Matt Letten is a Certified Personal Trainer and serial entrepreneur. He got his start in fitness, by way of necessity. Having lost over 90 pounds, and changing inside and out, Matt committed to spend his life helping others to do the same. Matt has owned and operated three gyms in the Michigan area, while maintaining a dedicated group of Boot Camp and Personal Training clientele. Leading by example, Matt encourages others to increase their level of fitness, health, and positive impact on the world.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
My brother, Phil Letten, was a major influence on making the change. For years, I was antagonistic towards vegans and wanted nothing to do with the idea. During a time when I was coming into my own, I began re-examining many of my points of view, and long held beliefs. Around this time, my brother, linked me to a video exposing the cruelty that goes on at factory farms. I remember thinking to myself, while watching it, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to eat meat again.” I went vegetarian the next day, and vegan a bit further down the road.
How long have you been vegan?
Over 3 years.
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
I had severe asthma and allergies growing up, and continued into adulthood. When I went vegan, my asthma and allergies literally vanished. I feel vibrant and energetic every day. I never realized how bad I felt on a daily basis, until I went vegan, and feel amazing every day.
My athletic performance has also benefited immensely. I’ve been able to add clean muscle, move faster and I’m able to power through crazy workouts like they’re no big deal.
What does veganism mean to you?
To me, veganism is about living out my values, having a real impact on the world, and showing the fitness community that vegan means strong, fit, and healthy.
What sort of training do you do?
I train in many different styles, from bodybuilding, to kettlebells, to crossfit, to circuit training. I get bored easily, and like changing it up. I love tracking my progress, and reaching new Personal Records.
How often do you (need to) train?
I typically train 5-6 days per week.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I opened my first gym almost 6 years ago, and since have opened 2 others. I am also a personal trainer at my facilities.
What sports do you play?
I grew up playing baseball, basketball, and soccer. As an adult, I like to stay active, with group crossfit-style workouts, and recreational league softball. I also will play soccer and volleyball whenever I catch word of a game I can get involved with.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
I believe there is just a lack of solid information for the public, about what vegan is, and what it means. Typically, I get a couple of responses when people find out I’m vegan. First off, sheer disbelief, as they assume all vegans are skinny and weak. I really enjoy being a person’s first introduction to what a vegan is. I would keep working hard, just for that reason alone. And then - of course, “Where do you get your protein from?”
One of the awesome things I’ve noticed of late, is the tide seems to be changing. When I get into a conversation about plant-based eating, many I speak with, refer to a vegan diet as a superior, healthy diet, that they simply haven’t attained yet. It’s then great speaking with people about simple changes they can began making, to work toward reducing their animal consumption.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
One of my main strengths comes from prior weakness. I was extremely unhealthy and obese growing up. This carried into my college years, where I got fed up. I began to attend the gym and making nutritional changes, and through hard work and determination, I was able to lose nearly 100 pounds, and it transformed my life from the inside out.
While going vegan is not what propelled my initial weight loss, it is what propels me to be the best I can be, going forward. Since being vegan, I am healthier than at any point prior in my life. The strength from that is being able to relate with others who struggle with their weight and eating habits.
My physical strengths as a vegan athlete, I believe, would be my overall fitness. I work hard to meet strength with endurance. This allows me to be strong, while also agile, and able to work hard and fast for long periods of time.
What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is myself. I’m constantly trying to better myself so that I can be at my best for my clients, in helping them reach their fitness goals, and ultimately to reduce and hopefully eliminate their animal consumption.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
I talk about this with many close friends. I believe it’s really a mixed bag. While, the world, at large, is growing more and more supportive of veganism each and every day, there are some in the fitness industry trying their best to hold on to animal proteins as essential. Thankfully, research on the immense health benefits of a vegan diet, are putting the final nail in the coffin of the shrinking “we must eat animals” crowd.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
I have an incredible group around me. My brother and both parents are vegan, along with many friends. New friends are asking me about it each and every week. It’s exciting to see people wake up, just like I did!
What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
People ask where I get my protein, how difficult it must be and ultimately disbelief that someone healthy and strong could be vegan. I truly enjoy being an advocate for animals. I am by no means perfect, but I have worked hard to get where I am, and view my career as working to save animals, by way of showing how easy, beneficial, and healthy a vegan diet is.
I always let people know how easy it is to be vegan and how great I feel every day. Not to mention how amazing it feels to know that I have fully opted out of an industry of torture and death.
Who or what motivates you?
I am motivated by many of my friends and family, who work tirelessly on behalf of animals, volunteering and working with organizations such as Mercy For Animals, Vegan Outreach and The Humane League. I have amazing friends, doing amazing things. I am also motivated to help others undergo the same transformation I have had the privilege of going through. I simply want everyone to feel the way I do.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Sun Warrior Protein shake with oatmeal added
Lunch - either a protein/fruit smoothie, a loaded salad, or Thai stir-fry in a low calorie white sauce, with loads of veggies and tofu.
Dinner - tempeh stir-fry with plenty of spices
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - I’ll bite at the not so healthy here. I have a weakness for Double Stuf Oreos. NO, not regular Oreos. DOUBLE STUFF or bust!
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Sun Warrior Protein powder and spinach
Iron- Spinach and kale
What foods give you the most energy?
Do you take any supplements?
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Nutrition is key. Be sure to get a good combination of protein and carbohydratess PRE and POST workout. Also, work in hypertrophy range, lifting heavy in sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Losing weight - Monitor your calories. Be sure to eat a higher protein diet, moderate fats and moderately lower carbohydrates. Find what works for you. Do not be afraid to lift heavy, fat loss will come faster.
Maintaining weight - Simply work on eating mostly whole foods. Stick to fruits and veggies and you’re going to be in great shape.
Improving metabolism - High protein, high fiber, faster cardio in the morning, sprint training occasionally and ultimately build muscle mass.
Toning up - Stick with mostly high repetition range days of 15-25, with occasional 8-12 repetition sessions, along with HIIT cardio after your strength session.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
As a gym owner, and personal trainer, I have the opportunity to engage people in discussions on a daily basis. I love having a client come in and brag to me about how they haven’t had meat or dairy for X days. Nothing beats it.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
There is simply no industry like the fitness industry. We have the chance to impact people from the inside out. I view my training style as holistic, helping people overcome internal struggles, while overcoming physical hurdles. This makes for a strong, empathetic individual, who then wants to pay it forward.
If you are interested in becoming a personal trainer, find a college, or certification you can get behind, and start learning. Then, find a head trainer, which you resonate with, and request to intern or shadow them.