Robert Cheeke on Staying Motivated, Changing Course, and Embracing Imperfection

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In an effort to keep the show fresh, Matt and I rarely invite a former guest back on to No Meat Athlete Radio. To be asked back for a third episode puts vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke in rare company.

But with a new book, a move to a different state, and the transition away from speaking and traveling (as frequently, anyway), we knew this conversation with Robert would be different. And it was.

In this episode we talk to Robert about how his lifestyle and career have shifted as more plant-based bodybuilders hit the scene, and what that transition has done for his motivation levels. He also shares why he’s embracing imperfection when it comes to nutrition, and how he’s gained more muscle than ever before.

If you liked the first two episodes with Robert, you’ll love this new one.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • How Robert gained more muscle than ever before
  • Robert’s food confession
  • Why stepping away may provide more inspiration
  • Muscle mass and longevity … what’s the connection?

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Dr. Pamela Fergusson on Practical Vegan Nutrition, Speedwalking Ultramarathons, and Living Intentionally

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Pamela Fergusson lives in Toronto, where she runs a nutrition consulting practice as a registered dietitian and nutrition PhD. And that’s as normal as Pamela’s story gets.

She’s an ultramarathoner — sometimes running, but sometimes speed walking (different from power walking, as she explains in our interview). And this past summer, she did her own unsupported, self-styled iron-distance triathlon … no clocks, no crowds, just 140.6 miles to cover in a day, by herself.

Pamela has four children who eat like she does and have their own busy lives … but Pamela’s family chooses not to own a car.

Oh, and now and then, she pulls her kids out of school for a month to homeschool them in other countries.

When it’s so easy to let important things slide until it feels like you’re just getting by, Pamela seems to be so on top of everything. How does she find the time?

That’s what I wondered when I met her this summer in Toronto at a meetup of our No Meat Athlete group there, and it’s why I’m thrilled to have her as my guest on this episode of No Meat Athlete Radio.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Pamela’s advice on plant-based meal planning
  • Potential deficiencies in a plant-based diet … and how protein isn’t one of them
  • How to help your kids love eating healthy and being vegan
  • The Zen of speed walking
  • The joy of owning no car
  • Pamela’s experiences with homeschooling her children in foreign countries

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The Healthy, Practical Plant-Based Diet: A Typical Day

[vegan stir fry image]

What do you eat during a typical day?

Even as the plant-based diet for athletes becomes more commonplace, people still ask me this question all the time.

And I like it — it’s an opportunity to explain that you can eat 100% plant-based and really, really healthily … without spending your life in the kitchen or subsisting on trail mix and sprouts (while living in a treehouse, I think).

I’m busy like anyone else. I have two young kids and work hard, and as a result, I’ve streamlined my diet so that it’s affordable and doesn’t take a lot of time.

But I do make food a priority, like it should be. I’m very happy with my version of a healthy, plant-based diet, and I’m happy to share it with you in this post.

A Typical Day on a Plant-Based Diet

I eat according to a few simple guidelines (e.g., until I feel mostly full). My focus is on simplicity and health, and one of the amazing things I’ve found is that over time my palate has adjusted so that simple, healthy food is the food that tastes good.

But there’s another important point here. I’ve set up my diet so that I eat the same types of meals most days until dinnertime, adding variety only within a certain category of foods (like mixing up the fruits or nuts in the smoothie, or choosing different veggies or dressing for the salad).

And what that means is that each day, there are relatively few decisions I have to make around food.

This is important because:

  1. The fewer food decisions you have to make early in the day, the better the choices you’ll make later (see: decision fatigue), and
  2. When you know ahead of time the types of meals you’ll eat, you can “engineer” your diet to include exactly what you want and none of what you don’t.

But I should add that what follows is only a “typical” day — this is the stuff I’ve consciously decided to eat on a daily basis. But because I’m a human, I like eating a muffin when my wife bakes them for the kids’ school, or the times when I have leftover (delicious) pasta for lunch instead of my usual salad. I don’t stress a bit about these little indulgences, because know that what I do most of the time is what matters.

With that, here’s what a typical day looks like for me.

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Summer Running Camp, Part 5: Race Day Walk-Through

A man in a sports uniform is running along the shore of the lake

With this week’s Equinox came the end of summer … and the official closing ceremony at the NMA Summer Running Camp.

If you missed the first four weeks of camp, here’s what we covered:

  1. Building consistency
  2. Running form
  3. How to prevent running injuries
  4. Advanced marathon training and racing with coach Jason Fitzgerald

After much consideration, Matt and I felt there was no better way to wrap things up than to head to the races.

In this week’s episode we share a complete race day walk-through. From port-o-potties to pacing, we present the whole picture and how to manage it.

Oh, and there’s a special treat at the top of this episode, so crank it up.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The days leading up to your race — what you need to know
  • What to eat on race morning
  • Port-o-potties … how to handle the lines
  • Are pacing groups helpful?
  • Dealing with the marathon bonk

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Meet Switchel, the Original Sports Drink — and Our Favorite Homemade, Natural Running Fuel

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Note from Matt: It’s official! Our new book, The No Meat Athlete Cookbook: 150 Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts and the Rest of Your Life, is now available for pre-order, at just about every major bookstore.

