Thrive Review

October 1st, 2009 | Posted by Alison in Good Reads

Over the summer I was sent Thrive to read and review on the blog. I read it over the course of a few weeks and have written previously about how I’ve incorporated the concepts from Thrive into my life and with regards to training for the half marathon this summer.

Thrive Book Review

Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life was written by Brendan Brazier, a professional Ironman triathlete. In Thrive, Brendan describes how a vegan and largely raw diet can help you lose weight, reduce your biological age, improve sleep, increase energy and eliminate food cravings.

Thrive is one of those books that has altered the course of my life. In May I read The Raw Foods Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. Her book was my introduction to a raw foods diet and why eating living, uncooked foods is so beneficial to your health.

When I heard about Thrive and realized it was written by a professional athlete who eats a high raw and vegan diet, I was absolutely intrigued. Thrive filled in a lot of the gaps left from The Raw Food Detox Diet for me. It was easy to see that yes, this approach to eating works not only for athletes, but for anyone looking to simply achieve optimal health. With Brendan, the proof is in the Energy Pudding. He has been able to train harder, recover faster and perform better all thanks to a plant based diet.

The book begins discussing the effects of stress on the body, and that there is stress that is helpful and stress that is harmful. He calls them complimentary and uncomplimentary stress, respectively. The first form of stress being something like exercise. This sort of stress can be helpful as it allows the body to adapt and become more efficient. Uncomplimentary stress would be stress that does us no favors. Uncomplimentary stress can come from work, the environment, eating processed, refined foods that are a huge drain on our bodies and are very taxing to our systems. Nutritional stress from processed foods makes up the largest percentage of uncomplimentary stress in most Americans.

When you are burdened with a lot of uncomplimentary stress, you feel tired and drained. You have no energy and your immune function is lowered. You can reduce the stress load you put on your body by eating a diet full of whole foods, especially a diet comprised largely of plants.

I have to say that after reading Thrive and The Raw Foods Detox Diet, my idea of “whole foods” has changed. I use to feel I was still eating whole foods when I ate whole grain crackers and organic boxed cereals. These items are what Brendan refers to as stimulating foods. Coffee, or caffeine in any form really, falls into the stimulating food category as well, as does junk food, refined sugar, transfats and high fructose corn syrup. When you have a diet full of stimulating foods, your body craves that stimulation and you find your self longing for stimulationg by food again and again. This is what we of course more commonly know as food cravings.

I’ve struggled with food cravings a lot this past year as I’ve worked to maintain my healthy weight. I’ve gone through periods where it’s not an issue and times when all I can think about is sweets and comfort foods and wanting to turn to food as a form of entertainment.

Brendan explains that when you remove these stimulating foods from your diet, food cravings diminish and can eventually disappear all together. When you get started, it takes a few days to recalibrate your system, to adjust and rid your body of the need for stimulation. There will be a couple days where it feels like it’s a struggle to stay away from these stimulating foods. You’ll eventually come out of it though and “recalibrate”, seeing that light at the end of tunnel if you can hang in there.

In my case these foods would be crackers, cereals and other processed grains. Chocolate and coffee too. When I eat only fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and dried fruit and avoid these processed foods – even processed organic foods – my food cravings disappear. It becomes easy and effortless to eat a plant based diet. I can eat when I feel hungry, without worrying about how long it’s been since my last meal or snack. I eat until I’m comfortably satisfied without worrying about calories or portion control. It makes eating a normal part of life instead of the center of my life. I now feel like I eat to live, rather than live to eat. It’s as though I’ve been relieved of a huge burden, and this is what I mean when I say that Thrive has changed the course of my life – I feel like I can move forward now having made peace with food.

I’m not swearing off coffee, crackers, dark chocolate and boxed cereals or even junk food forever. I’m sure I will have these foods again but I no longer crave them or long for a day when I can splurge. I now understand what eating these foods regularly will do to me, and that they are the source of food cravings for me.

I know that there are people who will read this or read Thrive and think “oh, I could NEVER give up X”. That’s fine. You’re just not ready. Whenever someone finds out I’m vegetarian, without even asking or prompting I’m almost always told what they could never live without. Chicken wings. Turkey at Thanksgiving. Cheeseburgers. Meatballs. Even vegetarians when confronted with the idea of veganism say they could never live without yogurt, cheese, ice cream. I have to laugh because I remember saying these things myself. For me the vegetarian silver bullet was always a turkey sub. I thought I could never be a vegetarian because I just loved turkey subs too much. I wasn’t ready yet. While I don’t consider myself a vegan at this time, I do feel as though I’m moving in that direction.

When you’re ready, this comes easily. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes baby steps to move toward a diet that is best for your body and your health. It’s taken me years to get here.

I started following the principles in the Thrive diet more closely at the beginning of September. The fact that I was already vegetarian and had already begun eating more raw foods made it easier for me to move forward with his concepts and stay on track. It’s been a month and I can say without a doubt that I’ve had more energy, slept better and needed less sleep these last few weeks than ever before. My runs have felt fantastic and I’m not completely dragging at the end of the day like I use to.

