a man sitting on a kitchen floor with a bowl of fruit
By Lezlie Mitchell, Best of Vegan Editor, Author and Blogger

Joseph Blair, also known as The Vegan Coach, is a former professional basketball player, an NBA coach, as well as a healthy and plant-based lifestyle advocate who “wants to inspire individuals from all walks of life to embrace veganism and living a conscious lifestyle”. The title The Vegan Coach, he says, is meant to encourage people to explore the “remarkable benefits of a vegan diet, dispelling myths and showcasing how veganism builds strength, longevity, youthfulness, and a sense of moral peace.”

a man (Joseph Blair) sitting on a couch holding a basketball
Joseph Blair (© Scott Suchman)

We recently spoke to Joseph about basketball, his career, veganism, wellbeing, nutrition, and his outlook on life. He also shared one of his favorite go-to recipes with us, a vegan twist on Ceviche, made with chickpeas.

“Through my own experiences and expertise, I hopes to serve as a role model for anyone striving to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

– Joseph Blair, The Vegan Coach

How a Professional Basketball Career Shaped Joseph Blair

LM: How did your journey into professional basketball shape your perspective on life and personal growth?

Joseph Blair: I had the privilege of living and competing at the highest level all around the globe. The biggest takeaway from my years of coming into contact with individuals from all different cultural, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds is that we all want two things in this life: to feel loved and relevancy. I want to exist in a world where love, relevance, and compassion reign supreme and I’m driven by my commitment to inspire and ignite change, creating a healthier, more interconnected, and sustainable world for generations to come.

LM: Looking back on your basketball career, what are some of the most memorable moments that had a profound impact on you?

Joseph Blair: Just the fact that I was a professional athlete is the most profound memory in my (…) career.  It’s what I carry with me daily in my current profession, and even in my personal lifestyle.  [The] understanding that I am a part of something greater than myself.  My livelihood financially and more personal success was, and is, directly tied to how I could co-exist with a group of diverse individuals all working towards a common goal. 

“I am so grateful for my children and I love watching them grow up”

– Joseph Blair, The Vegan Coach

Personally, many memories have influenced the person I am today, but becoming a father and losing my mom have had the most significant impact on the man I am today. I am so grateful for my children and I love watching them grow up, as I’m sure my mom loved watching me and my brother. My mom was my biggest fan and I know her prayers are still protecting me as watches over me.

Joseph Blair standing in a gray suit
Joseph Blair (© Scott Suchman)

Veganism and a Plant-Based Lifestyle: Combining Ethics & Wellbeing

LM: What inspired you to adopt a vegan lifestyle, and how has it influenced you and your overall wellbeing?

Joseph Blair: Actually, in my last year of college I didn’t really have a lot of money so I ate vegetarian because it was more affordable. That lasted for 10 years until I went pescatarian for a short stint. Almost 9 years ago, my girlfriend at the time called me one day and told me she saw a documentary and was brought to tears because of the treatment of animals. She said that she was going vegan and I said, ‘Well, I love you and want to support you, so I’m going to go vegan, too.”

“I am committed to reducing the negative impact humans have on our planet through conscious dietary choices.”

– Joseph Blair

As an athlete, obviously my diet is crucial to everything and I always wanted my body to be ready to go at any time. Now that I’ve been a vegan for almost 10 years, I am committed to reducing the negative impact humans have on our planet through conscious dietary choices. By embracing veganism, I believe we can create a more sustainable future and reduce our ecological footprint.

LM: From your social media posts, it’s apparent that you are an advocate for both an ethical vegan lifestyle (for the wellbeing of animals) and the benefits of a plant-based diet (for health and wellness reasons), while many choose to only focus on the dietary aspect. Do you ever receive pushback for being such a strong advocate for ethical veganism? And if yes, how do you respond to it?