Over the next few months I’ll be sharing a lot more details about the book, and today I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Stepfanie Romine, the plant-based chef, health coach, runner, and yoga instructor who co-authored this book with me. Stepfanie shares my affinity for streamlining healthy recipes and concepts to their simplest, most practical core (while taking care not to oversimplify), which made her a perfect fit for this book.

Stepfanie has loads of experience making workout-friendly food for herself and her husband, a competitive cyclist, and I absolutely LOVE the homemade, natural sports drink recipe (which tastes shockingly like grape Gatorade!) that she’s sharing with you in today’s post.

So without further ado … meet Stepf!

If you’re a regular No Meat Athlete blog reader, you’ll know that Matt is not prone to hyperbole. When he says something is “mind-blowing,” you take notice.

Just after we announced our new cookbook, Matt asked if I could share a few of the recipes with the NMA community. Excited, I flipped through my notes, went back and forth between a few workout fuel recipes, and emailed Matt for input.

He responded quickly, insisting I share this recipe for switchel.

“Seriously, the grape one was mind-blowing,” he said (again).

And I agree.

This sports drink recipe is a game changer. Having used switchel for going on two years now, I can say I’ll never go back to store-bought drinks again. Judging from his reaction, Matt likely won’t either.

My Search for the Perfect Homemade Sports Drink

I know what you’re thinking. Why make my own sports drink when it’s so easy to buy?

For me, it was the same reason I started eating dates on runs instead of gels and gummies. I’m a clean eater in real life, and my body was begging me to clean up my running fuel, too. Most common sports drinks, like Gatorade, contain processed sugars and artificial flavors, ingredients I want to avoid when putting my body through intense exercise.

As a distance runner, I knew I needed carbs to give me the energy to log all those miles, but my digestive system never liked what I put in. I had to reach a detente with my GI tract if I wanted to PR.

So I started experimenting. I made a few different homemade sports drinks that didn’t upset my stomach … but also weren’t too appealing.

Then I stumbled upon switchel. I can’t remember when exactly I first heard about it, but here in the organic farming and outdoor enthusiast epicenter that is Asheville, such things have a way of being common conversation. It sounded retro and cool, and the ingredient list was clean — with staples I already had in my pantry, like fruit juice, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar.

I couldn’t find an exact recipe, so I used the ratio of carbs to electrolytes in a typical sports drink as my guide. After a few attempts, I had fine-tuned the recipe. It was perfect.

I spilled the beans about switchel to Matt who gave it a try during his next long run, and it was love at first sip.

The Original Sports Drink

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How Not to Suck at Cooking

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If you want to start eating healthy, the number one thing you can do isn’t to go on a diet or juice cleanse. It’s to start cooking at home.

Just by cooking your own food you’ll cut back on the amount of salt, oil, and unhealthy junk chefs add to restaurant meals that makes them so delicious.

The problem is a lot of us don’t know how to cook. I’m mean, just listen back to last week’s episode and you’ll see how little Matt and I knew not that long ago.

But a lot has changed since our days of college, and in today’s episode, Matt and I share the basic cooking tips we rely on almost every single day.

As a bonus, Matt shares the skills he’s learned so far at the Rouxbe plant-based cooking school (he’s only about 20% through so far, so expect more from that in the future).

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Why is it important to cook at home?
  • How to choose a cookbook
  • What Matt has learned (so far) in cooking school
  • Essential equipment for a well designed kitchen
  • Preparing food … the right way

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21 Kid-Friendly Ideas and Recipes to Help Them Love Vegan Foods

Woman with baby cooking at kitchen

Temper tantrums. Food shoved across the table (or even on the floor). A child that won’t touch the meal you just spent an hour preparing.

For even the best parents, mealtime with children can easily become one of the most frustrating and disheartening times of the day.
Maybe you’re raising a little one who runs away from anything green. Or perhaps your child hates mixed flavors or textures and cries when their food “touches.”

No matter what your situation may be, we can all agree on one thing:

We want our children to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole, plant-based foods.

In my practice as a Registered Dietitian, I’ve helped families become plant-powered, and raising four little plant-based athletes myself, I know how difficult feeding your kids healthy food can feel.

But it’s not impossible. In fact, healthy eating can be fun (and tasty) for both the child and the parent.

It just requires the right approach.

21 Ways to Get Your Kids to Crave Plant-Based Foods

I’ve failed many times when attempting to feed my kids a healthy meal, but through both my own experiences and what I’ve learned while working with other families, I’ve developed a number of tips on how to get your kids to love vegan food.

Tips that actually work.

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What We Wish We Knew In College (About Food, Exercise, and Life)

Young man moving into dormitory on college campus

Back to school. Back to school. To prove to dad that I’m not a fool

For students, early September means one thing: The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.

I have fond memories of the first day back to school, especially in college. Nerves were high, but so was the excitement of new classes, roommates, experiences, and friends.

And I can speak for both Matt and I when I say that we had a lot of fun during our college days … and that we made many stupid mistakes.

In today’s episode we think back to those mistakes, and share the fitness, nutrition, and life lessons or advice we wish we’d known in college.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Brown rice … not fried rice
  • Why running a terrible marathon was Matt’s best decision ever
  • Doug’s weekly gym mistake
  • The books we wish we’d read in college
  • An easy way to eat healthy (even in a dining hall)
  • The life lessons we wish someone had told us

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