I realized my body was mad at me. There was something I was doing wrong and I needed to figure it out. I’m allergic/sensitive to grains—all the grains. So 99 percent of the time I eat (or drink), I have to skip them. But even this change hadn’t made my body happy. I began working with a health coach in hopes of finding the culprit. Together, we discovered that my body was mad at dairy. And I eat a lot of dairy. I quit dairy cold turkey and within two weeks all of my complaints and symptoms (including some I didn’t even think were related to my diet) disappeared. But now I had a new problem: how was I going to train for races and stay fit without eating cheese, yogurt and protein shakes?
A book helped me answer that question. THRIVE, The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports & Life dives into the world of vegan living and ultra-athlete training and it’s a great beginner’s guide, even if you eat meat like I do. The author, Brendan Braizer, offers great research on stress, exercise and nutrition. I had to read some of these sections twice in order to understand the science of how it all works. Our bodies are truly amazing. We ask them to do a lot for us, so I think the least we can do is try to better understand how they do it.
You don’t have to be a vegan ultra-athlete to get a lot from this book. You do have to know when the author is selling or pushing the THRIVE diet down your throat and look past it. The ability to recognize what lifestyle changes you can and can’t fit into your daily routine is key to any dietary modification you hope to make permanent.
It takes Brazier 23 pages to even even mention the THRIVE Diet. In the first chapter—Reduce Stress to Increase Vitality—he focuses on outside stressors. “Stress is something that we are all familiar with — our modern world is a breeding ground for it,” he explains. “Yet, many of us aren’t aware of how expansive its reach can be and just how deeply it can affect every aspect of our life.”
Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? Here’s the 10,000-foot view of the rest of the book:
• This book offers awesome information about how nutrition and digestion affect your body.
• The relationship between nutrition and exercise is important. Brazier details pre- and post-exercise nutrition.
• Recipes! Wow, oh wow. There are such great, practical ideas for meals and snacks. This book includes a full 70+-page cookbook!
• A 12-week meal plan. But it’s strict, so use it as a guide and modify as necessary. The good news is the hard part—the planning and research—is done.
• This book is written for the extreme endurance athlete and that can be intimidating at times. There were a few occasions when I wanted to quit reading because it was so hardcore.
• A lot of planning goes into living this extreme lifestyle, but I found easy options to fit the parts that were important to me into my daily life.
• Some of the scientific information is hard to grasp without a science or nutrition background. I often re-read sections to understand the bigger picture.
• Try it. See how you do and how your body reacts. If it doesn’t work, no harm, no foul, right? At the very least you'll learn something new about exercise & nutrition.