The book in a nutshell is Brazier's contribution to the nutrition side of training, racing and recovery. Normally when I read books about nutrition, especially about training related nutrition, I come away more than a little disappointed. Having been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, I get a little disturbed with what I consider largely as misinformation about athletes choosing a completely vegetable based diet. Unfortunately, it is its vegetable based nature that is probably why Brazier's book isn't discussed and considered as a serious option for optimal eating, training, and racing more.
Brazier takes time to explain that eating in the majority of North American culture is not for function but other emotional and social reasons. This is why the typical diet is one of excess in quantity and lacking in actual nutrition. He points out that eating less is an option when the body has the proper nutrition to fuel its activity and recovery. Brazier explains a lower caloric intake is actually beneficial to an endurance athlete in particular because when higher nutrient sources are used in easily digestible forms, the body has more energy available for recovery and performance. It is his opinion that it is because of improper nutrition that people find themselves craving things like sugar and fat in excess which then throws the body out of balance. Over time the accumulated stresses of training and racing loads along with suboptimal eating patterns combine to set up a vicious cycle of poor eating, impaired or interrupted training and recovery, and a lower overall quality of life that many simply call burn out. Prolonged, the state of imbalance caused by faulty eating and the resultant stresses sets up a cycle leading to illness, premature aging and increased body fat. The accumulated stresses Brazier links to poor eating become more and more noticeable to the athlete as they begin limit the ability to train consistently and recover adequately. Though personally I find his tendency to lump the myriad of consequences of poor eating under the singular umbrella he refers to as "stress," I found his knowledge on the subject of nutrition and its effects on health and athletic recovery very sound.
Essentially Brazier looks at food as fuel, some fuels burning cleaner and more efficiently in the body than others and thus take less energy to digest fully while creating less waste, or in Braziers language, stress in the body. He is careful to state that training and racing are also forms of stress placed on the body noting that some stresses are beneficial for growth and development. What Brazier attempts to do with the Thrive Diet is to have our food support that growth by taking the wasteful and stressful aspects food can have on our bodies out of the equation of nutrition and performance. This in his words leads to not only a stronger, leaner body capable of racing better, but a person who is healthier and happier overall and more likely to reach and experience their true potential.
While the Thrive Diet in practice is not complex, it is vegan and largely raw, and it does run counter to what most Americans would consider a balanced meal. And overall it is probably lower in calories. But after following just a couple of the guidelines in the diet closely for the last couple of weeks a few things stand out.
The cover of Brazier's book claims by following this way of eating you will be leaner (have a lower body fat percentage), while increasing lean muscle mass, sleep more restfully, experience increased energy, and have a stronger immune system. From my experience over the last few weeks, I can honestly say Brazier's claims have all been on the mark. I have lost about 5 pounds and definitely look more muscular. But what is most amazing to me has been the recovery time I've seen. Workouts that would have left me using the railing in my house to get up and down the stairs for about 24 hours because my legs were so trashed are now a thing of the past. I am also getting by on far less sleep and still feeling rested. Daily runs are also looking more and more possible which would be a huge boost to my future overall fitness I'm sure. And all I'm doing is adhering more strongly to the notion that the more nutrients in my diet the better. I'm drinking several glasses of organic fruit and vegetable juice a day along with a protein smoothie. I have also lowered the consumption of Soy where possible. I have found I need to be more conscious of the quality and amount of beneficial fat in my diet and I'm looking into sources to include this. But to say I've seen a dramatic transformation in just 3 weeks would be an understatement. If you are serious about your triathlon performance, and just the overall quality of you experience of your life in general, I highly suggest you give Thrive a look.