Brendan Brazier is one of only a few professional athletes in the world whose diet is 100 percent plant-based. He’s a professional Ironman triathlete, bestselling author on performance nutrition, and the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called VEGA. He is also a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. Nominated in 2006 for the Manning Innovation Award, Canada’s most prestigious award for innovation, Brendan was shortlisted for the formulation of Vega. In 2006, Brendan also was invited to address US Congress on Capitol Hill, where he spoke of the significant social and economic benefits that could be achieved by improving personal health through better diet. The focus of his speech was to draw attention to the role that food plays in the prevention of most chronic diseases currently plaguing North Americans. In 2007 Brendan returned to Capital Hill to lobby against the Farm Bill and was named one of the most 25 Fascinating Vegetarians by VegNews magazine. Brendan has become a renowned speaker and sought-after presenter throughout North America and the author of The Thrive Diet which became a Canadian bestseller within five months.
Caryn Hartglass: And we’ve got a great show today. Special guest Brendan Brazier, an amazing athlete. Before we get started with that, I just wanted to comment. I was listening to the last program while getting ready for this program. They were talking about fish and the dangerous state of our oceans and how the fish population is being depleted. But I didn’t entirely agree with some of the things that we should do. We can live without eating fish. We don’t need fish in our diet. We don’t need any animal food in our diet. People are concerned about getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. There’s a lot of news about that and we get a lot of sound bites, but we don’t get the right information. For example, one of the problems with omega-3 fatty acids is that we’re eating a lot of junk food and a lot of oils that contain omega-6 fatty acids and we need a balance of the two and when we eat too much of the omega-6, then we need a lot more omega-3 to get the benefits. Eliminating junk food and eliminating a lot of oil from the diet is really important. You can get all the omega-3s you need from flaxseed, hempseed, dark leafy green vegetables. You don’t need to eat fish. That’s what this show is all about. Oh another thing that was mentioned is that there’s all these sushi bars popping up all over the place, and you can always get wonderful vegetable maki. Great salads in sushi bars. I made about ten rolls of vegetable maki yesterday with avocado, cucumber, carrots. There’s a lot of great foods that you can eat and be as healthy as possible without being destructive on the environment. I want to introduce our guest today, Brendan Brazier. He is a super athlete and a wonderful person. He’s an author of a book, Thrive and The Thrive Diet, and we’re going to hear more about that soon. He’s created a number of wonderful food products and a food powder called Vega that I’ve used and is really fabulous. So let’s bring him on. Brendan, are you with me?
Brendan Brazier: I’m there, thanks Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, how are you doing today?
Brendan Brazier: I’m good, how are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Good. Thanks for joining me. I’m really looking forward to talking to you and having you for an hour.
Brendan Brazier: Thanks.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve read your books and I’ve talked with you. I’ve seen you. If anybody hasn’t seen Brendan, you can take a look at his website, brendanbrazier.com. You can see what a stunning specimen you are. Really mean and lean, fit. Sometimes when I talk to people who are into working out, they tend to really get bulky. Maybe it’s just with runners that tend to be a little leaner, but I don’t think that the bulk is necessarily really attractive and I don’t know how efficient it is. You’ve certainly tuned up or perfected the exercise routine, the diet, everything you need to succeed.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, it’s been a long time in the works. It’s something that I started back when I was fifteen and I’m thirty-four now, so it’s been going for quite a while. I think I’ve got a good idea, especially what works for me and what can work for other people too. And yes exactly, that is good nutrition and exercise, the combination of the two.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the things I like the best about what you discovered and is so important for everyone is this idea of recovery. You talk about it quite a bit in your book. People kind of ignore it because they think that in order to be fit and healthy, we’ve got to exercise, exercise, exercise. But we can’t ignore the fact that we need to give our body sufficient rest and time to recover. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Brendan Brazier: Yes. It’s so important, as you say. That’s actually one of the things that I was focusing on when I first started getting into trying to become a professional Ironman triathlete back when I was fifteen. I realized, after looking at some of the best Ironman triathletes’ training programs and comparing them to the average athletes’ training programs, that there was really very little difference, if anything. Of course then I wondered, how is it that some athletes become great and others just remain average if they’re doing the same training? It basically came down to recovery, the rate at which you can get your body to regenerate and renew itself. That’s where I began to focus, was on that. I knew, obviously, if I could speed recovery, I could schedule workouts closer together, which would mean that I could train more and improve faster.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s the secret to recovery?
Brendan Brazier: Well a very large part of that has to do with nutrition. I found that around eighty percent of recovery could be attributed to good nutrition, because of course, when you exercise you’re just breaking down muscle tissue. With the building blocks you give your body, which of course is the food, you grow back stronger. Your body overcompensates and becomes stronger than it was before, and that’s basically the training effect. That’s where my focus went, on nutrition, back at that early age. Not because I really cared about nutrition just for the sake of it, but because I knew that it could help me stack the odds in my favor of racing professionally if I was able to recover quickly.
Caryn Hartglass: Are there some foods that slow the recovery?