In summary, I would recommend Thrive to anyone without a doubt. Depending on where you are in your life the ideas in his book might seem too radical, but it can still be a starting point and can get you moving in the right direction. I not only recommend it, I highly encourage you to read it if you are at all intrigued like I was. There are no gimmicks, this is not a fad diet, I believe this is the way we were meant to eat and live and I’m excited to move forward and stick with it.

Brendan encourages you to start slowly and ease into what he suggests. The more gradually you make changes the more likely they are to stick. He discusses how a plant based diet is perfect not only for athletes but for everyone. He also talks about exercise for life long health, and that it doesn’t mean hours and hours of daily exercise to be healthy. If you’ve struggled like me with food cravings, your weight, lack of energy, fatigue despite getting enough sleep – do yourself a favor and check out Thrive. It could be a large piece of the puzzle that’s been missing for you. It certainly was for me.

I’ve written about Thrive in many posts, if you’re curious to read more about my take on this book and how I’ve incorporating these ideas into my life:

The Fountain of Youth (Reducing biological age)
No Rest for the Weary (Making changes thanks to Thrive)
Thrive Inspired (Fueling for a long run based on Brendan’s advice)
Make Your Own Cereal, Take 2 (Fruit cereal!)
Intuitive Eating Refresher (Giving up coffee and chocolate on a regular basis)
Re-Runs (Thrive inspired thoughts on fueling before the half)
Half Marathon Race Recap (Half marathon day prep based on Brendan’s approach)
Let’s Play Brendan Says (Needing less sleep)

He also discusses the environmental impact on eating meat and processed foods, and how a vegan diet is not only good for us, but good for the environment too. The end of the book is full of Brendan’s recipes and a 12 week meal to follow if you are looking for some guidance.

My buddy Matt at No Meat Athlete also read and reviewed Thrive this summer, you can read his review here if you’re curious about someone else’s perspective.

I want to express my gratitude to the folks at Da Capo Press / Da Capo Lifelong Books for the opportunity to read Thrive, and especially to Brendan himself for putting this information out there. I’m excited to see what following this way of eating on the long term can do for my training and racing in the future as well!

If you’ve read or decide to read Thrive in the future, report back! I’d be thrilled to hear what you think.

Please know that links to Amazon are affiliate links. It doesn’t change the price you pay, but if you buy something from Amazon after following one of the links in my posts, I earn a percentage based commission from Amazon as a part of their affiliate program. This is one of the ways I generate revenue from the posts that I write here. I promise that I only link to items that I truly endorse. You don’t ever have to buy anything, but if you do, thank you for supporting the site and the work I do here.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 Both comments and pings are currently closed.

17 Responses

  • Shari B. says:

    You and I have chatted via comments about how well the Thrive Diet has worked for each of us, so I won’t rehash it here. But I had to comment to tell you this was a GREAT post! As I was reading your review, I felt like I was reading my own personal story. It is so true that we each have to follow our journey in our own time – if someone had told me 6 months ago that I’d have given up chicken, beef, pork, most dairy, etc., I’d have said “No way! I must have my meat for protein!” I made my changes for the purpose of digestion initially and am so happy to have found Brendan’s book.

    Thanks for the excellent and thorough review!

  • Thanks for this post my dear. I still have the book (uncracked) but intend to read it. This just inspires me to unplug a little from the bloggie world and get back to the book world. Been doin’ some soul searching about the wayyyyyy too many hours I spend in front of my screen already. This is just another gentle tap tap to unplug a bit more :)

    BTW I cannot get my freakin’ posts to show up in Google Reader. There is like a 4 + hour delay and I have tried republishing, refreshing and am outta tricks. Any ideas there Miss Computer Diva?

  • holly says:

    ohhhh i do want to read this book…although i signed up for the online newsletter thing, where every two weeks they sent you another lesson. i really enjoyed it, and that is actually when i realized how much drinking soy milk was upsetting my digestion because of how heavily it is processed. so i would be very eager to read the whole book!

    thanks for the review lady!

  • Cindy says:

    I loved your points about not being ready.

    I jumped into raw food early this summer feet first…and I struggled and struggled.

    I think the recalibration…and the whole enchilada made it too much too fast.

    When you nudged me to give Intuitive Eating a shot…IT was the missing to speak…

    I am CERTAIN…THRIVE is my next KINDLE purchase.

    I already knew it was good based on your “pre-reviews” and the success of your run.

    I have allowed myself to be “forgive me Holly” an “everythingatarian” but really at the end of the day… a good green smoothie, or a bowl of lentil chili…or even some fresh live juice….really just hits the spot.

    Thank you for your VERY informative, and well written review!


  • I really liked your review (and all the previous posts in which you wrote about the book). I especially like that you pointed out that people have to be ready to make changes. And also that small changes are best as you are much more likely to stick with them.

