Whether you are just getting into running or have been at it a while, you should be actively working on improving your endurance. While there are many methods out there that are designed to help …
As runners, we’ve been told over the last 40 years or so that the only way to fuel for running is with carbohydrates. Loads and loads of carbs. Eat lots of carbs every day, carb load the day …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 216 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today, an alternative way to fuel long-distance running. So as runners, we’ve been told over the last 40 years or so that the only way to fuel for running is with carbohydrates, carbs, loads and loads of carbs.
Eat lots of carbs every day, carbo-load the day before you run, carb up in the morning pre-run, consume ample carbs during your run. And then of course, you’re gonna want some carbs for recovery after your run.
This has been the standard approach since the 1980s. But it’s definitely not the only way to do things. The thing is, this approach just doesn’t work for everyone. Some people like me gain a lot of weight eating all those carbs regardless of how much we run. So in this episode, I offer an alternative way to fuel long-distance running one that doesn’t cause you to gain all that weight in the process.
But first, I know I share a lot of information here on the podcast about nutrition, weight loss, and improving your running. If you’re new to the podcast, it can probably feel a little overwhelming. And you’re like I don’t even know where to start with all this.
And if that sounds like you, totally cool, I got you covered. I created a free training. It’s about an hour long. It’s a video that you can watch, you can check it out anytime it’s called 5 Simple Steps To Becoming A Leaner Stronge Runner.
In this video, you’re gonna learn the basics of nutrition, strength, endurance, and mindset, all these things that are geared towards you the long-distance runner. So if you’re ready to get leaner, and if you’re ready to get stronger, if you’re ready to become the most badass version of yourself that I know you are, then this free training is exactly what you need to get started. Just go to runningleancoaching.com and click on Free Training.
Okay, so let’s talk about an alternative way to fuel long-distance running. Why do I want to talk about this today? Because I keep hearing from runners and I keep reading articles online and social media posts for runners that talk about eating all the carbs.
And I’m like, gosh, are we still talking about this? Since the 1980s, the carb-loading approach has been the gold standard, so to speak for runners just eat all the carbs, and you’re going to find that most coaches teach this approach.
Most experts, quote-unquote experts, teach this approach. When I got my running, coaching certification, when I went through my coaching certification program, I was taught this approach. And this approach is fine. And it does work for some people. But it doesn’t work for everybody.
For some of us, like me, eating all those carbs caused us to gain a lot of weight in the process. You know, and I’m not against having carbohydrates. In fact, I think using carbohydrates strategically for running is a great tool.
It’s a really good tool that you have in your tool belt, why not use the carbohydrates as fuel, especially for the higher intensity stuff or races? But eating all the carbs all the time, is what we’ve been taught and it just doesn’t work for everybody.
You know, I’m one of those people that is very sensitive to carbohydrates. You know, I eat carbs and I gain weight. And so if I just take this standard approach to fueling for long-distance running, I ballooned up 40 more pounds, 50 more pounds, whatever.
You know, I’ve shared this before where I was training for ultra marathons, I was running all the time, I was doing a ton of mileage and gaining weight in the process. You can’t outrun the wrong diet, right?
So for me the all carbs all the time approach while I loved it. Who doesn’t love eating carbs all the time? Oh, pizza, sure. Ice cream. Yep, that’s going to, I mean, I’m a runner, so I gotta eat this stuff. Right? Spaghetti all the time. Like I was just I was eating tons of bread and pasta. And sugar, like this was my diet. You know, it was like a 90% carbohydrates, you know?
And I just kept gaining weight and gaining weight and I was like wow, even though I was running a ton, you know, I was training for ultra marathons and running ultra marathons regularly and then gaining weight in the process does not make sense, right?
You are supposed to lose weight when you start training. Well, the wrong diet won’t allow that to happen, right, so the wrong diet will cause the weight to continually stack up. So for me, this this all carbs all the time approach is one that I tried, and it just didn’t work for me.
You know, I also found that I would crash and burn during long-distance events. And I’m like, what’s going on here, because I’m using all the fuel. You know, I’m taking all the gels and I’m eating, I’m pre-loading with carbs and do all this stuff. But I keep crashing and burning and mile 18 to 22 of a marathon, you know.
And I was like this, this isn’t working, like there’s got to be a different approach here. Okay. And there is, there are, there is an alternative approach, there are probably multiple other approaches that you can take.
But there’s one specific that I want to talk about today, one that doesn’t require eating all the carbs all the time, and one that doesn’t require you to gain a bunch of weight in the process, if that’s you.
And listen, if you’re the kind of person that can eat all those carbs, and not gain any weight, and it works really well for you, then keep doing your thing. Keep doing that. My hat’s off to you. But if you’re somebody that’s like Patrick, that really doesn’t work for me, then listen up, because here’s the different approach you want to take.
You want to get yourself fat-adapted. So we’re talking about this concept of fat adaptation. Fat adaptation means that you train your body to burn your stored body fat as fuel for long-distance running.
When you stop eating all the sugar and all the carbs constantly, you give your body a chance to tap into your stored body fat as fuel. So the way this works, essentially, is think about your different fuel sources in your body as like a fuel tank, and the top layer of that fuel tank is what’s gets burned first.
And that top layer is going to be sugar, essentially glucose, glycogen, that kind of stuff. So that is going to be burned first. And as long as that’s available, that is what’s going to be constantly burned. Okay.
And so the concept, but behind all carbs all the time thing is like you want to keep that top layer of the tank filled at all times so that you’re constantly always burning that. The problem is that when you run out of that, maybe you get to mile 20 of the marathon and you just haven’t done a good job of keeping up with the amount of carbs that you need for that event, or you haven’t trained yourself to metabolize carbs that to that extent.
That top layer of the tank is going to run out and then you’re going to crash because you don’t, you don’t have access to that lower portion of the gas tank, which is the biggest portion, I’m going to say it’s probably like 90% of that gas tank is going to be your fat stores.
But you don’t have access to that because you haven’t trained your body to use that fat as fuel, like the pathways are not there. So what happens is that when you stop eating the sugar and the carbs all the time?
You start to train your body to use the alternative fuel source, the fat stores the stored body fat, you know, we all eat some, you know, we all eat food and some of that energy that we consume gets used towards working muscles, some of that energy gets stored as fat to be used later as fuel.
The problem is we’ve just gotten so far away from using our stored body fat as fuel, it’s kind of like we just constantly put wood on the woodpile, but we’re never burning the wood it just keeps stacking up that’s our fat stores just getting bigger and bigger.
So when you train yourself to tap into those stored to your stored body fat as a fuel, now you have this like almost unlimited fuel source for running. So that’s the concept of fat-adaptation, you’re removing the sugar and the carbs that that initial, like, let’s say 10%.
And I’m kind of making these numbers up but just think of it like you know, we only have the capacity to store like 2000 calories as of energy as glucose but we have our body fat can can store hundreds of thousands of calories of energy as stored body fat, so just know that yeah, it’s probably like 10% and 90%, something like that. It’s probably more like 99 and 1% or something okay.
Anyway, so we want to get ourselves fat-adapted we want to be able to adapt to using that stored body fat as fuel. Okay, now, people hear this and they’re like, oh, that’s crazy. That’s just some weird fringe thing, it’s probably a fad, and it’s gonna go away.
Listen, we’ve been doing this for millennia, as human beings, we’ve been doing it for more than millennia, for like millions of years. Fat Burning is our natural state as human beings. You know, we store some of that energy we consume as body fat, and we use it when we’re not eating.
This is the way the human body is designed, you know, there’s periods of feasting, and there’s periods of fasting during those periods of fasting, we should be tapping into our stored body fat as fuel. Humans are really good at this, we are naturally really good at using fat as fuel.
And we’re naturally good distance runners like we used to be hunter-gatherers, we used to be a persistence Hunter, so we would, we would chase down prey, and we would outrun them not from a speed perspective, but from a time perspective like we would, you know, cut an antelope out of the herd or whatever.
And they might be able to outrun us in the short distance, but over time, like over hours and days, we would run them down to where they just would die of exhaustion. You know, poor antelope. I know, but good for us, because now we have this nutrient-dense meal that would that would sustain us, you know.
So the human body is designed to use that stored body fat as fuel during those times when we didn’t have the other food coming in. Okay. So to say that, oh, you have to consume all the carbs, all the pasta, all the bread all the time, just to be able to run?
That’s actually the new thing. That’s actually the weird fad thing that we’ve only been doing for the last 40 years or so. Right? I mean, isn’t that interesting that people look at this fat-burning thing. And they’re like, oh, you know, that’s not the way you should do it.
And I’m like, well, listen, we’ve been amazing runners for millions of years as humans and we never had to eat all the pasta and bread and gels and stuff like that. Why now? Should we have to do that? Okay.
