Matthew Bate grew up wanting to be an AFL player. When he got that opportunity, however, life at the top level wasn’t everything he expected it to be.
During his 102-game career in eight years with Melbourne, Bate learned all the highs of the big time were often matched by painful lows.
Speaking to aflplayers.com.au, Bate revealed that being an AFL player took its toll as he used different stimulants and medications to help cope with the physical demands and mental pressures of the game.
“I started not feeling as good as I could have felt, my energy levels (were down), (I had) body inflammation and (was) breaking down a bit,” Bate said.
“My answer for that were anti-inflammatories and painkillers.
“I had a lot of trouble sleeping because of the stress of football and my body not working how I wanted it to so I’d take sleeping pills and all sorts of different things.
“I started realising I was popping a different drug for every symptom I was getting and that’s not a long term or sustainable option in terms of your own wellbeing because it becomes really draining. I was forcing myself through training sessions and games.”
That’s not to say he didn’t enjoy his time at the elite level. Bate believes his stint at the Demons helped him mature and grow after being drafted as a 17-year-old. His AFL life ended in 2012 and included a third placing in the club’s best and fairest award in 2007.
When his journey as an elite athlete wound up, Bate, armed with a Bachelor and Masters of Science in Holistic Sports Nutrition, had a plan to rebuild his body.
“I started becoming passionate about helping my body heal and increasing my energy levels and my wellbeing in a more natural way.
“I became more and more passionate about that subject the more I researched into it.
“I couldn’t believe how much better I felt after and was able to ditch all the stimulants and pharmaceutical drugs and I feel a lot better naturally.”
After helping friends and family achieve better health through his own experiences –including Australian cricketer Peter Siddle – the 28-year-old decided to team up with online blogger Tegan Steele to launch 365 Days of Wholeness, which aims to improve the health of Australians through plant-based eating methods in a year’s time.
Bate understands the book might be a little left-of-centre for some.
“People can read it and see if they like the information and if it works for them. Some concepts might seem a little bit different from what they’re used to, but I don’t think change is a scary thing.
“I think if you’re not getting the results you want then it’s crazy to keep doing the same thing.”