Joseph Blair: Yes, absolutely. I’ve gotten plenty of pushback. However, it’s only made me grow stronger in my convictions. I will always respect differences of opinions and beliefs and do my best to make sure that I respond to each criticism in a way that demonstrates to the individuals the same level of compassion I demonstrate to the animals.  The goal is to educate and allow space for individuals to have their own “ah ha” moment. 

vegan ceviche
Vegan Ceviche Style Chickpeas by Joseph Blair (© Kim-Julie Hansen)

Enhancing Athletic Performance with Plant-based Nutrition: Tips from a Pro

LM: How, if at all, do you think adopting a vegan lifestyle and plant-based diet has affected your athletic performance and recovery?

Joseph Blair: Honestly, I think if anything it has helped me immensely. As I mentioned earlier, I’m more focused and I have more energy. Leading a vegan lifestyle has forced me to make healthier choices and those healthier choices make me feel my best. It is also a question of discipline. I quickly learned what was best and made the decision to do just that. That is always a question of discipline for all of us. It’s been a game changer for me and one I’ll never take for granted.

LM: Can you share some challenges you faced when transitioning to a plant-based diet, and how did you overcome them?

Joseph Blair: I actually didn’t face any challenges! I pretty much became a vegan cold turkey. Once I made the decision to go vegan, I found myself throwing away food because I started to look into where this food was coming from and it grossed me out. It made me feel like I had been fooled all these years because of the lack of awareness of where my food was coming from.

Then I started to think about what junk they must feed the animals and I just had no desire to eat any animal products anymore. I’m highly aware that there are pesticides in vegetables, obviously, but when you add in the animal torture, I just could not bring myself to feel right about eating that. I felt like I couldn’t taste the flavors anymore and all I could taste was a dead animal. 

Joseph Blair Quote: You don't have to live on tofu and salads

LM: What advice would you give to aspiring athletes who may be looking into adopting a plant-based diet, but who are skeptical or reluctant?

Joseph Blair: Anybody can do this. To be a professional athlete, you want to be in your prime so obviously your health & wellness is key. Take it slowly, explore and learn what you like and what you don’t- you can even begin with one vegan meal a week.  You don’t have to live on tofu and salads. Give yourself grace, but don’t give up!

LM: How do you approach nutrition and meal planning as a vegan athlete to ensure you meet your dietary needs for optimal performance?

Joseph Blair: Well, because I do intermittent fasting, I only eat dinner and I’m fortunate that a majority of my meals are made by the team’s Chef because we’re often on the road.  [W]hen I’m traveling, I always try and test out at least one vegan restaurant wherever I go. When I’m home, which is rare, I enjoy cooking, exploring new vegan restaurants in the area, or utilizing vegan meal prep services.  

LM: With the rise of documentaries like “The Game Changers,” it seems like there is a growing acceptance and understanding of plant-based diets in the sports world. In your experience, how has the perception of veganism evolved within the sports community since you first adopted this lifestyle?

Joseph Blair: There is definitely a growing acceptance amongst athletes that a vegan diet is an extremely healthy choice. We now know that we don’t need protein from animals and that there are so many alternative options. When I first became vegan, I think many people wondered how I would get enough protein, or if I just ate salads and tofu, but now I think there is a greater understanding that being vegan doesn’t mean just salads and tofu- there are tons of amazing options that are not only healthy but delicious too!

LM: Can you share some favorite vegan meal ideas or go-to snacks that you enjoy to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet?

Joseph Blair: I don’t really snack much because I only eat in a four hour window and that’s a pretty big meal. Other than that, I have my tea and coffee in the morning and work to maintain a healthy level of hydration. I take supplements as well – a vegan omega 3, vegan vitamin D, a Vitamin B Complex, a vegan collagen supplement, to name a few.  If/when I snack, my go to choices are fruits, nuts, and who doesn’t love peanut butter and jelly!

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle (both Physically & Mentally)

LM: As a former professional athlete and now coach, how do you stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle after retiring from competitive sports?