So not only is it not a fad thing, or some weird approach, like there are elite runners that have adopted this approach for years and years and years, and they’re at the top of their game, you know, I’m gonna mention a couple of them here.
And I’ve talked about these guys before on the podcast here. And there are countless others too, but these guys just are kind of like the top, you know, the top 1% or whatever. Jeff Browning. He’s an ultra runner. He’s finished nearly 200 ultra marathons in his career. He’s had over 40 career ultra marathon wins 29 of those at the 100 mile plus distance, making him second in the world for the most 100 mile wins in history.
Ranked seven times in the top 10 of ultra running magazines, North American Ultra Runner of the year, ranked third in Ultra running magazines, North American Ultra Runner of the decade. He builds multiple, multiple course records, including the Moab 240 course record, and he is a low carb, low carb, high-fat kind of he takes that approach to his training.
You know, he’s very vocal about his fat-burning approach, his fat-adapted approach to ultra running, you know, he doesn’t consume all the sugars and all the gels and all the pasta and all the carbs. All right.
And another one that comes to mind is Mike McKnight. He’s an ultra runner. He specializes in the 200 mile distance. And he posed several wins every year for different events. He’s kind of known because he ran 118 Miles while consuming zero calories, zero calories. He ran 118 miles. He was just relying on his own stored body fat for fuel and he’s a pretty, pretty lean guy. You know? He’s amazing.
And I actually tried this, I was like, hey, you know, I’m gonna I’m gonna give this a shot. I didn’t do 180 miles but I did two marathons and a 50k ultra marathon on zero calories just to say like, Oh, can I even do this? Yeah, I could do it and I was fine. Really no problems whatsoever.
And then of course, there’s Zach Bitter. He’s an American ultramarathon runner. He specializes in the 100 miler distance and he’s done like over 60 ultras. He’s known for his low-carb diet, which he uses for training and racing nutrition. He had the record for the 100 miler. One point of 11 hours, 19 minutes and 13 seconds. I’m gonna say that one more time because that is a crazy number, he ran 100 miles and 11 hours in 90 minutes. That’s insane.
He’s the holder of the 12-hour American record at 104.88 miles. He claims the 100-mile and 12-hour world records at the Six Days in the Dome event in Milwaukee in 2019. Competed for team USA world 100 Kilometer team three times.
So these are guys, these are just some of the guys who are benefiting and their, their elite athletes who are at the top of their game. And they’re taking this low-carb approach to distance running. They’re not consuming all the carbs all the time. Yeah, they do use some carbs for their events.
And they’ll tell you, you know, you can check them out, or their websites, check them out on social media, they have podcasts and stuff like that, you can totally listen to what these guys say. And they’ll tell you they do like maybe, you know, 30 to 50 grams of carbs per hour for these events, which is not a lot. But they’re not eating all the carbs all the time. They’re taking this fat adaptation approach to running and it’s working really, really well for them. Okay.
Another thing to consider here is that if your goal is to lose weight, then this is a great way to lose weight. Because listen, if you want to lose weight, what do you got to do? You have to burn a fat, right?
We’re not talking about weight loss, we’re talking about fat loss. So you have to burn the fat. If you are burning the fat, you are losing weight. And it’s really hard to burn the fat when you’re on that super high-carb runner’s type of diet, right?
Because of the whole fuel source prioritization, you know, you’re going to burn through the glucose first, then you’re going to tap into the fat but you gotta like, You got to eliminate that top 1% or whatever of your fuel tank.
So if fat burning is the key to weight loss, which it is, wouldn’t you want to do it? It that makes fat burning the priority? Yes, you would. When you eat for fat-burning, you’re running improves your endurance and improves and you lose weight in the process. Right?
So if you’re somebody who is interested in losing weight, this approach might work for you, it may be something you want to consider. Okay, and and listen, when we talk about a low-carb approach to fueling a low-carb diet, a low-carb, you know, nutrition approach; a lot of people think, you know, you’re talking about keto, or doing no carbs or carnivore or something like that.
No, it’s not about that. It’s about finding the right amount of carbs that keeps you burning fat, while also helping you’re running because carbs are helpful for running, right? You don’t have to be Mike McKnight and do the zero-calorie thing. But it’s cool that the human body can do that, you know.
That’s fat-adaptation. And it’s most impressive, like what that guy does, right? And by the way, this guy is not fat, right? You don’t need a ton of body fat, to be able to use your own stored body fat as fuel.
Even the leanest of athletes can benefit from fat adaptation as an approach. Okay, so this doesn’t mean that you’re never eating any carbs, you can still eat some carbs. I use carbs for fuel, and I encourage my clients to use carbs for fuel, but we prefer like whole food sources of carbs, you know, we might be talking about bananas or sweet potatoes or rice or something like that, right?
And obviously, everybody’s a little bit different. And you have to kind of experiment with what works for you. But there’s, there’s tons of great options just from the natural world like and sticking with whole food sources of carbohydrates is great.
Now I get it that when you’re in any event, like you can’t carry a bunch of sweet potatoes or bananas with you. I mean, it’s just really not that convenient. But what’s cool is that there are a bunch of brands out there that cater to the low-carb endurance athlete, and they have entire product lines that are geared towards helping you fuel for running while maintaining that fat-burning state.
So like Hammer Nutrition is one you can use. S-Fuels, Muir energy, and there are a bunch of other brands out there and new ones coming out all the time. So that’s a very encouraging thing that there are companies out there that are that are gearing their product lines towards the low carb endurance athlete. Okay.
Now, just like I said, at the beginning of this podcast that the high-carb approach isn’t for everyone, just like that, like the fat-adapted approach probably isn’t for everyone. So I’m not going to come out here and say that everybody should do this. And everybody will benefit from this.
Some people do really fine eating all the carbs and the sugar and the gels, and they never have to worry about gaining weight. And if that’s you, that is amazing. That’s definitely not me. But if you struggle with losing weight, and you love running, then this might be the approach that you want to try.
You know, the only way you can tell if it works through you, or if you enjoy it, or if you can do this as a lifestyle as to give it a shot, you might see the weight start to come off, you might experience running feeling easier than ever before.
You might see your energy levels are better all day long, no more afternoon crashes, you might begin to think more clearly be able to focus and concentrate better. And as always, if you want help with any of this, you can always reach out to me you can go to my website runningleancoaching.com.
Every day I help runners get fat-adapted, lose weight, improve their running performance and make all this a lifestyle. So whatever approach you take cool, but it has to be something that is sustainable for you. Because if it’s not sustainable for you, it’s not going to work because this stuff takes time.
You know, if you want to lose weight, and you want to improve your diet, improve your nutrition, improve your running and your nutrition for running specifically, then you’re gonna have to take a little bit of time to figure out what works for you. And it has to be something that you can do sustainably long term, right?
So I work with my clients, we work together to make sure whatever they’re doing is something that they can do on their own like for good, or it’s not about quick fixes, but lifestyle changes, right being fit and healthy isn’t a destination we’re trying to get to. It’s how we live our life. Okay. Consider the fat-adapted approach. I think it’s amazing. It works really well for me and countless people that I work with. Give it a shot. You never know. That’s all I got for you today. Love you all, keep on Running Lean and I will talk to you soon.
Lots of runners look pretty healthy on the outside. They exercise a lot, maintain a decent weight, have low body fat percentage, low BMI, and generally look fit. But inside there could be a lot …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 191 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today: Fit But Unhealthy. So, lots of runners look pretty healthy on the outside, they exercise a lot, they maintain a decent weight, they have a low body fat percentage, low BMI, they generally look and feel fit. but inside there could be a lot more going on that no one really sees.
So I came across this study recently that looked at low carbohydrate diets versus high carbohydrate diets and their effects on athletic performance. And the results are pretty interesting from the athletic performance standpoint, but also kind of surprising from a health perspective.
So today, I’m going to look at what it means to be fit but unhealthy, and what you can do to make sure you are both. But first, as The Weight Loss Coach for Runners, I’ve helped hundreds of runners over the last few years lose a lot of weight; but here’s a little secret to the people who I work with, it’s not about losing weight. I know it sounds contrary, but hear me out.
Losing weight is great. And it inevitably happens, but the real goal of working together is to help you become the healthiest and most badass version of yourself. When you make the commitment to change your relationship with food and exercise when you focus on building strength and endurance.
When you do the internal work of developing the right mindset, you will absolutely transform yourself into a leaner, stronger runner and the healthiest version of yourself yet. So weight loss is not the goal. It’s just a nice side effect of you becoming your fittest and healthiest self.
So make the commitment today to improve your health and fitness. And you’ll lose that extra weight along the way. And if you want a little help with all this, as always, you can join the Running Lean Coaching Project.
