We vegans tend to talk about food and nutrition a lot, whether by our own interest or in answering the frequent questions we receive about where we get x, y, or z nutrient. And athletes tend to be obsessed with talking about nutrition and macros and all that. So vegan athletes can be a force to be reckoned with. But do any of us really know what we’re talking about? Well, you can be sure my guest today does. Not only is he vegan and an athlete–actually ultra-athlete, but to top it off, he’s a registered dietitian.
Matt Ruscigno is a registered dietitian–one of the only professional nutrition credentials available, a vegan of 19 years, endurance ultra-athlete busting out marathons, iron-man triathlons, 200+ mile cycling events and 24 hour races–cause that’s no big deal–a blogger, co-author of No Meat Athlete, and Appetite for Reductions, and co-creator of the online vegan athlete web series Strongest Hearts.
On top of all of that, Matt is down-to-earth, laid back, always happy to help educate, and had a cat visitor during our interview, which is by far the most impressive credential.
With all of this nutritional know-how and hands-on athletic experience, I just had to ask him: What do you eat in a day? [click to tweet]
To hear Matt's entire story (and meet Odin the cat) be sure to watch the video above but here are some choice nuggets:
On his vegan journey:
“I went vegan when i was 17 years old, which is now 19 years ago this month. I was very influenced by sort of punk rock music in the mid-90’s. … And then it came time for to me pick what I wanted to study in college, and I picked nutrition just because of veganism. And so, that’s how I became a registered dietitian.”
On what he eats in a day:
“I’m definitely an anomaly, as far as being a dietitian I’m not super numbers focused, and I’m not super obsessive. … I’m more of a bigger picture, conceptual person, and my diet reflects that.”
Here's what Matt eats on a typical day:
- Breakfast: tofu scramble with lots of veggies and corn tortillas or whole wheat bread.
- Lunch: leftovers from the previous night's dinner.
- Dinner: stir-fries with veggies (such as broccoli, purple cabbage, arugula, or kale) and a protein (fake meat, tofu, or tempeh). Other nights, Matt says he likes to eat burritos with tice, beans, salsa, guacamole, and veggies.[click to tweet]
On the ubiquity of vegan options for athletes:
“A lot of people eat plant based foods when they’re training whether they think about it or not. They’re eating bananas. They’re eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They’re eating pasta with tomato sauce and some veggies. These are vegan foods that most athletes eat.”
On his approach to eating and nutrition:
“After studying nutrition for 7 years, I think I have an intuition about it [nutrition]…and I can gauge it pretty well, and I know a lot of athletes really fixate on these macros. and, there’s a lot of variants between individuals, and between, within our own bodies depending on how well trained we are, our stress levels. All sorts of things affect our calorie needs and how these protein, carbohydrate, and fat is assimilated when we eat it. And so, I don’t think most people need to be as hung up as they are on exact numbers. Just having a good general idea how much carbohydrate and protein is inserted in things. And watching how you feel to know if you’re getting enough calories or not.” [click to tweet]
On what it takes to be a registered dietitian:
Matt says that all registered dietitians must:
- Get a Bachelor's in Nutrition.
- Do a one-year internship.
- Pass a certification examination.
- Keep up with new information in the field through continuing education.
- Get a master's degree (optional). “Many registered dietitians, more than half, also have a masters degree,” he says.
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Matt on this. Stay tuned to the series for more with him on optimal athletic performance via sound nutrition and some of the most inspiring vegan athletes he’s worked with. And if you're in the Madison,Wisconsin area, be sure to catch him this coming weekend, June 27th at the Mad City Vegan Fest!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you enjoy Matt’s more laid-back approach to nutrition? Let me know in the comments!More Vegan Athlete Series
Vegan Health, Nutrition & Fitness
Vegan Athletic Performance
Nutrition Concerns Series
The Worst of the Fitness Industry
From Meat-head to Vegan Bodybuilder
The Makings of a Vegan Bikini Pro
The Controversy Video