Thrive Diet Review

Ever since I finished reading vegan professional Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier’s Thrive two weeks ago, I’ve been completely inspired to transform the way I think about food.  I’ve made the meals and smoothies from it almost every day, posting many of them on this blog (with Brendan’s permission, of course).  But amidst all my excitement, something occurred to me.  I haven’t yet written a review to let you know what it’s all about!  Enter this post.

[Thrive cover photo]

Eating to Maximize Energy

Perhaps the most astounding thing about this book, subtitled “The Vegan Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life,” is that you forget it’s vegan. When I first picked it up, the v-word scared me.  But just a few pages in, I forgot all about that.  The focus isn’t on avoiding animal products—it’s on eating the foods that your body can break down most efficiently and turn into as much energy as possible.  And those foods just happen to not come from animals.

In addition to the choosing plant-based foods that pack the most energy in the smallest space, Thrive places a lot of emphasis on preparation.  Brazier promotes a high-raw diet, meaning (of course) that most of the food is either raw or cooked at relatively low temperature, 300 degrees or lower.  The point here is to make digestion easy—when we cook foods at very high temperatures, we destroy the digestive enzymes present in them, placing a bigger burden on our systems at the cost of precious energy.

Still, none of this is what I like the most about Thrive.  For me, the best part is the way this food makes me feel.  Perhaps even above maximizing energy, the diet is about reducing stress on the body and mind—and 40 percent of such stress, according to Brazier, comes directly from the foods that we put into our bodies.  Thrive is about eliminating the causes of unhealthy stimulation (refined sugar and caffeine come to mind) and choosing alkaline-forming foods to promote cellular regeneration and energy production and to create an environment in which viruses and bacteria cannot survive.  (Cancer can’t develop in an alkaline environment, either.  Bonus.)

The Thrive Diet Plan

The actual diet “plan” doesn’t involve any kind of calorie-counting, even for athletes.  No protein or carb numbers to hit, no “phases,” or even foods that are off-limits.  It’s much more about creating a lifestyle, a way of eating that, the more you can do it, the better you’ll feel and perform.  But for those who like to be told exactly what to eat, Brendan does provide a 12-week meal plan, for which all six meals of each day are specified exactly.

Instead of following the 12-week plan—I like more flexibility than that—I’ve been eating about half of my meals directly from the Thrive recipes section.  And this includes the sports drinks, recovery drinks, energy bars and even energy gels that Brendan uses during his training and races.  In only two weeks, I’ve added so many new energy-dense and alkalizing foods to my diet.  Coconut oil, hemp protein (better than whey or soy), hemp seeds and oil, raw almonds, ground flaxseed, sunflower seeds, acai juice, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, dates, mangos, rooibos tea, agave nectar, adzuki beans, black-eyed peas, and of course, loads of “normal,” fresh, raw fruits and vegetables.

If I have one complaint about the Thrive diet, it’s this: I miss cooking.  The recipes are for the most part simple to prepare (and they should be, since this book isn’t a cookbook, it’s a book about maximizing energy).  They make frequent use of the blender and food processor, and since a lot of the food is raw, there’s not too much cranking up the heat and getting a nice sear and carmelization on my foods.  But if you’re not much of a cook anyway, all the better!

Thrive Diet Recipes

Ok, this post is getting way long, but I want to quickly share two great Thrive recipes with you.  The first is a raw veggie burger that Erin and I had for lunch yesterday, one of our first totally raw meals, and so surprisingly tasty and filling.  The other is an awesome immune-booster mango jalapeno smoothie (weird, right?) that we made this morning and are absolutely making again tomorrow.

Almond Flaxseed Burger Recipe (from Thrive)

[almond burger photo]Ingredients (for two burgers, each very filling)

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup raw almonds (Brendan recommends soaking almonds to improve their nutrition)
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (one of few alkalizing types of vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, hemp oil, or EFA oil blend
  • Sea salt to taste

Process all ingredients in a food processor until well blended.  Form into two patties.

Erin and I were so surprised at the flavor of these burgers.  And it’s been that way with a lot of raw foods; it’s hard to believe they have such incredible flavor without any cooking.  These burgers we so filling that neither of us could finish them, with only a salad on the side.  Warning!!! — I reduced the garlic amount to 1.5 cloves, and though the flavor was incredible, we were both tasting raw garlic for the rest of the day.  Next time we’ll use even less, or maybe even no garlic.

