Granted, I’ve only run one full marathon in my life, but when I was training, I was hungry. Like, primal hunger. Like, I-need-that-entire-box-of-oats hungry. And I ate—a lot. From a generous helping (or three) of brown rice, veggies and chicken the night before a long training run to slices of pizza the night before the race, I needed filling, heavy foods to feed my internal hunger beast. So when Brendan Brazier says in his book Thrive Fitness: The Vegan-Based Training Program for Maximum Strength, Health and Fitness that you can be your fastest and healthiest by eating a totally vegan and plant-based diet, I was like, say wha? But aren’t you hungry?
After a few pages of the book though, Brazier really started to make sense to me, and—unlike most I’ve read—I actually learned something. A lot of something in fact. Thrive Fitness is the follow up to Brazier’s first title, Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide (now on my reading list). This book focuses more on fitness and how to increase overall strength, but there’s still plenty of nutrition info to satiate any foodie’s educational craving. For example, Brazier goes into the benefits (hold on to your britches here, ladies, I’m about to drop some science on ya!) of eating raw foods and alkaline-forming foods that actually digest appropriately and help improve cellular regeneration, which equates to faster recovery times. And you know what faster recovery times lead to when training for an event? More focused and powerful workouts!
In fact, everything in this book is about being efficient. Brazier gives you a plan for building muscle because strong equals efficient muscles—and the stronger a muscle is, the less energy it needs to expend for movement. This results in not just a major boost in athletic performance, but also an enhanced overall quality of life, he says. His way of working out and eating also reduces body fat and inflammation and helps improve sleep and energy levels.
Now his full workout plan isn’t easy nor is it idiot-proof. Some of the exercises are pretty specific and complicated, and the training schedule is rigorous, calling for an hour of exercise six days a week with a mix of steady state cardio, multi-dimensional cardio (think sports and other activities that challenge the whole body in multiple ways), intervals, circuit-training and maximum strength training. However, he does give good advice for how people can work up to his program and understands that not everyone is going to be able to follow the program to a T. The book also has a training log included and a lot of interesting recipes that will definitely require a trip to your local health food store—Collard Greens Buckwheat Wrap, anyone?).
While I wouldn’t recommend the book to a beginner, I would suggest it to intermediate and advanced exercisers who have a thirst for good detailed, scientific fitness and nutrition information or those who are training for a tri and are ready to take their training to the next level. Or those who love buckwheat. Thrive on! —Jenn