Amanda, the author of Fairly Extreme Blog, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

The Thrive books by Brendan Brazier are 2 of the best fitness and nutrition books I have ever read.    I am going to share with you some of my take-aways from the very first fitness/nutrition book I ever read, which was Thrive, and the most recent fitness book I ever read, Thrive Fitness!  Both were written by Brendan Brazier.  Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman Triathlete.  In addition to being a professional triathlete, he is also a trainer and a nutritionist for other professional athletes.  What really makes Brendan Brazier stand out as a professional Ironman triathlete, trainer, and nutritionist, is that he has eaten a plant based diet since the age of 15!

The books do not attempt to persuade the reader to adopt a plant-based diet or to become vegan!

Brazier’s books will make you think about how deeply our nutrition impacts our health.  These books are not about humane treatment of animals, or sustainability, or anything like that.  No pictures of sad chickens!  These books are strictly about fitness and nutrition.

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

Thrive by Brendan Brazier is the first fitness book I ever read.  It is also the first book I ever re-read!  This book really is extremely informative and inspirational.  The theme of the book truly is, Let Food Be Thy Medicine.  It will seriously make you think about how you fuel and care for your body under stress.  We are talking physical stress of a workout and mental stress of life/work/everything.

Stress is killing us.  Slowly.  It sounds like a cliche overstatement, but it is not.

What I Loved

Highly informative in regards to how our nutrition drives what happens inside our bodies:

  • Preparedness for restful sleep
  • Preparedness for physical stress of a workout
  • Preparedness for recovery
  • How a bad diet causes and exacerbates stress
  • What super foods are good for
  • The consequences of stress on our bodies at a hormonal level

What I was Neutral About

  • Recipes: I read them, but never use them.

Major Take-Aways After Reading Thrive

Reading and re-reading Thrive changed the way I ate in three major ways.

First, it reminds me of the power of superfoods.  While the only super-food I eat quite regularly is dark leafy greens, I will occasionally dabble in recipes that call for chia, hemp, buckwheat, coconut oil, or flax.  The book serves as a reminder that these foods are out there, and maybe I should incorporate them into my diet a little bit more!  Nothing major though, not on this teacher salary! 

Because of reading this book, I will not eat unhealthy foods at work….  Elevated cortisol levels for prolonged periods of time are no joke.  

Second, the role of carbohydrates in athletic performance.  The first time I read this book, I started carrying dates around with me to the climbing gym!  I would be at the climbing gym for maybe 3-4 hours.  I was lead climbing like 10 routes in that time, all 5.10s and 5.11s, so relatively difficult stuff.  Each route was between 45 and 50 feet, all at least a little bit over hung.  So, it was a significant workout.  Throughout the long gym session, I would eat 3 dates!  This extra boost of quick energy absolutely helped me get more out of my climbing sessions.

Third, and IMO, most importantly, using nutrition to lower stress hormones in the body, not raise them.  This was by far the most fascinating and life changing information.  He explains the impact of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body and the impact of having your levels of cortisol elevated for prolonged periods of time.  Stress is killing us.  Slowly.  It sounds like a cliche overstatement, but it is not.  Check out WebMD here to get an overview of what cortisol is.

Eating unhealthy foods when you are stressed out from work, life, or a workout does nothing to lower your cortisol levels.  In fact, it just stressed out your digestive system, adding more stress on your body.  I’m talking about the pint of ice cream or half bottle of wine we want to consume after a terrible day at work or an argument with a loved one.  

Because of reading this book, I will not eat unhealthy foods at work.  Teaching is stressful enough on the mind; the last thing I need is worthless food stressing my body out too.  When I switched teaching jobs, I ate 2 pints of blueberries a week, sometimes more.  I knew I would need something healthy to stress eat.  I also ate a healthy protein shake for breakfast everyday my first year, because I knew I was going to be so extremely stressed out.  My diet kept me together. Use your diet to protect your body from stress and to help it recover from stress.  Elevated cortisol levels for prolonged periods of time are no joke.  Learn more about elevated cortisol by reading this article written at the Mayo Clinic.

Thrive Fitness by Brendan Brazier

I loved Thrive so much that when I saw Brazier had a fitness book too, it was a no brainer; I needed to read it.  I literally just finished this book this morning, with my cat Mittens on my lap.  We have a summer morning tradition of sitting on the couch for an hour or so and reading every morning.  I read, he sleeps.  

My cat and I reading Thrive Fitness.
My cat and I reading Thrive Fitness.

What I Loved

  • A powerful and informed reminder the health problems that are pervasive in America are truly caused by and fueled by poor nutrition.
  • A powerful overview of how nutrition drives every aspect our health: sleep, lifestyle, stress, happiness, energy.
  • The “Performance Building Exercise” Program.  I thought I already knew a lot of body weight exercises, but Brazier takes it to another level.
  • Exercises to build strength and power, without building muscle mass.
  • This program will help build your VO2 Max.  Which is basically how well your body uses oxygen, and one of the major factors of maintaining a young biological age.

Click here to read a Runner’s Connect article about what VO2 Max is!

Click here to understand what chronological versus biological ageing is in an article from Healthline.

What I was Neutral About

  • Brazier discusses some ideas that he also discusses in Thrive, so there was some information and ideas that I was already familiar with, because I read his other book twice.
  • Recipes… I never use them!
  • A few of the exercises seem quite advanced! Even the modified versions!

Major Take-Aways After Reading

Brazier really gives a unique perspective of the difficulty how endurance athletes can have in gaining strength.  If endurance athletes just go lift heavy, they will bulk up, thus adding weight, thus making them slightly less efficient at their endurance sport.  So, how can endurance athletes gain strength and power without gaining weight and bulk?  This is the crux of a problem that many endurance athletes confront.  Brazier solves this problem with a sharply designed body weight training program that involves 3 pieces of equipment.  THREE!

Thrive Fitness Equipment: Large Yoga Ball, Push Up Handles, Medicine Ball
Thrive Fitness Equipment: Large Yoga Ball, Push Up Handles, Medicine Ball

This program could really be great for someone who wants to burn fat, gain strength, but not gain extra muscle mass!  I think that this program will be perfect for me to balance in with my lifting schedule!  Because lifting does not do the maximum to increase my VO2 Max, I would love to incorporate this to help me continue to perform at my best as I get older. 

If you want to check out more by Brendan Brazier he also has 2 more recipe books.  I haven’t checked them out yet!  I am usually so lazy about trying recipes from books!

The Complete Thrive Library, by Brendan Brazier

Equipment for Thrive Fitness: 3 pieces!!

Leave a Reply