The thrive diet is a long-term eating plan to help all athletes (professional or not) develop a lean body, sharp mind, and everlasting energy.
As one of the few professional athletes on a plant-based diet, Brendan Brazier researched and developed this easy-to-follow program to enhance his performance as an elite endurance competitor.
Brazier clearly describes the benefits of nutrient-rich foods in their natural state versus processed foods, and how to choose nutritionally efficient, stress-busting whole foods for maximum energy and health.
Featuring a 12-week meal plan, over 100 allergen-free vegan recipes with raw food options—including recipes for energy gels, sport drinks, and recovery foods—and a complementary exercise plan, The Thrive Diet is “an authoritative guide to outstanding performance” (Neal D. Barnard, M.D., Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine).
Brendan is the formulator and cofounder of Vega, bestselling author of the Thrive book series, creator and host of the Thrive Forward web series, and editor in chief of Thrive magazine. He’s also a former professional Ironman triathlete and a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion.
Brendan is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on plant-based performance nutrition, and works with several NHL, NFL, MLB, UFC, and Olympic athletes. Brendan also now invests in and works with socially responsible food & tech companies whose mandate is to fix our food system and reduce the environmental strain of food production.
As nutrition consultant to the Cannonade-Garmin Cycling Team, Brendan Brazier is one of the world's leading experts on performance nutrition. Here, Brendan presents his own easy system for total health and fitness, complete with new photos and step-by-step exercises, to get maximum results in minimal time.
Whether you're a time-crunched beginner or an experienced athlete, Thrive Fitness will help you sculpt strong, lean muscles; enhance the quality of your sleep; reduce body fat; minimize your risk of disease; increase energy; sharpen mental clarity; cut sugar cravings; and prevent sports injuries.
Digesting low-quality food and edible foodlike substances requires large amounts of energy, yet the body receives little or no nutrient value in return. It’s akin to doing work (stress) without being paid (a return). [page 20]
A recent study published in The Washington Post revealed that, on average, American-built automobiles cost $1,500 more than comparably equipped Japanese or European cars. The reason? Americans are in worse physical health than their Japanese and European counterparts and therefore must pay higher health insurance premiums. This additional cost is passed on to the end consumer to allow the company to maintain profitability. The United States is less competitive in the global market simply because its citizens are in a poorer state of health. [page 22]
The greatest contributing factor to low-nutrient food is over-farming. The land is called upon to produce more than it is capable of. And the most common reason for over-farming is the sharp rise in demand for food. But, interestingly, the demand has risen significantly to grow food to feed animals, not humans. In North America, 14 times more land is used to grow food for animals being raised for meat than to grow food for humans. And with every seven to nine pounds of food fed to a cow, for example, only one pound is returned in the form of meat. Clearly, this is inefficient. Animal agriculture is what is chiefly to blame for a decline in food quality. [page 25]
It will take a bit of trial and error, but you will discover your sweet spot, when exercise complements your productivity by poising your body for the day and allowing your brain to shape its thoughts into ideas and solutions. [page 46]
When the brain learns new movements that require coordination and targeted concentration, it changes physically by making new neurotransmitters. Constant learning therefore helps prevent neurodegenerative disease by keeping the brain active and in a constant state of development and construction. Any new learning is helpful, yet learning new exercise routines is of superior value, since it generates greater blood flow while a new way of thinking is being formed. The combination is complementary and augments brain health. However, once someone has become proficient at the new exercise and can do it seamlessly, without thought, the benefit to the neurotransmitters declines. But if a new exercise is introduced, that brain growth is maintained. [page 52]
Learning while being active maintains and builds brain health throughout life. [page 53]
The goal here, however, is never to become too good at any of them. Once the brain has learned the new skill to a level of comfort, these cerebral benefits diminish. These activities are still of benefit, however, since information changes throughout the activity, and the brain must think, make decisions, and tell the body to do it. [page 53]
Physical exercise offers a vast array of non-physical benefits. • Being active can bolster creativity and help develop big-picture ideas through right-brain stimulation. • Regular exercise can improve subconscious function and problem-solving ability. • Mental outsourcing can improve mental performance. • A select-information diet and active meditation can improve brain function. • Learning new physical movements contributes to the construction of neurotransmitters and therefore may reduce the risk of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. [page 53]
Rate of cellular recovery is the largest contributing factor to peak performance. [page 55]
Regular exercise and high-quality food collaborate to build a biologically younger body. [page 56]
Food is not the only thing we put in our bodies that is acid-forming. Most prescription drugs, artificial sweeteners, and synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements are extremely acid-forming. [page 60]
Too much stress results in fatigue and body fat accumulation. [page 62]
How do we make ourselves sleep well? By lowering cortisol levels. That means eliminating as much uncomplementary stress as possible by engaging in high-return activity, eating high net-gain food, and living a low-stress lifestyle. [page 67]
Three Types of Stress Uncomplementary stress is any stress that does not provide a benefit. Examples include eating food that lacks nutritional value, breathing polluted air, or worrying about things you have no control over. Complementary stress is stress that benefits you mentally or physical in some way, such as moderate exercise. Production stress is stress created in the process of achievement. Examples include working hard on a project that is stressful, yet having something to show for it once it is complete, or engaging in high-level training for sport in excess of what is healthy, yet benefiting by achieving greater fitness. [page 68]
