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Brendan Brazier, Thrive Energy Cookbook
Brendan is a former professional Ironman triathlete, a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion, the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called VEGA, and the bestselling author of Thrive. He is also the developer of the acclaimed ZoN Thrive Fitness program and the formulator of the award-winning, 7-product natural VEGA Sport system.
The creator of THRIVE FOODS Direct, Brendan developed the plant-based, whole food delivery service based on his nutritional philosophy, which he adapted from his Thrive book series. It launched in December of 2011.
Recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on plant-based nutrition, Brendan is a guest lecturer at Cornell University and presents an eCornell module entitled “The Plant-Based Diet and Elite Athleticism.”
Brendan’s intentions of spreading the word of an ethical, environmentally-friendly, and healthy lifestyle through plant-based foods have taken him across North America, speaking at events such as the Chicago Green Festival and the United States Humane Society Gala. Brendan was also 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.
Spanning the whole month of October of 2008, Brendan was a keynote presenter on a cross-Canada university speaking tour called Students for Sustainability. Speaking at 21 universities, along with others such David Suzuki and Stephan Lewis, the tour went coast-to-coast offering practical environmental preservation solutions to students. It was Canada’s largest environmental tour.
His latest book (September, 2011) is called Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health. It delves deep into the environmental aspects of food production and offers practical solutions that help us each reduce our strain on the environment.
To learn about Brendan’s favorite nutritional, fitness, and enviro-friendly products, you may follow him on Open Sky.
Caryn: Hello everybody! We’re back and it’s Caryn Hartglass. It’s time for a little more of It’s All About Food. I don’t want to wait another moment. I want to bring on my next guest because I know he’s really, really busy. I want to get to all the good stuff. Brendan Brazier, welcome to it’s all about food! How are you today?
Brendan: I’m good. Thanks for having me Caryn.
Caryn: Yeah, so you are just Superman, aren’t you? C’mon you’re Superman! You look like Superman.
Brendan: Well, that’s nice of you to say.
Caryn: You’re super awesome. In case people don’t know about Brendan, he is an incredible athlete and a great entrepreneur, a former Iron Man tri-athlete and a two-time Canadian 50 kilometer marathon ultra marathon champion. Now he’s a professional performance nutrition consultant and best selling author. He’s got the Thrive book series and Vegaline of plant based nutritional products. When people need information about athletic performance and nutrition, they seem to find Brendan because he knows just about everything people need to know. You’ve got a new cookbook out called Thrive Energy Cookbook and that’s what we’re going to be talking a little about today.
Brendan: Well thanks, that’s quite the intro.
Caryn: Well, you’re amazing Brendan. Let’s just put it that way. It’s always so inspiring to see what the human body can do. And athletes of all kinds are very inspirational. Whenever I talk to an athlete (especially a vegan athlete) I always want to go out and exercise a little bit more. So thanks for that.
This is a great book. I really appreciated what you did in the intro and some of the concepts, I just want to touch briefly on. The first thing I love about this book is your dedication. You have a great picture of your grandmother on the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver. I love that picture.
Brendan: Yeah, that was a good find. My dad came across that when he was going through a stack of photos. Her father was a photographer so that’s how he got that. Back then, I think it was 1942, not a lot of people were carrying around cameras so you really didn’t get that many good shots back then.
Caryn: I only wish it was in color because I’m always wondering which is more beautiful – the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge or the Lions Gate Bridge. To me they’re very similar in look and color schemes around them. They’re both so breathtaking. I really appreciated that picture because I love the Lions Gate Bridge.
The next thing I like about what you do is, when you talk about nutrition, you use very similar terms as when we talk about the economy and the value of the dollar (or any currency) but instead you’re talking about energy and nutrition. I really love what you’ve done with that. Can we talk a little bit about biological debt? It’s brilliant.
Brendan: Sure. Biological debt is something that I was trying to put into words. What I mean by that is…Let’s say your body, once your body has used borrowed energy – and what I mean by borrowed energy is stimulant, energy that comes from stimulant. Coffee, of course, being the most commonly used but also sugary food that give you energy right away. It does work. Coffee works. You get energy but the down side is that it eventually catches up with you. Your adrenal, you pump out cortisol and adrenaline. You get it, you use it and it feels good but it does go away and it goes away even more so than if you hadn’t drank the coffee in the first place. You’re left with some debt there and you do have to pay that back. It’s not free energy and it does take its toll on the adrenal glands. I’m trying to put it into perspective. Coffee is not necessarily a bad thing. As an athlete, I know you can drink a bit of coffee, get more energy, workout harder because of it and therefore boost your fitness in less time because of it. It is great but there needs to be an understanding that’s not for free. You do end of up having to pay it back. You need to make sure you nourish your adrenals well by eating well and you can’t handle those attacks on it – is what it is. It’s kind of like shopping with a credit card. You get something now but you pay for it later. That’s the way I like to look at it. So if things don’t get out of hand, you don’t get into biological debt.
Caryn: So many of us in North America are used to that credit card in debt syndrome. We do it too with our food. I’ve heard many people say that it’s good to drink a little bit of coffee before I go out for a run. Are you telling me that I shouldn’t be going that? I don’t drink coffee but I just…that’s just what I’ve heard.