That’s my unique weight loss coaching program for runners. Just go to runningleancoaching.com/join to learn more about that. And if you want a little bit of help, just getting started with all this stuff, then I have just the thing to help you get started on the right track.
I put together a free training for you. It’s about an hour long, it’s called Five Simple Steps To Becoming A Leaner Stronger Runner. I will teach you how to lose weight the right way and keep it off for good without running a million miles a week.
A few of the things that you’re gonna learn in this in depth training, why running more and eating less is not an effective way to lose weight, the one thing runners typically don’t do when they are trying to lose weight, the best fuel to use to improve your endurance and help your weight loss, and the right mindset shifts required to make all these changes last for life.
You’re going to learn how to crush your weight loss goals and your running goals directly from me, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners. So if you’re ready to get leaner and stronger, to run faster and longer and to become the healthiest, most badass version of yourself, then you need to check out this free training now just go to runningleancoaching.com and click on Free Training. Cool. Awesome.
Okay, so let’s talk about Fit But Unhealthy. So I came across this study recently. The study was called low and high carbohydrate isocaloric diets on performance, fat oxidation, glucose and cardio metabolic health in middle age males. Kind of a mouthful.
This was published in the Journal Frontiers in nutrition in February of 2023. So it’s a pretty recent study. And the study was conducted by some of the pretty well known researchers in the low carb endurance and athletic world like Professor Tim Noakes, Dominic D’Agostino, Dr. Jeff Bullock.
And one of the reasons that they did this study is that since the 1970s, there has been this shift towards a high carbohydrate, low fat diet for health benefits, but also for training benefits. You know, a lot of the professional athletes since the 70s have shifted to a high carbohydrate, low fat diet because they want to reap the benefits of all the carbohydrates in their diet.
So that they can, you know, run faster, right and, and improve their athletic performance. Most athletes hit a crossover point in their fuel system. So they go from burning mostly fat to almost exclusively burning carbohydrates.
So they reach this crossover point where fat burning effectively shuts down around 85% of the of their VO2 max. So around 85% of most athletes’ VO2 max, they hit this crossover point where fat burning pretty much shuts down to zero.
And unless you have ample stores of carbohydrate to use this fuel, you bonk you crash and burn, you hit the wall. So countering all of this, this is what’s been known and been followed and adhered to, since the 1970s or so encountering all of this is the fact that there’s a lot of athletes and a huge growing number of athletes that have been following a low carb high fat diet.
And they have been able to dramatically increase their fuel crossover point to well above that 85% mark previously seen. So they wanted to do this study, to just see what was going on here and really, you know, try to predict or try to show what would happen between these two groups of athletes, the low carb diet athletes and the high carb diet athletes.
They wanted to see what the results would be on athletic performance. So they conducted this study, it was 31 days, so it was four weeks long. And they compare the two groups of competitive athletes, these were middle aged men in their 40s, they were in good shape, they had low body fat percentages, like 12-16% body fat, low BMI.
They exercised around six hours a week. And so they were competitive athletes in their 40s, mostly runners, and they divided them into two groups, they had one group that was a low carb high fat diet, the other group was a high carb low fat diet.
They assessed both diets, and they were strictly controlling macros calories and their training load. So this study was really well done. And they were very strict about making sure the only difference in these two groups of men was that their one group was eating a low carb, higher fat diet, and the other was eating a high carb lower fat diet.
And then they had them do some performance tests. So each of the subjects in the test visited the lab on 10 different occasions during that 31 day period. And they performed tests periodically, but the two main tests that they did was a one mile time trial, and then six by 800 sprints.
And so they did testing throughout, but they did some time trials at the beginning. And then at the end of the study. And all these things were very tightly controlled, all the variables were tightly controlled, to make sure the only difference between the groups was their dietary intervention.
Now, the performance side of things was pretty interesting because the results showed that both groups performed almost exactly the same in these high intensity exercises. So there was no difference really between the performance of the low carb group and the high carb group.
There was a huge difference though in fat burning. So the high carb, low fat group, their fat burning peaked around .69 grams of fat burn per minute. Whereas the low carb group, their fat burning peaked around 1.85 grams per minute, which is the highest rate of fat oxidation ever recorded.
Okay, so the big difference between these two groups was the amount of fat that the low carb group was able to burn and they were at 1.85 grams per minute where the high carb group peaked around .7 grams of fat burn per minute. That’s a huge, huge difference.
So what this is saying is that depending on your dietary protocol, either way, you’re going to be able to perform at high intensities, about the same whether you’re doing a low carb diet or a high carb diet, okay?
So we can sort of take this off the table that a high carb diet is required to perform at higher intensities. Okay. So something else that I found really interesting and this is what prompted me to want to talk about this today is that in the group that was eating the high carb diet, they were doing all these blood tests on on all these people just to see like, you know, what, they were just measuring all kinds of things.
And one of the things they were looking at was blood glucose averages, and they did like fasting blood glucose tests. And one thing that was really fascinating is that the high carb group, 30% of them had average blood glucose greater than 100 milligrams per deciliter, which is consistent with prediabetes. So 100-125 is diagnosed as pre diabetes.
And there’s where in the 111 to 115 range, on average, 30% of these super fit competitive athletes with low BMI 12 to 16%, body fat, they looked great. They were very competitive runners, they appeared on the outside to be super fit, but are they healthy?
They’re being diagnosed with pre diabetes, because of their blood sugar being greater than 100 milligrams per deciliter on average during this 31 day study. And they did these tests many, many times. So this wasn’t like a one time deal.
The other interesting thing about this is that these people were also the greatest responders to carbohydrate restriction, which means that those individuals with a higher mean glucose, so the higher the individuals with those prediabetes numbers with the higher mean glucose, were more responsive to carbohydrate restriction treatment.
And all of their glycemic parameters were greatly improved if they switch to a low carb high fat diet. So average glucose was significantly lower, starting on day eight of the low carb and then remained lower throughout. And so the 31 day average glucose levels were down by 15%.
If they had switched to that low carb high fat diet. So some of the key findings that I’m just going to read this to you, these are some key findings from the study itself. So one of them is that athletes achieved equivalent exercise performance during a one mile time trial and a six by 800 meter interval session after a 31 day habituation to low carb or high carb diets.
When controlling calories training load, body composition changes across the groups. Another key finding during the later stages of the six by 800 interval sessions athletes achieve the highest rates of fat oxidation yet reported. According to current understanding, this is paradoxical since these high rates were measured in subjects exercising edit intensity, which was a which the rate of fat oxidation should be approaching zero.
Okay, so these were, the intensity level was greater than 90% of their VO2 max and their fat oxidation should have been at zero, but it was increasing. Crazy, right? And the low carb high fat consistently reduced glucose levels and glucose variability, which along with a large inverse relationship observed between main glucose on high carb and the percentage change mean glucose when switching to low carb.
So importantly, 30% of subjects who had a 31 day mean fasting glucose of greater than 100 on high carb were also the largest responders to the carbohydrate restriction, right? No subjects on the low carb high fat diet had a 31 day average mean glucose of greater than 100. Okay, so these results challenge the existing paradigm. The diets with higher carbohydrates are superior for athletic performance even during shorter duration higher intensity exercise which has been known or thought to be the case for a long time now.
Critically, these results demonstrate that lower carbohydrate intake may be a therapeutic strategy, even for an athlete, to improve glycemic index, particularly in those with or at risk for diabetes without requiring changes in body composition. Like you don’t need to lose a bunch of weight or physical activity, you don’t need to be exercising a ton more.
Interestingly, these results also demonstrate a unique association between glycemic responsiveness to carbohydrate restriction, fat oxidation rates, suggesting that there’s an important relationship here between glycemic parameters and metabolic responsiveness.
Okay, so my sort of interpretation, I was reading a lot of that from the study itself. It’s very scientifically written, a little dry, in my opinion, but my interpretation is this: that the low carb high fat diet produces the same results from an athletic performance perspective as the high carb diet.
And once you’re on that low carb diet for several weeks, weeks, your rate of fat oxidation goes way up. And this is key for both endurance. So being able to burn more fat helps you from an endurance standpoint, and helps improve weight loss, right, you have to burn fat if you want to lose weight, and that the high carb diet can lead to adverse health effects like pre diabetes.
And this is an interesting study because they looked at, you know, seemingly fit healthy men with low body fat percentages, normal body weight, normal BMI, all that they’re all competitive athletes, they exercise more than six hours per week, they didn’t have any medical diagnosis.
They weren’t on any medications, but 30% of them of the high carb group had, you know, blood glucose levels consistent with prediabetes, this is a problem, right? This is consistent with a prior analysis they did, which found that 30% of sub-elite endurance athletes, so this is like your average weekend warrior that’s just out there running for fun, like me, and you probably exercise, less than like six hours per week, had undetected prediabetes when measured via CGM, continuous glucose monitoring devices.