Joseph Blair: I’m still an athlete even though I don’t play professional sports anymore. I go to the gym every day and I eat well. Not only do I maintain a vegan lifestyle, I also do intermittent fasting which in my belief, helps with focus, mood and energy levels. Plus, think of all the time in a day we waste eating and planning meals! I have adopted the mentality and eating habits of our hunter/gatherer ancestors.

LM: Beyond physical health, in what ways do you believe a vegan lifestyle has positively impacted your mental and emotional well-being?

Joseph Blair: I feel better all around since becoming a vegan. My energy levels are higher, my clarity has increased and my focus is better than ever. I have less inflammation in my body and my weight doesn’t really fluctuate very much. I also strongly believe in conscious living, meaning that if I can live without taking a life, then that is the rational thing to do.

I live a life that is centered around uplifting everything around me instead of one based on my superiority to things around me.  This leads to an entirely different level of empathy, understanding, compassion, wisdom, and love.  All of which I refer to as, conscious living.  

Joseph Blair (the vegan coach)standing and  throwing a basketball
Joseph Blair (© Scott Suchman)

LM: Reflecting on your career, are there any specific lessons or values from basketball that you carry with you in your everyday life?

Joseph Blair: The interconnectedness of us all. Basketball taught me teamwork, in the truest sense, both literally and metaphorically. We all will “win” or “lose” together.  How you take each step along the way and who you are able to uplift while you endure or celebrate each moment is at the heart of thriving in life.

Just like being on a team, no one person can do anything- it takes a team to  make sure everyone puts in the work together. On, and off the court, I fully believe in the importance of intentional interconnectedness. 

LM: Beyond basketball and veganism, what are some of your passions and interests that you’ve been able to pursue more actively in recent years?

Joseph Blair: As I’ve gotten older, and had a little more time, I’ve realized how important religion is to me. Every day, after my alarm goes off, I say good morning to God and get my day started within 5 seconds. I wake up excited to see what the day holds for me. It’s powerful to realize that every single day holds at least one opportunity that will help me grow. Because of that belief, life in general has become my passion!

LM: Knowing everything you know now, if you could go back and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Joseph Blair: I would look at younger me and say: every decision you make will affect someone else.

a man sitting on a kitchen counter with fruit in the air
Joseph Blair (© Scott Suchman)

LM: Looking ahead, are there any new projects or ventures you’re excited about and would like to share, either related to basketball, veganism, or any other passion of yours?Anything else you’d like to add or share with our readers?

Joseph Blair: If you follow me on social media you will see I am very passionate about my “Vegan Diaries.” It’s a chance to share with the world where I’m eating, what vegan options are out there and how much I enjoy the lifestyle that I’ve chosen. I am committed to giving back to the community in various ways and you’ll just have to follow my journey to see what happens next. 

LM: Would you share your must-visit favorite vegan or vegan-friendly restaurant of all time with us?

Joseph Blair: My all time favorite vegan restaurant at the moment…(drum roll please)…Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, in Washington DC.

LM: Last but not least, is there a quote or mantra you live by?

Joseph Blair: Nothing Should Have to Die For Me to Live.

Get the Recipe: Vegan Ceviche Style Chickpeas

vegan ceviche

RECIPE: Get Joseph’s vegan take on Ceviche, made with chickpeas, right here.

Connect with Joseph Blair (the Vegan Coach)

Interview by Lezlie Williams Mitchell. Photographs of Joseph Blair: © by Scott Suchman. Photographs of the Vegan Ceviche Style Chickpeas: © by Kim-Julie Hansen.

Lezlie Mitchell is pictured with her child. Lezlie is one of Best of Vegan's Los Angeles Basededitors. She's a writer, an actress and a model, as well as a mother of three. Lezlie recently published her first children's book "All of Us". You can follow her on social media @LoveLezlie. Click here to find out more about her.

Disclaimer: this article and interview are for entertainment purposes only. None of the opinions expressed are meant to replace medical advice. For the best information on plant-based nutrition, please refer to registered dietitians such as The Vegan RD and VeganHealth.Org. If you’re experiencing health issues, please consult your health care professional before making any dietary changes.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.