Brendan: Not necessarily. I think it needs to be taken selectively. I think that you definitely don’t want to get into the habit of needing it just to function in the morning because then you become dependent on it. It’s never a good situation to be dependent on anything. But yeah, but if you use it selectively before a workout, it’s going to be a really intense workout or a longer workout then a coffee, or green tea (that’s a little less harsh is better in my opinion). It’s okay to stimulate the adrenals and draw from that if you get something in return. The return if you have it before a key workout is a greater level of fitness because you can perform better in that workout. That’s a pretty good trade off. Or, if it’s a big project at work, you’re getting a little worn out and you know that you can work better, you can think more clearly if you have a little bit of coffee or some green tea or something that is a stimulant then that’s fine. I think where the problem comes is when people become depending on it, when they need it to just function in the morning. What I would suggest for them is to slowly wean themselves off of that so that they’re not in that state anymore. Their body will actually recognize it more easily and they won’t need to have as much of it to get the same effect. It is then good because you get into less biological debt but you get the same benefit. So, you want to clean up your diet and become less dependent on those stimulants. There are two different ways, I talk about it in the book but….just getting away from it, depending less on sugary foods for a while…
Caryn: I’m a believer. There are a lot of young people today…We know that young women (even older women) but we know that young women are very influenced by what they see in the media in terms of models, pictures and how they should look. Unfortunately there’s bulimia, anorexia and a lot of food disorders.. and it’s spilling over with the young men. I recently was talking to a couple of young guys (17, 19, 20 or somewhere around that young age) and they’re stunning looking guys. They are really fit but they’re thinking that they’re not. They’re thinking that they need to bulk up, they need to look like certain movie stars. I think it’s a really sad statement but the thing is that you’ve got a recipe here for exercise and nutrition for people to look great, feel great, inside and out.
Brendan: Right. The way I look at it, coming from an endurance athlete background is all about function. You want to be strong but you don’t want any extra weight that’s not actually going to help move you forward more efficiently and bigger muscles doesn’t mean more efficiency. In fact it means the opposite. Body building is a very unique sport. It’s measured not on function but on visual appeal. Body building is the only sport just measured on how people look (symmetry, definition, size and so on). It’s very different from functionality.
An endurance sport is trained for function so I really just train for function and with that comes a certain aesthetic and to some people it does look too skinny but I’m OK with that and the top endurance athlete would be a little skinnier looking that what other people would think is the picture of health. That’s kind of the nature of our level sport in that situation. I think (like you say) a lot of these people, these young men, see body builders, people in movies, magazines and so on. Keeping in mind too that a lot of that is a short time. People peak for photos. They train for months and month to get into that shape to get their photo taken for that magazine or whatever and then that goes away. It’s not even sustainable in many cases is what I’m saying. And then of course, lighting and all those things to make things appear different from what they really are.
Caryn: You tell a really lovely story about someone who learned a lot about your diet, nutrition and lifestyle. You ultimately became partners and he’s responsible for a lot of the wonderful recipes I think in this book. But one of the things I loved about this story – and I don’t want to tell the whole story because I want people to get this book. It’s a beautiful book and there’s a lot of wonderful information in it. But I’m talking about Jonnie Karan, is that how he says his name?
Brendan: Yeah, Johnny is a chef, a classically trained chef. I met him a few years back when he just came out of a pretty deep fitness and he identified by reading my first book Thrive and he made a bunch of recipes in it and he felt really good. He’d never ever eaten that way before. He was so impressed by it that he created a juice bar called Thrive Juice Bar that was making the recipes that were in the book. He just did this without me even knowing about it and then he told me. I was really flattered so I thought, “well that’s great. He’s really trying to get good food out there to more people”. We talked about it and decided to do more of this. There is one location now, it’s in Kitchener Waterloo just outside of Toronto and we want to do some more. Thrive Energy Lab is what it’s called now. It’s just another way to make it convenient, make it taste good. Johnny, with his chef know how and me with my nutrition know how, we felt there was some good synergy there. I like the way my recipes taste but I think if a chef put his touches on it then it’s going to appeal to a broader group of people. So that’s what we went for in this book. It’s something that is functional, yet made by a chef.
Caryn: Well, the results are really stunning but I want to say that’s it’s a testament to your in your whole attitude and perspective on life because I think some other people in the same situation would have seen someone who had taken the name, Thrive which you have come up with and used in all of your lines, book and things. He was using it in a restaurant and somebody might have gone totally negative and said, “You can’t do this”. Instead, you realized all the good in it and became partners. I think the results haven’t just doubled but become exponentially better. That’s just another pat on the back for you, Brendan.
Brendan: Thanks, yeah that’s just the way I like to do things. You know, he had the best intentions – to try to get more good food to more people so you can’t fault a guy for that. If you want to look at things closely, I’m sure there’s some copyright infringement or something but it really doesn’t bother me if he’s just another person getting the message out there. That’s what’s important.
Caryn: Right. That’s what’s beautiful about it.
OK Brendan, I know you’re busy and I know you have to get back to your meetings so I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk a little bit about Thrive, the energy cookbook. Thank you for joining me.
Brendan: Thanks Caryn. Thanks for having me on.
Caryn: Okay. Take care. Wow. That was Brendan Brazier and I’m going to say it again…This Thrive energy cookbook is truly, truly stunning and you can find more about Brendan at BrendanBrazier.com. Very stunning.
Transcribed by Krista Anderson, 6/28/2014