Mango Lime Hot Pepper Smoothie Recipe (from Thrive)

[mango smoothie photo]Ingredients (for two smoothies):

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 banana
  • 1 mango, peeled and pit removed
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • 1.5 cups water and 1 cup ice
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp hemp protein
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp hemp oil or EFA oil blend

Mix it all in a blender.

We loved this smoothie!  I removed the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno and there was still quite a kick!

Thrive is loaded with recipes like these, plus lots of sport-specific recipes.

Last thing, I have some exciting news… I’ll be interviewing Brendan Brazier on this blog sometime in the near future.  Look for the post soon!

For more natural sports nutrition posts and recipes, check out the Running Fuel page.



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  1. I have got to get that book! Actually, the one I’m interested in is the weight loss one. My husband is very interested too.

    And I’ll definitely try both these recipes…
    .-= Hanlie´s last blog ..A frightfully long meme =-.

  2. Those burgers are so interesting sounding; the main ingredient is basically ground almonds. Doesn’t is remind you of Larabar? For example the “cashew cookie” flavor’s only ingredients are dates and cashews.

    I have been getting into eating more raw foods lately as well. I haven’t made an specific raw recipes, but pretty much throwing raw veggies together and focusing on nuts & nut butter. Besides the physical benefits, I’m so happy in my mind knowing the purity of it all!

    My only evil I may never be able to forego: coffee. aaah!

    Thanks so much for the review
    .-= Mel @ She Runs Brooklyn´s last blog ..How to Run with a Hangover =-.

    • You know, I’ve never had a Larabar. But you’re right that almonds are the main thing, with a good amount of ground flaxseed and moisture from the vinegar to bind it together.

      I hear ya on the coffee thing. Being really motivated by the book has made me want coffee less, and I’m going a few days each week without, but I still just love it so much.

      • After nearly 50 years of being a coffee junkie, getting through up to 10 cups a day, I gave up all caffienated drinks nearly 3 years ago and feel so much better for it. I came to resent the fact that a drug had such a strong hold on me without me being really aware of it. Now I feel much better; clear headed and without that need to break my routine because I have to have a hot drink!

    • Hey there! Have you tried chicory? Very similar to coffee in taste and color and very healthy too!

  3. Forgive me if you’ve explained this previously, but can you tell me why hemp protein is better than whey or soy? I’m not keen on either whey or soy protein so a possible alternative interests me. Thanks.

    • Alright, I remember being convinced about this when I read it, but I couldn’t remember why, so I looked it up. Here are the reasons, according to Thrive:
      1. Hemp protein is more alkalizing, because it’s raw (heat not needed to process it) and has a high chlorophyll content. It should be green colored, indicating it’s not isolated protein. The brand I got is Living Harvest, from Vitamin Shoppe, and it is green and wasn’t that expensive. It seems like there could be soy protein that’s green, but I’ve never seen any.
      2. Hemp is naturally resistant to most pests so it can be grown efficiently without herbicides or pesticides.
      3. Hemp protein has a superior amino acid profile.
      4. 35% of the hemp seed is protein, so lots of protein comes from relatively few plants, so energy and labor costs are low. And even more so because it’s easier to process than animal protein.

      • Maria Ildefonso says:

        If drug tested at work will it come up positive for marijuana? Want to try this diet but I’m afraid I won’t be able to.

    • You can’t actually compare whey protein to ground hemp seed because one is a whole food while the other is a protein isolate. 100 grams of regular whey protein is usually around 80% protein whereas ground hemp seed is about 35% protein. You also don’t want to eat too much hemp due to the fact it is so high in fibre. Unless you are lacking fibre of course.

      If you want a vegan alternative to whey other than soy then the best options are pea protein and brown rice protein. Both are isolates so are around 80% protein similar to whey. They are also much more easily digested than hemp as far as I’m aware. Personally I have a combination of all three each day to make sure I am getting a good variety of amino acids.

      By the way, I think you’ll find that whey also has a better amino acid profile than hemp and is more easily digested. Hence why it is the most popular source of protein by far.

  4. That’s really cool that you are going to interview him!

    How does soaking almonds improve their nutrition? Just by making them easier to digest?