So a prior study has shown that 30% of athletes who seemingly are fit on the outside have this prediabetes condition. So they were fit but not healthy. And this is an important distinction. Do you want to just look healthy on the outside? Or would you rather look healthy on the outside and actually be healthy as a human being from the inside out?
So just because we see somebody on Instagram who looks healthy, they have lean body mass, low body fat percentage they’re ripped, they got abs for days, does not mean that they are healthy. It does not mean that they aren’t having some sort of internal issues or some, you know, condition like prediabetes.
And following the standard dietary advice, which is a very high carb diet, and low in fat, seems to cause metabolic dysfunction in around 30% of the population. And this is just the most fit population, whether you’re very competitive athletes or weekend warriors.
We’re not even looking at the people who do not exercise regularly, who are kind of sedentary. So it’s no wonder that obesity rates are what they are right now here in the US, which is over 42% of the US population is considered obese, over 42%.
This is the first time that here in the US the national rate of obesity has passed the 40% mark. And it’s further evidence of the country’s obesity crisis. The national adult obesity rate has increased by 26% since 2008. I’m gonna say that again, because it’s crazy.
The national adult obesity rate has increased by 26% since 2008.
And I say this all the time, you can’t outrun a bad diet, and this is what I’m talking about. These are very fit individuals who run a lot, who are very competitive, who all appear to be in perfect shape. But there’s more to the story. Your diet matters, what you eat matters. You cannot outrun a bad diet. Sure, exercise is important.
Keep running. Do that for sure, but it’s not going to solve all your health issues. You have to pay attention to the foods that you eat. And all this exercise and all this fitness won’t help keep you healthy unless you also change your diet. It’s up to you to take things into your own hands.
Don’t do what the powers be out there, the food companies, the government or whatever, what they’re telling you to do typically doesn’t work. You have to take things in your own hands. And listen, low carb, it’s not a fad diet. It’s not keto. It doesn’t mean you never eat another grain of rice your whole life, doesn’t involve eating sticks of butter wrapped in bacon, as good as that sounds.
If you want to learn more about my thoughts on carbs, I did an episode about this last week called Carbs Are Not The Enemy. Carbs are not the enemy. There are some carbs that are great and great for endurance athletes and great for weight loss, you just have to do them the right way.
So listen to that episode, for sure it’ll help you, you know, could get a good understanding of that. So if you’re a runner, and you want to improve your health, like really improve your health from the inside out, then making the switch to a lower carb diet might just be what you need.
And as always, I can coach you through all of this. We’ll put together a nutrition plan that fits your lifestyle and gets you to your health and fitness goals. Just go to runningleancoaching.com and click on Work With Me.
Okay, that’s all I got for you today. Love you all, keep on Running Lean, and I will talk to you soon.
There’s a lot of confusion out there these days around carbs, especially in the endurance athlete community. Are carbs good? Are they bad? Do they have a place in our diet or should we avoid them …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 190 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today: carbs are not the enemy. So there’s a lot of confusion out there these days around carbs, especially in the endurance athlete community. Are carbs good? Are they bad? Should we be carb loading? Do they have a place in our diet? Should we avoid them altogether?
I think you can probably guess from the title of this episode, ‘Carbs Are Not The Enemy’, that I have a particular stance on this, I don’t think they’re the enemy. But if you’re one of many people who are confused about all the talk on whether carbs are good or bad, my goal today is to help clear all this up for you. So in this episode, I’m gonna explain why carbs are not the enemy. Also, why it might be a good idea to keep your carb intake kind of low most of the time anyway.
But first, if you’ve been thinking about coaching, maybe you’ve been thinking about getting a hold of me, maybe working with me, but you’re still not sure if this is right for you, that’s fine. It’s not a problem at all. The thing is that coaching isn’t for everyone.
Not everyone is ready to do the work that’s required to change their lifestyle. Not everyone is willing to endure a little bit of temporary discomfort in order to get to where they want to get to whether that’s improving your running, improving your health or losing weight.
Not everyone is prepared to grind it out in the gym in order to get stronger and improve their body composition. Not everyone wants more for themselves. There’s plenty of people out there who are content with where they are right now. And that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But my guess is that since you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably not like everyone else, you’re not afraid of getting uncomfortable. You’re not afraid to do the hard work. If it means you can get stronger, faster, you know, achieve your weight loss goal, you’re not content with where you are, maybe you do want more for yourself.
If so, if this sounds like you, then you might be a perfect fit for coaching. Whenever you’re ready to level up, I’m here for you, you can join the Running Lean Coaching Project. This is my unique weight loss coaching program for runners. Just go to runningleancoaching.com/join to learn more about it and schedule a call with me and we can talk about it, see if coaching is a good fit for you or not.
And if you want a little help, just getting started with all this stuff, I’ve put together a cool little training program just for you. You can watch it for free, it’s called Five Simple Steps To Becoming A Leaner Stronger Runner. Just go to runningleancoaching.com and click on Free Training to get started. Cool.
Alright, let’s talk about this carbs are not the enemy. So I hear a lot of people talking about cutting out carbs, you know, going super low carb, keto, carnivore, whatever. And I think that some people get it into their heads that this means they can never eat a carbohydrate again in their life.
And I want to make this very clear today because I do get a lot of questions about this from people. I wanted to make it very clear on my stance on carbohydrates, and what place they can have in your diet and maybe should have in your diet depending on where you are with your training and with your weight loss goals and things like that.
So I just wanted to kind of clear up maybe some of the confusion and firmly take a stand on where I feel about all this stuff here. Okay, so first of all, understand that there are a lot of reasons why I like a low carb diet, why I think keeping your carbs relatively low is really good for you.
So just understand that, you know, when we talk about a low carb diet, that number of carbs per day can differ for different people. Some people consider, you know, 20 to 50 grams of carbs, low carb, other people consider 100 to 150 grams of carbs per day, low carb and really anything under 200, 150-200 grams of carbs is really kind of considered low carb, believe it or not.
So there’s a lot of flexibility there. And what we’re talking about, when we talk about eating a low carb diet, this does not mean that you can have one blueberry a day and a half of a banana once a week or something like that. No, this is about like, you know, you get to eat a banana or two a day and berries and honey and fruit and you know, yogurt and root vegetables and beans and all kinds of foods that contain carbohydrates.
It just means doing it in a very strategic way, in a very mindful way, so that you’re not loading up on refined carbohydrates. And I’ll talk about the difference between these in just a second here. But just understand that we want to eat a diet if your goal is to lose weight and improve your health and improve your running, you want to eat a diet that helps to regulate your blood sugar.
And regulating your blood sugar just means keeping your blood sugar relatively, you know, low and not a hypoglycemic we want to keep we don’t want to go too low, we want to keep your blood sugar, relatively constant, right, instead of having big spikes, and then crashes of blood sugar, because that causes spikes and crashes and energy levels that causes excessive weight gain and things like that.
So we want to keep our blood sugar relatively consistent throughout the day. So that means that the typical high carbohydrate diet that a lot of runners adhere to, it’s probably not going to work for you. Because runners are all about the carbs, all carbs all the time. And if you’re doing that your blood sugar is constantly spiked, and constantly spiked blood sugar means insulin is also constantly spiked, insulin being high.
When insulin is present, your body is storing fat, you’re not able to burn fat when insulin is present. So the right diet is the one that’s going to help your body to maintain its natural ability to burn fat. So we want to keep our blood sugar relatively low and consistent. We want to keep insulin levels relatively low and consistent, so that we can burn fat consistently, right?
This is all pretty basic, this is just the science behind why the low carb diet is so effective. So whether your body is burning fat, or storing energy as fat is all based on the types of foods you eat. And there’s other factors involved, but mainly on the types of foods you eat, and how much carbohydrate you’re consuming.
So if eating a lot of carbohydrates will spike your blood sugar, then what can we do about that? So I had another podcast that I did, called Good Carbs, Bad Carbs. And I’ll link to that in the show notes here. But just understand that all carbs are not bad. But there is a spectrum. You know, carbohydrates are sugar.
So sugar, you know, white sugar is just a concentrated, super concentrated refined form of carbohydrate. So on one end of the spectrum, we have super, super refined white sugar, super concentrated form of carbohydrate. And 100 grams of sugar is 100 grams of carbohydrates, right?
So this is something that if you consume this particular I’m going to use the finger quotes food if you consume this food, sugar is like not really a food. It’s a very concentrated, refined carbohydrate. But this substance that you consume will spike your blood sugar like crazy, which is going to spike insulin like crazy, which is going to make it very hard for you to lose weight, since your body’s going to shut down fat burning while you’re metabolizing that sugar.
Okay, eat a lot of sugar, your body is constantly going to be storing fat and not able to burn fat. This is not good. If you want to use fat as an endurance fuel. This is not good if you want to burn fat so you can lose weight.