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, absolutely. Foods that are harder to digest and process and give you very few nutrients in return. I call those low net-gain foods in the book. They’re foods that actually you see quite a lot of. Foods that are highly processed and refined, so lots of bread and peanut butter, for example, have a lot of calories but it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of nutrients and it takes a lot of work to digest and break that down. But of course, even worse than that are animal-based foods that I cut out of my diet back when I was fifteen because I found that those were just not helping at all. They were very hard on the digestive system and very acid-forming too, which is very hard on the joints and the bones and actually creates inflammation. Of course, if you’re inflamed, you can’t train as much, which means your progress is going to slow.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay now. I really didn’t go into your bio when we got started. I was so excited about talking to you that we just started jumping in. For the listeners, I want them to know that the information you have is really important and to take it seriously because you’ve really made some amazing accomplishments. I’m looking here at your bio, and maybe you can enhance it a bit, but it says here in 2003 and 2006 you won the National 50km Ultra Marathon Championships. I’m sure you’ve won a number of others or placed in significant places in other competitions. Third in the National Long-Course Triathlon Championships and third and second in consecutive years at the Royal Victoria Marathon. These are significant competitions and you’ve won or placed very high, and it’s all because of your program.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, I really think that my attention to detail in nutrition has allowed me to have a professional career. I did race full-time professionally in Ironman Triathlon for seven years. The people I trained with before that point to try and become competitive, a lot of them didn’t start a pro career or they started one much later. I really just attributed that to a difference in nutrition because we were doing the same training, we were doing the same thing. I really think that that can be a huge advantage to people once they get it right—once they get the nutrition element of their program right—it makes all the difference. It can mean the difference between having a pro career and not, so obviously it can be career-changing.
Caryn Hartglass: We basically all need to eat the same balance of foods, whether an athlete or just a regular person. Or are there specific foods that you need to eat as a professional athlete?
Brendan Brazier: Well for me, I find that when I’m training lots to when I’m not training as much, I really don’t eat that much differently. I eat more when I train more, but that’s really the only difference. I find the balance of nutrients I eat stays pretty much the same. The ratios stay the same, it’s just the total amount that varies. I do find with some people, they like slightly more carbohydrates than others, or slightly more protein, or something like that, and can play around with that ratio just to find what works best for them. I don’t think you have to change too much from just a really good healthy diet to a really good high-performance diet. Really, just quantity is what it comes down to.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s what I wanted to hear you say, because a lot of people really have this confused. Especially these big bodybuilders think that they need protein, protein, protein, and they also feel… We talked a little bit about this last week when I had Mark Rifkin, a dietitian, on the show, that for muscle building you need to have animal protein.
Brendan Brazier: Right, that old thing about if you want to grow big muscles, you have to eat muscles.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, what is that? That isn’t true.
Brendan Brazier: No. No, not at all. What I’ve actually found— Of course, I’m an endurance athlete, so I want to be light and lean and it’s all about strength-to-weight ratio, about being strong but not building those big bulky muscles because then your strength-to-weight ratio goes down. But bodybuilders are a different sort of athlete altogether. Bodybuilders are very unique. They’re not based on function, they’re based on visual appeal: size, symmetry, and definition. Just by looking at them. They’re not in any kind of strength competition, it’s just visual marketing. They are very different. I’ve worked with a few bodybuilders, and a lot of them are, as you say, convinced that they need lots of protein, lots of animal protein. Whey protein, in particular, seems to be their protein of choice through very good marketing over the last several decades by the dairy industry. What I’ve found, when working with some of the more open-minded ones, is that I haven’t said cut out all the dairy out of your diet, just try adding more plant-based types of proteins, like hemp that you mentioned earlier and other good alkaline-forming types of raw, whole plant proteins. What they found was that their inflammation started coming down a bit quicker after their workouts. Because of that, it meant their muscles gained functionality. That meant they could lift heavier weights in their next workout because they were more functional, and of course, lifting heavier weight builds stronger muscles. They found that they could build stronger muscles more quickly because their muscles’ functionality was greater because their inflammation was down. That really opened the eyes of several of them and they really realized that this functionality they just simply didn’t have because of all the inflammation was a huge advantage. A few of them actually became completely vegan and found that they can train a lot better and are able to get stronger faster and build bigger muscles and it simply comes down to that.
Caryn Hartglass: I love when I hear things like this because I’ve never heard a reason not to eat a plant-based diet. To me, there are so many reasons and it seems to be the best way to go for everything. Certainly, we learn more and more that the environment is drastically impaired because of animal agriculture and all the animals we raise for food. Our health is impaired because of the junk food and the animal food that we’re consuming. When you go down to the detail, even with athletic performance, like you talk about, that whey protein can impact inflammation when you’re building muscles. Whey protein is dangerous for so many things. I always love hearing the little anecdotes like this one. I’m sure the whey protein companies are not happy that you’re around.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah. It is incredible though, the marketing that they’ve been able to do, the dairy industry as a whole. In a sense, it’s kind of inspirational that they’ve been able to do such a good job convincing people of something that’s just completely not true: that we need to drink the milk of another mammal to get calcium and to build strong bones and to build muscle. Of course that’s not the truth, but they’ve done a good job with it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. You’ve come up with a product called Vega and people can use that instead of the whey protein powder if they want to have some kind of nutritional powdered product like that. Can you explain what went into Vega and what you can use it for?
