Vegan endurance athlete Brendan Brazier visited SWFL on July 31, 2013, for a series of presentations with Lee Memorial Health Systems. Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete and 2 time Canadian 50km Ultramarathon Champion. He spoke about plant-based lifestyles- specifically how a North American diet of mainly processed foods is very acidic, and your body needs a neutral pH, which can be gained by eating more alkaline foods (dark leafy greens, sea vegetables, pseudograins, fruits and vegetables). His nutrition plan is explained in detail in his first book, Thrive, which explains the science behind the plan (eating foods with a nutritional gain versus a nutritional loss- meaning a gain occurs when your body has to expend less energy to process the food), and also gives recipes. Additional recipes are available in his second book, Thrive Foods. Brazier stresses that changes should be made slowly, as switching over completely to a plant-based nutrition can be too much of a shock to your system, creating stress. I had a chance to sit down with Brendan after his presentation at Gulf Coast Medical Center and ask a few questions.
Q: What is the first recipe from Thrive that you would advise an athlete to adopt into their daily nutrition plan?
A: Smoothies. They are easy, nutrient dense, and they taste good.
Brazier has many smoothie recipes available in his books, including a Ginger Pear Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie that we taste tested and shared. In addition, his nutrition line carries a daily smoothie powder called Vega 1.
Q: What is your advice for a rural athlete trying to follow your Thrive plan but with limited access to ingredients?
A: Basic supermarkets now have a natural foods section, so most of the ingredients can be found in the produce section and in the natural foods section (hemp hearts, flax and chia seed, amaranth, buckwheat, wild rice). The bulk foods section is the best place to go for lentils and raw nuts (almonds, walnuts) and raw seeds (sunflower, pumpkin).
When travelling, Brendan notes he often finds a Whole Foods store and loads up on nuts, seeds, and fresh produce and grazes through the day to get all of his nutrition. The bulk foods section of any store is an inexpensive way to get the exact amount you need, or allow you to try something new, such as raw pumpkin seeds, without spending a fortune.
Q: How do you convince the hardcore, old school athletes to switch to plant-based eating when most see meat as their only protein?
A: Many of the top triathletes are moving towards vegan, or at least incorporating more plants into their diet. Most athletes find that a balanced pH- eating more alkaline foods- is the key.
Brendan’s website, Vega, has many ambassadors, such as professional tennis players, yoga practitioners, and UFC fighters.
Q: What do you use for fuel on really long bike rides (over 80 miles)? In SWFL, not many homemade energy bars or bites will hold up in the high heat and humidity even with items frozen ahead of time.
A: I mix Vega 1 with coconut water in a 750mL bottle, or take a Vega endurance bar, or make and take Blueberry Energy Bars.
Brendan recommends playing around with the energy bar recipe- the bars are raw, so toying with the amount of the ingredients can get you the consistency you need for the outdoor conditions you will encounter (make the bar more solid and dense versus more crumbly).
Q: What is the one food that is marketed to athletes as healthy that you absolutely think they should not eat?
A: Chocolate milk. It is full of sugar and dairy causes inflammation and mucus.
Currently Chocolate Milk has a huge, multi-year campaign that promotes their product in the endurance world as the best recovery drink. They sponsor Ironman races and run ads with many prominent triathletes.
Interested in learning more? Besides Thrive and Thrive Foods, you can find information about Brendan Brazier’s nutrition line at myvega.com and learn how to prepare many recipes and learn about plant-based fuel by watching some of the free web series on thriveforward.com.
By: Anne Reed, a local triathlete, wife to an Ironman athlete, and online contributor to Fit Nation.