Okay, so on one end of the spectrum, we have super concentrated forms of carbohydrate, like pure white sugar. On the other end of the spectrum, we have foods that contain carbohydrates, but they’re just very low, like whole foods like an avocado for example. 100 grams of avocado has like nine grams of carbohydrates. Right?
And so yeah, we’re eating some carbs, but it’s a tiny portion. It’s like 9% of that fruit. Oh, avocados are a fruit by the way, 9% of that fruit is carbohydrate as opposed to 100% with pure sugar. 100 grams of broccoli has just like seven grams of carbs. Right, so 7%.
So these foods contain fiber, which helps to reduce the carbohydrate impact, these foods will not spike your blood sugar, your blood sugar when you eat foods like broccoli and avocados and other foods with low carb, low carb foods, they will raise your blood sugar a little bit but very little and very slowly and then it will fall back to normal again pretty quickly, like it should, your blood sugar should go up a little bit when you eat, that’s normal. Insulin should go up a little bit when you eat, that’s normal. And then it should come back down to baseline pretty quickly, which is normal.
But eating that high carbohydrate diet does not do that, it completely jacks up the system. It totally spikes blood sugar, totally spikes insulin, and then your body’s just busy metabolizing all that carbohydrate. Okay, so carbs, not the enemy. But we want to eat a diet that does not cause all these spikes and crashes, that helps to kind of regulate our blood sugar.
So we want to keep blood sugar low, we want to keep insulin levels low. And we want to keep our body in that fat burning mode. So fat burning is the key here. And that should be your goal. If you’re somebody who wants to improve your running performance and you want to lose weight, or improve your body composition, then fat burning is your goal.
Because if you can improve fat burning, you can improve your endurance. If you can improve fat burning, you can lose weight. If you want to lose weight, you have to burn fat, I think that is just common knowledge. If you want to lose weight, you have to burn fat, so why not keep your body in a key fat burning state, you know, pretty consistently, you’re going to lose weight if you do that.
So keeping the carbohydrates moderately low is a great way to keep your body burning fat. Improving your endurance, you know, if you want to be able to run whether it’s 5k or 50k or 100 miles, if you can improve your ability to burn fat, your endurance is going to go up, your endurance is going to improve, you’re going to be able to run longer, and you’ll be able to run faster as well, you’ll be able to increase your your high intensity running as well.
So this is a pretty simple concept, let’s just increase fat burning, let’s, you know, optimize your body to burn more fat. This is very simple. It’s a simple concept. But people tend to complicate this stuff, right? They over complicate it, they talk about you know you know being going keto or doing carnivore or you know going zero carb and you know, I gotta keep it under 50 grams of carbs every single day all the time.
No matter what this is, we don’t need to worry about a lot of that stuff, right, you can just simply keep your carbs low, stay away from foods that spike your blood sugar, and keep your body in fat burning mode. And if you do that you’re going to be successful with this. Okay.
So there’s lots of benefits to improving your health, including, you know, not just the things that I’ve mentioned above, but some of the other things like lowering your risk for diabetes, improving your blood pressure, lowering triglycerides, improving your cholesterol numbers.
Also, if your goal is to lose weight, a low carb diet can definitely help with that because you’re burning more fat, you’re optimizing your body for fat burning, which is how you lose weight. But also it helps to decrease your appetite. You will feel more full when you do eat. And the reason for this is due to two hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, which when you eat a lot of carbohydrates, that hunger hormone gets over active. And so you tend to be more hungry all the time. Have you ever noticed that if you eat a lot of carbs throughout the day, you’re constantly hungry throughout the day and you feel like you have to keep eating, keep eating, keep eating.
And then if you’ve ever done a super low carb regimen where you’ve stopped eating a lot of the refined carbs and stuff like that, and you’ve gone you know very low carb, you’ll notice that you’re not hungry throughout the day. And it’s much easier to not overeat when you’re not hungry all the time. Right. It just makes it so much easier because if you’re just not hungry, you don’t really feel like eating then you don’t need to worry about overeating because you’re just naturally not going to overeat.
The other hormone, leptin, which controls how full you are when you eat. So when you eat a big load of carbohydrate, like let’s say a big bowl of cereal or oatmeal or something like that, then leptin actually gets deregulated. So it actually is not produced the way that it should be. And so you do not feel full when you eat that.
So you end up overeating that particular food, it’s much easier to overeat carbohydrates than it is to overeat, like protein. Have you ever tried to sit down and eat like two pounds of chicken breast? I’ve tried it, I can’t do it. Like I can eat like maybe like I can sit down and eat up a pound of meat at a time, most of the time.
Chicken is one of those things that I have a really hard time and because it’s just pure protein. And I get to about three quarters of a pound. And I’m just like darn, like, I cannot eat any more. That’s like 12 ounces of chicken and I’m just like totally stuffed. I can’t eat anything else.
But if I sat down to eat, let’s say what is like one of my favorite carbohydrates, sweet treats something like cheesecake. Oh my God, even though that’s like super dense and rich, I can eat a pound of cheesecake, two pounds of cheesecake, no problem at all. Especially if it’s got like caramel sauce on it. And whipped cream. Heck, yeah, I can tear that up.
That’s because those hormones are just jacked up, they don’t, they don’t work the way they’re supposed to. And so all of a sudden, I’m not feeling full, I’m excessively hungry, and I can overeat carbohydrates, whereas, you know, it’s really hard to overeat protein, okay.
So again, there’s a lot of benefits to eating a lower carb diet, you know, also understand there’s tons of benefits for running. So fat is an amazing fuel source for endurance athletes, we all know that. If you’ve listened to this podcast at all, you know, I talk about this a lot. And you have a virtually unlimited supply of fat on board.
And really, it doesn’t even matter your body composition. If you’ve got anywhere, you know, upwards of you know, 6 or 8% body fat you’ve got tons of fat on board to use for fuel for running. So you know, you can run on fat alone for many distances, half marathon, marathon, 50k, 50 mile, 100 miles.
Mike McKnight famously ran 100 miles on zero calories, just to show the world that you can use your own stored body fat as fuel very effectively. And he’s a super small dude and really lean. And so he was able to run 100 miles on fat alone, body fat alone.
And studies have even shown that you can train yourself to burn more fat and perform at even higher intensities. So the common belief is that you know, at some point, you’re going to cross over from fat burning to sugar burning, where you’re going to be burning mostly sugar, and you’re going to stop burning mostly fat and start burning mostly sugar.
And typically this is around 65% of your VO2 max. And this will be for most carb adapted athletes. So if you’re somebody that’s eating a traditional high carbohydrate diet, you’re not fat adapted, meaning your body isn’t burning fat super effectively, then around 65% of your VO2 max is where you’re going to make that crossover.
Well, fat adapted athletes don’t hit that crossover until much later, maybe 80, 90 or 100% of their VO2 max or even over 100% or their VO2 max. So they’re burning fat up to and even over 100% of their VO2 max.
Jeff Browning is an elite Ultra runner who has been tested to burn fat at like 90-95% of his VO2 max. It’s pretty incredible. So that means that you can run at even higher intensities and you’re still just utilizing fat you haven’t crossed over from fat to sugar burning. Right.
And so most of us weekend warriors and, you know, age group athletes or who are out there, you know, we can utilize, we’re probably not going to be running at close to 100% of our VO2 max for any race.
Maybe you would, you know, but just understand that for most age groupers out there, you’re going to be burning mostly fat no matter what you’re doing. So if you’re fat adapted, this is a profound performance enhancer for you. Okay, so all of this is to say that maintaining a low carb diet can have profound performance benefits and profound health benefits for you.
If you want to lose weight, keep your carbs low. If you want to burn more fat, keep your carbs low. If you want to prove your running, keep your carbs low. If you want improve your health markers, you know cholesterol and blood pressure and things like that, keep your carbs low, right?
So the logical conclusion a lot of people come to then is like, Oh, if low carb is good, I’m just gonna go zero carbs, isn’t zero carbs better? Doesn’t this make sense? Like, you know, if low carb as good as zero carbs better? And I’m gonna say like, probably not.
This all depends on the individual. I don’t think so. I don’t think the zero carbs is really right for everybody. I do know some people that have done really well on a carnivore type of diet, maybe zero carbs for a period of time.
Now I’ve done this before, I’ve gone 30, 60 or 90 days, doing like strict carnivore, where I had almost zero carbs, it’s really hard to keep your carbs zero, like you can’t eat vegetables at all, you can’t eat a tomato, you can’t eat anything other than like meat and eggs. Even eggs have a tiny bit of carbs in there, like one or two grams of carbs.
So anyway, it’s hard to do. But I’ve done this for a period of time, and I’ve kept the carbs super low. And there are some benefits to doing that for sure. But I don’t think it’s something that you want to do all the time. Carbs are not the enemy. Okay, carbs can definitely have a place in your diet.
