Thrive (10th Anniversary Edition)

The Plant-Based Whole Foods Way to Staying Healthy for Life


By Brendan Brazier

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One of the few professional athletes on an entirely plant-based diet, Brendan Brazier developed this easy-to-follow program to enhance his performance as an elite endurance athlete. Ten years later, his lifestyle still works. In this anniversary edition, Brendan brings 25 new recipes as well as updates throughout. Thrive features a 12-week whole foods meal plan, 125 easy-to-make recipes with raw food options that are free of dairy, gluten, soy, wheat, corn, refined sugar. With this program, you can lower body fat and increase muscle tone; diminish visible signs of aging; increase energy and mental clarity; sleep better and more restfully. Thrive is a long-term eating plan that will help you develop a lean body, sharp mind, and everlasting energy, whether you’re a professional athlete or simply looking to boost your physical and mental health.



It may seem strange to you that a foreword to a book about a vegan diet is being written by a non-vegan. Fair question. However, while I am not one now as I write, there is every chance I will be by the time you read it.

Decisions like this tend to take a while for me. I will even admit to having the book sit on my desk for months before reading it. Why? Like most of us, I want the best out of life: I want my body and mind to run at their full potential, and not take health and vitality for granted. But vegan? Seems a little extreme, right? After all, I am 41 years old, and so far things have gone pretty smoothly. Add to that the usual concerns: I am so busy, Do I have time to commit to this, etc., etc.

Well.… I found myself having to put on 20 pounds of lean muscle for another film version of Wolverine, which normally would mean a LOT of animal protein and synthetic protein powders. While this worked in the past, I knew it wasn't sustainable, that at some point my body (and probably my heart) would rebel. Not to mention that I often felt extremely lethargic eating so many hard-to-digest calories. Then there were the ethical considerations of the diet—the environmental impact being the largest one.

But the idea in my head was that while being a vegan or even a vegetarian was admirable, there would be no way I could achieve the results.

So as this book sat on my desk screaming at me, "There is a way… THERE IS A WAY," I actually started using Brendan Brazier's Vega products to see if I could at least replace the synthetic protein powders with Vega One and Vega Sport Performance Optimizer. I loved them, and using them eased my mind for a while. But that image of Brendan on his bike in full triathlon gear finally woke me up to reading the book.


Here was a professional athlete describing how beneficial his vegan diet was to his training regime. A regime far more difficult than my own… and how it had liberated him from many of the feelings I was going through in my own training. As the pages turned, my enthusiasm grew. Not only was it possible—it was easier and healthier.

I am so excited by what I am learning. My job does require different physical results for different roles, but I am no longer interested in the "at any cost" part of the equation. I am a family man first and foremost and it has always been important for me to be as healthy as I can be, for all of us to treat our bodies with respect, and hopefully to set an example for our kids and set them on a lifelong path of health and vitality. I am forever grateful to this book, and now having had the opportunity to meet Brendan, I am so impressed with his dedication to passing on his extraordinary knowledge.

I am convinced that the way we eat as a society has led us astray over the past decades, and that many of the current epidemics are surely due to our changed diets: increased preservatives, additives, and under-nourishing foods. What this book is proposing is a very important road map for all of us.

While I am not yet a vegan, I am closer and closer to becoming one. Already, as Brendan describes in this book, I have noticed increased energy and more restful sleep. My desire for sugar and salt is waning, and what's more, I am following his recipes, and loving them (the smoothies are awesome, too!).

So if you are anything like me, it has been quite a journey for you to even read this foreword, but I guarantee you, you will never look back.

Enjoy the new levels of health and vitality that are coming your way.


When the first edition of Thrive was published 10 years ago, my hope for it far exceeded my expectation. After all, my belief in how plant-based nutrition could boost athletic performance while also reducing the strain on the environment was, at the time, considered fringe at best. A national bestselling book in North America, Thrive has since been published in several countries, benefiting the lives of millions of people. It's been a rewarding journey, sharing the principles of Thrive and the benefits of plant-based nutrition, whether I'm talking at conferences, universities, or companies or simply having a conversation with people interested in learning more about or adopting a plant-based diet.

Ten years later, it's now common for people to speak of their "plant-based diet." Even "vegan" is a familiar word, seen on the most conventional restaurants' menus. The importance of avoiding animal products in our diet, whether for heath, physical and mental performance, environmental, ethical, or a combination of these reasons, is now well understood and widely accepted.