If you’ve always perceived exercise as easy and fun, exercise will serve as a willpower restorer after a long day of work. But if you force yourself to do daily exercise that you don’t like, it will deplete your willpower, making it increasingly difficult to seek out and take on new challenges. Conversely, if you have to force yourself in other aspects of life, you are less likely to be successful at switching to a new diet or sticking to an exercise program. Many cite their reason for not sticking to an exercise program or eating healthily as simply not wanting to — despite being aware of the vast benefits. Fortunately, the solution is simple. [page 71]
Being properly nourished reduces stress and therefore builds a reservoir of willpower. [page 74]
High-quality nutrition is vital for cellular regeneration and ongoing athletic improvement. • Regular exercise and high-quality food collaborate in the creation of a biologically younger body. • Consuming high net-gain foods will result in sustainable, non-stimulating energy. • The reduction of nutritional stress will significantly reduce overall stress and will boost vitality with no loss in productivity. • Willpower is finite. When it runs dry, even minor tasks will seem difficult. • Enjoyable activities restore willpower, resulting in the ability to take on major tasks and overcome significant challenges. [page 74]
Improving continually is as close to perfection as anyone can hope to get. [page 75]
One of the commonly accepted measures of personal strength is the willingness to identify our weaknesses. [page 77]
Being sensitive to personal faults is necessary in order to identify and eliminate them. • Positive thinking can do more harm than good and can hinder ongoing progress. • Building “justified confidence” will significantly help in any pursuit and is only possible once weakness has been determined. • Persistence is necessary but not the answer to every problem. [page 80]
Best results are achieved when breathing is steady, deep, and in accordance with the pace of movement that the exercise requires. For all the weight training exercises, breathe in when performing the relaxing segment of the exercise and breathe out when lifting the weight. [page 89]
Five minutes of brisk walking, stair-climbing, doing jumping jacks, or even just running on the spot will do [for a warm up]. While a warm-up is vital, there are no advantages to a long one. In fact, getting your body accustomed to physical activity in a shorter amount of time can prove beneficial. [page 89]
Since your body can effectively absorb only about a cup of fluid at once, sipping water or an electrolyte drink throughout the day helps maintain hydration better than gulping large amounts of water only a couple of times a day. [page 92]
The stronger our muscles, the more efficiently they work: Strength equals efficacy. But strength also equals slower consumption of carbohydrate (our muscles’ prime source of fuel). For endurance athletes, both elements are crucial. As explained earlier, greater muscular strength directly translates into greater efficiency. Additionally, as the ability to burn carbohydrate more efficiently improves, the longer it will last, thereby further improving endurance. [page 109]
About 95 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the skeleton, but it’s the remaining few percent that is the first to decline. [page 134]
When we consume too much fluid that does not contain electrolytes, it can flush out the remaining electrolytes in our body. This is referred to as water intoxication. While it isn’t common among the general population, people who perform strenuous physical activity, especially in a warm environment, are susceptible. [page 135]
Edestin, an amino acid present only in hemp, is considered an integral part of DNA. It makes hemp the closest plant source to our own human amino acid profile. [page 146]
I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s not uncommon for athletes to actually eat worse than the regular population. But athletes are not immune to the effects of poor-quality food. True, if we make poor dietary choices, we don’t develop excess body fat or other visual signs of poor nutrition as quickly as our sedentary counterparts. But the long-term shortcomings of poor nutrition will be magnified. People who exercise regularly break down cellular tissue during every workout. Food serves as the building blocks of reconstruction. And we all know that poor-quality construction materials result in a poor-quality structure. Filler cells is the term used for body tissue reconstructed by means of refined, low-grade, nutrient-absent food and foodlike substances. If body reconstruction with filler cells continues, the body degenerates. This is the first significant stage of premature aging. Next comes the looser skin, slowed recovery after exercise, reduced flexibility and mobility, joint pain, and generalized aches. [page 153]
As we now know, the signs of aging aren’t necessarily related to our age in years; they are related to our biological age. [page 153]
Engaging in activities that continually change and therefore require your brain to think about each movement, such as basketball, is said to encourage the construction of neurotransmitters. It is thought that the consistent building of neurotransmitters will reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. [page 182]
Performing repeat-pattern aerobic activity while allowing the mind to wander in a meditative state that is conscious but not focused is referred to as active meditation. It is particularly beneficial for stimulating the right brain and thereby creativity. [page 187]
Biological age fix refers to the time that has passed since the most recent round of cellular regeneration has taken place. It can be reduced by speeding the regeneration process of the body. Complementary stress such as exercise and high-quality food reduce biological age, while uncomplimentary stress and refined foods increase it. [page 188]
Biological debt refers to a state the body goes into after energy from stimulation has dissipated. Often brought about by eating refined sugar or drinking coffee to gain short-term energy, biological debt is a state of fatigue. [page 188]
A metabolic state in which a “breaking down” rather than a “building up” occurs in body tissues is referred to as catabolic. This state is most commonly precipitated by stress, and therefore the release of cortisol. [page 188]
Electrolytes are electricity-conducting salts. Electrolytes in body tissue and blood conduct charges that are essential for muscle contractions, heartbeats, fluid regulation, and general nerve function. When too few of these minerals are ingested, we may suffer muscle cramps and heart palpitations, lightheadedness and trouble concentrating. In severe cases, lack of electrolytes leads to loss of equilibrium, confusion, and inability to reason. [page 188]
Justified confidence is built by addressing a problem that formerly inhibited success. It differs from regular confidence in that to create it, steps have been intentionally taken to address a weak point. [page 190]
I refer to delegating left-brain jobs that were formerly the responsibility of the brain as mental outsourcing. For example, writing down a to-do list instead of using brain power to try to remember what needs to be done or using a GPS device while driving to find an address instead of trying to remember directions and having to focus on what exit to take. It results in greater mental clarity, from which creativity can take root. [page 190]