An Interview with Matt Frazier
of No Meat Athlete
I religiously follow his blog, so when I caught up with Matt last week and got to ask him a few questions, I was more than excited. He even shared his favorite vegan recipe with us! Check out what he had to say below and be sure to visit No Meat Athlete and have a look!
Matt Frazier: WelI, I was really into running marathons when I decided to go vegetarian. It was mainly for ethical reasons, but I was concerned that it was going to be tough or even impossible to keep improving as a runner without eating meat. That's what most people assume if they haven't done any research, and I was no different.
So I started looking for information. I hadn't heard of Scott Jurek or Brendan Brazier or anybody like that, but once I started to see that there were pro athletes at the highest level who chose a plant-based diet, I thought it was strange that there was very little in the way of online community built around this idea of doing sports without eating meat.
That, to me, was an opportunity to start something cool, and something I would find useful. I actually didn't plan on No Meat Athlete being a blog at first; I had hoped to build a community site where vegetarian athletes could share recipes and training stories and support each other. But I figured I'd blog about my experiences to build an audience until I had the money to build a site like I envisioned. And then the blog kind of took off on its own. So I guess you could say it's one big sidetrack!
FV: We love the running carrot logo. Where did it come from?
MF: Thanks! My sister made the very first carrot logo. I have zero talent for drawing, so I asked her draw me a simple logo to convey that No Meat Athlete was about feeling great and having fun, not militant or in-your-face or any of the things that I associated with vegetarianism before I was a vegetarian myself.
I got the idea that people would like No Meat Athlete shirts even if they didn't even know what the blog was, kind of like the brand Life is Good. People just like wearing that slogan to show that they believe in this philosophy, so that's the feel I told her to go for with the logo.
There were a bunch of other fruits and vegetables that didn't make the cut. I almost went with a tomato. :)
FV: Could you share your favorite vegan recipe with us?
MF: Sure! Here's one that I like to eat the night before a race, for carbo-loading. It's also a great example of how being vegan helps you discover different kinds of foods -- in the U.S., we'd never think of adding potatoes to a pasta dish, but this is a traditional Italian recipe (minus the cheese) where it works wonderfully.
Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans
2 cups fresh basil (one large bunch)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
1/3 cup raw almonds (walnuts or pine nuts work too)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp almond milk
sea salt to taste
To make the pesto: Combine basil, nuts, garlic, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Pulse until it’s a coarse paste. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil and let it process until the mixture is relatively smooth. Adjust taste with salt. Before adding to the pasta, stir in the almond milk to loosen it a bit.
1 lb whole wheat pasta
4 or 5 medium-small boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into one-inch lengths
1 pesto recipe, above
Place the potatoes in a large pot (you’ll be using it for the pasta, too) and fill with as much water as you’d use to make pasta. The potatoes should be covered with a few inches of water. Generously salt the water, then bring to a boil. When the potatoes are close to being tender (usually takes around 8-10 minutes), add the green beans and allow them to cook. When the green beans and potatoes are tender (another 3-5 minutes), remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a separate bowl. Cover with foil to keep warm. Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente.
Place the pasta, potatoes, and green beans in a large bowl. Mix in the pesto to coat everything. Serve with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
MF: Asheville is such an amazing city! We absolutely love it here. Once No Meat Athlete became my job and we realized we were pretty mobile, we wanted to go somewhere that was a better fit for our lifestyle than where we were living, which was the suburbs in Maryland.
I had heard that Asheville was this funky, progressive, super vegan-friendly city in the mountains of western North Carolina, and it kept popping up on those lists of "Happiest Places to Live" and things like that. So after our plans to move across the country fell through at the last minute, my wife and I just said, "How about Asheville?" Two days later I drove the nine hours down here to check it out. We loved it, and about a month later we moved!
I've honestly found Asheville to be even more vegan-friendly than the better known veg-friendly places like Portland, Austin, or San Francisco. The local food movement is huge here, and that helps. There are even two local tempeh producers, and it seems like every restaurant has a tempeh reuben or something similar, even if it's not a vegetarian restaurant. I'm putting on some weight as a result, which is a good thing in my eyes.
FV: What is your favorite part about the NMA website? Do you prefer to blog about running or being vegetarian/ vegan?
