This piece first appeared in the June issue of Competitor Magazine.
Like many triathletes, Brendan Brazier started out as a runner. But, unlike many other 15-year-old track runners, the Vancouver, British Columbia, native sought ways to become a better athlete through self-experimentation. Despite grumblings from his coach, he tried different ways of eating before settling on a vegan diet; however, the immediate results were diminished performance and recovery, and he was constantly hungry.
“I made common mistakes like eating a lot of starchy foods and no vegetables,” Brazier recalled. “I thought that the more calories I ate, the more energy I would have.”
After much trial and error, the two-time Canadian national 50K champion figured out what works for him—a plant-based whole foods diet focused on high net-gain nutrition. A synopsis of his food-as-fuel perspective: Maintaining a neutral or good internal pH level through the balance of acid and alkaline is possible; eating acidic things combined with accumulated stress leads to low energy, illness and disease.
Brazier is spreading his message in print through his “Thrive” book series and online with his 21-day Vegan Kickstart Challenge; “Thrive in Thirty,” video series; and an online nutrition course he teaches through Cornell University. He helped create Vega products to make alkaline-forming vegan choices available to time-strapped athletes.
Ironman triathlete, interventional cardiologist and “vegan heart doc” blogger Heather Shenkman of West Hills, Calif., became a vegetarian for ethical reasons as a teenager, but switched to veganism several years ago. “A lot of the disease that I see is mostly contributed to diets high in animal fats and processed foods,” she said.
Shenkman, who mixed Vega sport protein with water for a recovery drink while training for Ironman Lake Placid last summer, said she recovers faster than her training partners. “I think it’s a combo of diet and training, but since going vegan, I’ve become a faster runner.”