Brendan Brazier: Sure. It was something that I actually started making for myself back when I was around fifteen or sixteen and just getting into this, and it’s evolved a lot over the years. I was just trying to find a way to get the complete protein, the vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids—kind of the typical things that some people who don’t eat a really good plant-based diet sometimes lack. I was, at the time, kind of a junk food vegan just getting into it, not really knowing what I was doing. Then I learned what I was lacking, those things, and found plant-based sources for them, blended them together and had a blender drink each day. It really did make a difference. It really did help speed my recovery. Like I said, it kept evolving over the years. In 2004 I partnered with someone else, and we brought it out as a commercial product in Canada and it came out in the U.S. the year after that. It’s, of course, really good for vegetarians or vegans. It takes the guesswork out of being vegetarian or vegan. It provides the complete protein, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3. But what we found too, is that most people who drink it are not vegetarian or vegan, they’re just health-conscious busy people. I like that, because that means that those people who used to be drinking whey protein—and other things that were not as good and animal-based—are now drinking Vega. That’s also a positive too, obviously, cutting back on the amount of animal products in people’s diets and making it convenient for them to do that.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. It’s truly important. I just want to give two examples; I tell a lot of people about it. I’ve got my sister on it, she’s a busy attorney, and she doesn’t like spending any time in the kitchen. She pulls out this frozen fruit in the morning and some soymilk and uses the Vega powder pretty religiously. She likes it. As you know, thanks to you, I used it while I was going through chemotherapy, and I really didn’t, fortunately, have any big problems while I was on chemotherapy. My doctor said I sailed through it, but I attribute it to my diet, my nutrition, and the Vega powder. A lot of people lose weight when they’re on chemo. I gained weight. One of the things that I would do was have a smoothie with the Vega powder. It’s really easy to digest and something that’s easy, especially when you’re going through a compromising situation like that. I’m glad that it was there, and I’m glad it’s still around for people to use. It’s a great thing.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah. Yeah, it’s so good to hear your story too, and that you were able to overcome that with really good sound nutrition. It’s very inspiring for people, your story.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. I don’t recommend chemotherapy and I don’t know that I believe in it; I did it. What I do believe in is sound nutrition, and I can’t say enough about that, so that’s why we’re talking. Okay. Do you have a film coming out? I looked on your bio. It said that you were working on a documentary? Is that happening?
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, there’s a couple. Not ones that I’m actually making myself at this point, but a couple other ones that I have little roles in, little interviews and things. There’s one called Back from the Edge, that I believe is coming out later on this year. It has to do with a few different things. My segment has to do with, as you would imagine, good nutrition and athletic performance, and how it can help. I actually haven’t seen the whole thing yet, so I don’t know how big a part I have in that, but I guess we’ll find out.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. You were invited to address the US Congress in 2006. Can you tell me what you talked about and how that was received?
Brendan Brazier: Sure. That was something set up through PCRM, Positions Committee for Responsible Medicine. It was received very well. We certainly didn’t try and overwhelm them with facts or anything. It’s easy to do that because there are so many facts in the favor of good nutrition. We just presented a few of the key ones and really just wanted more good healthy food options available for children in particular and health in public buildings. Schools, for example, being a big one. Kids are generally going to take the path of least resistance and eat what’s in front of them, eat what’s given to them. We’re hoping to get healthier options and balanced plant-based options in schools so that they would grow up and not have a lot of the problems that a lot of people do who eat standard American diets. Of course, we had to put things in economic terms, being that it was Congress. We talked about preventative medicine largely, and talked about if people grow up eating healthy food, their odds of needing symptom-treating drugs later in life is greatly reduced and their odds of depending on the overstretched taxpayer-funded medical system is going to go down significantly as well. Which of course, theoretically, should actually lower taxes because then there won’t be so much demand on it. It’s a really sensible approach, I think. They received it very well. Whether anything will happen or not, I don’t know. We talked about subsidies as well. How it doesn’t make a lot of sense that you can buy a hamburger at a convenience store or a fast-food restaurant for $1.50. Yet an organic apple costs about double that. The amount of oil and energy used to produce the hamburger is huge, and it should cost anywhere between $15 and $35 for a hamburger, not $1.50, based on the parts that go into it. That’s all through subsidies, which again are taxpayer-funded. We’re, as taxpayers, paying to fund the cause of the problem and then funding the symptom-treating process, which of course is the medical system. It’s a system that uses a lot of resources, a lot of money from taxpayers. It’s really not that efficient.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just so unbelievable, and how we got to this place I’ll never know, but I really want to believe we’re going to get back to where we need to be in terms of healthy food and lifestyle. So have you been on any TV talk shows?
