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05.07.08

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You Are What You . . .

Peak perfection through nutrition and other myths

By Gianna De Persiis Vona


For eight years, I was a dedicated vegetarian, but times change. I have since reverted to being the type of person who doesn't feel particularly guilty about hiding the boxes of free-range chicken broth before the vegetarians come into the kitchen to test the soup. My rationale for this is simple: a little chicken broth is good for you, and the integrity of my recipes is more important than someone else's dietary restrictions.

But when I call Brendan Brazier—professional triathlete, author of The Thrive Diet, a 12-week vegan meal plan and nutrition book, and the formulator of Vega, a plant-based nutritional product—I do not tell him that I regularly lie to vegetarians. Nor do I tell him that I crave caffeine, cheese and sugar more than I crave good health. Sure, I'd love to feel great all of the time, have no allergies, perfect skin and an immune system worthy of the gods, but not if it means I can't eat cheese.

I'm half expecting Brazier to be a bit judgmental, dogmatic even. After all, doesn't he have the right? He's a professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50 km Ultra Marathon champion who survives on plant proteins alone. I soon come to the conclusion, however, that he is the not the type who would ever lie about the broth. Not only that, but he does not make me feel bad about myself, even though I am a person who would. Brazier is friendly and unassuming. As he tells his story, I feel that even if we were sitting together in a small room and he was eating a hemp burger and I was eating a beef burger, he wouldn't judge me (though he might do jumping jacks afterwards, while I sank down into my chair feeling mildly ill).

Brazier has been making Vega, his whole-food health supplement and meal replacement—which provides vitamins, minerals, protein, omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs, enzymes, probiotics and phytonutrients—since he was 15 years old. Only recently has it become commercially available through his partnership with Sequel Naturals, a Canadian nutritional-supplement manufacturer. Brazier tells me that at 15 he knew nothing about nutrition. What he did know was that he wanted to be a professional triathlete.

Throughout high school, he trained an hour before school, an hour after school and then again for another hour after dinner all while working to create a diet that would help him achieve peak performance. Once he graduated, he started training full-time. Brazier came to the conclusion that it is recovery time that defines the top athletes. The faster you recover, the more you can train. Eighty percent of this recovery time, Brazier believes, is due to nutrition, and, as one of the few people in racing who eats a 100 percent plant-based diet, there's a good chance he might know.

In 2003, Brazier was hit by a car while cycling, an accident that temporarily pulled him off the marathon track. While healing, he wrote The Thrive Diet, which features a 12-week, day-by-day meal plan replete with recipes, nutrition and health advice and details of Brazier's passionate belief that eating a plant-based diet benefits not just the individual, but the environment as well.

There is little point in contesting that mass meat production hurts the planet. Cattle are fed corn in huge amounts, an unnatural diet that adds to their release of detrimental levels of methane, which contributes to global warming. Land is cleared to accommodate both the mega–corn crops and the mega–cattle herds, and run-off from factory farms pollute our waterways. With food production being a number one draw on energy and fossil fuels, a diet based primarily on meats and refined foods leaves a carbon footprint the size of Goliath.

After speaking with Brazier, I can no longer avoid the next step in this journey. The time has come for me to prepare a meal from The Thrive Diet. I decide to make the dinosaur kale quinoa wrap with tahini dressing, and the almond flaxseed burger with black bean lime salsa. The recipes are accurate and easy to follow, and before long I have produced a vegan meal that would have been raw except I steamed the kale and fried the burgers out of habit more than necessity. The resulting dinner is delicious and surprisingly filling.

Though there are a few too many gourmet cheeses in my refrigerator for me to be willing to convert entirely, I plan to follow the advice that Brazier gives during our interview, which is that people should do as much they feel comfortable with. I think the first step for me will be to stop lying to my vegetarian friends. Baby steps, but nonetheless meaningful.

For more information on the Thrive Diet, go to [ http://www.brendanbrazier.com%3C/i ]www.brendanbrazier.com.


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