    As you know, I also read Natalia Rose’s book. I think it makes a lot of sense, and I really like the ideas. However, what I didn’t like was that I ended up “beating myself up” too much at first. I felt terrible when I miscombined, ate too much cooked foods, etc. I had to relax and take it one step at a time and focus on the big picture. For me that meant starting the day with fruit and adding a lot more raw vegetables to my diet. After I stopped stressing out about miscombining so much, I have to actually say that I don’t feel that different when I do miscombine…

    Concentrating on raw, unprocessed foods makes so much sense. It’s certainly not all or nothing. We all have to find where we want to end up (and Natalia obviously says this in her book). I look forward to reading Thrive! :) Again, thanks for the review! :)

    • Alison says:

      Thanks Andrea. I beat myself up over the food combining for quite a while too. I’m not a food combining stickler but I do make an effort to properly combine based on her rules, but if I don’t get it right, no big deal. I don’t feel any different when I miscombine either but I do believe that you probably put less stress on your system when foods are properly combined. I believe it will probably come with time, just like everything else. It sounds like we are both in very similar places. 😉

  • tra says:

    awesome review. do you still include grains in your diet, like oatmeal? i feel you on eliminating cravings. i spent a month without eating just one processed item i felt i always have no self control around- cereal. and after awhile just eating larabars for pre workout snacks, and cutting out some processed grains, i no longer had the need felt the craving for cereal. i eat some cereal now, because i think i like it, but i think deep down, it’s not the best fuel, so i’ll just finish teh boxes and continue THRIVING. =D

    I read teh book and loved it as well. have you tried the recipes?

    • Alison says:

      Hi Tray – yes, I do still occasionally eat things like oatmeal, but I’ve been eating less than I use to. I use to eat it everyday, now maybe once or twice a week.

      YES boxed cereal was my kryptonite. Last winter I was eating it as a “healthy dessert” and would find myself unable to stop going back to the box for another bowl, another bowl and another bowl. Those peanut butter Puffins are pure evil! 😉 I even had to force myself to stop buying Kashi Heart to Heart – I couldn’t be trusted around it. It took some effort but I finally broke free of those boxed cereal chains! I’m definitely eating less processed grains – when I eat bread I stick to Ezekiel bread most of the time. No more bagels, rolls, pasta, rice – don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat these things again. Just not on any sort of regular basis.

      Yes, I have tried a few of his recipes in the book and I’m currently hooked on fruit cereal! I’ve eaten a bunch of times these past few morning, just diced fruit (usually bananas, pears, prunes, dates) tossed in ground flax with some nuts like sliced almonds or walnuts, it’s totally cereal like without any of that longing for more more MORE cereal afterwards. I’ve got a link to my first fruit cereal creation in the “Eat Your Veggies” tab and if you search for fruit cereal about 15 posts will probably pop up!

  • Thank you for writing this review. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a few months now. I’m not sure that I’ll be reading it soon as I have other books on my list, so I really appreciate you summarizing how this book has impacted you.

    You’re exactly right, when your ready your ready.

  • Lizzy says:

    Thrive is on my book list! I actually saw it on the shelf at my book store at my university! I really want to read this book, because i’m soo sooo interested in the raw eating! I feel as if its something i already sorta kinda do, but not really? I think you catch my drift. But i love hearing how its all worked out for you, and you betcha that i’ll report back when i get it in my hands! Thanks for this review girl! One more thing. Do you reccomend that i read Thrive before intuitive eating??

    • Alison says:

      I guess it depends on what you’re needs are Lizzy! Do you have issues with food? If not and you’re curious about raw foods and a vegan lifestyle, then I’d go straight to Thrive!

  • Erika says:

    Not sure if I could commit to raw or vegetarian/vegan, but I am so intrigued by it. I should read the book to get some more info and like you said, just take things slowly and maybe one day I will be “ready”.

    And re your comment on my blog, I totally love finding bloggers who are moms and juggling that whole part of life. I love being a mother and I feel like the only people who won’t get sick of me writing about my kids are other parents!

  • Michelle says:

    Ditto what Erika said: very intriguing …

    I am going to check out some of your links to how you incorporated the book into your life. Always love learning new info and applying it to make it work for me :-)

    Great review – very well written Alison!

  • I read Thrive last Spring and I learned so much. Because of this post, I realize that I haven’t incorporated near enough of Brendan’s suggestions into my life! I need to get on that!

  • A says:

    Fab review!!!!!!! Well done!


    Have a great weekend!

  • Bernadette says:

    Hi Ali!!

    I had asked you about Thrive just a couple weeks ago and based on your recommendation bought it… I was leaving on a trip so knew I’d need some reading material for my flight- this was PERFECT!! I devoured this book and have since started it over again! I just got home and will be incorporating some of these principles into my diet ASAP!! I have to say it was all because of your delicious looking ‘fruit cereal’ and plan on making this soon!
    I became a Vegetarian about 4 years ago but while I eliminated meat from my diet I did not make wise food choices and merely ate more processed foods. After 2 years of this I put on weight and wasn’t feeling great, eventually going back to eating meat… I have since become much more active and educated and feel much more ready to begin eliminating these foods from my diet once again, which in turn will be replaced with more healthy choices. I will keep you updated on my progress and in the meantime, keep on keepin’ on as you are truly an inspiration!