Alex Morgan’s Secret Weapon and Becoming the Fittest She’s Ever Been
Alex Morgan is sitting in what looks like a dorm room, on her cardboard single bed, next to the window, where the morning light streams in and lets her know it's two days until game time, when she and other returning veterans of Team USA, including Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, will start their campaign to win another Olympic gold.
Morgan is 7,254 miles from home and missing her 14-month old daughter, Charlie. Now in the Olympic Village, she is trying to stay healthy and relaxed as she goes into what might be the biggest challenge of her career. As a 33-year-old player, who has won 2 consecutive FIFA World Cups (in 2015 and 2019) and an Olympic gold medal in London, in 2012 (when she was still in her early 20s), and as the odds-on favorite to help the USA win gold again.
"It's challenging being away from her but I am not the only Mom in this boat. And it makes me know I can do hard things," Morgan says.
Morgan could rack enough points to be among the winningest players in history. With over 9 million Instagram followers, she knows that the worlds' eyes are on her, and so Alex is telling herself to "live in the now," and "just breathe." In an exclusive interview with The Beet, she shares her motivational secret weapon, her diet, including what she eats in a day, and how she manages to fuel up and get plenty of protein on a vegan diet, and how motherhood has left her in the best shape of her life.
Alex Morgan shares her secret weapon in her bid to help Team USA win gold
"I have so many intense moments coming up," Morgan tells The Beet in a Zoom call from Tokyo last night (which, at 10 pm ET is 11 am the next day, her morning). "I tell myself to take a breath and to enjoy the journey I am going on now. It's overwhelming to think about what's ahead, so I try to live in the now, and remember to breathe."
Morgan's Instagram posts are full of her pictures with the adorable big-eyed Charlie, walking, snuggling, and bonding in advance of her Olympic trip. As any mother of a young child can attest, being away for a long stretch is hard, but for Morgan, it reminds her of the stakes. She knows she and her teammates have a job to do and she is there to focus and get it done.
The 2016 Olympics didn't turn out the way she had envisioned when Team USA lost in the quarter-finals to Sweden, it was a heartbreak. But now she is stronger mentally, and fitter physically than ever in her expansive career, she says, and as a vegan athlete, having given up meat and dairy back in 2017, Morgan feels that her diet of plant-based foods has helped make her healthier. She is able to recover faster from intense training sessions, not feel the fatigue as acutely, and become leaner and fitter than ever. Here she shares her advice to anyone, athlete or not, who might be considering switching to a plant-based diet. Morgan also shares her motivational drivers and what keeps her feeling that she can live her life to its fullest, even when she is far from home.
The Beet: What made you go vegan, and how has your thinking changed?
Alex Morgan: Initially, in 2017, it's been 4 years now, I did it for ethical reasons because of factory farming we do in the US. I felt disgusted with myself since I didn't feel good eating this meat that was part of that. I didn't want to support that. It's so unnatural, the way animals live and die. And as I started to go more plant-based, first giving up meat and then giving up dairy, I realized the health benefits. I would get reports from my doctor, and my cholesterol dropped in half, which is crazy. All of my blood work which i do every few months was better.
And my recovery was much better, I wasn't fatiguing as much. So it benefited me all around. I was fearful it would affect soccer in a detrimental way but it was the opposite. It made me feel better.
I feel fitter now as a mom than I ever did before. I am in the gym and doing as much training as before, but there is something about being a mom or going through pregnancy, and being a mom there is like an energy reserve, I definitely feel fitter now. I feel like my body changed and I am embracing it. I am fitter than I've ever been,
The Beet: What do you eat on a typical day?
Alex: Breakfast is oatmeal with banana, blueberries, cinnamon, and a little bit of maple syrup to sweeten it.
Lunch is a big salad with pecans, walnuts, beets, or I'll have tofu with rice and veggies. That's a typical lunch.
Dinner I love Mexican food so it will either be a burrito bowl or tacos, with black beans and rice. I love Fajita veggies, with salsa, and avocado. Charlie loves all these things so it's easy to make for the whole family. She isn't strictly vegan, because I eat this way, I would say she is naturally eating a lot of things that I eat.
Snack: I love an energy ball, so that's nut butter, oats, some chocolate chips and coconut flakes. All rolled into a ball so it's a lot of healthy energy.
The Beet: What's your secret weapon, to stay motivated on or off the field?
Alex Morgan: In terms of on the field? Off the field? My secret weapon is my family. I get confidence, encouragement, and support from my family. They are just everything. I feel like I can live my life to the fullest and do what I want to do and be who I want to be, because of my f family.
The Beet: There's so much at stake. How do you stay calm? Do you have a mantra?
You wrote in a recent IG post: "I'm going to miss my baby girl so much this month. Charlie girl, I'll make it worth it!" Bringing home the gold for her, your team, your country, and your sponsors, like VW, Nike, GrubHub, and Molecule sleep.
Alex Morgan: I tell myself, "Live in the now."
Going through these big moments, the World Cup, and the Olympics, and I try to live in the now. I will have so many intense moments coming up in these next two weeks, I try to remember to take a breath and tell myself to just "Live in the now." I have found over the past ten years on the national team, I know that there is more to it than just the journey. Live in the now and remembering to breathe. And enjoy the moment.
So that's my mantra: I tell myself: "Take a breath and enjoy the journey I'm going on now." It's overwhelming to think about going somewhere in the future, so I am living in the now and remembering to breathe.
The Beet: What advice would you give to someone who wants to consider switching to a vegan diet?
Alex Morgan: I can only attest to how I went vegan. I made a slow transition. First I cut out meat, before eggs and dairy. That helped me get a sense of what my meals would look like, before going cold turkey.
But the other advice I would say is, Give yourself grace. There are times when I may find myself eating something that has eggs in it or dairy. Sometimes that slips into my diet and I am trying to eat healthy and plant-based but when that happens I tell myself to give myself some grace. So if you are trying to live healthily and vegan, you can forgive yourself. That's what I mean by giving yourself grace.
My husband is not vegan and neither is my family. My dad actually went vegetarian to be supportive and encourage me. So when you spend time with family, especially around the holidays, there is not always going to be a full well-balanced meal that is vegan, so sometimes it does not work out for me to eat every single meal totally vegan and as an athlete, I have to be okay with that.
The Beet: Good luck! I want to tell you that we are all rooting for you. I hope you feel it!
Alex Morgan: We do. We are going to do what we set out to do and we definitely feel all the support from everyone back home. We appreciate it!
Alex Morgan makes a surprise appearance on Zoom, from Tokyo
At the very end of our call, Alex surprised me by popping up on the screen. She had postponed the call briefly to fit in a massage, apologized for having to do that, and I explained that as an athlete this was part of her needing to take care of her muscles, her body and instrument of success. In other words, understood. Still, I was pleased when she smilingly joined the video. Wait for it. And watch the entire interview here.
Sponsors get behind Alex Morgan and USA Soccer's bid to win gold in Tokyo
Morgan has so many supporters, from VW to Nike, and Skimms to Molecule Sleep, as well as Grub Hub and others. Here are a few of her sponsors. She writes on her IG: The better I sleep, the better I recover, the better I play. It's basic science.
The athletes are all living in sparse dorms in the Olympic Village with minimal furnishings and a bed made of heavy-duty cardboard with a mattress on top. "Living in the now" for these elite athletes also means pushing all thoughts of future endorsement deals or television or book contracts out of their heads, since it hinges in some part on what happens in the next two weeks. It's great to see companies getting behind women athletes and female soccer stars like Morgan and the rest of Team USA.