Brendan Brazier: I’ve done a few smaller ones. I just wrapped up a book tour in Canada for my latest book that’s called Thrive Fitness: Mental and Physical Strength for Life. I was on a few Canadian ones. That book comes out in the U.S. in January of next year, so I’ll be doing a tour there as well. Yeah, hopefully I’ll be on a few more then as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Well you have to be! Ellen and Oprah, they need to have you on. America needs to see you because you are such a perfect example. You walk the walk, you talk the talk. You look great, and your achievements are phenomenal. If people just saw the benefits of living green and eating a healthy plant-based diet and knowing that they can get everything they need and really be a phenomenal physical achiever… I really hope, during that book tour, that you get some really good exposure. People need to see you.
Brendan Brazier: Nice of you to say. Yeah, I hope so too. I hope that people are open to seeing what you can do and can achieve through good nutrition. It’s not just physical either…
Caryn Hartglass: There’s just so much misinformation, not just about diet, but with athletes. I just get so frustrated when I hear them talking. I’m in a health food store, for example. I always see this, where you see some guy that clearly is a weightlifter, and he’s talking to the salesperson about bars and powders and looking for the right ones and always, in my opinion, choosing the wrong ones. It’s just incredible. Okay, so what’s The Thrive Diet?
Brendan Brazier: The Thrive Diet is a book I wrote that came out in Canada in 2007 and then it came out in the U.S. the beginning of 2008 in hardcover, and then it actually came out, the same book, published in paperback, the beginning of this year. But then the publisher renamed it Thrive. The subtitle is A Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life. In Canada, as a diet book it was fine, but in the U.S. the publisher felt that was probably not the best approach even though technically it is a diet, because of course diet is just what you eat, it’s about food. But a lot of people of course think of diet as being restrictive or the next diet fad kind of thing. They want to steer clear from that. It was rebranded, renamed, but it is the same book. That’s available now. It’s something that— I actually wrote and self-published a short book back in 2004 that was just a guide to my nutrition program that had worked really well for me. I’d always been getting the same questions because people knew I ate a plant-based diet and they knew I raced professionally, so I was always getting asked of course about protein and calcium and iron and all these things. I addressed all those questions in that book. It sold surprisingly well in Canada, I think mostly because I addressed stress in it. I talked about how reducing stress—reduce of cortisol, which is stress hormone—allows you to build muscle more quickly and sleep better and break the sugar and starch cravings. All these things that a lot of North Americans have problems with because their stress level is so high. I think that’s kind of how it caught on, was the broad appeal, where obviously it’s not just for athletes or for vegans. Then, like I said, I expanded that and put a bunch of recipes in and it was published by Penguin in Canada in 2007. Then it’s just kind of gone from there.
Caryn Hartglass: So let’s learn more about stress. How does your diet improve? How does that work?
Brendan Brazier: Well, there’s a couple different factors. Stress comes from many places, of course. There’s traditional stress, like working too much, not enough downtime. That produces a stress response, which is cortisol, stress hormone, going up. But all these other stresses too. The body doesn’t know where it’s coming from, it just knows the result is the same, which is elevated cortisol. It could be walking down the street breathing polluted air as a form of stress, or worrying about things you have no control over like what the weather’s going to be like. That’s like logical stress. Or nutritional stress. Like we talked about earlier, eating foods that take a lot of energy and work to digest and assimilate because they’re highly processed foods but give you very few nutrients in return. So those are low net-gain foods. Therefore, that’s a form of nutritional stress, which is also going to cause cortisol to go up. When cortisol’s high, you physiologically can’t get into deep phase of sleep—it’s called delta. That’s the really deep, rejuvenative form that most North Americans never get into. The result is we wake up and we’re tired and we crave coffee and sugar. Of course, you look around, you see donut shops, coffee shops. That’s why they’re there, because people rely on those stimulants. They give you energy right away. They work, they give you energy. But it’s treating the symptom, obviously, not treating the cause. That can only last so long before the adrenals get burned out and then the cycle perpetuates itself. We’re never sleeping well. Therefore, we’re never rested. Therefore, we’re always craving sugary, starchy foods. Cortisol just keeps getting higher and higher, which means you gain weight even though you exercise. You can’t build muscle. All these things that can be traced back to cortisol. Then if you just treat the symptoms, of course you’re just masking those symptoms and you’re ignoring the red flags. Eventually, that can lead to serious disease later on down the road. It’s actually good that we have these symptoms now. We just have to address them holistically and not just take these quick fixes. That’s kind of the core of the book and how good nutrition can help do that. It’s not a quick-fix program. It’s not going to make people feel amazing overnight. But within a few weeks, it does make a big difference. It’s more of a long-term lifestyle-type program, although I even hesitate to call it a program. It’s just more of a lifestyle, really. Because of that it’s long-term, but not an instant fix.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sure a lot of people can benefit from that. We live in a big stressful society, and then sleep is so important and rest. You know, I said this before, but people so frequently…. they’re saying, “Gosh, I’m so tired”, and then you ask them, “Well, are you sleeping?” and you know, they think about it, and say “Oh, not very well”. They always think they need something else for the fatigue, but the first thing they need is sleep. But, if you can’t sleep you have to address that, cause we definitely need to rest.