MF: The best part of NMA, for me, is that it helps people who are brand new to running, or thinking about being vegetarian but are on the fence thinking it just won't work in their life, which is where I was for several years. Without a doubt, getting thank-you emails from people, where you can just sense in their writing how enthusiastic and optimistic they about about their first race or their new plant-based diet has got to be the best part.
I think I like writing posts about vegan/vegetarian topics the most. (By the way, I'm vegan, but I write most of the content on the site about vegetarianism because I think that's an easier step for people who are curious to try it out.) People are always so excited to share those posts with their friends who don't understand their choice to not eat animals, so they're fun to write.
MF: Congratulations on your 5k! The first thing I tell new runners, especially those who like the idea of running but hate how it actually feels, is to slow down. I used to hate everything about running, going all the way back to when we had to run in practice for sports team or run the mile in gym class. What got me to start enjoying it was when I realized that you don't need to finish every run feeling completely winded.
If next time you go out to run, you deliberately slow down by a whole minute (or even two) per mile, it becomes so much more enjoyable. You can think about your surroundings, listen to what your body is telling you, and generally relax instead of being all stressed and out of breath. And when you finish your run, knowing you could keep going if you wanted, that's a powerful feeling. Hard workouts have their place if you're trying to get faster, but if you just want to develop the habit of running, slow down and you'll enjoy it a lot more.
FV: You seem super friendly and laid-back...tell us the one thing that really gets you worked up.
MF: Hmm ... well I'm glad I seem that way. :) Truthfully, there's really not much that I get upset about. For the year or so after college when I had a corporate, 9-to-5 job, I got upset about that, pretty much every night when I thought about having to spend another day doing something that wasn't fulfilling. I'm lucky to have had people who encouraged me to do what I enjoyed and trust that somehow I'd support myself with it.
And I get upset when I am reminded of the way we as a culture treat the animals that are destined to become our food. I understand that some farmers do everything in as humane a manner as possible, but when I see video or read accounts of the worst parts of factory farming, of course it upsets me. But I try to channel that anger into something positive that in some way helps more people consider a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and I'm grateful to have a platform where it will reach people.
FV: What's your jam when you run?
MF: I wish I had a cooler answer to this, but mostly I listen to the same bands I listened to in high school and college. So Death Cab for Cutie, Weezer, Saves the Day, Nada Surf ... and sometimes I'll get really lame and listen to an audiobook on long runs. Anything that will help me zone out works then; I try not to get too pumped up when I know I'm going to be running for two or three hours. Otherwise I get tired too quickly.
FV: What is the hardest challenge related to running and/or plant based eating that you've had to overcome?
MF: By far, the hardest part for me has been staying motivated as a runner after I achieved the goals that motivated me for so long. From Day 1 as a runner, I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It took me over seven years to do it, and it was amazing. But once I didn't have that super-inspiring target to focus on anymore, it became a lot harder to get myself out the door for a run.
I ran two 50-milers in the next year, and those gave me back that feeling of motivation that I had lost. But once I had done that, it was like, what's next? Certainly there are much longer races I could train for, but I don't know that I really want to spend as many hours as it takes to run a 100-miler or something like that. Training to run a faster marathon, like breaking three hours, could be really fun, but it's something I haven't yet found the drive to do.
So that's the hardest part, and I'm still struggling with it, though much less than at the worst point. As for being vegan, it's been shockingly easy to get used to! It feels great, cravings were short-lived, and now that I'm in a vegan-friendly city, it's even easier.
FV: Ultimate goal for NMA?
MF: I'd still like it to one day become the community that I envisioned at the very beginning. Only that will exist in addition to the blog side of it, not instead of. I actually think that will happen pretty soon; I recently met a guy who I think will be able to build what I'm imagining.
I also really want NMA to become more about this movement than about me, so that it reaches more people and features perspectives other than my own. I'm starting to make the shift towards having other writers share their stories and advice on the site. I still plan to write once or twice a week, about as often as I do now, but I think it'd be amazing if we had enough content to post something great every day.
And as it happens, a lot of excellent bloggers have started to approach me about guest-posting, so it has worked out well so far.
For more with Matt check out: