No Meat Athlete started in 2009 as a simple blog for founder Matt Frazier to journal his transition to a vegetarian (now vegan) diet while training to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon. The blog quickly built a large following and today, No Meat Athlete is a highly-trafficked site and invaluable resource for any plant-based athlete looking for inspiration, training tips, nutrition information, and vegan recipes to fuel an active lifestyle.
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“No Meat Athlete” is a great name. So is your slogan “Runs on Plants”. How did you come up with those?
Thanks! I wish there were a great story about how I thought of them, but they both just sort of came to me. I liked “No Meat Athlete” because it rhymed, and “Runs on Plants” was one of the only good candidates when I was brainstorming slogans for the back of the shirts that would get the point across to other runners in just a few words. So as you can tell, my process was pure rocket science.
No Meat Athlete is one of the most popular Vegetarian/Vegan Running websites online, how many people are behind-the-scenes making it a success?
Right now, there are five of us. On the site itself, it’s me, Susan Lacke, and Doug Hay. We all write articles, Susan handles most of the Facebook posts, and Doug helps out with a lot of projects and keeps stuff from blowing up when I mess with it. And then there’s my wife, Erin, who handles the customer service with our shirts, and Kristin, who folds and ships out each and and every shirt. We still do that on our own, no fulfillment center or anything like that, which I think is cool.
Your website says you like to cook. Let’s say Bill Clinton (who enjoys a plant-based diet) is coming over for dinner. What’s your go-to-meal you’d make?
Yeah, I love cooking! My very favorite food to cook, both before I became vegan and after, is Italian. If Bill were coming over, I’d make gnocchi for him (they’re little potato-pasta dumplings that work just fine without eggs). Probably with a fresh, garlicky, red sauce with green olives, but if it were summertime then definitely pesto.
How did you come to be vegan/vegetarian? Did you have an ah-ha moment?
For me, the first urge to become vegetarian felt like an inconvenient one — I was really into running and I wanted so badly to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But never having looked into it seriously, I assumed that if I decided to stop eating meat (for ethical reasons), my training and recovery would go out the window and I’d have to give up on the dream of running Boston. Finally, at a seminar (with Tony Robbins, the guy from those 80’s infomercials), I learned about all the health benefits and started to think, “Maybe I could make this work.” So I stopped eating all meat except fish right away, and phased out the fish over the next month or so. Just six months later, I qualified for Boston, taking over 10 minutes of my previous best time. From there, I was hooked!
Gradually over the next year or so, I eliminated most dairy from diet because I came to believe it was unhealthy. But I still had it in my head that I just couldn’t give up cheese! Finally, I realized it was just a matter or drawing a line in the sand and saying, “Okay, for now on I’m vegan.” Once I made that decision, I found it shockingly easy to be vegan.
For me, the first urge to become vegetarian felt like an inconvenient one
Who are some vegans out there that you admire and why?
Wow, there are so many … obviously, people like Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, and Rich Roll for what they’ve done as vegan endurance athletes and as authors, getting the message out there that you can do some crazy stuff with just plants as your fuel. On a slightly more personal level, Leo Babauta, who writes the blog Zen Habits, Gena Hamshaw from Choosing Raw, and Karol Gajda are all amazing bloggers who happen to be vegan and whom I really respect and admire for a lot of reasons, some related to their diet choices but others totally unrelated.
Ever relapsed? Anything you still crave?
No, not once! One thing I learned from Karol, who I mentioned above, is the idea that if I am accidentally served something with dairy or eggs in it, I’d rather eat it than have it go to waste if I can’t find someone else to give it to. That’s happened two or three times, but I don’t consider those relapses, because I’ve decided it’s a policy that fits with my beliefs.
I really don’t crave animal products much at all. At the beginning I missed some of my favorite foods like buffalo chicken wings or pizza with real cheese on it, but I’ve gotten so used to the vegan substitutes that it’s not an issue. There are so many great ones out there now, and while they’re not identical, they’re close enough to satisfy a craving.
What would be some advice you could give to those trying out a plant-based diet for the first time?
Start small, gradually reduce the amount of meat you eat, and go easy on yourself. New habits are hard to form, and the easier you can get a “win” at the beginning, the more likely you’ll stick with it and build on those wins.
What worked really well for me was slowly reducing the number of legs on the animals I chose to ate. For an entire year (before I even considered going fully vegetarian), I didn’t eat beef or pork, the meat from four-legged animals. Then I cut out birds, the two-legged animals, and only after a month or two of that did I decide to fully stop eating fish (zero legs, of course).
I realize that not everyone works that way, and for some people the huge change all at once can be a big motivator. But if that’s you and you find that fails, give yourself a break and do it gradually.
One more thing — when I say go easy on yourself, I mean don’t try to eat the healthiest vegan food in the world right away if your taste buds are still craving meat. If you need to, rely on the meat substitutes for a while, accepting that they’re not all that good for you but it’s part of the process of getting to where you ultimately want to be. If it’s too hard at first and there’s too much demand on your willpower, you’ll slide backwards.
How do you like your caffeine?
I’m a bit of a coffee fiend. No sugar or anything else in it, just black. I’m sort of snobby about it too; I don’t like it if it’s too weak or not fresh. But I don’t think it’s the healthiest thing in the world so I try to limit it to a few times a week. I’ve found that I can replace it with green tea or decaf or even skip caffeine entirely and be fine, but I always start to miss it. I’ve decided that it’s one of those things that my life is better with than without, so I don’t mind having it a few times a week as long as I know I’m not addicted.
How is exercise an important part of your life?
It’s crucial! If I don’t exercise, I get cranky, and then my wife tells me to go out for a run and come back when I’m feeling better. And it always works, even when running is the thing I least feel like doing in the moment.
There’s something about moving that is just built into our DNA, and when you go for long periods without it, things get out of whack. You get depressed or weird things start aching, and you start to feel way older than you are. The tough part is that when that spiral starts, exercise drops way down on your priority list and the idea of getting back into the habit seems overwhelming and impossible. That’s when it helps to have someone else telling you to do it!
There’s something about moving that is just built into our DNA, and when you go for long periods without it, things get out of whack.
Current album on repeat?
What We Want, by Now You See Them, a local Asheville, NC band that just broke up. I’m in mourning.
What are you reading right now?
Linchpin, by Seth Godin. Rereading it, actually.
Anything interesting you’re working on that you can share?
Yes! I’m actually working on my first print book, with a publisher, that’s due out next fall. I haven’t officially announced it on my blog yet.
You’ve created a number of helpful resources for people. Can you tell us about those?
I get so many emails, tweets, and Facebook posts from people, even new runners, who have used these guides to finish their first races and are so excited to tell me about it. And so many of them do it in No Meat Athlete shirts which is even better! It’s very cool for me to see people getting the message out there, that you can do this sort of thing with a plant-based diet, by actually going out there and doing it.
Where can people learn more about what you’re up to?
The best place is definitely NoMeatAthlete.com, where in addition to the blog, I’ve put together a completely free, 10-part email series on the essentials of plant-based nutrition for endurance sports. You can sign up for that here, and then you’ll also get occasional updates about new blog posts and stuff like that.
Thank you Matt!