Nutrition for athletes

As a result of a recent interview with Brendan Brazier, former professional Ironman triathlete and the formulator of the VEGA brand hemp-based protein powder, I got to learn what really separates the leaders from the rest of the pack when it comes to sports-based nutrition.

As a result of a recent interview with Brendan Brazier, former professional Ironman triathlete and the formulator of the VEGA brand hemp-based protein powder, I got to learn what really separates the leaders from the rest of the pack when it comes to sports-based nutrition.

What Brendan talks about in his speaking engagements on nutrition for athletes is the key factor that really separates the high-performance athletes from the rest: it’s what happens between training — the recovery phase.

Essentially, you can get your body to recover quicker between training sessions. And he claims that nutrition — surprise, surprise — can account for 80 per cent of the speediness of recovery.

So what do you eat to recover quicker?

On Brendan’s journey to becoming an elite athlete and training with world-class trainers, he tried all the diets from high carb, low carb, high protein, low protein and stumbled across whole-food, plant-based nutrition. It all sounded so good to start until he went on this vegan route and had low energy, was tired and wasn’t recovering well.

This happens to a lot of people who initially gravitate towards a more vegan diet. There’s a lot more to it than just cutting out the meat and dairy. You have to have some guidance.

So he identified five basic things that seemed to be lacking from his diet: protein, iron, B12, calcium and omega 3 fats.

And then he found plant-based sources for these five.

From there, things started to skyrocket for him.

In general, Brendan talks about having good overall health, which many athletes tend to ignore, pushing their bodies to its limits.

He talks about recognizing the mistake of assuming that total calories is a measure of food energy — ie. that eating higher caloric foods will give you more energy.

If that were the case, everyone eating high caloric fast foods would have more energy. Not quite!

It’s really about getting the proper nutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, amino acids and fats, proteins and carbohydrates in their most easily digestible form.

You get a better return on your investment, as Brendan puts it.

Spending less digesting energy on things like heavy pastas creates room for more energy to actually perform.

Swapping starchy refined carbs for carbohydrates in things like fruit and pseudo grains (technically seeds but referred to as grains) such as amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and wild rice, and things really start to ramp up for not only elite athletes, but also those looking to lose weight, manage inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and stress levels (these are all also highly alkalizing foods).

His caloric intake dropped 30 per cent and yet he was less hungry and had more energy, which he credits to eating more nutrient-dense foods.

It makes sense when you think of what hunger is: your body’s signal for more nutrients.

Typically people over-consume food because they just aren’t getting the nutritional value from what they are putting in their bodies.

When you get the nutrients you need, you aren’t hungry.

If you are hungry, you should eat more nutrient-dense foods.

No need for calorie counting. Just make sure it’s nutrient dense, alkaline forming foods. Simple.

For more information on the interview, go to

Kristin Fraser, BSc, is a registered holistic nutritionist and local freelance writer. Her column appears every second Wednesday. She can be reached at

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