As well, in the past decade a whole new generation, the millennials, has come of age. This socially conscious generation—numbering over 80 million in the United States alone (greater than one-quarter of the population)—cares about themselves and their individual health, of course, but they also care deeply about the health of the planet and how their choices and actions affect others. They care about social issues and how their food choices can sway industry. They want to know where their food comes from, and at what cost. And "cost" to them isn't simply monetary. It extends to the environment. In other words, how much of each natural resource is expended to get nutrition? Land, water, fossil fuels, and carbon footprint are all part of the equation. I wrote about this extensively in my third book, Thrive Foods, when the topic was still somewhat new. But today, these are the questions people regularly ask, because cost and return is better understood. I believe this socially minded consumption will become of even greater value as time goes by.

Millennials are also the first generation who understand that a greater amount of something is not necessarily a better deal. They understand that volume, weight, or amount of calories is no longer a value proposition, and they ask informed questions such as, "What's the nutrient density?" and "What's the cost-to-nutrient ratio?" They know that the value of food ought to be measured in nutrients contained in it, not in caloric "value," and certainly not in weight or sheer size.

Also, benefit is now more appreciated than ever. Millennials are less likely to aspire to owning a car, a bike, or even a song. Instead, they use car-share services and communal bike systems, and they stream music as opposed to buying it. They don't want things per se; they simply want the benefit that things can provide.

This way of thinking is crossing over into millennials' view of food as well. More than previous generations, they appreciate the outcome of mindful eating, and therefore base their eating decisions largely on functional result. Will the food give them more sustainable energy? Will it improve their fat metabolism, enhance their skin elasticity, boost their ability to concentrate, improve their sleep quality, and so on? They want answers to these questions before they decide what to eat.

I believe the Thrive Diet is more relevant now than ever before. Approaching eating as an opportunity to benefit oneself—having a desired function and a purpose in mind for the meal or snack—this is the new way. Food as a means of change and progress. Food and the way in which it's produced as a way to affect billions of lives, human, non-human, and the planet's.

In this 10th anniversary edition, I have left the main text of the original intact, as the principles of the Thrive Diet continue to hold true today. If you are new to the Thrive Diet, today you have access to so many nutrient-dense whole foods that are widely available in grocery stores. A lot has changed in 10 years, and it is definitely progress in the right direction for those embracing a healthier way of eating. I've created 25 new Thrive Diet recipes for this edition that I hope you enjoy.

With each recipe, I have included icons identifying its key nutrients. The eight key nutrients, discussed here to here, are found in healthy whole foods. It's important to incorporate them into a healthy diet, especially if you are physically active. The key nutrients are:

Alkaline-Forming Foods




Essential Fats



Raw Food


The Thrive Diet grew out of necessity. At the age of 15, I decided that I wanted to become a professional athlete. My goal was to ultimately be a professional Ironman triathlete. Consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and a 26.2-mile run (a marathon), Ironman triathlon racing is not the easiest way to make a living. But it appealed to me. I enjoyed outdoor exercise, hard work, and a challenge, so why not make a career out of it?

As you can imagine, I needed to dedicate a huge amount of time and effort to training for this event. As I got more serious about training and pursuing my goal, I searched for ways to improve my performance. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I looked at how other athletes were training.

What immediately stood out to me was how little their training programs varied. From the top pros in the sport right down to the average performers, the variations in their workout routines were only slight. Taking training out of the equation, then, what allowed some athletes to improve at an exceptional rate while others became stagnant or made only modest gains? What separated the top athletes from the average? As I found, there are only two prime components that make up an athlete's routine: training and recovery. Often referred to as stress and rest, both elements are of equal importance, yet usually only one gets attention—the training.

While training programs are meticulously plotted and each workout is planned in detail, little thought is given to recovery. We know that recovery occurs when the body is at rest, but, as I learned, there are varying states of rest that are not well understood. Maximizing the quality of rest is key. Removing other forms of stress from the body during times of rest will speed the rate of recovery. In doing so, the athlete will be better physiologically prepared for the next workout and therefore will benefit from it more. It was the recovery that needed to be my prime focus, not the training.

After reading many articles and speaking with a wide variety of top professional athletes in both strength and endurance, I found that the major variant among athletes was diet. They ranged from very poor to pretty good. So did their performance: The better the diet, the better the recovery rate. But what constituted a good diet? What were the best foods to eat for recovery and which ones should be avoided? Which foods helped the body function in a reduced state of stress so that it could recover faster?

