Thrive Diet and complex carbs

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Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby ColleenE » Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:06 am

Hey all~
I am a competitive marathoner/ultramarathoner. I recently started following Brazier's Thrive Diet but one thing about it troubles me, which is the very small amount of calories dedicated to complex carbs like potatoes, brown rice, squash, etc. For Brazier, that is the tip of the pyramid, smaller even than the space alloted to oils. What do you all think about this? I've always felt like as a long distance athlete, I should concentrate on getting "good" complex carbs like brown rice, but he gives that only a minor role. Salads are important, but do they give us enough fuel to get through 80 mile weeks when they are the main source of calories?
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby vegimator » Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:20 am

Don't trust that author for nutritional ideas. He's got some weird ones.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby jpowell » Mon Jun 25, 2012 5:25 am

I haven't read his book but from what I've heard I wouldn't entirely trust Brazier either. Nonetheless it's an interesting idea to think about.

Factors to think about:

- A lot of endurance athletes and even some of us who are not are heavily reliant on various types of sugar supplements already. Certainly these can be effective, quick and easy to absorb.

- Have you ever tried heavy exercise within an hour of consuming lots of oats? Not a pleasant/effective experience. There are limitations to how/when you can effectively carb load with complex carbs. I think you'll find if rice is a bit better (it is), that it is because it has a higher GI, i.e. behaves more like sugar, in which case his point about metabolic cost may be relevant. (If you're going to absorb the energy in the same time and produce the same insulin response, why not do so in a way that produces least stress/energy waste?)

- A study on galactose as a supplement found it produced worse performance even when mixed with glucose than a 70%/30% glucose/fructose mix. I think it was over a 10km (or maybe 10mi) cycling time trial, can't remember details off hand. Galactose is also a simple carb but we don't find it in foods as such, however it is a component of some complex carbs

- Common table sugar (sucrose refined from cane or beet) effectively contains 50% glucose, 50% fructose, which is too much fructose by any sensible measure for health or performance. Most fruit work out about the same, but with some as isolated glucose and fructose, which per unit energy are slightly quicker absorbed, and with some fibre, minerals, vitamin C, other antioxidants, water. Bananas are a little bit higher in glucose, apples and pears for example are much higher in fructose. By contrast, most complex carbs don't contain much/any fructose.

- A lot of cheap lollies in the supermarket are actually made with glucose (from breaking down wheat, barley or corn starch), as it's cheaper than sugar. Even if it has both but glucose is the primary ingredient, that's a pretty good simple carb supplement, just add however much salt you need (if any).

- If you're looking for a lower GI (slower absorbed) simple carb, try a malt syrup or malt extract made from grains, best of both worlds, and can be consumed with water and minimal solids, which may sometimes be a benefit too. Barley malt syrup has a very distinct taste which you may or may not like. Rice malt syrup is quite clean tasting and a little bit sweet, provides some glucose as well as maltose (much slower absorbed) and some complex carbs.

- Frequent SMALL amounts of simple carbs when exercising may have little or none of the insulin response health issues associated with them that cause people to traditionally recommend eating complex carbs instead

- Some complex carbs (maltodextrin, mashed potatoes, white rice, white bread, even many types of wholemeal bread) are actually very high GI according to modern nutritional theories, so similar in effect to sugars. The distinction simple vs complex carbs, is no longer advised so much as high or low Glycaemic Index (speed of glucose absorption).

- There could still be a good place for low GI carbs at times other than when you are exercising... as far as I understand of sports nutrition, effective carb loading can take place over up to 24-48h, but only to as much glycogen as your body can hold

- The limit on how much glycogen you can hold is why many high energy needs body builders and some strength athletes concentrate on eating a lot of fats, especially MCTs, to boost their energy intake... but I have not heard of this working well for endurance athletes or even most athletes and it's a whole other story.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby beforewisdom » Mon Jun 25, 2012 4:25 pm

Not to be a wet blanket, but Brazier doesn't put references in his books so that people can easily look up his claims. In this thread is a link to a vegan dietitian's post pointing out basic errors in nutrition on Brazier's web site which he hasn't corrected after correspondence. The vegan dietitian enjoys a well deserved good reputation and has other things to say about the quality of Brazier's information.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby ColleenE » Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:48 pm

Thanks, jpowell, for your very detailed reply. I'm still digesting it all (ha!). In regards to the difference between oats and rice on performance immediately after consumption, I see your point, however Brazier does not only advocate using rice minimally before performance, but in general. This is where I find his plan a little dubious. If you look at the diets of ANY endurance athletes worth their salt, they eat LOADS of rice, potatoes, corn to refuel, typically in the evenings. I would imagine they eat many leafy greens, too, but to make it the base of the nutritional pyramid as Brazier does---I just dunno.