    • I’m not sure about the soaking thing, it’s not that clear. He seems to group it in with sprouting, which he talks about a lot with chickpeas and beans, and which makes things more nutritious. I guess since nuts are seeds, soaking gets them started in the sprouting process. I’m not sure why he doesn’t talk about waiting long enough to let nuts actually sprout though.

      • “Soaking RAW almonds is widely practiced by natural health enthusiasts. The key benefit is this; it removes enzyme inhibitors, making the nuts more digestible. In nature the enzyme inhibitors help to keep the nut intact, until it’s ready to sprout into a tree. Once the nut is soaked the enzyme inhibitors are reduced, allowing the nut to sprout.” excerpt from

        Hope that helps. And they taste amazing!!

        • Mark Morris says:

          “Raw” almonds are actually dead in the US. You can’t improve the nutrition because the pasteurization process has essentially killed them. A raw almond that would benefit from soaking would also be the same almonds that you could plant and grow. In the United States you aren’t able to purchase true “Raw” almonds. This is a one of those nutrition myths perpetuated everywhere without people actually verifying its validity.
          Maybe in Canada where Brendan Brazier is from you are able to soak true raw almonds. I don’t know about other countries.
          Here is more info:

  5. Thank you so much for the great review! That book would be perfect for when I do my month of veganism. Excited for the interview 😀
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Award-winning chocolate chip cookies, learning how to use a typewriter, and ANOTHER race! =-.

  6. This is really interesting, thanks so much for your review. I recently read The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose and she says so much of what it sounds like Brendan says too. Her book isn’t written with athletes mind, but a lot of what she says still applies. I haven’t been able to go totally high raw just yet, but I’ve found that making an effort to eat just a few more raw foods than I other wise would and pay closer attention to food combining rules, my runs have felt unbelievably easier. I have no doubt eating more uncooked green veggies has made a difference in how I’m feeling. Green juice too.

    Thanks for your great review, I’m going to check this book out.
    .-= Alison´s last blog ..Sorta Long Run Monday =-.

    • I haven’t been able to go totally high-raw, and I don’t think I ever will. Cooking is such a fun part of my day, and I think doing stuff that makes you happy also makes you healthy. So I think if I were to go all-raw, I’d lose that fulfillment and therefore be less healthy! But I’m really happy with having one of these meals each day, for lunch OR dinner, not both. Plus incorporating the smoothies, which I think are better and more interesting than any non-vegan smoothies I’ve ever had.

  7. Great post. I too enjoyed how the focus of the book was on what is best/most effective for him as an athlete, there is no personal agenda besides performance. From that point of view it resonated well with me.

  8. Thanks for the review! I just saw this book online the other day and wondered about it! Great blog!

  9. Help fellow veggies,

    I am signing up for the Comrades Marathon (89km – eek) and have heard we suffer afterwards by not having animal protein (yuck!), I really need a fellow marathon runner to give me their vegetarian eating plan (lacto-ovo) if possible? xxx

    All the best and thank you!

  10. Hi, great blog. I’ve got the book and want to start eating this way. Can you (or anyone else on the blog) recommend a food processor? I only have a small hand blender which I think is more for juices / soups / sauces. I want to make sure I get a food processor that is easy to use for these recipes.


  11. Wow! 40 percent of stress on mind and body comes directly from the foods that we put into our bodies? That’s significant.

    Very informative post! Useful input for me to review the kind of food I an eating now.

  12. This is a great blog!

    I also saw Thrive on Amazon but as I live in Sweden I wonder if the recipes will be worth it for me. I read that he recommends a lot of his own supplements.

    Is this right?

    Have been running for 4 months now and down from 102 kilos to 96 kilos, also been juicing, have entered a Half marathon in September so looking for all the nutritional help I can get.
    .-= Shane´s last blog ..IKEA 0 Shane 1 =-.

    • Hey Shane, thanks for your comment. As to your question, I never got the impression that Brendan recommended his own supplements too much. He does mention them sometimes, and I think a few recipes might require, for example, Vega Whole Food Optimizer. I know a few in his next book, Thrive Fitness, do. But they’re definitely not the focus of the book. But most of the recipes don’t require that stuff at all; I’ve made lots of smoothies, energy gels, and drinks completely with ingredients you can buy in the store.