My focus, which had begun on training, now shifted to recovery and, more specifically, diet. I tried different diets, not restrictive ones, as is a common theme of many diets, but supposedly performanceenhancing ones. I tried high-carbohydrate, grain-based, low-fat, low-protein diets, and low-carbohydrate, high-fat, high-protein diets, and several others that fell in between. Although learning the basic principles of the various diets was helpful, I couldn't find any one diet that really gave me the edge I was looking for.

Then I tried a diet that was considered at the time to be a novelty. It was the earlier 1990s and diets that did not consist of meat and dairy products, regardless of their other parameters, were usually dismissed immediately, especially by athletes. But I tried this completely plant-based diet. After about two weeks, I began to think its critics were right—I felt terrible. General fatigue, local muscle soreness, low energy, constant hunger—I experienced it all. But why? What caused this to happen? Discouraged but also intrigued, I became an even stronger believer in the powerful effect nutrition has on the body. If the pendulum could swing this far to one side, it must be able to swing the other way equally as far.

The resistance from others in the athletic community to a strictly plant-based diet also intrigued me. I was told by several trainers and coaches that I would need to make a decision: I could either eat a plant-based diet or I could be an athlete. Being a naturally curious person, I decided to find out for myself: Could I be a top-level athlete on a plant-based diet?

I turned to medical journals, applied dietary studies, and health and nutrition publications to learn more. I developed a good theoretical understanding of the subject, but would such a diet work in practice? It was at this point that I began to experiment, to make myself the test subject of a plant-based diet, with the goal being nothing short of optimal health and vitality.

Knowing that training is little more than breaking down muscle, I figured that what rebuilds that same muscle must be a major factor for recovery and therefore quicker improvement. If I was able to recover from each workout faster, I would be able to schedule them closer together and therefore train more than my competition. I would improve faster. As I suspected, food was the answer—high-quality, nutrient-dense, alkaline-forming, easily digestible food in proper proportions (I learned that last part later). I experimented with a few self-created "performance diets" in an attempt to minimize recovery time between workouts. I began to use my body as a dietary barometer of sorts, based on the knowledge that the sooner I was ready to train again after a workout, the better my diet was. What made some foods speed recovery while others delayed it, sometimes significantly? Nutrition has a dramatic effect on recovery—that was unmistakable. Now I needed to determine what foods were best and why, and what their common denominators were. This would not be an easy task. As with endurance training itself, it could not be rushed. An in-depth experiment of this magnitude would need time. And I made time for it. I began 17 years ago.

Over the course of several years, I started to see a pattern—a series of common denominators began to emerge. The characteristics that rendered some foods highly valuable to the body while others registered as near worthless or actually stress-causing were beginning to present themselves. These former would become the basis for the Thrive Diet.

I then developed a series of test recipes and a week-long meal plan based on foods with the characteristics I found valuable. The result was astounding. Not only did my recovery time plummet but my energy level, strength-to-weight ratio, and endurance shot up. It was several years in the making, but here it was, the basis for the program. Applying the principles, I concocted a blender drink packed with nutrient-dense, plant-based whole foods, which I drank daily.

The year was now 1996 and I was 21. With this program intact, I started training more—because I could. I was recovering at an unprecedented rate. At this point, I realized that my goal of racing Ironman triathlon professionally was realistic. Just two years later, in 1998, I began my professional career. The speed at which my body was able to adapt to this type of all-encompassing training was my most impressive achievement. I attribute these exceptionally fast gains to the detailed attention I paid to my diet.

Over the years, the core parameters of the diet have not changed, having withstood the test of time. That's not to say that the diet has not evolved—it has. I've added new foods to the nutrition program once they have passed the recovery test and also been validated by published research.

What I realized next would become one of the most important implications of the diet. That the diet helped speed my recovery was great, but on a broader scale, there was so much more to be realized. Indeed, that recovery time between workouts could be significantly shorter was itself an indication of far more. On the cellular level, this diet was able to speed the renewal of muscle tissue. That meant that following this diet would actually help the body regenerate more frequently, suggesting that it could help reduce biological age. (I discuss this aspect in detail in Chapter 2.) There was more though: A major determinant of rate of recovery is stress level. The more stress placed on the body, the slower recovery will take place. When my external stress stayed at a constant level and the only variable was what I ate, it became clear to me that my plant-based diet helped reduce stress simply through better nutrition. This concept became the premise of the Thrive Diet. In Chapter 1, I expand on this, explaining the different forms of stress.