Thanks also for the links, beforewisdom. Yeah, no citations=questionable science.

Anyone who has tried the Thrive diet and found that the lack of complex carbs has not affected performance?
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby jpowell » Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:32 am

[quote="ColleenE"] Brazier does not only advocate using rice minimally before performance, but in general. This is where I find his plan a little dubious. If you look at the diets of ANY endurance athletes worth their salt, they eat LOADS of rice, potatoes, corn to refuel, typically in the evenings. I would imagine they eat many leafy greens, too, but to make it the base of the nutritional pyramid


I am not qualified to, nor would I, disagree with this. Perhaps you could extend it to all endurance athletes plus most athletes :) Also, I don't personally put much stock in any type of nutritional pyramids, but that's another story. I do eat heaps of (white) rice (which I figure to be not only cheaper, but also better for my purposes), and oats, but just no oats before training. Also, I am a fan of eating plenty of lentils, just not in the hour before training. They do also contain quite a bit of complex carbs, as well as Lysine, which I'm sure beforewisdom's guru Jack Norris would approve of.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby jpowell » Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:40 am

Re bringing Jack Norris into it, some of Jack Norris' advice (and beforewisdom's conributions to this forum) are golden, and it's certainly worth listening whenever a qualified credible dietitian is contradicting something, especially listening to why. On the other hand, I think there's maybe a bit of a danger as far as performance nutrition goes to limiting advice/ideas to only that of dietitians (vegan or otherwise), unless AT LEAST they have some specialization in sports nutrition AND the advice can be considered in a personalized context. What I mean is, you would be selling yourself short not to look at the whole range of ideas beyond just "how to eat healthy/well", critically evaluate the ideas for what's credible, RELEVANT and effective, then experiment/optimize. This can certainly be done usefully (I would say as usefully as not) within vegan parameters.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby fredrikw » Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:36 pm

But in this case it's about B12, that has nothing to do with sports, performance or personal anecdotes of training, but pure misinformation about something which is potentially dangerous advice.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby beforewisdom » Tue Jun 26, 2012 2:15 pm

I was the one who brought Jack Norris RD's post about Brendan Brazier into this thread.

The thing that struck me about Norris' post was that Brazier's website claims that arugla and other lettuce is a good source of calcium......even after Norris attempted to communicate with his web site. Arugla and other types of lettuce are rather poor sources of calcium. That is something ANYONE can look up for free either on the internet or by going old school to borrow a nutrition reference from a library.

That issue, the b-12 issue brought up by Norris and people's complaints that Brazier's books do not have citations to make it easy for people to research his claims indicates to me a pattern of disregard for facts that can effect a person's health and athletic performance. So, I thought bringing up Norris' post here is this thread is relevant.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby jpowell » Tue Jun 26, 2012 2:49 pm

yes agreed at least insofar as it means we cant treat anything he says as authoritative. it is relevant to bring this up. my only qualifying contention is that a preferential role for high gi foods in some situations (as raised by this thread), and many other ideas notnecessarily championed by brazier but also not necessarily nrought up by jack norris due to either scope or controversial science/partial human understanding are worthy of consideration (not automatic acceptance) on their merits anyway.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby ColleenE » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:55 pm

[quote="jpowell"]
I am not qualified to, nor would I, disagree with this. Perhaps you could extend it to all endurance athletes plus most athletes :) Also, I don't personally put much stock in any type of nutritional pyramids, but that's another story. I do eat heaps of (white) rice (which I figure to be not only cheaper, but also better for my purposes), and oats, but just no oats before training. Also, I am a fan of eating plenty of lentils, just not in the hour before training. They do also contain quite a bit of complex carbs, as well as Lysine, which I'm sure beforewisdom's guru Jack Norris would approve of.