And what low carb means is low carb does not mean the same thing for everybody. But it doesn’t mean zero carbs. Right. So there, there is a spectrum here of where you want to be in the low carb world. Okay. So, carbs are not the enemy, we don’t need to be afraid of carbs, they can definitely have a place in your diet.
And so, for example, if you want to lose weight, and you want to improve your running, in general, and again, this is going to vary for each person. But you might start out pretty low carb, so say like 50 grams a day or so. And you might maintain that for around 30 days, this helps to regulate your hormones, get your blood sugar normalized, helps to reduce cravings for sweet foods and gets your hunger signals working the way they’re supposed to.
Then after 30 days, you might bump that daily carb number up, you might go to 75 or 100 or 150 grams of carbs. And this all depends on you, depends on your metabolism, your calorie requirements, where you are in your training cycle, your particular goals, are you trying to lose a lot of weight? Are you just trying to improve your running? Are you running 5K’s?
Are you running ultra marathons like all these things are going to factor into this, okay? There’s tons of factors involved in this, why you have to kind of experiment with this and you got to test this, why offer coaching, instead of just handing over guidelines to people like I’m even a little leery of throwing these numbers out there because they are not going to work for everyone.
All of this is on a spectrum. And every single person is a little bit different. So I work with you on an individual basis, we look at all of these factors, we come up with some guidelines based on all of these factors. And then we kind of see if it is working or not. And then we continually make minor changes and minor tweaks to get things working properly for you.
Okay, so for me, I vary my carb intake pretty regularly. So some days, I’m pretty low carb, so that might be 30 to 50 grams of carbs. Other days, I might be 100 to 120 grams of carbs. And this all depends on my activity level.
So I look at, you know, what my running schedule is like, what my weightlifting schedule is like, and how much of that carbohydrate that I’m actually going to be utilizing. So if I’m going to be burning the carbs through my workouts, great, I can up the carb intake. But if I’m just going to be a little more sedentary or have an off day or something like that, if I were to keep the carbs, you know, at the higher end of the spectrum 120 grams or something like that, I’ll probably be storing more of that as fat instead of burning it through the workout.
So this is an important distinction because I don’t want to just add a bunch of stored body fat so I want to time the carbs around my workouts and time the carbs with my lifestyle and my activity levels so that I am oxidizing the carbs as well as maintaining them. Oxidation of fat, right?
We don’t want to be shutting down your fat metabolism, your fat oxidation. Eating too many carbs, or the wrong types of carbs, will do this though. So if you eat refined sugars that’s going to shut down fat burning or definitely dampened fat burning. So I tend to gravitate toward whole foods sources of carbs, slow burning types of carbs that will not spike my blood sugar that won’t shut down the fat burning.
So some of the go to’s for me would be sweet potatoes, legumes, fruit, some dairy, things like that. So carbs are not the enemy. And but I would argue that refined carbs like white sugar and white flour are really not good for you. Like, I don’t think they really have a place in the human diet. There’s no real positive health benefits to eating refined white sugars and refined white flowers, right? There’s only negative side effects, there’s only negative effects on your body.
It’s kind of like alcohol, alcohol is not really a health food, it’s not good for you. Right? It’s a poison, but even alcohol in moderation, very strict moderation is okay. You know, it’s not great. It’s not like it’s not good for you. Sugar is not good for you. White flour is not good for you. But every now and then it’s okay.
It’s okay to have a drink every now and then it’s okay to eat a piece of cake every now and then, or have a piece of bread every now and then. It’s like, I’m never going to tell you or even myself that I’m never going to have that stuff again, although I don’t drink so I’m probably never gonna have alcohol again.
But as far as like the white sugar, and the flour and the cake and the cheesecake and things like that, I’m gonna have some of that every now and then. But it’s very sporadic. It’s very sporadic, I do not eat that stuff all the time. So just understand that carbs are on a spectrum, that they’re not the enemy, but you got to maintain the right carb level for you and the right amount of carbs, it’s going to help to help you to reach your weight loss goals, your health goals, your fitness goals, your running goals.
And also, that’s not going to cause damage, right. So we got to be careful with this stuff and got it you know, eat the right types of carbs. So carbohydrates do have a place in our diet. We’ve been consuming carbs for millions of years as human beings. But we’re not, we weren’t consuming the refined and processed carbs, the genetically modified carbs that we have available to us today.
Like back in the day, we used to eat things like bulbs, tubers and berries. We weren’t eating refined white sugar and bread and pasta, like these foods will do a number on our blood sugar and basically shut down fat burning. We didn’t have those kinds of foods available to us.
So the carbohydrates we were consuming, you know, tens of thousands of years ago for millions of years, was a very low glycemic diet and very slow burning types of carbs. Even the fruit we used back then was much different than the modified fruit we have today, which is you know, pure sugar. A lot of it is just really, really high in sugar.
So stick to whole foods, sources of carbs. Think slow burning carbohydrates like root vegetables, temper through, say berries, dairy, like Greek yogurt, legumes like beans, lentils, these types of foods, they will not spike your blood sugar. They’re slow burning carbs, they will help you too. They will help enhance your running performance and they will help to keep you burning fat, which is what you want.
You want to continue to burn fat so you can lose weight. You want to continue to burn fat so you can run faster and run longer and keep that performance edge that you want. Okay, so carbs are not the enemy. You just gotta do it the right way. All right. That’s all I got for you today. Love you all, keep on Running Lean. And I’ll talk to you soon.
I think we all know that eating too much sugar is not good for you. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to all sorts of metabolic dysfunction like high blood pressure, excess weight gain, …
Hey there and welcome to episode 187 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today, why moderating sugar is so difficult. So I think we all know that eating too much sugar is not good for you.
Excess sugar consumption has been linked to all sorts of metabolic dysfunctions like high blood pressure, excess weight gain, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, just to name a few. So the solution is pretty simple. Just don’t eat so much sugar, moderate your sugar intake. Easy, right?
Why does it sound so easy, but is it so hard in practice? Why is moderating sugar so difficult? Today I’m going to take a deep dive into why this is, why moderating sugar is so difficult, and offer up some practical tips to help you take control of those sugar cravings.
But first, why is it so hard to lose weight and keep it off? How many times have you tried and failed? Contrary to what you might think and what most people think there isn’t anything wrong with you, you’re not a failure. There are a few reasons why most people fail at losing weight. Number one, probably you’re not willing to get uncomfortable.
Most people don’t want to experience any type of discomfort, especially when we’re talking about food. The truth is, if you want to lose weight, you have to do things differently. This means embracing a little bit of discomfort, okay, change is uncomfortable.
If you don’t accept that the journey will be uncomfortable and you are setting yourself up for failure. Okay, so you have to understand that you got to get uncomfortable.
Number two, you’re kind of blaming everyone and everybody else for your lack of success. If you go off track, you don’t stick to your plan. You blame someone or something, you know, the boss, the school, whatever it is, you’re destined to fail.
People who fail tend to have a lot of excuses. They have reasons, they have stories, they blame other people for why things don’t work for them, okay? The only one responsible for your actions, though, is you, okay? So don’t blame anybody else. Take responsibility for your successes, and failures, and act appropriately.
Number three, number three, you just give up way too easily. Successful people, they just don’t give up. They keep going no matter what. Even if it’s hard, even if it takes a while. Even if it seems like it’s not working. If you want to succeed at losing weight and keeping it often you have to stop giving up right? You just have to keep going.
Okay, so these are the three things that you need to stop doing. If you want to be successful at weight loss, you know, be willing to get uncomfortable, stop blaming other people, take responsibility, and then don’t give up.
Okay, by the way, if you want help with all of this, I’m here for you, you can always join the Running Lean Coaching Project. That is my unique weight loss coaching program for runners. Just go to runningleancoaching.com/join to learn more.
And if you want a little help, just getting started with all this stuff, I created a cool training program that you can watch for free. It’s like an hour-long training program. It’s called Five Simple Steps To Becoming A Leaner Stronger Runner. Just go to runningleancoaching.com and click on Free Training to find that and get started. Cool.
Okay, so today we’re talking about sugar. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I talk a lot about sugar, a lot about the issues around sugar. And one thing that I’ve stressed is that I think for most people, you know, there’s not one diet that’s going to work for everybody, right?
But I think for most people that reducing and moderating your sugar intake is going to go a long way in helping you to become a healthier human being. It’ll help to, you know, help you to get fat adapted, it’ll help you to increase your endurance, it’ll help you to be burning more fat in general, which gives you more energy throughout the day.
It helps with cravings in general like there’s lots of reasons why we want to moderate our sugar intake. And so we all know this, we all know that we shouldn’t be eating as much sugar. But moderating it is so difficult, right? It’s so hard for so many people to eat some sugar or they stop for a while, then they go back to binging out on it again or whatever.