Brendan Brazier: Exactly. A large part of that is bringing down the cortisol and good nutrition can be a really good place to start because, of course, we control what we eat. Sometimes, we don’t control our work situation or the demands that we have to get through and the things we need to do. We got to get those done. But, we do control the quality of food that we put in our mouths. So, that’s a controllable way to bring out cortisol. That’s going to get people to get to sleep and then they will wake up and feel fresh and rested. And, then break those cravings. It just all goes from there. Good nutrition is where it starts for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Are you still competing?
Brendan Brazier: I am. Not in triathlon, though. Triathlon took up to much time. It was great while I did it. But, it was really full-time. So, either I was training or I was recovering from training. It was about 35-40 hours a week for seven years there. But, I’m still running competitively and I’m actually getting back to more competitive running this year. Maybe the San Francisco Marathon on July 26th. So, that’s my next big race.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m going to watch that one!
Brendan Brazier: You’ll be there?
Caryn Hartglass: I’ll be in San Francisco! Yeah, I’m going to cheer you on!
Brendan Brazier: All right!
Caryn Hartglass: Well, great! Well, that’s good to hear. What do you do with… Have you been injured?
Brendan Brazier: I’ve actually been pretty fortunate that I’ve never had serious injuries. I’ve had little things here and there. I’ve had shin problems. But, I think most people do when they start off running. I had those for a few months that I ran. A little bit of back issues here and there but I’ve made sure that I’ve done good core abdominal exercises. For those to bring that back… I take it pretty seriously as making sure I don’t get muscle in-balances. Things that usually bring on injuries. So, I do lots of preventative types physio work just to keep myself strong that way. I’ve been extremely fortunate.
Caryn Hartglass: What kind of work is that that you do? To prevent it.
Brendan Brazier: Different types of…. There’s some exercises that you can do where you lie on your stomach and you lift one arm up and your opposite leg and then alternate back and forth. So, that strengthens your lower back. Then, general core abdominal exercise. Crunches, and different things like that make quite a difference as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Is it… I don’t know that you’re an expert in dealing with injuries but sometimes it’s good to exercise out an injury. I guess it depends on what it is. People when they hurt themselves they tend to say, “Oh my god, I can’t do anything”. But, sometimes you need to strengthen the area that you’ve injured.
Brendan Brazier: Right. You don’t want to tape up weak muscles all the time because they’ll just become weaker and can atrophy. Keeping the blood flowing too can help the healing process because the nutrients to the muscles can help speed that for sure. Some injuries, it’s best to try and rest it for a while. Do icing. But, keep blood flowing to other parts of your body. So, do some cross-training. If you can’t run for a while because of a shin problem, you can swim or cycle. Just to keep the body set and it will actually speed the recovery process too.
Caryn Hartglass: A lot of people think that when you are a runner you are going to have knee problems. Have you ever had issues with the knees when running? Is that a concern?
Brendan Brazier: No, I’ve always. I’ve made sure I keep my legs pretty strong around the knee. I do a lot of exercises that reduce the odds of getting knee pain. Some, hamstring exercises too. To balance out the quadriceps. And cycling as well can be a good preventative measure for running injuries too. Because, I’ve done triathlons for quite a while, I get a good balance of that. So, I’m less likely to develop a running specific injury cause of that.
Caryn Hartglass: So, balance and cross-training are key. But, diet is key also, I think. I know a lot of my friends, especially when they reach 40 started to have joint pain. A few of them who were really into exercise where having a lot of knee pain. And, when I told them to eliminate dairy from their diet or all animal products if they could, that pain went away. Do you see some athletes having that type of joint pain because of their diet?
Brendan Brazier: Yeah. Yeah, that can be attributed to inflammation which animal foods inflame you. And, dairy is a big one. Kind of what we talked about earlier as far as the bodybuilders goes- reducing the inflammation and gaining that functionality. And, the same kind of thing, if their knees are inflamed or their back. Just eating the vast forming foods as animal based foods are going to make it worse. Cutting them out is going to make a big difference. Like I said, most of the nutrition program that I talked about is more of a long term thing but, what I’ve found is that people can actually gain a benefit within 48 hours if they swapped out a really acid forming meal for an alkaline forming meal. Just one meal a day for two days. They would notice quite a significant difference. Going from, say eating something that’s really acid forming like a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise which is extremely acid forming to eating a baked leafy green salad which is extremely alkaline forming. They will notice a difference it two days. I’ve noticed that a lot of people have commented on that. Even if they didn’t know that they had such bad inflammation, even if they just kind of put up with it. Which is the fluidity in the muscles and muscles move so much more evenly. And, of course, then your endurance and strength improves because functionality is fast. Yeah, it helps with just boosting performance but injuries too. If you have a cut or knee pain or even shin splits, I know with good nutrition that alkaline forming based diet can definitely help bring down the inflammation and speed recovery for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: When I talk to people, especially athletes, about eating a plant based diet. One of the common responses is that they’re hungry and they can’t get full. They can’t get filled on a salad. I tell them keep eating. Eat more until you are filled. But, do you get that a lot, when they don’t feel full?
