Jay is a martial artist, a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and has been following a whole food, plant-based lifestyle for a number of years now. He is known as Plant-Based Athlete on YouTube, and he, along with his partner Michelle, have a new site Thriving Plant Based that offers plenty of information and support regarding transitioning to a healthy plant-based lifestyle.
Hi Jay, I know you’re pretty busy working on your exciting new project and getting prepared to move, so, I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview.
To begin, could you share a bit about your background along with what ultimately led you to the plant-based lifestyle? Did you find transitioning to a plant-based diet difficult in any way?
– Thanks for having me.
Honestly I just kind of fell into this lifestyle by watching “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix back in 2011. I then read, The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and that sealed the deal. It all made sense to me, I had lost my father in 2010 to a Heart Attack and have seen so many family and friends die too young due to poor diet. I actually didn’t find it too difficult as a lot of other people I’ve talked with. I was terrified of the consequences I knew were inevitable if I continued poor eating habits. I was also training Jiu-Jitsu a ton and was sick of being sore all the time.
Since going plant-based, have you noticed any changes or health benefits? And have you noticed any changes in athletic performance?
Absolutely! I lost weight easily, I was regular for the first time in years, my mood improved, my energy, I was happier, and woke up from a zombie like view of the world. Training was the first thing I noticed. My inflammation went away almost immediately, I am rarely sore, and my recovery went through the roof.
How long have you been doing BJJ? And what got you started? Did you have any prior martial arts experience?
I’ve been training for just over 6 years now. I saw the first UFC with Royce Gracie back in 1993 and said, I want to be a Black Belt in that art someday. It wasn’t until 16 years later I jumped into it. I did some Judo briefly back in the late 90’s, only for a summer, because I really wanted to do Jiu-Jitsu but there were no schools in the area.
You are a pretty active guy. How much do you train BJJ each week? And what do you like most about it?
I just left Hawaii a few weeks ago and I was training anywhere from 5-8x per week. I love everything about it but I really enjoy how technical it is and how when I’m training I don’t think about anything else at the time. It’s a huge stress reliever.
Note: The photo is of jackfruit, for those wondering. 😉
For at least a couple of years now, you’ve been following a high fruit lifestyle. What led you to this path and how do you feel it affects your athletic performance and/or health?
Well the Doctors I started to follow recommend a low fat Plant-Based diet like T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, and Dr. John McDougall. Doing some searching around on YouTube I ended up finding a few people doing a high carb, low fat raw diet. I was intrigued so I went raw for a while and really loved the energy and recovery fruit gave me. I’m not fully raw anymore but I eat mostly fruit for breakfast and lunch. I feel light throughout the day and full of energy.
I know you’re also a fan of mangoes! Do you have a favourite variety? And what other fruits are among your favourites?
Yes, I am. I’m really loving the Ataulfo Mangoes, and when in season I enjoy the Hatian Mangoes as well.
What does a typical day of eating look like for you? Do you have a favourite post-workout recovery meal?
Right now while I’m in L.A. with my girlfriend a day looks like this: She usually makes us a green veggie juice to start the day, then I’ll have a coconut water followed by some ripe mangoes. I enjoy water rich fruits for breakfast. When Mangoes aren’t in season I’ll eat Papayas, Oranges, Watermelon, etc. For lunch I’ll often have a Banana Smoothie with some greens and sometimes another fruit with it and a Tbsp of Chia Seeds. Dinner is typically a cooked meal. Maybe a large salad followed by a rice dish with beans or some Sweet Potatoes. Dinner varies depending on what we feel like.
What motivates you most to continue with the plant-based lifestyle? And what do you feel is the best part about being vegan?
I just want people to feel the changes I felt after switching my diet. I also know that Heart Disease, our #1 killer, is completely avoidable through diet. I went Vegan initially for my health but now it is so much more than that. I’ve always loved animals but like many other people had my blinders on. Watch the documentary “Earthlings,” it’ll change your life.
Could you share a couple of your favourite plant-based meals with us?
Umm, gosh I like so many plant foods. I eat really simply, you can see a lot of my favorite recipes on our website www.thrivingplantbased.com.
Do you have a favourite vegan restaurant?
Yes, while I’m here in L.A. we love going to Gracias Madre here in West Hollywood. It’s Mexican style, 100% organic, and 100% vegan. It is super good, but for the most part we like to eat at home. We know what is in our food that way, and feel much better without all the fat, oil, and refined sugar you often find in restaurant foods.
What advice would you give to someone who is just finding the plant-based path? Also, people seem to fret a lot about protein, is there any advice you would give regarding protein and athletics?
Eat enough of your favorite plant foods so you don’t crave the processed foods and animal products. Give yourself 60-90 days and your palate won’t crave those foods any longer. Yeah, stop thinking about Protein. 😉 Biggest marketing scam ever, I have better recovery now than I ever had consuming tons of Protein. If you eat a variety of whole plant foods you don’t have to worry about Protein intake.
You have quite a popular, and ever growing YouTube channel Plant-Based Athlete, and you’re pretty interested in helping people transition to a healthy plant-based lifestyle. Your site Thriving Plant Based, seems to be a further extension of this. What kind of information and services do you provide through the site in order to help people out on their plant-based journey?
My partner Michelle and I really enjoy helping people. She’s been practicing Yoga for almost 16 years and that is her passion in life. The site has a bunch of free content like our YouTube videos, Recipes, Blog posts, etc. We offer a membership and a really small monthly fee which entails Full Length Yoga Classes from her, Private Videos, our Daily Food Journals of everything we both eat, and a Forum where we answer questions. It’s been up since April 24th and we are really happy with it so far, our members seem to feel the same way. Check it out. 🙂 www.thrivingplantbased.com
Thanks for the interview, I enjoyed it.
Thanks Jay, it’s great to learn a bit more about you and your plant-based journey!
Read a review of Forks Over Knives. You can find Forks Over Knives, The China Study and books by other plant-based doctors mentioned by Jay in the books resources section. Just scroll down to “plant based health.”
If you haven’t yet seen Earthlings, visit their website for more information.
Read a recent interview with Competitive Stand Up Paddler John Merryfield. The first part in a series on Active Outdoor Vegans.