousand years ago would have recognized what you're eating as food. Even something like olive oil becomes suspect under this criterion! I'm not saying we shouldn't ever eat foods that don't fit here -- I eat tofu, tempeh, vegan pizza, and oil from time to time -- but as much as possible I think we should stick to the foods that very clearly look like what we've been eating for tens of thousands of years. And mostly, that's fresh fruit and vegetables.
Why do you run?
I used to run because it was my outlet for setting and achieving big goals, and in the process demonstrating to myself that I was capable of things that I might first consider impossible. Nowadays, I do it because it's such a great use of time: it keeps me in shape and does wonders for my mood, plus gives me time to myself to listen to audiobooks and podcasts and come up with ideas.
What's your personal philosophy on food?
Hmm, philosophy ... I really like the way Michael Pollan keeps things simple: "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much." That's 90% of it. I think most people can benefit from eating half of their calories as raw food: fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. And I think with the way our food is grown these days, it's important to supplement with a few essentials. Certainly B12 if you're vegan, but there are a few other things that turn out to be a little low in a fully vegan diet. So I take a multivitamin (without mega-doses) and add a DHA/EPA supplement to my smoothie each morning.
For someone who isn't an athlete, what would you suggest as a first step to getting started?
I think setting your sights on a huge, exciting, "unreasonable" goal is such a good first step. If you can truly do that, and convince yourself that you can somehow make it happen (by looking on the web for examples -- they're everywhere now!), that alone can be enough to jumpstart your fitness habits. But with those habits -- and this is the tough part -- start small and take it slow. Have that giant goal, but don't expect or try to achieve it this month or even this year. Give yourself time. And if you made the goal as big and exciting as I suggest, then having the patience to take two or three years to get there shouldn't be a problem.
For more info on Matt, No Meat Athlete and his books, check out nomeatathlete.com.
Photo credit: No Meat Athlete.