      Congrats on signing up for your half marathon! Nothing like a little money to make sure you stick with it.

  13. I got this book a few days ago and I’m pretty sure it will be one of the best things I’ve purchased in my whole life. Ever.
    I’ve never had a health/nutrition book feel like it was written specifically for me. The biggest eye-opener was the whole pH thing.
    My whole diet comes from his “highly acid-forming” column. No wonder I have all those negative symptoms he describes. Here’s to a healthy future…..

  14. Is there a help form somewhere for this book. The pancakes are a total mess and I don’t know how to fix it.

  15. Brandon Benenati says:

    I’ve been doing lots of research into the vegan diet (I’m currently vegetarian) and I was thinking of taking the Thrive Diet approach. However, certain items such as almonds which appear quite often in the diet are fairly expensive. I was hoping someone had a reasonable estimate about a weekly or monthly cost of following the Thrive Diet? I really want to give this lifestyle a shot. Hoping to fully transition by January 2012.

  16. I first heard about Thrive on your site a little while (few months? more?) ago and have been stewing on it since. A few different friends recommended Vega for smoothies so I was buying some on Amazon when they recommended I get Thrive too. So glad I did. I’m still not 100% running on Thrive foods but I am definitely incorporating more and more of the recipes and principles. I’m always touting your blog to my runner friends. I don’t think I’ve had any converts yet but maybe once I start passing them they’ll take notice 😉

    And yes, the almond burger is unbelievable. Literally. I could not believe how good it tasted.

  17. Hi I’m kinda new to the no meat athlete group and I was wondering if I could use olive oil because I don’t have any of the oils mentioned.

  18. I may need another job to afford these…

  19. I agree, the book is absolutely brilliant and so inspiring. I made the Yam pancakes this morning, didn’t quite work out and I have ended up with porridge, tasty nonethless.
    The burgers are also delicious and yes, the garlic lingers for a couple of days but who cares?!!
    I have been a vegan for just over 5 months (running for 10 weeks) and believet hat the Thrive Diet is ‘spot on’ in providing the right amount of nutrients.

  20. Psst… love your review but I think there’s a typo – you say “300 degrees or less” – I think you mean 100 degrees. I promise you – my spaghetti sauce comes out of the pressure canner, still boiling inside the jars at a mere 252 degrees F, and it is for sure not raw! 🙂

    • Jenn, I probably worded it incorrectly here, and I don’t have Thrive in front of me right now, but there’s something he writes about a different threshold than the 112 or 118 or whatever it is that raw food people always talk about. This was some other point at which more stuff is destroyed, I guess. A lot of the pizzas and things like that in the book are baked at 300 or so.

  21. Angela Merges says:


    To save time, I normally cook and prepare food in bulk and then freeze them. Do you have any idea how the Thrive recipes would hold up to freezing? Such as the burgers, pizzas, and energy bars?


  22. I am now sugar free and mostly vegetarian. Do many of the Thrive recipes contain fructose, (ie lots of fresh fruit)? I have run a couple of marathons before but am currently training for my first with this lifestyle change. Any tips welcome!

    • No, I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of fresh fruit in Thrive. Certainly he recommends it, but most of the recipes (besides the smoothies, and energy bars) are more savory, so they’re based on vegetables, seeds, etc.

  23. Martine Vaillancourt says:


    My name is Martine Vaillancourt. I’ve tried the Chocolate Blueberry Energy Bars recipes and it taste sooo good. The only problem (and I’m a bit upset about it because I was hopping it would stick more) is it do not stick togetter. What did I did wrong ? I will try to let it set 2 hours in the fridge before doing something with it next time.


  24. Thank you for this post! I love that the Thrive plan doesn’t rely on soy or meat replacements. My family is transitioning to a GF/CF diet (both of our kids have autism), and relying on more whole foods. We’re hoping this will help our kids.
    Love your blog!

  25. bridgette says:

    I love the vegaone and vegasport products but I had to stop using both. They contain Maca root which causes me to gain weight. Other than that they are great products. I do still use the preworkout energizer before workouts and sometimes throughout the day.

  26. Hi there,

    Is there an alternative to use for the ground flax seeds in the almond flaxseed burger? I know substituting would change the name, but my gut and flax don’t agree. Would ground chia seeds or hemp hearts work?

    Thanks 🙂

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