Photo courtesy of Penguin Canada Credits: Photo courtesy of Penguin Canada
"In the competitive sport world, knowing what different foods can do for your body can mean the difference between success and failure," says Brendan Brazier, a former professional Ironman triathlete and ultra marathon champion. "I realized that I wanted to gain something (or get something in return) from everything I ate, whether it was more energy, inflammation reduction, a greater recovery rate, a deeper sleep, or building lean, functional muscle." Brazier's focus has always been on eating with purpose, treating his diet as an integral part of his training and taking a more holistic approach to food by recognizing its power to heal and improve his overall performance.
2. Take advantage of plants
"The positive impact of changing my diet to one that's plant-based has been immense," says Brazier. "Plant-based foods and products are much easier to digest. The less energy I spend digesting my food, the more energy I have to use as fuel, thus enhancing my performance." Plus, his diet gives him an advantage when it comes to big competitions. Because race adrenalin reduces digestive strength, says Brazier, his diet helps him have easy digestible fuel to maintain endurance.
3. Make the most of your meals
Brazier's philosophy about nutrition focuses on whole foods, especially when it comes to the recipes in his Thrive Energy Cookbook. "Each ingredient has a nutritional purpose," says Brazier. The recipes consist of vegetables, pseudo grains (buckwheat, millet, quinoa), legumes, seeds, fruit, (healthy) oils, nuts, grains, flours, and (natural) sweeteners and there's a mixture of raw, gluten-free, and high-protein options.
4. Try his nutritional philosophy
Brazier has three nutritional objectives that form his core philosophy. The first focuses on high-net-gain nutrition. This means that you deliver energy to your body by way of conservation rather than consumption. In layman's terms, Brazier explains that the less energy spent on digestion (and digesting processed foods takes a lot of energy), the more energy you'll have for better performance. Thus, foods that require little digestive energy but yield a healthy dose of micronutrients are high-net-gain foods. The second objective is focused on alkaline-forming foods which help maintain a proper pH level in the body. "If pH drops, it adversely affects our health at the cellular level. Over time, this can harm your immune system, opening the door to a host of illnesses," says Brazier. Consuming more alkaline-forming foods and fewer acid-forming ones will help your overall health and performance. Brazier's third objective is eliminating biological debt brought about by eating refined sugar or drinking coffee to gain short-term energy. "When we use nutrient-dense whole food rather than fleeting pick-me-ups as our source of energy, our adrenals will not be stimulated, and simultaneously, our sustainable energy level will rise because of the acquired nutrients. Energy derived from good nutrition is cost-free energy that does not rely on adrenal gland stimulation," says Brazier.
5. Do this diet
Looking to try a more plant-based or vegan diet? "The key is to start slow and ease into it, and eliminate certain factors one by one," he recommends. "Transitional recipes are good, as utilizing this period means that a new way of eating is much more likely to become a habit."