Why is this? Why is it so hard to moderate sugar when moderating other foods is easy? Like it’s not hard to moderate broccoli intake, right? It’s not hard to moderate chicken intake, or steak or eggs or, you know, brussel sprouts? Why is sugar different? What makes it different?
So I want to answer that question today. And I will, but we have to understand that excess sugar leads to all kinds of issues from a metabolic standpoint, higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes leads to fatty liver disease.
An increased risk for heart attack and stroke like these are serious things. This isn’t like, oh, you know, it, you just shouldn’t eat sugar because it’s, you know, might give you cavities or something. No, these are like some serious issues we’re talking about here.
Okay, so we know eating too much sugar is not good for us. We all know that. It’s hard to moderate, it’s hard to give up. It’s hard to control. So why is this, first of all, and then what can we do about it?
So these are the questions I’m going to answer here today. The first thing I want to mention here is kind of go over, you know, I talk to runners, you’re probably a runner, if you’re listening to this podcast, I want to talk about fat adapted running and what that means.
So when you’re a fat adapted runner, this means that you have just improved your body’s natural ability to burn fat, that is our natural state as human beings to store some of the energy that we get from food as fat and then to be able to burn that energy later on. Okay?
So improved fat burning means that you will improve your running endurance, because fat is a great source of fuel for endurance activities for running and cycling, and swimming, and rowing and all kinds of things, it means that you’ll have improved endurance, improved recovery, running will become easier for you.
But in order to get fat adapted, you have to really lower the amount of sugar that you’re eating, right. Sometimes I tell people to take a break for 30 days, or, you know, just really dramatically reduce your daily intake. And this requires a little bit of a change in lifestyle, right?
You can’t go, you know, eating all the sugar every other day, if you want to stay fat adapted, like you have to lower your sugar intake and kind of keep it low for a while. It’s a little bit different for each person.
I can’t tell you exactly how much you need to lower it and how many days you need to stay there. And when you’re going to raise it, what you need to bring it up to, because it’s a little bit different for each person. But just understand, it doesn’t mean you never eat sugar again, it just means you’ve got to eat less than you’re probably used to.
Okay, so maintaining a lifestyle, a lower sugar lifestyle is what we’re talking about here. If you want to improve your running and you want to stay fat adapted, you’ve got to maintain a sort of a lower sugar lifestyle.
So doing this is challenging, because of all the reasons I’m going to talk about here today. But sugar is so powerful, it is a powerful food substance that makes it very difficult to maintain a lifestyle free from sugar or low in sugar. Okay.
So one of the things that I talk about with people and they want out of my coaching is they want to get fat adapted, and they want to stay that way. They love how they feel when they’re fat adapted, they love how it improves their running, they can run faster, they can run longer, they have this all day energy, they’re sleeping better, their mood is better, like there’s so many good things with being fat adapted that they want to maintain that and they find it difficult because sugar is a powerful thing.
Okay, so and then the other part of this is weight loss. So the other part is if you want to reach your weight loss goals, you’ve got to lower your sugar intake because again, we’re talking about burning fat here, right?
You know, as our natural state as humans, we are good fat burners, we want to, we kind of prefer glucose or sugar as a fuel, but it’s like a paper, it burns very hot, but very quickly, we want to tap into that fat which is more like burning logs.
Fat burns for much, much longer. It doesn’t burn quite as hot so to speak, but it burns much longer. Okay. So we want to tap into that stored body fat as a source of fuel for running but also that’s how you lose weight. You’ve got to burn the fat, right? And again, this requires you to moderate your sugar intake.
So if you want to lose weight, you want to become a fat adapted runner, we’ve got to moderate our sugar intake and just about every doctor and dietitian out there will agree that yeah, this is the case. If you want to lose weight, then you need to moderate sugar intake.
So we have an interesting thing happening here. Burning fat will help you to become metabolically healthier to help you to lose weight, you’ll improve your blood work, you’ll have less inflammation, lower blood pressure, all these things, it also helps improve your running performance running becomes easier, you can go longer, push harder, recover faster, all those things. But it just requires one thing, just moderate sugar intake. Okay, simple.
This is so simple right? Now, there are other things that contribute to becoming healthy and to becoming your healthiest self, you know, you want to stay strong, you got to do resistance training, you got to manage stress, you got to make sure you’re getting quality sleep every night, we got to you know, address mental and emotional health.
But one big lever that we can pull is going to be moderating your sugar intake. Okay, if you want to get your body moving in the right direction, then moderating sugar intake is going to be the biggest, the biggest lever that you can pull to get that started. Okay, simple, right? Simple, but not easy.
So almost every person that I work with tells me that they have a hard time moderating sugar or they have in the past. They’re on point with a lot of other areas of their health and fitness, you know, they’re running is on point they’re doing resistance training, or, and they’re sticking with their training program for their, you know, maybe they’re training for a marathon.
They do the cross training they’re supposed to, and they never miss their workouts like they’re on point with all these areas. But when it comes to sugar, they’re like, oh, yeah, that’s my weakness. That is my weakness. And if this sounds like you just know that it’s super common, you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you.
In fact, it means you’re pretty normal, but if you want to become metabolically healthier, if you want to lose weight, if you want to improve your running, then we’re gonna have to get this whole sugar thing figured out. Okay?
So why is it so hard to moderate sugar? First, you have to understand that there are many factors involved with why we want sugar, why we crave it. There are a lot of different drivers. And I’m going to talk about those drivers here in just a moment.
There are some that are physiological drivers that work on our biology, there are some mental and emotional drivers. And then there’s external drivers. Those are factors that are outside of ourselves that make moderating our sugar intake very difficult.
So I want you to think about each of these drivers as like a gas pedal, like pretend like you are a car and each one of these is like an accelerator. And each one of these increases your craving for sugar. Alright, so here’s what I’m talking about.
The first one is this, the first driver is taste. And the taste of sugar is a powerful driver. We have receptors in our mouth, around our mouth, on our lips, or tongue or soft palate that all scents the sweet taste of sugar.
When we taste something sweet, it sends signals to our brain that we are about to get something sweet. And it increases dopamine, dopamine, and it feels good. And immediately, our craving for sugar is increased.
So this first driver, this first accelerator happens right away. As soon as we taste something that is sweet, our sugar cravings get increased. And we want more sugar right now. And that causes us to want to eat more sugar.
It also causes us to want to eat more food in general. So every time we have this receptor that sends dopamine to our brain about sugar, and it’s saying like, oh, this is a good thing. We want more of this. It also increases our wanting and craving for more food in general. All right. So the first driver is going to be the taste of sugary foods in our mouth.
The second gas pedal that gets pushed here is an increase in our blood sugar and this happens in our gut. So when you eat sugary food this causes your blood sugar to spike and it causes an increase in your blood sugar, which is normal. This increase in blood sugar also sends signals to your brain to release dopamine. And again, your sugar cravings go up and your food cravings go up.
And they’ve done these studies where they’ve fed rats sugary foods. But they’ve removed their taste receptors, so they can’t taste the sweetness of the foods. So they don’t have that sweet taste of the food in their mouth. Just the sugar is just being ingested.
And these rats will eat more sugar because of that, because they’re eating sugar, they’re eating, they want more sugar, and they eat more food in general. All right. This is also the main reason why food companies try to sneak sugar into everything. Even if you can’t taste it. They’re still sneaking sugar into foods.
Because if what you eat causes a higher spike in your blood sugar, you’re going to crave more of that food. And you’re going to want to eat more of that food in particular and more food in general.
And the food companies know this because if you’re eating more of their food, they’re making more money. They don’t care about your health. They care about the bottom line. Okay. So some of the crazy places where they hide food and you wouldn’t really know this. Some of them may taste a little bit sweet like low fat yogurt.
We all know that if you look at yogurt, it’ll say like, oh, low fat yogurt is healthy and good for you. Look at the label, it’s like all sugar. Okay, so be careful of that one, but other ones are a little more sneaky, like pasta sauce. Almost all pasta sauce has added sugar. Look at the label. Other sauces. Almost all condiments have sugar in them. So just be careful.
But this one is weird, like gravy. Why does gravy have sugar in it? Again as to make you crave more of that food. canned soup has a lot of sugar in it. Salad dressings, nut butters, which should be what they should be just nuts. Like you’d grind up some almonds and you make almond butter. But no, they add sugar to that to make it more delicious.
Crackers have a ton of sugar and bread gets added sugar, beef jerky. I love beef jerky, and I go out of my way to find one. I think the brand is Tillamook. And they have a no sugar beef jerky. So, and it tastes delicious, by the way, but you’ve got to be careful of this.