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, initially. I think a lot of that is our body and our mind, for that matter. Being used to eating a certain thing in a certain way. It did take a little time for me, when I switched over. And, know I find it was really good nutrients based foods and the people transitioning to this way of eating. They actually can get filled up fairly quickly with the whole foods. The plant based whole foods, not just refined plant based foods like I said, you could be a junk food vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, gosh. I know. Uh, huh.
Brendan Brazier: The thing is the reason we get hungry in the first place is because our hunger signal is active and it’s telling our body that we need fuel and building blocks. It’s a primitive way of saying, “Hey, you need this fuel and building blocks for your body”. So, our hunger is going to remain active until we get the nutrients it needs. If we are eating lots of refined process foods, we are going to have to eat so many more of them because the nutrients are just not in the foods that they used to be there. One of the paradox, not even 50 years ago, but know it’s pretty much common, to be overfed yet under nourished.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s pretty much our obesity problem, today, isn’t it? Where people… The brain is starving. People keep eating.
Brendan Brazier: Right. Exactly. Yes. The number one reason for obesity in North America is because we simply over eat. And, the reason we over eat is because we are hungry. And, we are hungry because our food lacks nutrients.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Brendan Brazier: So, the hunger signal remains active, and of course, we over eat. We get obese and all the offshoots from obesity: type 2 diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease. All these things. The risk goes way up for all of that. So, you can tie that back to just eating these processed and refined foods. Also, when I did a cross-Canada tour in October of last year from St. John, Newfoundland to Victoria to British Columbia. So, the whole country. All ten provinces. It was environmental tour that I did with David Suzuki. He’s very well known in Canada. Not as well in the U.S. But, him and a few other environmentally conscious people. We spoke at twenty-one universities and he spoke about environmental issues, just general ones. I spoke specifically about food and its impact on the environment and one of the things I found while researching my presentation was that 70% of the food grown in North America is actually not grown to be fed to humans. It’s grown to be fed to animals. That’s a huge concern because we only have so much arable land that’s good nutrient and soil for growing food. If we use that to grow grain to feed the cow to fatten them up. Obviously, we’re going to have far less arable land and therefore, far less nutrients in the soil, which of course is then leading to all these problems. Even aside from the animal products themselves, but the result of growing these low nutrient foods. Because, we have to grow so much of them to feed all these animals. It’s a problem just in itself. That leads to overeating. Cause of course the nutrients that are in the soil is what is most important. The plants are really just a median for those nutrients and if there’s no nutrients in the soil, there’s very few in the plants. So, therefore the animal or the person who eats them is not going to benefit much and will remain hungry yet, pack on weight frequent.
Caryn Hartglass: We see that too in the farmed animals- the animals that are grown in factory farms. Also, the fish that are grown in the fish farm. Because, their food is so depleted of nutrients. They don’t have some of the “good qualities” you might find in some animal foods. The Omega-3’s that we talk about all the time. The farmed animals-the farmed fish are very… don’t have as much as you find in the wild fish. The quality really goes down. So, the best source is organically grown, locally grown plant foods. That are fed directly to us.
Brendan Brazier: Exactly. We can just skip the whole going to an animal process. I know there’s people who talk about omega-3 in salmon. And, yeah, like you’re saying there’s a lot of salmon- the farmed ones- that don’t even have that in them, because they’re fed nutrients- just ground up other fish and things like that- that don’t have the omega-3 in it.
Caryn Hartglass: Which naturally comes from algae. Comes from a plant source in the ocean.
Brendan Brazier: That’s another one. Right. Fish themselves don’t actually have omega-3. They get it when they eat the algae. So, you can skip the fish altogether and just eat the algae if you’d like. That’s a good source too. But, a while back, off the West Coast of British Columbia, between the mainland and Vancouver Island, there was a salmon farm. For whatever reason, the net got torn- maybe a boat or something tore it. The salmon got out but what really surprised people is that seals actually didn’t recognize salmon as food and didn’t eat them. And, they’re not vegetarian. I guess they could somehow smell or sense that these fish did not have the nutrients in them, and didn’t eat them.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a great story. I think we’ve lost a lot of instincts that we really need to have. In terms of what we put in our mouths. And, what we consider food. People are eating things that really aren’t food.
Brendan Brazier: They’re eating “like food, like substances”. I guess they call them that.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so I want to talk about food now. Really good food. You have some recipes in your book. Some different things you’ve come up. Good food. And, you have some recipes in your book. Some different things you’ve come up with that are easy and fun. What are some of the things that are in your book or things that you like to eat?
