I eat meat. Not an obnoxious amount, but I enjoy meat regularly enough to help my body stay balanced and recover from the physical stress that accompanies endurance exercise. I like to consider them a condiment to “flavor” fresh or lightly cooked vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. Taking this approach allows me to keep my meat consumption in check, because many believe that too much meat can be bad for the body. This approach also encourages me to emphasize plant foods, which are known to prevent, halt and, in some instances, reverse disease. Eating this way works best for my body.
However, this has not always been my dietary philosophy. In fact, there was a 2-year period of my life when I completely avoided anything and everything of animal origin. At the time, I was getting very involved in the marathon scene and was looking to gain a competitive advantage over my peers. Somewhere along the way I heard about this guy named Brendan Brazier, a plant-based triathlete, who was able to compete at a very high level by following a few very specific dietary principles. Open to anything that would allow me to succeed, I jumped right into the ideas he presents in his first book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life. According to Brazier and his Thrive philosophy, “intentioned eating” and “purpose-driven nutrition” predicated on a plant-based diet benefits every facet of life. Eating a certain way could improve sleep quality, increase mental clarity, and reduce the detriment caused by physical stress so the body could train at a higher level for longer periods of time. Brazier’s Thrive philosophy emphasizes the following:
- Go for high-net-gain nutrition
- Choose alkaline-forming foods
- Eliminate biological debt
Natural, unrefined, whole plant foods are nutrient rich and easily digested (high net energy gain); encourage proper cellular function, detoxification, and elimination (alkalizing); and nourish the endocrine system to promote hormone balance and natural energy production (biological surplus). At the same time, eliminating low net-gain or net-loss, acid forming, and debt enhancing foods – those that are highly processed, stimulating, or of animal origin – enhances the gains received from the Thrive philosophy.
Basically, in order to have more natural energy and perform at a higher level we need to eat more, or exclusively, low-calorie, nutrient dense plant foods. Brendan’s latest cookbook, Thrive Energy Cookbook, helps us accomplish as much by showing us how to eat food that optimize health and performance. According to Brazier, “complementary flavors and textures have been combined with functional, health-boosting clean, plant-based ingredients to deliver premium recipes that taste as good as they will make you feel and perform.” Functional to the max, the Thrive principles and recipes were developed to support athletes of every ilk hoping to align their diets with their health and wellness goals.
Intrigued and without the physical, mental or financial ability to validate the science behind Mr. Brazier’s nutritional philosophy, I thought it would be a good idea to test the taste and practicality of the foods presented in Thrive Energy Cookbook.
It’s with a heavy heart that I must report that I was challenged from the onset. A huge fan of Brazier’s work, I am very partial to recipes whose ingredients lists are shorter than 8 to 10 ingredients, which are few and far between in Thrive. Knowing that developing healthy habits often takes a considerable amount of time and energy, I settled on the recipes that looked like good they would be easy enough for a time and energy poor athlete, student, and entrepreneur – Avocado, Black Bean & Chipotle Burger and the Coconut Pineapple Macaroons. Choosing two recipes that contained only 8 ingredients each, I began to put together my grocery list and preparation plan. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that both recipes actually utilize ingredients that must also be prepared from other recipes in the book, which means that the Black Bean & Chipotle Burgers actually required me to prepare 4 recipes (1 of which was for the patty itself) and the Pineapple Macaroons required me to make 2. All told, I had to prepare 6 different recipes with over 50 ingredients!
Overwhelmed to say the least, the time I spent mulling over the recipes I was to prepare and the associated list of raw ingredients I was to acquire provided me ample time to peruse the amazing photography in Thrive.
Moving past my consternation over the ingredients that would be required for my meal, most of which I was fortunate to already have on hand, I was confronted with a few more obstacles: equipment needs and preparation time. The recipes or components of the recipes that I chose required me to use my food processor 4 times, which, when all was said and done, means I had to allocate 2 hours of my day to the preparation of this one meal. In my opinion, having to completely wash a piece of heavy kitchen equipment and all its components 3 times in the food preparation process is the worst.
The best thing about obstacles is when they are overcome and when all was said and done, the meal was quite delicious. The black bean burgers held together nicely and were quite crisp, which is rare for a veggie burger. The macaroons were a nice mix of the rich and sweet. Actually, I enjoyed the macaroons better the next day after they had 24 hours to chill in the fridge.
Here are a few glamor shots of the Thrive Avocado, Black Bean & Chipotle Burgers and Pineapple Macaroons for your viewing pleasure.
Trust me, the food is just as, if not more, delicious than it looks.
Throw some lightly steamed broccoli and roasted sweet potato fries on the side of that burger, which is what I did, and you’ve got yourself one complete meal!
Summarily, the nutritional philosophy supporting Thrive Energy Cookbook are sound and the food is quite delicious, but the time, patience, and energy required to prepare the recipes may be best reserved for those with a substantial amount of free time who are highly dedicated to the plant-based, endurance sports movement. Beginner and time-crunched individuals may not be well served by the foods presented in Thrive.
Images provided by Matthew Lovitt