An Interview With Vegan Ironman Triathlete Brendan Brazier

Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete based in Vancouver B.C. He started his running career in 1990 and has been pro since 1998.

Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete based in Vancouver B.C. Turning the big 3-0 this year Brendan started his running career in 1990 and has been pro since 1998. Brendan is a training machine and can push his body right to its limits, even some of his team mates' remark on how much training he can handle.

Strangely enough the connection is often not made between Brendan's diet and his athletic performance. "Maybe what I eat has something to do with it? Could this be?" he remarks with a hint of sarcasm.

Brendan is also the formulator of Vega, a premium plant-based, whole food meal replacement, now available in Canadian health food stores. He is the author of Thrive: A guide to optimal health and performance through plant-based whole foods, (available in Chapters / Indigo in Canada or online though Brendan's website) and is currently writing a full-length recipe book which will be released late 2005.

[ Q ] What kind of vegetarian would you describe yourself as?

      I'm a vegan who eats about 80% raw.

Learn More About Vegetarians...

[ Q ] How long have you been eating like this and what dietary progressions have you made along the way?

    I became a vegetarian in 1990, and then in 1998 I became a very strict vegan. Over the past year I have further evolved my diet to mostly raw foods. All unrefined, unprocessed, natural whole foods are what my diet now comprises of.

[ Q ] Why have you chosen this lifestyle?

    Athletic performance enhancement was my first motivation and is still the strongest. Once I learned how to be a healthy vegan by eating the right foods my performance improved dramatically.

[ Q ] What challenges have you faced living on a vegetarian diet?

      My first challenge was to curb the constant hunger and lack of energy that I experienced. I have since learned that I went about transitioning to veganism incorrectly, the way most people do. In 1990 I'd fill up on refined starchy foods such as pasta and bread. That put an end to the constant hunger, but sufficient energy to train at a high level was not there.

Once I began paying close attention to the quality of food that I was consuming and not just the caloric intake, I made large gains. One thing that I realized about two years ago is probably the most valuable to date; it's the pH factor of food. I used to consume a large amount of highly processed, isolated protein powder.

I was having no trouble maintaining my daily protein requirement, but I was not recovering as fast as I would have liked, plus I was experiencing muscle stiffness and mild joint pain. As I discovered it was because I had been consuming too many acid-forming foods, such as denatured protein powders.

    Once I began eating more raw, natural, alkalizing, foods, my recovery time dramatically improved, as did the muscle and joint concerns. Raw, natural hemp protein is now my number one choice.

[ Q ] What benefits have you gained? How do these relate to your training?

      Recovery time is number one. I am able to train more, therefore improve quicker. Since my cortisol levels have dropped due to the removal of nutritional


      , I'm able to sleep better.

The deep phase of sleep known as Delta is when restoration and fabrication takes place. A stressed body will be prevented from slipping into this phase due to elevated cortisol, usually caused by training or nutritional stress. Ironically this is the time the body needs a good sleep the most, but is unable to get it.

Once I began sleeping "more efficiently", I found that I woke up feeling fresh, no need for caffeine or sugary foods. It can be a vicious circle because sugary foods and caffeine further raise cortisol making sleep harder, keeping the body tired, which leads to cravings.

[ Q ] What is your typical daily meal plan like?



Homemade, nutritionally balanced ginger pear granola with home made raw almond milk and fruit.*

Pre Workout Snack - VEGA energy pudding.*

Post Workout Snack - One serving of VEGA (my meal replacement formula) and fresh fruit.

Lunch - Raw soaked lentil salad and vegetables.

Snack - Fruit.

Dinner - Raw spinach hemp soup* or large salad with various sprouted bean and seeds.

*recipes can be found in Brendan's book THRIVE

Find More Recipes...

[ Q ] Does this change much during your on/off season?

      During my base training I tend to cut back on the carbs a bit, especially the starchy ones. Most of the base training is done in the "fat burning zone". I find I need to keep the high quality, alkalizing protein coming during this phase or some muscle will be used as fuel, resulting in a strength reduction.

High quality essential fatty acids are also important at this time. I get most of mine from flax seeds (omega 3), hemp oil and avocados.

During high intensity training I'll eat lots of fresh fruit.

[ Q ] What is your favorite veggie indulgence?

    Don't have one. People think it's strange but I really don't

[ Q ] What is your usual training/performance schedule like?

      During peak training I'll train about 35 hours a week. I have gone as high as 43, but find 30 to 35 to be about right.

A peak training week would look similar to this:


        AM: Swim 4000 meters.

        AM 2: Gym workout.

        PM: Bike 90 minutes easy - flat.


        AM: Bike 6 hours - mostly flat.

        Run 45 minutes immediately after bike ride.

        PM: Run 90 minutes with pick-ups.


        AM: Swim 4000 meters.

        AM 2: Bike 5 hours hilly with some big ring climbing.

        Run 75 minutes immediately after bike ride.


        PM: Swim 4500 meters.

        PM 2: Gym workout.


        AM: Bike 5 hours easy - flat.

        Run 75 minutes immediately after bike ride.


        AM: Hard fartlek (hard then rest) run on rolling terrain.

        AM 2: Gym workout.

        PM: 4400 Open water swim.


        AM: 3 hour run.

        PM: Bike 4 hours hilly.

        Run 60 minutes immediately after bike ride.

[ Q ] How do you feel your veggie diet supports this?

      I feel that lots of easily digestible fruit supplies me the energy while enzyme intact natural alkalizing protein sources such as hemp and chlorella are what my body thrives on.

If you can't digest it or digestion is a big draw on your system, energy will be wasted, energy that could be spent on recovery. Efficient foods are the key.

[ Q ] Who is your favorite veggie role model?

    I really don't have any. I just do what makes sense and works for me.

[ Q ] What has being a veggie taught you?

    I've learned to be open minded and think critically. Just because everyone else does something, doesn't necessary mean that it's the best way. Also, the simplest solution is usually the best, in this case, whole natural foods grown without pesticides or herbicides - simple.

[ Q ] What is the general impression of the veggie diet from people you have encountered?

    Most think it's a diet for people who aren't very active, a low energy diet.

[ Q ] What veggie myths would you like to expel?

    That it can't support world class athletes.

Career Highlights To Date

      2003 - 1st 50km Canadian Ultra Marathon Championships.

      2002 - 8th Iron man Utah.

      2001 - 11th Iron man Canada.

      2001 - 3rd Canadian ½ Iron man Championships.

      1998 - 2nd Royal Victoria Marathon.