Brendan Brazier: Well, a few that I used to make often. I travel a lot now, so I don’t make the recipes as much as I used to. Energy bars. Really simple ones. I used to want to have good, high quality, low sodium, nutrient-dense energy bars. There was just nothing on the market so I just started making my own. Real easy to make. Dates, and hemp protein, and buckwheat, and blueberries. All kinds of good things. You just throw everything in to a food processor. Take them out and individually wrap them. Keep them in the freezer. I would spend about 90 minutes, once every 4 months, and make a huge batch. And, just fill up the freezer with them and grab one on the way out. So, there’s only a four and half hour commitment per year to make these energy bars. The cost of that is not much. You just go to the bulk section and get the ingredients. So, it was really a good simple solution to a problem I had. Now, they actually became Vega Bars. You can buy them or you can steal the recipe from the book. It’s something that it is a good whole food, healthy.
Caryn Hartglass: Is there a good replacement, another plant food, for hemp or hemp protein? Because, here in the United States, where we can’t legally grow hemp, it can be expensive to buy in the store. Is there another thing that we could use instead?
Brendan Brazier: Well, there’s flax is a good food too. Chia is also good.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, right.
Brendan Brazier: There’s… Even things like pseudo grains, which are technically seeds but also referred to as grains. So things like buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, wild rice. Because they are seeds, they all sprout. When you sprout them they actually start converting into protein, more so. So, they go from to 20% protein to about 25% protein which is pretty good. When it’s sprouted too. That means the protein converts into amino acid form which means your body can use it directly. And, it doesn’t have to do that conversion process. So, it saves energy. If your body is not spending energy digesting, it has more energy. Obviously, if you don’t spend it, you still have it. They’re really good, high energy, good quality foods. And, not very expensive. Like I said you can get them in the bulk section of most health food stores.
Caryn Hartglass: Sprouting… That really means, just soaking the seeds overnight, or something like that. It doesn’t mean that you have to grow them for an extended period of time.
Brendan Brazier: Right. No, it’s a pretty simple process. You can look online. You can just search “sprouting seeds”. It would have different times for different seeds. Some take a little longer. Some you can just soak overnight and they’re set. Others take a couple days to fully sprout and grow, but it’s a really simple process. You just do it in a jar, you don’t need any special equipment.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned popping amaranths in you book. How do you do that?
Brendan Brazier: Sometimes, you know, what I found is that amaranth- if you get it fairly fresh. It pops quite easily because there’s still moisture in it. And, then the heat causes the moisture to expand and it pops like popcorn. I have found that some people have tried with amaranth that they find in the bulk section that’s maybe been sitting around for a while. It’s dried out, and it’s hard to pop because the moisture’s just not there and it doesn’t expand. That can be soaked and let it set out and dry a bit, and then popped.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you do it in a saucepan or something? Because it’s too small to be in my corn popper.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, the saucepan would be good. Just put it on a frying pan with coconut oil- it’s a good type of oil.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. That’s sound’s good! So, what’s the advantage of amaranth? You don’t hear much about amaranth.
Brendan Brazier: No, it’s a seed. About 20% protein. It’s got the essential fats in there too. Some phytonutrients. As far as I know, it’s not especially high in anything in particular. It’s just a good all-around phytonutrient and seed.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So, you’ve got the bars. You do some smoothies. Do you have any other dishes that you like?
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, I really like the pizza recipes a lot.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, pizza! Everybody likes pizza. How do you make your pizza?
Brendan Brazier: They’re really really easy. There’s several in there. They usually only have three or four ingredients in the crust. So, for example: lentils, wild rice, and some herbs. You just process them in a food processor. Spread them on a big tray and that’s you’re crust basically. Then, you put on a marinara sauce or pesto sauce- the recipes are in the book for that- and then, put vegetables on the top and bake it at low temperature. Or, if you have a dehydrator and you want to have it raw- you can do that too. But, most people don’t so I didn’t want to make it specific to that. I didn’t want people to feel as if they had to buy a dehydrator. But, you bake it at a low temperature and it’s really good. Obviously, there’s no flour. There’s no yeast or wheat in it. It’s high in good quality plant based protein and it’s very filling too. Cause it’s nutrient-dense and high in fiber.
Caryn Hartglass: So, the lentils… Are they sprouted?
Brendan Brazier: You can. You can sprout them or you can cook them. I have, in my book too, I have a lot of… Well, there’s a hundred recipes. A lot of them have raw options. So, you can make them raw. Or you can make them more traditionally and have them cooked. So, yeah, people want to do the raw option for those. You can sprout the lentils and then dehydrate the pizzas. Or if they do not have the equipment for that, or they’re fine with having it cooked. Then, they can use cooked lentils and cook in a low temperature in the oven.
Caryn Hartglass: How do you feel about raw vs. cooked food?
Brendan Brazier: I think eating a large component of raw is a really good way to go. I think that there’s a lot to be said for good, raw fruits and vegetables. I certainly don’t think you have to have everything raw. But, I think that having a big salad each day and lots of raw fruits and vegetables is a good addition to the diet for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you coach some people on training or nutrition? You talked before about working with some athletes.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, they’re more of just of friends or people we sponsor with Vega. We have what we call ambassadors, who are people who are fairly well known in their sport, and are really big into Vega, and using Vega. We call them like I said, ambassadors, and you can read their profiles on the website: myvega.com So, we profile different athletes there. Some of them, yes I’ve worked with in the past, and given some suggestions and tried different things, and see how they go on it. But, yeah, I don’t do any specific coaching or anything like that. I do give quite a few talks, but that’s kind of the extent of it.
