Is This What’s Missing from Your Healthy Lifestyle?

If you’re like me, you’re always looking to improve … and maybe a little too much.

Whether it’s your diet, your mindset, your fitness, or your work, you know you can do better. And even if “be better” is illusory as a goal, the growth that occurs as you chase it is what life is all about, isn’t it?

But I’ve come to realize that you reach a point where the harder you try to do better and be healthier, the more you sabotage your own efforts.

A lesson learned

I’ve been traveling this month, and it’ll still be a few more weeks before I get home. From the 4th of July at the beach, to a vegan Italy tour, to a friend’s wedding in Cape Cod, it’s been a whirlwind of a trip.

And in the process, my habits have gone to hell.

Running has been spotty at best. I’ve eaten far more white flour and oil than usual, and far fewer salads and smoothies. Not once have I found a quiet 30 minutes for meditation or reading. And the amount of wine I drank in Italy … well, you get the point.

And yet I feel healthier. Happier. More fulfilled than ever.

In a word, content.

So what gives?

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Where Do You Get Your Protein?

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For 91 episodes of No Meat Athlete Radio, we refrained from talking about protein. It’s almost as if we wanted to prove a point.

I wish this had been intentional. But maybe the fact that it wasn’t makes the point even more strongly: protein really just never came up when we brainstormed ideas for topics.

But although longtime vegans and vegetarians know that protein just isn’t the issue most people make it out to be, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the conversation. If the protein hang-up prevents most people from giving a plant-based lifestyle a chance, then it’s worth talking about.

So here it is: the protein episode.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

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What to Eat Before a Workout: 8 Easy Meals to Maximize Your Performance

What do you eat before a workout?

I’ve written about HOW to eat before a workout before. But I’ve come to realize that when people ask this question, they’re not looking for guidelines, but rather the specific foods that they can make — without having to think about it — to prime their bodies for a workout.

So the goal here isn’t to get that little half-percent edge on competition by being meticulous in your pre-workout nutrition. (For that, check out Ben Greenfield’s workout nutrition post and this one on 12-Minute Athlete about pre-workout meals.)

Instead it’s to eat something natural and quick, without a lot of planning, that’ll getting you 90 percent of the way towards perfect.

So that’s the motivation for this list: 8 simple, natural meals or snacks — vegan, of course — to eat before a workout. The criteria I aim for in choosing a pre-workout meal:

  • Lots of carbohydrate, a little bit of protein (a 3:1 ratio is best, but you don’t need to be exact with it)
  • Whole foods, with just a few exceptions where it will benefit performance
  • No caffeine — no doubt it helps performance, but for everyday nutrition I leave it out

I’ve divided them into categories based on when you should eat each. If you’ve got the time and aren’t worried about getting too many calories (say, for a weight loss goal) eat one from each category before a big race or workout; otherwise eat only the just-before-the-workout meal.

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Our Vegan Trip to Italy

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It almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Italy is one of my favorite places in the world, but after I went vegetarian and then vegan, I thought my days of visiting this beautiful country with all its rich (and often animal-based) food culture were over.

Turns out I was wrong: there’s a part of Italy that traditionally eats a largely plant-based diet, still with some meat and cheese but with many, many dishes made from only plants.

My wife, Erin, and I just got back from 10 days in Cilento, where I was a guest co-host (along with vegan cheese specialist Miyoko Schinner) on the Vegano Italiano tour. In this episode of No Meat Athlete Radio, Erin and I recap this amazing trip and talk about what is without a doubt in our minds the best way to visit Italy as a vegan.

PS — I apologize that the audio quality of this episode isn’t nearly as good as it usually is. We recorded this episode from the road, rather than our normal setup, and in future episodes the quality should return to normal.

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The Discouraged Runner’s Guide to Boundless Consistency

This post is written by Doug Hay, co-host of NMA Radio and author of Rock Creek Runner.

“Self-discipline doesn’t actually exist.”

That’s what one of my blogging mentors (yes, that’s a thing) Jon Morrow said to me at a recent conference.

It’s a jarring statement considering we live in a world that talks about having or losing self-discipline all the time.

But after he finished the conversation, it all made sense. Jon’s point was this:

No one is born with self-discipline. Successful business people, professional runners, the President, they don’t have some self-discipline gene that the rest of us lack. And as we know, will-power is a finite commodity.

On one hand this is bad news. It means we can no longer rely on the “no self-discipline” excuse when it comes to running. Or doing or not doing anything else in life, for that matter.

But on the other hand, it’s great news.

Because it makes it possible for us to change. It means our failures as runners, our inconsistencies and lack of routine are only temporary. That we too can become the highly energized running routine superstars we’ve always wanted to be.

Consistent runners have fewer injuries, a stronger base, and greater long-term running success.

So if self-discipline isn’t a trait we either have or don’t, and a consistent routine is something we all want, what sets a successful runner apart from her discouraged counterpart?

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Small Steps or Massive Action? The Best Way to Make A Change

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Have conventional habit change methods been wrong this whole time?

A few weeks ago I wrote about a major mistake I see person after person make as they start a new habit. They either go all in, dive head first into massive change, and burn out just as reality starts to set in.

Or they take the small steps approach. They follow the slow, arduous process of tiny steps. And with no major breakthroughs or results, the motivation simply disappears.

My approach is different … I think you can do both. Instead of choosing either massive action or small steps, you can bridge the gap between the two, and gain both immediate results and the structure to make it stick.

