Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete and bestselling author of the Thrive book series, and creator of Thrive Forward a new online video series designed to inspire and educate through plant-based nutrition. Recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on plant-based nutrition, Brendan has dedicated his life to spreading the word about an ethical, environmentally-friendly, and healthy lifestyle through plant-based foods. We spoke to Brazier about how to get back in shape and revive your energy after the holiday season.
29: After indulging over the holidays, what are some superfoods that we should add our diet for a good detox?
BB: Nutritionally speaking, chlorella”a fresh-water green algae”is a true superfood, comprising 67 percent protein; essential fatty acids; and a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Chlorella contains vitamin B12, which is difficult for vegetarians and vegans to find in forms other than laboratory-created tablets. Chlorella also possesses all 10 of the essential amino acids”the ones that must be obtained through diet for peak health. These amino acids, in conjunction with naturally occurring enzymes, are the most easily absorbed and utilized form of protein available. Many other complete proteins are much more energy-intensive to digest; by comparison, chlorella is a particularly high-net-gain food. Spirulina is also an excellent form of fresh water algae. While its protein content and B vitamin levels are lower than that of chlorella, it is still highly alkaline forming.
Coconut water is the nearly translucent fluid inside the coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk, which is a combination of coconut water blended with coconut meat). It has a light, sweet flavor. It is fat-free and contains high levels of simple carbohydrates, making it an ideal fluid to boost muscle glycogen without causing the stomach to become bogged down with digestive duties.
Maca, a root vegetable with medicinal qualities, is native to the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru. Known as an adaptogen, maca curtails the effects of stress by aiding the regeneration of the adrenal glands, making it an ideal food for the modern world. It helps lower cortisol levels, which will improve sleep quality. Of course, better-quality sleep directly translates into more waking energy. And maca increases energy by means of nourishment, not stimulation. I have found that I am better able to adapt to physical stress when I add maca to my diet. Maca is a rich source of steroid-like compounds found in both plants and animals that promote quick regeneration of fatigued muscle tissue. During the off-season, I make a concerted effort to build strength and muscle mass in the gym. I’ve recently experienced exceptional strength gains by adding maca to my recovery drink. I can lift more weight than in previous years and I recover faster. It has enabled me to perform more high quality workouts, thereby advancing my progress.
29: We’re naturally exhausted after he holiday season, how can we boost our energy?
BB: Steer clear of processed food. Highly processed, refined, denatured food requires that significantly more digestive energy be spent to break it down in the process of transferring its caloric energy to us. While it’s true that a calorie is a measure of food energy, simply eating more calories will not necessarily ensure more energy for the consumer. If there were such a calorie guarantee, people who subsisted on fast food and other such calorie-laden fare would have abundant energy. And of course they don’t. This is a testament to the inordinate amount of digestive energy required to convert such food into usable fuel.
29: How can we motivate ourselves to be active, when we’d rather hibernate during these colder winter months?
BB: Proper nutrition can play a large part in feeling motivated. It’s no coincidence that the cultures that have their largest, heaviest meals for lunch are the same ones who have afternoon siestas. Digestion is tiring. When the body doesn’t have to expend a lot of energy digesting, it can conserve energy for other functions. High-net-gain foods deliver us energy by way of conservation as opposed to consumption. At the onset of eating, we begin spending digestive resources in an effort to convert energy stored within food”also known as calories”into usable sustenance to fulfill our biological requirements. And, as we know, whenever energy is transferred from one form to another, there’s an inherent loss. When you choose nutrient-dense whole foods as fuel, you’ll notice you have more energy and motivation to be active.
29: What are your tips for sticking to a healthy lifestyle?
BB: To stick to a healthy lifestyle, combat hunger and low energy levels by consuming protein and good quality fat as part of each meal and snack, especially if you are active. This will curb cravings and keep hunger at bay. Also, start slow “ change is stress, so make sure you build into a healthier lifestyle. Start off with a nutrient-dense smoothie every day for a transition. Think about adding in new things, things that you enjoy and focus on those, not necessary weeding things out of your diet. Allow your palette to change gradually, so you won’t feel deprived or left out, but that you are eating things that you truly enjoy.
29: Getting back to work after the holidays could mean a lot of stress for some of us. What are some ways we can battle this stress using nutrition?
BB: Food is not necessarily synonymous with nutrition, especially not during the holidays. Being fed is not the same as being nourished. When the body doesn’t get the biological building blocks” the nutrients”it needs to keep pace with cellular regeneration, it experiences nutritional stress. And the body reacts to nutritional stress just as it does to mental or physical stress. Fortunately, what we choose to eat is completely in our control. Therefore, we can have a commanding influence on our overall stress levels. Once we have lowered our overall stress by eating well, we can more easily address some of the other daunting issues causing us traditional stress. But nutrition is a good place to start. Make sure you are getting plenty of nutrient-dense plant-based nutrient-dense whole foods, every day. A smoothie or salad a day is a great place to start.