When I say “vegan,” what do you think of? Probably a pale, malnourished fellow subsisting on bagels and tofu. A far cry from that is Brendan Brazier, a former professional triathlete, founder of Vega and author of Thrive-Energy Cookbook. “Most athletes perform in spite of their diet, not because of it,” says Brazier.
It was his quest for the perfect performance fuel that led him to a plant-based diet and the ur-formula for Vega One, his company’s flagship nutritional shake. Here are four myths about veganism and athletics that may just change your mind about the way you eat to perform at your best.
“A healthy non-athletic diet is basically the same as a healthy athletic diet. An athlete can just eat more.”
1. Veganism Isn’t For Athletes
Brazier quickly acknowledges that vegan diets aren’t necessarily healthy in and of themselves. It’s about having the right kind of vegan diet, which is perhaps why he is more likely to use the term “plant-based” than “vegan.” “When you do a ride and eat a lot of greens and pseudo-grains you lower inflammation, which leads to increased efficiency and a greater range of motion,” Brazier notes. “These are good things for athletes.”
2. Vegan Athletes Need a Special Diet
If you’ve ever felt sluggish after a meal, you’d probably like an alternative, but you might not be sure where to start. What’s more, most vegan cookbooks aren’t designed with athletes, let alone triathletes, in mind. But Brazier believes that the distinction between an athletic diet and a non-athletic diet is a false one. “A healthy non-athletic diet is basically the same as a healthy athletic diet,” he observes. “An athlete can just eat more.” To that end, he suggests nutrient-dense plant foods (or “superfoods” as the kids call them). “Any kind of green, seaweed or algae is very nutrient dense.”
3. Vega Is Only For Vegans
Brazier is quick to point out that most people who buy Vega One aren’t vegan or vegetarian. He started making his first drinks at the age of 15 in an attempt to speed recovery. “I wanted to race professionals and do triathlons,” he explains. “If I could decrease recovery time, I could get a lot more out of my training.” This first version of Vega One was “pretty crude,” but it has evolved to the point Brazier doesn’t even consider vegan-ness the main attraction. “It’s functional and purpose-driven. Nothing is just thrown in for the purpose of being a good ingredient. Every amino acid is represented.”
You can make all these delicious dishes with recipes from Brazier’s new book. Dibs on the smoothie.
4. Switching to a Plant-Based Diet Is Hard
Perhaps in keeping with his preference for the term “plant-based,” Brazier doesn’t recommend a radical transition in your diet. His book is designed to help people make a gradual and easy transition to a more plant-based diet. “I think inclusion as opposed to exclusion is healthier mentally and seems to be more approachable for most people.” To that end, he recommends starting small with the things that you already like. “Adding a smoothie every day is one way to go about it.” From there, you can branch out, adding things like chia to your smoothie, or replacing rice with buckwheat. “It can be very subtle,” says Brazier. “You can blend chia into a smoothie or put it on salad.”