In today’s episode we discuss that philosophy, how it’s the only process that has worked for me, and the steps you should take for lasting habit change.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Should you go all in on a big habit at the risk of burnout?
  • Starting a habit while preserving your will-power
  • Why end dates are important for new habits
  • Building walls that guarantee success
  • Our problem with patience

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A Look at No Meat Athlete — Oklahoma City

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No Meat Athlete OKC, in front of the Flaming Lips’ Museum

If our first two running group successes, Miami and Virginia Beach, have been surprises, our third is a complete shocker. Oklahoma City … that’s beef country, isn’t it?

But continuing on the theme of our other successful groups, the lack of vegan options and activities nearby makes for strong, tight bonds among NMA OKC’s members.

In fact, the first time I met some of them wasn’t in Oklahoma City but at the Marshall Healthfest in Texas, to which three members (Gina, Jon, and Kaitlyn) had driven together — for six hours each way.

The point was driven home when I visited the group in Oklahoma earlier this year and several members told me things like, “Before this group, I had never met another vegan in person.” Or, “I hang out with my NMA friends more than I do my other friends now.”

Pretty crazy! Let’s see what makes NMA Oklahoma City work.

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Strong Leadership, Committed Members

Several of our other running group leaders have been frustrated by the difficulty of getting more than a few members to show up for runs when they see other groups getting 20 to 30 people for their biggest events. Here’s the thing, though: OKC doesn’t get huge numbers either, but makes it work nonetheless.

So how do they do it?

Gina Stone, the leader of the OKC group, says:

I had no idea what to expect when I scheduled the first run in October. Honestly, I was fully prepared to run by myself that first day. As it turned out, five people and one puppy showed up!

We’ve continued to meet every Sunday since then. Although we have about 137 members in the Facebook group, participation for our runs is small, ranging from about one to ten runners each week. But the bond we have with one another and the commitment of our regulars is strong.

It was so easy for us to connect each Sunday because we were just thrilled to finally have a conversation that didn’t involve us defending our protein intake. We have an amazing group of people who probably would not have ever come together had it not been for the NMA running group.

While the turnout varies each week, a few members form a rock-solid core that’s consistently showing up for runs and other group events. Another group of more casual members rotates in and out.

And it seems like it’s been that way since the beginning:

Even though I’m the one that creates the event on Facebook and “shouts” directions as we meander through downtown each week, this group would not be what it is without the initial enthusiasm, support, and participation from Kris, Jonathan, Nelly, and Emily. As the group grows, we continue to acquire new, committed “regulars” who add layer upon layer of awesomeness to the runs and the veg scene in our city.

It’s the people that make this group rock, no doubt. There is no better feeling than blazing through the odious Oklahoma weather every week with a mighty tribe of paradigm-busting, compassionate, inspiring athletes.

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Like Clockwork

Every week I scan through the photos that our running groups post in their Facebook groups, and early on, OKC stood out. It wasn’t that they had huge numbers, just that every single week, a few people turned out. One low-turnout run didn’t mean the end of the group; they’d just have fun and show up again the next week.

Same time. Same place. Every week. In Gina’s words:

Our group is consistent, welcoming, diverse, and reliable. We meet at the same time, relatively same spot, run the same course, and encourage all levels of ability and plant-based eating to join us. In a place like Oklahoma, it is easy to be a vegan freak, but it’s even easier to latch on to those individuals who share your unique beliefs and lifestyle.

What Makes It Work

In a nutshell, it’s:

  • Consistency. Even though the turnout has never been huge, the group can count on a run every week. Same time, same place.
  • Friendships. Some members also go to other running groups together, and the Facebook page really took off with lively conversation, including an ongoing argument about the merits of grapefruit.
  • The common bond in a place where vegans are few.
  • A few members who are really committed, forming a very strong core.

I had no idea what a blast I’d have visiting this group in Oklahoma City. I’ve harped on the closeness of the friendships a lot here already, but it took actually hanging out with them for a weekend to fully understand how powerful a factor this is.

The day I arrived, we had delicious almond milk cappuccino at Elemental Coffee, then pizza and beers while we waited out a tornado warning. The next day it was hot yoga and a visit to Mim’s Bakery, a vegan food truck run by Emily, a member of the group. And of course, the obligatory stop at the Flaming Lips’ museum for the official photo during our run, before enjoying one more meal out at one of just a few vegan-friendly spots in town.

As unlikely as it might seem in the heart of beef country, this group made being a vegan in OKC for a weekend a blast. Limited in options, sure, but amazing people to share the journey with — people who “get” you and want to see and be a part of real change for their city.

If any one factor is the reason for their success, that’s it.

A Few More Photos of NMA OKC

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Haven’t run with your city’s NMA group yet? Check out our full listing and get on it! And if it doesn’t exist in your city yet, why not be the one to start it?

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What to Eat Before a Race

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Most of us have a pre-race ritual: we wake up at a certain time, put on a certain outfit, do just the right amount of warming up.

But what about eating that final pre-race meal?

What to eat before a race is one of the toughest questions new runners struggle to answer. Eat too little and you’re low on energy and hungry late in the race. Eat too much and you feel bloated and heavy.

The balance between energy-packed and easy on the stomach is a delicate one to find, even for seasoned runners.

In today’s episode, we discuss what to eat the morning of a long run or race, and why solid foods might not be the best option. We also share our own routines … which happen to be remarkably different.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Eating for energy vs. eating for comfort
  • Does “healthy” matter on race day?
  • The optimal time for your pre-race meal
  • Why I drink more than I eat before a race
  • How to discover which foods work best for you

Click the button below to listen now:

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