The implication that this diet could reduce stress was significant. Stress is now understood to be the root cause of many diseases and other health ailments. Obesity, fatigue, poor digestion, and trouble sleeping are often symptoms of stress. Since the average North American is plagued by stress of varying types, the stress-reducing premise of the Thrive Diet is the ideal solution for staying healthy in our modern-day world. This diet was no longer just for high-level athletes—it was suitable for all people, no matter their activity level: By helping reduce nutritional stress, and thereby overall stress, the Thrive Diet is beneficial for everyone. In fact, the Thrive Diet will potentially eliminate up to 40 percent of the total stress on the average North American's body.

I discuss nutritional stress in detail in Chapter 1, but, in short, nutritional stress is the term used to describe the body's stress response to food that is void of nutrition and/or foods that require a large amount of energy to digest and assimilate—refined, unnatural ones. Nutritional stress has the same damaging physiological effects as other kinds of stress. With modern-day demands and a diet based on refined foods, the average North American's body is under as much stress as that of a professional endurance athlete. Although the source of stress may be different, the need to curtail the negative effects is the same. Stress may be the cause of many health problems, but the good news is that we have control over what we eat and can prevent and reverse many health problems simply by eating a diet that alleviates nutritional stress. That is exactly what I developed the Thrive Diet to do—to get us healthy at the core.

The Thrive Diet aims to:

• reduce biological age,

• increase life expectancy,

• help reduce body fat and maintain lean muscle,

• increase energy without coffee or sugar,

• increase strength and endurance,

• improve productivity,

• improve mental clarity,

• improve sleep quality,

• reduce sleep requirements,

• improve resistance to infection,

• quicken recovery from exercise,

• reduce or eliminate sugar cravings,

• increase desire to excel.

In addition to the Thrive Diet's health benefits, it's easy on the environment. In Chapter 3 I explain how the diet is structured to use as few resources as possible, making it one of the most environmentally friendly diets possible. Environmental preservation translates into higher quality food, which directly affects those who eat it.

In Chapter 4 I explain the value exercise has on regeneration and renewal. I cover what foods are optimal to fuel a workout and which ones are best to be eaten after exercise for quick recovery. Exercise-specific recipes that I've made for myself for years are included.

Chapter 5 is a list and description of the main foods in the diet, and Chapter 6 is a 12-week meal plan that will help you get started on the Thrive Diet. You may choose to follow the meal plan exactly, or simply use it as a general guideline. Along with soaking and sprouting instructions for seeds, nuts, and legumes, you'll find the recipes for the meal plan in Chapter 7. These include recipes for cereals, energy bars, smoothies, burgers, salads, dressings, and much more.

I have also provided an appendix detailing the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and food components involved in a healthy diet, as well as a glossary of terms and resources section at the back of the book.

With this book as your guide, you will be well on your way to reaping the rewards of higher quality living. By applying the principles of the Thrive Diet, you will create the fundamental foundation of health. No step is too small; each aspect of the diet that you embrace will directly translate into meaningful results. Start slow and build.



Stress is something that we are all familiar with—our modern world is a breeding ground for it. Yet, many of us aren't aware of how expansive its reach can be and just how deeply it can affect every aspect of our life. Simply put, stress is anything that causes strain. Mental or physical, and regardless of origin, stress, with its far-reaching consequences, affects everyone in some way. The sources of stress in modern life are many; everything from pollutants in our drinking water and poor nutrition, to relationship concerns and job dissatisfaction, to overexercising or underexercising—all are stressors.

Stress is like fire: When controlled and used for a purpose, it serves us well. Left unbridled, it can consume us. In amounts that our body is capable of adapting to, certain stresses are beneficial. Exercise, for example, is a stress. Exercise and then rest, and your body will grow stronger. However, stress has become, now more than ever, a real threat to our health and livelihood, often overwhelming us and, in some cases, even controlling us.

Located on top of the kidneys, our two adrenals are small triangular glands that play a large role in the body's response to stress. During times of elevated stress, regardless of its source, the body's adrenal glands kick into action, secreting the hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. Cortisol is sometimes referred to as the "stress hormone" for the simple reason that its release is triggered by stress.

