The Thrive Diet Guide: Foods To Eat, Foods To Avoid + Health Benefits

Analyzing the Vegan Nutrition Approach for Athletes 

The Thrive Diet plan is an iteration of a raw vegan diet designed to support the health, performance, energy levels, and body composition of athletes.

The founder of the diet claims that you can lose weight, balance blood sugar, increase energy levels, reduce stress, and improve cardiovascular health by following the Thrive diet meal plan.

But, will the Thrive diet provide sufficient nutrient-dense, whole foods to keep an athlete strong, and healthy to train and compete at top performance?

In this guide, we will discuss what the Thrive Diet entails, the pros and cons, and what you can eat on the Thrive Diet meal plan so you can decide whether or not this raw vegan diet can find its way into your lifestyle.

Let’s get started!

An athlete performing a steo-up.

What Is the Thrive Diet?

The Thrive Diet is an iteration of a raw vegan diet plan geared specifically towards athletes.

It was created by Brendan Brazier, a former professional athlete who used the Thrive diet plan in his own training to support health and performance.

As a raw vegan diet, the Thrive Diet meal plan does not include any animal products and stipulates the key preparation methods for the plant-based foods you can eat.

What is the Core Philosophy Behind the Thrive Diet?

Brendan Brazier authored a book on the Thrive Diet plan, which explains the principles of the diet and provides a 12-week meal plan that includes Thrive diet recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, smoothies, and snacks.

Unlike regular weight loss diets, the Thrive diet plan does not require counting calories or measuring portion sizes. 

In fact, the Thrive diet plan is not specifically designed just for weight loss but rather to support endurance performance and overall health.

The author claims that you can lose weight, balance your blood sugar levels, increase your energy levels, reduce your stress, and improve your cardiovascular health by following the Thrive diet meal plan.

However, if you are trying to follow the Thrive diet for weight loss, the recommendation in the book is to eat several small meals throughout the day at regular intervals to keep your energy levels and blood sugar balanced while controlling appetite and reducing caloric intake.

A sign that reads, go vegan.

What Foods Do You Eat on Thrive?

Like other raw vegan diet plans, the Thrive diet meal plan focuses on whole, natural, unprocessed foods that are unadulterated as much as possible.

Therefore, a raw vegan diet means that you do not consume any animal products (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, honey, etc.) and you are eating raw foods.

This means that you should try to eat food in its natural state.

If you do consume cooked foods, they must be cooked at very low temperatures.

Note that the definition of “raw food” doesn’t strictly mean that all food on a raw vegan diet needs to be completely uncooked; rather, nutrition experts suggest that the food is considered “raw“ if it has never been heated over 104–118°F (40–48°C) during its preparation. 

The raw foods temperature range exists because different sources cite slightly different temperatures for raw foods, and there isn’t a hard science as to what is considered cooked vs raw food.

Besides eating foods in their completely natural state, the Thrive Diet meal plan also allows you to eat vegan foods that are prepared through a couple of alternative methods, including dehydrating, juicing, sprouting, soaking, and fermenting.

An apple and cranberry salad.

Here are some common Thrive Diet foods:

Thrive Diet Foods

  • Raw, dried, and juiced fruits and veggies
  • Raw nuts, seeds, raw nut butters, raw seed butters, nut milks 
  • Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil
  • Soaked and sprouted legumes and grains 
  • Raw cacao
  • Cold-pressed oils 
  • Fresh herbs and dried spices
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso paste, and pickled vegetables
  • Kelp, nori, and other seaweed and sea vegetables
  • Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt (but not table salt)
  • Vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, Nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)

You should build your Thrive Diet meals around healthy plant-based proteins, fiber, vegetables, and healthy fats, choosing a range of Thrive Diet-compliant foods across your meals and snacks.

While you are allowed to eat vegan foods that are cooked at a low temperature as described above, the Thrive Diet plan says that the emphasis should be on raw foods.

You should minimize the frequency and serving sizes of anything lightly cooked or altered from its natural state.

Vegetables with a sign that reads vegan.