I think you're right about not giving a heck of a lot of credence to nutritional pyramids. Brazier doesn't explain whether his pyramid is designed, for instance, by calorie content (i.e. because fibrous veggies are at the bottom does that mean that one should eat the most calories from veggies, or the most servings, which are two different things). My gut tells me that his consigning dense carbs to the tip of the pyramid (5%!!!) for any athlete is not scientifically sound. Should we really be having more avocados than we are having yams and rice? From what I've read, BB justifies eating so many fibrous veggies vis a vis other things because "the body must break down complex carbs into simple carbs before it can burn it, which takes extra work. Extra work requires energy, leaving the body with less." WHHHATTT?!
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby BlueRose » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:07 pm

[quote="ColleenE"]Hey all~
I am a competitive marathoner/ultramarathoner. I recently started following Brazier's Thrive Diet but one thing about it troubles me, which is the very small amount of calories dedicated to complex carbs like potatoes, brown rice, squash, etc. For Brazier, that is the tip of the pyramid, smaller even than the space alloted to oils. What do you all think about this? I've always felt like as a long distance athlete, I should concentrate on getting "good" complex carbs like brown rice, but he gives that only a minor role. Salads are important, but do they give us enough fuel to get through 80 mile weeks when they are the main source of calories?


Go get Scott Jurek's book instead. It even has recipes alongside his stories as an ultramarathoner. It's good stuff. :)
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby ColleenE » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:57 pm

[quote="BlueRose"]
Go get Scott Jurek's book instead. It even has recipes alongside his stories as an ultramarathoner. It's good stuff. :)


I read it already, thanks! It was a good read, but it's not a nutrition manual. I liked his recipes, especially "incan quinoa" yum!
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby BlueRose » Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:16 pm

[quote="ColleenE"][quote="BlueRose"]
Go get Scott Jurek's book instead. It even has recipes alongside his stories as an ultramarathoner. It's good stuff. :)


I read it already, thanks! It was a good read, but it's not a nutrition manual. I liked his recipes, especially "incan quinoa" yum!


True, it's not! But it's still quite valuable.
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Re: Thrive Diet and complex carbs

Postby jpowell » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:47 pm

[quote="ColleenE"] BB justifies eating so many fibrous veggies vis a vis other things because "the body must break down complex carbs into simple carbs before it can burn it, which takes extra work. Extra work requires energy


This does actually make some sense, but would be a valid justification, if for anything, for eating more sugar (e.g. sweet fruit), or at least glucose and maltose, not for eating more veg. The difficulties with that comes in the form of (1) far too much fructose (if you just eat standard cane or beet sugar or most fruits), and (2) concerns that too much high Glycaemic Index (i.e. rapidly glucose yielding) foods at once might have serious health concerns. The first can be solved by taking a glucose supplement, maltodextrin or maltose. The second cannot, but can be partly solved by malt, partly solved by high moderate GI high glucose fruits like bananas, partly ameliorated by exercise and partly overlooked in the name of performance and priorities. This brings us back to a role for low GI carbs (or very approximately, complex carbs) to preload in the 24-48 hours before exercise, even if we don't prefer them during, immediately after or immediately before.

There is also a justification for eating quite LARGE quantities of veg (just not necessarily instead of concentrated carbs!). Although they contain a lot of low GI carbs, further diluted by lots of mostly relatively imbalanced protein, lots of fibre and water, making them, by BB's logic very metabolically stressful, many provide some of the best absorbable concentrations of minerals and antioxidants available (even more so if you calculate per kilojoule, although that might be of limited relevance here). The difficulty then becomes how to consume large amounts of vegs in addition to cheaper and more concentrated energy sources, without spending all your time eating and without getting too much fibre or even too much water. I reckon Carl Lewis might have been onto something with veg juicing!

There is also a justification for some people eating a lot of fat, especially a lot of saturated or monounsaturated fat (rather than, say, a minimum 10-30% by calories/kilojoules as fats just to help with fat soluble nutrient absorption and provide enough polyunsaturates for key body functions), but I'm not sure to what extent it's very generally valid, except to say it's not hugely valid for me and probably even less so for endurance athletes like yourself.
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