When it comes to getting the best results possible from your workouts, training sessions and competitions, any serious athlete knows that how you feed your body is at least as important as any other aspect or factor that can be named, if not more so.
It’s in my nature to research topics to the Nth degree so I can be as informed as possible as to the pros and cons, the best practices and things to avoid before undertaking anything of significant importance. So it was about a year ago when I became determined to become “a better me” and embark on a journey to eventually become an Ironman triathlete – a journey I’m still on to this day.
There were a few people who were incredibly influential to me – unbeknownst to them – for various reasons. The first was Rich Roll and his book Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself. ( http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Ultra-Rejecting-Becoming-Discovering/dp/0307952193/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357776150&sr=1-1&keywords=Rich+Roll ).
Next was Jason Lester and his book Running on Faith: The Principles, Passion and Pursuit of a Winning Life. ( http://www.amazon.com/Running-Faith-Principles-Passion-Pursuit/dp/0061965723 ).
Third was Brendan Brazier and his book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life. ( http://www.amazon.com/Thrive-Nutrition-Optimal-Performance-Sports/dp/0738212547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357776329&sr=1-1&keywords=Brendan+Brazier ).
All three of these men are beyond inspirational – they’re truly nothing short of amazing people. Without going into detail and writing a biography on each of these three guys, suffice it to say that when I need to really dig deep and push myself beyond where I think my limits are during workouts and training sessions, I draw motivation from thinking about the incredible accomplishments of these three men. (All three are on Twitter and I highly recommend checking them out and following them there if you’re so inclined!).
I came across this following interview with Brendan Brazier that I’m copying and pasting in here. It was conducted by Noelle Yeager and published at DualShow.com on January 8, 2013. You can find the original here: ( http://dualshow.com/working-out-with-brendan-brazier-a-vegan-guide-to-exercise/ ). I hope you find this as enjoyable as I do!
Working Out with Brendan Brazier: A Vegan Guide to Exercise
A lot of women will tell you about the buzz they get from working out. And while, yes, we do admit that we feel that calorie-burning glow, most times, when we wake up the next morning, the first thing we notice is that everything hurts. Well, ladies, we’re here with some good news—the pain doesn’t have to be part of the game, especially when you’re eating the right things before and after your workout.
To learn more about how to help our bodies recover from an intense session at the gym, we got on the phone with Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier to talk about his workout regime. Trust us when we say that our “intense” two-hour workout doesn’t even come close to the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon events that Brazier competed in professionally. If you have any questions about what it takes to keep your body in mint condition, Brazier’s definitely the one to ask. His biggest secret: healthy living with a vegan diet.
Author of several vegan-lifestyle books, his Thrive series, Brazier, 37 (and a vegan for more than twenty years now) has moved from professional athlete to a killer nutritional consultant—and his methods definitely work. Remember how amazing Hugh Jackman looked in X-Men (yep, we’re definitely thinking of those washboard abs)? You guessed it—he was training with the vegan principles used in Brazier’s first book, Thrive. Get out your notebooks, because class is now in session.
What is it like to do a triathlon?
Well, it depends on the person, I guess. If you enjoy swimming, biking and running, it’s a lot of fun. And I always have. I’ve never done it to be competitive or to try and prove anything. I’ve just done it because I really enjoy it. It’s hard, for sure, but it’s a good hard.
What kind of preparation goes into doing a triathlon?
It depends on the distance. I did Ironman Triathlons professionally for seven years. Obviously a lot of events where, if you want to do well, you’ve got to train a lot. So I would train 35 to 40 hours a week, full-on, full-time training. I’d swim up to three miles in practice in the morning, then I’d do a gym workout then bike for maybe five hours, sometimes six, and then run twelve miles or so.
What made you decide to become a vegan?
I was just trying to be a better athlete, so I was trying different ways of eating to boost my performance. I knew recovery was huge. If I could speed recovery between workouts, I would be able to do more training in less time, which would help me improve faster.
How has a vegan diet impacted your athletics?
It’s allowed me to recover much more quickly, which, of course, allows me to train more. It reduces inflammation and, when inflammation goes down, efficiency goes up. You become more efficient if you don’t have to work as hard. Obviously, when inflammation goes down, muscles move more slowly, you don’t use as much force, so you conserve energy with every muscle contraction.
Digestibility, too—you don’t spend as much energy digesting. If you don’t spend energy, you still have it, so you have more energy simply through conserving it, which is huge as well. That’s one of the principles of my book, Thrive, called “high net gain nutrition.” Little energy out, a lot of energy in. So picking foods based on that really helps.
Was it difficult to transition to a vegan diet?
Well I didn’t really do it right at first. I was eating a lot of refined foods, not really great foods. If I’d done it right, it would have been much easier. I’ve learned since that I think it makes sense to transition slowly. I tried to do too much too soon.
What should a proper vegan diet should look like?
Well it’s one that consists of whole foods, for sure—foods that haven’t been processed and refined. You can have a junk food vegan diet now very easily with tofu hotdogs, tofu hamburgers, soy ice cream—things like that that are highly processed. But a really good vegan diet is one that is based on whole foods like quinoa, buckwheat. Hemp seeds are great, flax, pea protein, rice protein. Algae are actually really good. Anything with green pigment is going to be good. It helps reduce inflammation [and] speed recovery.
Is there more to your nutritional plan than just eating correctly?
The timing is actually really important, too. Before a workout, you want to make sure you have primarily simple carbohydrates that digest easily and work as fuel. General rule: carbs are fuel, protein is for rebuilding. So you want carbs before a workout, you want protein after. In Thrive I do have a chart that tells you what to eat based on the duration and intensity of your workout. So, as the workout gets longer, it becomes less intense. But that means that your body has then burned a bit more fat, a bit more protein, so you’re going to have to eat a bit more fat and a bit more protein.
Do you have any tips for someone starting a vegan diet?
I think starting slow is a big thing. One meal or one snack a day I’ve found works really well. That’s going to help people’s palate change, and they’ll start actually craving good food and losing interest in the bad, and that’s a great thing. They don’t feel deprived, they don’t feel as if they’re not eating the way they want. They actually start changing what they want to eat.
If you’re interested in trying Brazier’s brand of vegan living, you’re definitely going to want to check out his books. We, personally, recommend Thrive Foods, a collection of 200 plant-based recipes designed by expert chefs. For $45 a day, you can also have Thrive Foods Direct deliver breakfast, lunch and dinner right to your door. Brazier’s Vega shakes and power bars (available at Whole Foods and other health food stores) are also a must before you head to the gym. Trust us, if you’re into healthy vegan living, these ready-made meals and power drinks make a great alternative to what you’ll find in your grocery store’s freezer section or GNC, respectively.