Here are the types of foods to avoid on a vegan diet plan:

  • Beef: Steak, hamburger, roast beef, ground beef, etc.
  • Pork: Ham, bacon, pork chops, ribs
  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey, duck, quail, capon, goose, squab, chicken nuggets, turkey bacon, etc.
  • Lamb, mutton, goat, bison, antelope, alligator, rabbit, game meats
  • Fish: Salmon, tuna, trout, halibut, anchovies, bass, sardines, mackerel, cod, sushi, fish sticks, etc.
  • Seafood: Clams, mussels, shrimp, lobsters, scallops, eel, crab, etc.
  • Eggs
  • Dairy: Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, frozen yogurt
  • Mayonnaise (because it has egg yolks)
  • Honey
  • Certain wines because fish-derived ingredients are used for filtering the wine
  • Foods With Animal Ingredients: Canned soups made with beef stock, chicken stock, etc.; split pea soup with ham, jello (or products with gelatin derived from animal hooves), Worcestershire sauce or sauces with anchovy paste, pizza with pepperoni or meat, pasta with meat sauce, etc.
  • Refined carbohydrates: White bread, white pasta, breakfast cereal, granola bars, pancake mix, crackers, etc. 
  • Processed foods: All types of processed foods such as chips, cookies, frozen meals, boxed macaroni and cheese, fruit snacks, candy, processed meats, French fries, pretzels, rice cakes, vegan chicken nuggets, vegan protein powder, commercial vegan protein bars, etc.
  • Foods with added sugar such as candy, baked goods, fruit juice, sweetened applesauce, and even natural sugar such as honey or maple syrup.
  • Cooked foods above 118 degrees F.
A person eating a bowl of fruit.

What are the Potential Health Benefits?

While there aren’t studies that have looked specifically at the Thrive Diet benefits, given the fact that the Thrive Diet meal plan is very similar to a raw vegan diet, the potential benefits of the Thrive Diet are likely the same as those of a raw vegan diet.

Thus, here are some potential Thrive Diet plan benefits:

  • Studies have found that people following a vegan diet may have as much as a 75% lower risk of developing hypertension,1Le, L., & Sabaté, J. (2014). Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts. Nutrients6(6), 2131–2147. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6062131 which is high blood pressure, and a 42% decreased risk of dying from heart disease.2Tuso, P., Ismail, M., Ha, B., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. The Permanente Journal17(2), 61–66. https://doi.org/10.7812/tpp/12-085
  • Numerous studies have found that transitioning to a vegan diet improves cholesterol, decreases blood pressure, and lowers the risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke.3Wang, F., Zheng, J., Yang, B., Jiang, J., Fu, Y., & Li, D. (2015). Effects of Vegetarian Diets on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the American Heart Association4(10). https://doi.org/10.1161/jaha.115.002408
  • The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains can help improve blood sugar regulation, increase sensitivity to insulin,4Higgins, J. A. (2012). Whole Grains, Legumes, and the Subsequent Meal Effect: Implications for Blood Glucose Control and the Role of Fermentation. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism2012, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/829238 and help control body weight, all of which can help reduce the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.5Lee, Y., & Park, K. (2017). Adherence to a Vegetarian Diet and Diabetes Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Nutrients9(6), 603. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9060603
  • Because the Thrive Diet eliminates all processed foods, the meal plan may further protect against frequent and rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to metabolic problems, including type 2 diabetes, over time.
  • High-fiber diets help promote digestion and support the healthy gut bacteria.6MACFARLANE, S., MACFARLANE, G. T., & CUMMINGS, J. H. (2006). Review article: prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics24(5), 701–714. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2006.03042.x
  • There have been several research studies that have found that people who follow a plant-based diet may lose more weight than those following an omnivorous diet.7Huang, R.-Y., Huang, C.-C., Hu, F. B., & Chavarro, J. E. (2016). Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of General Internal Medicine31(1), 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-015-3390-7
A person eating an apple on a bridge.

What are the Potential Drawbacks?

Although there are many potential health benefits of following the Thrive Diet plan, there are also some potential risks and drawbacks of following such a restrictive eating plan. 

Here are some of the risks of the Thrive Diet eating pattern:

Working with a nutritionist to develop a well-balanced meal plan that will support your muscles and bones is essential if you intend to follow the Thrive Diet approach as a long-term lifestyle. 12Cunningham, E. (2004). What is a raw foods diet and are there any risks or benefits associated with it? Journal of the American Dietetic Association104(10), 1623. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2004.08.016

‌This is particularly important for athletes—even though the diet is designed for athletes—because the nutritional needs to support training are even higher.

A person at a gym eating a salad.


Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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