Caryn Hartglass: You talked about talking to some universities or schools and I would imagine you being so great talking to children.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Just because, well… You’re impressive to anyone, but I think you would be a great role model for kids, in terms of your athletic achievements, and what you’re eating. They need to see more of that.
Brendan Brazier: Well, yeah, I think when they… I think we’re doing a pretty good job of letting kids know what is good for them and what’s not. But, I think where we’re not doing as well is making those good foods available. Like I said, a lot of the times kids and adults, for that matter, are going to take the path of least resistance. And, have what’s quick and convenient, and right in front of them when they’re hungry. So, if we can put other good food options in front of them, and they know that’s going to help them become a better athlete, that’s going to help them sleep more deeply, which is going to give them more energy, and make them feel better and just be able to excel in sports and do what they want. And, maybe be a professional athlete too, if that’s what they want. The odds are going to be sacked in their favor if they look at nutrition as a way to get there too. I think to just keep on making good healthy foods available to everyone. That’s just the way to go. Make it easy for them, so there’s no excuses. It’s really simple.
Caryn Hartglass: What do you think about the sport drinks? Gatorade…, those sorts of things.
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, you know that’s one of the problems, I faced, when I was trying to find the best ones for me. Same, with the energy bars. There just wasn’t anything out there. So, I started making my own. Same thing with the sport drinks. There’s recipes in my book for homemade sport drinks. Really simple stuff. You can take coconut water, which is great in electrolytes- very high. Put a little lemon and lime juice. I guess get a fresh lemon and lime and squeeze that in there. Sometimes, I’ll blend in a date, if I want it a little bit sweeter, or bit of agave nectar and those are really good basic simple sport drinks. Actually, just in September, or no actually January, we launched a new product in Canada called Vega Sport Natural Plant-Based Performance Optimizer. So, it’s basically a healthy version of a sport drink. The base ingredients are whole grains, sprouted, organic brown rice, and organic palm nectar. There’s some green tea, and yerba maté. There’s electrolytes, and all these really good things that really does help boost performance when you take it before or during a workout and that out now in Canada. It’ll be out in the US in January of next year.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s good to hear. Because, unfortunately, most people they don’t want to make things themselves. They’re totally into convenience. When you tell them how easy it is to make things. It just have this aversion “to the kitchen”. So, it’s good to hear. You know I’ve heard from people that really believe they need to have a sport drink after any kind of workout and some of them aren’t very intensive. They’ve just been brainwashed by the media.
The ones that are available, not your products, but the ones like Gatorade. Are they good? Do they have some value? I know they’ve got artificial colors in them and sugar and those can’t be good.
Brendan Brazier: Right. They are very high in… Well, they’re main ingredient is high fructose corn syrup which is not good. It’s a form of chemically altered corn. It’s very high in the glycemic index which goes into your system very quick. Because, it’s processed and synthesized. It can have some bad reaction in there.
It’s certainly not something I would recommend. I do know people when they’ve been in dire need because they’re electrolytes are gone. They’ve been sweating profusely for hours during a long event and have had some Gatorade, and, because of the electrolytes, they’ve been able to restore they’re balance. If it comes to that, don’t be afraid of it. Go ahead and try it. But, I wouldn’t drink it unless it was absolutely necessary. And, yeah it’s interesting when you look at where Gatorade is sold mostly. It’s mostly sold in gas stations. People don’t even do anything outside if they’re just driving.
Caryn Hartglass: True. Right. (laughs) ‘Oh, I have a 5 hour drive. I need a workout. I need my electrolytes.’
Brendan Brazier: Right. That’s the way it’s marketed, too. It’s not even… It’s marketed to people who want to be like athletes, who are not necessarily athletes. Obviously, Gatorade is very big- it’s a big company. And, they’ve done very well. But, the marketing strategy is not sport specific, necessarily. It’s for people who want to look like they’re athletes.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, Brendan, it’s been really great talking to you. I can’t believe the hour’s up. For people who want to know more about you. You’ve got a great website: brendanbraizer.com. Thanks so much for everything! For being whom you are. Truly phenomenal. Thanks.
Brendan Brazier: Thanks! I’ll mention this real quick. There’s something called Thrive in 30. The website is thrive i-n, the number 30 [Now: thriveforward.com]. It’s something that I put up a couple months ago. Put in your e-mail address. It’s a free program. Get three e-mails a week for four weeks. And, it’s based on my books.
It’s just a video segment. Each one gets a video segment and some precise text. Just for people who may not have the time or want to read a book. They can do it online, and get a lot of info that way, too.
Caryn Hartglass: Sounds good! Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to seeing you run next month. Good luck!
Brendan Brazier: Yeah, thanks Caryn and glad you can be there!
Caryn Hartglass: Well this is It’s All About Food, I’m Caryn Hartglass. Please go to our website: ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com. Bye Bye.
Transcribed 10/25/2014 Jennifer Tzoc and 11/26/2014 by JC