Stop Waiting for a Guarantee

Every few weeks, I get a message on Twitter or other social media like this one:

@NoMeatAthlete Curious about a plant-based diet, but worried about how it will affect my recovery from long rides. Thoughts?

Yes, I have some thoughts. And they don’t fit into 140 characters. Here goes.

Sometimes, you just need to try things. Without a guarantee that they’ll work. 

I’d actually be more sympathetic if you were worried about dropping dead on the spot from a lack of protein. Sudden death isn’t reversible and isn’t gradual, so you’d be right to want to confirm that it’s not a risk before diving in.

But feeling a little sluggish when you get on the bike? Noticing, after a month maybe, that your times are dropping off? Unless you’re a pro athlete, none of this is cataclysmic.

I’m not saying that will or won’t happen. Nobody can say that for sure. A lot of athletes choose this diet precisely because of what it does for their recovery … but it’s totally possible that for whatever reason, it just won’t work out for you.

And what then?

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How to GAIN Weight on a Plant-Based Diet

Seems like everywhere you turn, somebody’s got a new solution to help you lose weight. But what if your problem is the opposite: instead of wanting to lose weight, what if you want to put it on?

If you’re sick of being the stereotypical “skinny vegan,” and want to look as strong as you feel, then what do you do?

Even before I was vegetarian or vegan, I had trouble gaining weight. But with enough focus, I eventually figured out how to do so, through a combination of nutrition (hint: lots of peanut butter sandwiches!) and lifting weights. And a few years later, having lost the weight as a vegan and ultrarunner, I set out to gain weight once again — and I succeeded in putting on 17 pounds in six weeks.

In today’s episode, co-host Doug and I discuss why someone might want to gain weight, whether or not it’s healthy in the long run, and exactly how to do it on a vegan diet.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The not-so-complicated calorie formula for gaining weight
  • A vegan “fat shake” — the recipe
  • Why you should stop running to bulk up
  • Supplements I’ve used to build muscle
  • Are there health benefits to putting on weight?

Click the button below to listen now:

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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?

tris di legumi in ciotola su fondo legno

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


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.

Click the button below to listen now:

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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


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

Click the button below to listen now:

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