Because of the release of cortisol in reaction to the onset of stress, our body actually gains energy. We become more alert, our strength may increase, and we are able to process information more quickly and react slightly faster than usual. This is an innate defense mechanism. Drawing on its primal roots, our body assumes that if it is stressed, it must be in danger. By summoning its hormonal resources to temporarily improve strength and reaction time, the body will improve its odds of getting out of a prehistoric bind—early humans, for instance, would have had increased odds of survival when confronted by a predatory animal. Not enough nutrient-supplying food would have also been perceived as a stress to early humans and therefore a threat to survival. The threat would register, evoking the same hormonal response. Greater strength and more energy would have improved their ability to search for food.

The threats to early humans may have been more immediate threats than ours, yet our stress-response mechanism today remains much the same. In modern Western society, rarely is it put to its original use of self-preservation. Our daily threats pale in comparison to being attacked by an animal or having to scour long and hard for food. But although our threats may be less dire, they are greater in number—far greater—and cumulative. Since our primal response to dealing with threats is outdated, stress slowly eats away at us. In fact, our stress-response mechanism worsens the situation because of its overreaction. Wanting to protect us when we are confronted with stress—to get us out of even the slightest bind—our adrenal glands release cortisol to spring us into action. Our adrenal glands are taxed daily, even hourly.

Of course, the amount of cortisol released varies, based on the body's perception of the severity of the stressor. But reacting frequently or overreacting to an event as mundane as working overtime is in itself stressful, and as such, stress-producing. Cortisol will eventually "eat away" at the body by breaking down muscle tissue. And while cortisol stimulates us to deal with an apparent threat, regular stimulation brings about fatigue: Since our adrenal glands were not designed to be used as often as they are today, they become overworked, resulting in exhaustion. Adrenal burnout, as it is commonly known, is today a widespread problem.

Many, if not all, of our modern-day health problems are caused by stress. Obesity, fatigue, mental fog, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, prematurely wrinkled skin, depression… the list goes on. If stress, and therefore cortisol, remains elevated, several problems arise to hamper our body's smooth functioning. One is that the body shifts fuel sources. Instead of burning fat as fuel, a stressed person's system will burn carbohydrate in the form of sugar, and the body begins to store the body fat instead of using it for energy. Stress-free people are fat-burning machines. Stressed people, on the other hand, burn and in turn crave carbohydrates. And cravings themselves are a form of psychological stress, as I discuss later in this chapter.

Stressed people do not burn body fat as fuel as efficiently as do those who are not stressed.

Stress can also cause hormonal imbalance. When cortisol levels change rapidly, the hormone's symbiotic relationship with other hormones is altered. Hormone imbalance may, for instance, affect electrolyte function, reducing the body's ability to stay adequately hydrated. This results in muscle cramping in the short term and, if neglected, wrinkled and less elastic skin. When the body has difficulty maintaining optimal fluid levels, the delivery of nutrients to its cells is compromised. This leads to a host of problems—basic malnutrition being the most obvious. Even if the diet is ideal, the nutrients are of little use if they don't get distributed. Hormone imbalance can also cause slowed mental ability and impair the delivery of messages from the brain to other parts of the body, slowing movement.

Another health concern that regularly crops up as stress mounts is the inability to sleep soundly. We have all likely had difficulty falling asleep after a traumatic event, or perhaps even after taking on a new, uncertain project at work. As you probably suspected, high cortisol levels are again to blame. And lack of sleep further raises cortisol levels. It's a vicious circle: The body has an increased need for sleep at heightened times of stress yet is unable to get it.

My Introduction to Stress

I learned a lesson the first year I decided to compete in longer races. It was the spring of 1997. I gradually, but significantly, increased my training mileage, by about 10 percent per week. The first few weeks I didn't experience any problems; everything felt good. But as the months wore on and spring became summer, I found that as my rate of exercise increased, my quality of sleep decreased. This was strange. I had assumed that the more exercise I did, the more tired I would be and the better I would sleep. I continued training as usual. As the weeks passed, the quality of my training declined and I developed a greater appetite.


On Sale
Feb 14, 2017
Page Count
400 pages

Brendan Brazier

About the Author

Brendan Brazier is the international bestselling author of Thrive, Thrive Foods, and Thrive Fitness. Brendan is head of nutrition for the Garmin-Sharp Pro Cycling Team and nutrition consultant to several NHL, MLB, NFL, MLS, UFC, and Olympic athletes. He is a former professional Ironman triathlete, two-time Canadian ultramarathon champion, and creator of Vega, the award-winning line of whole food nutritional products.

Learn more about this author