So there’s this other accelerator that’s forcing us to crave more sugar. And it’s happening in our gut and we don’t even necessarily taste the sugar, but it is happening in our gut. And so just understand that those food companies are out there. They’re pushing that accelerator.
Okay, so now we have a car with two accelerators. It’s hard to put the brakes on when you got two accelerators going. Okay, what if you have a third accelerator? All right, well, the third accelerator, the third like gas pedal that’s being pressed here happens in your brain.
And understand that glucose is one of your brain’s preferred fuel sources. The other one is ketones, which are a byproduct of fat burning. Okay, so ketones and glucose, your brain needs about half and half of these in order to function properly.
And so, you know, if you’re somebody that doesn’t eat sugar at all, you’re going to get all the glucose you need because your brain gets the glucose it needs from your liver, your liver will produce glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. And it provides your brain with all the sugar that it needs to function properly.
Ketones get provided when you’re in a fasting state. So anytime you haven’t been eating for about eight hours, you’re burning some fat and you’re producing some ketones and you’re getting all the ketones that you need, we’re all producing ketones to some degree, as long as you’re burning some fat, right.
And this is a natural state for humans to be in, in this sort of fasted state where you’re producing some ketones, right so your brain needs both of these fuels. And so that is another driver that is causing your brain to crave more sugar because when you eat sugar, your brain sees this as oh, this is one of my preferred fuel sources.
And will increase your craving for more sugar and your brain doesn’t really know that too much sugar is bad for you. It just says, oh sugar, we want more of this. And so it turns on this process of craving. So just understand that sugar is one of the preferred fuels for your brain and just having that as a fact is it is a little bit of an accelerator of the craving for sugar.
Okay, so now we have three accelerators right, we have taste, we have an increase in blood sugar, and then we have this preferred fuel source. All three of these things drive our sugar cravings up, they all cause us to eat more sugar and eat more food. In general, people who eat more sugar will naturally want to eat more sugar, and they are prone to eat more food as well.
So if you’re trying to lose weight, and you’re eating sugar, then an increased appetite. And an increased appetite for sugar is going to make losing weight very challenging. So just understand this, right? So we have this car or human person here with three accelerators all going at the same time.
Really increasing our sugar cravings, making us want more and more sugar more and more food in general. So putting on the brakes, and slowing this car down is challenging, right. So these are the three physiological drivers. Okay, there’s a couple other ones I want to mention here, that make it pretty difficult to moderate sugar intake.
So the fourth accelerator, I’m going to call this, I’m going to lump the mental and emotional factors into this fourth accelerator here. So the first thing about the addictive qualities of sugar, this is like the mental cravings that we have for sugar.
So sugar increases dopamine, which makes us feel good. It also causes us to want to eat more sugar, which increases our dopamine even further, eventually, our dopamine baseline gets increased, meaning that you need more and more dopamine just to feel normal again.
So what’s going to get you to feel normal again? Well, eating more sugar, of course, and then this vicious cycle just continues, and it keeps pushing your dopamine levels up. So all the while you’re gaining weight, you’re feeling terrible, because you’re not getting the same effect from the sugar because you’ve increased your baseline, right.
So this is the same cycle that people go through with alcohol and drug addiction. And studies continue to show that sugar is just as addictive as some drugs like cocaine. So you have to understand that this is a powerful mental driver. There is a physiological process going on underneath the covers here, but understand that this is a very powerful mental driver that causes us to want to feel better.
Okay, and it’s the addictive quality of sugar. So just understand, we got to fight against this, these are all things that are kind of working against us here, okay. And don’t worry, I’m going to talk about some things we can do. And just know that there are some solutions here. Okay.
The other one is the emotional side of this. So this is where you use sugar as an emotional management tool or like a coping mechanism, right. And most people do this, most people have used food in some form or another as emotional, an emotional management tool.
Basically, you’ve just trained yourself for decades, that whenever you feel unwanted emotions, that you eat something like you have some chocolate and you’ll feel better. So just unlearning this is a big challenge in itself, just unlearning how to not do this, like not use sugar to manage your emotions can be challenging in itself.
But you really have to learn how to just deal with your emotions. So you know, the process looks like this, you have a difficult emotion, you eat sugar, and you feel a little better immediately. The problem with this though, is it doesn’t last.
There’s a rebound effect, where you actually feel worse, after that Sugar Rush wears off. And you haven’t addressed the emotional stuff that’s actually causing you to feel bad. So you eat more sugar to try to feel good again. And then again, we’re in this vicious cycle of like, not really dealing with our emotions, and we’re, you know, messing up our dopamine baseline and all these things.
So the answer is you’ve got to stop using sugar to manage your emotions. So when you do this, when people stop using sugar as an emotional management tool, then they’ve got to like deal with the emotions, they gotta like, feel bad. That means you’ve got to allow the emotion to be there without doing anything to dull it, or make it go away.
And this process is not comfortable. And it is not fun. But it is very, very powerful. And one of the most powerful things that you can do for yourself. So I want to encourage you to stop managing your emotions with sugar and start dealing with those feelings. Just feel the feelings, right, feel the feelings, let it be uncomfortable. Eventually they go away.
You know, nobody has felt a strong emotion forever. So it will go away. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour, 24 hours, sometimes it takes a few days. But, you know, typically, there’s no emotion that’s going to last forever.
Think about the worst emotions you felt in your life. You know, years and years ago, that, you know, you’ve gotten over. And you haven’t even thought about that for a long time. Okay, so got to stop using sugar as an emotional management tool. So that’s the fourth accelerator that we have causing us to want more sugar and craving more sugar.
And the fifth one, I’m going to call these external forces. So what are these external forces, these are things that are outside of ourselves. One of them is the marketing that food companies do. And I kind of mentioned a little bit of this earlier when they sneak sugar into food, right.
So their whole goal, the food company’s goal is to sell more food. So they just want you to eat more food, so they can sell more food and make more money. That’s it. They know exactly what they’re doing. They know how all these processes work that I just talked about here.
They know all the physiological, mental and emotional drivers causing us to crave food. And they take advantage of all of them. They exploit all of these factors, so that you will eat as much of their junk food as possible.
So your job is to recognize this, know that it is happening, it’s not going to stop on its own. But you have to take control, you have to make better choices. Pretty much just stay away from packaged food, stay away from food with a marketing message behind it, pretty much I mean, read labels, you got to get really good at reading labels, right.
But if most of the food that you eat doesn’t have a label on it, you’re just eating a whole food, like real food that still looks like food, it’s not ground up, it’s not emulsified, it’s not ultra processed, it’s just like a strawberry, a egg, a piece of meat.
Like if you’re just eating eggs, and meat and fish and dairy and fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and all this real food, then you don’t have to worry about any of this. And eating this way doesn’t really ever get boring in my opinion. It’s always fun and delicious, and will improve your health immediately.
So you don’t need all the marketing, you know, they’re gonna tell you that this food is gonna be, it’s gonna change your life, it’s so amazing. But just stay away from all that stuff. Stay away from all that. And you will grow to love eating simple and quote unquote boring foods. It’ll become your new normal.
And then the last part of this, like external forces, would be social pressure. This is like friends and family who, you know, they mean well, but they’ll say things like, oh, well, you know, I just want you to have a good time or, you know, you deserve to live a little, come on. It’s just, it’s okay. It’s just one donut, don’t worry about it.
You know, you deserve it, you’ve been good all week. You know, they want to make you a part of their crappy eating party. You know, they want to make you feel guilty for not eating the dessert that they made.
You know, they tell tell you stuff like you know what sugar is not the problem. You just have to cut your calories. All foods are okay, in moderation. Well, we know that’s not true. Everything I’ve talked about today tells us that, you know, eat not eating sugar in excess is very difficult. Right?
So there’s this social pressure, this peer pressure that will always be there, always gonna be a thing. It’s out of your control, like, you know what people think or say or do around you like you have no control over that. It’s up to you, though, how you respond to it. Okay.
The only thing you could control is your own thoughts, feelings and actions. You can’t control what other people think do or say. So you can’t control them. But you do have control over what you make all that mean about you or not, and how you respond to that.
So I always just smile at people and say like, you know what? You might be right. And when they tell me something like it’s okay, you should have a little or you know, sugar’s okay, you should just live it up.
Just say like, you know what? You might be right. And it just kind of shuts the conversation down right there. You know, it’s not aggressive. I’m telling the truth. I’m like, hey, you know what, you might be right. But at the same time, I’m kind of saying like, also you might be wrong. Okay. Little subtlety there.
But I like this phrase because it immediately diffuses the sugar pushers. Okay. So now we have five accelerators all going at the same time. Right we have taste we have an increase in blood sugar. We have our brain’s preferred fuel source, we’ve got an addictive quality of sugar, we’ve got using sugar as an emotional management tool. We have marketing messages, we have social pressure.
All this can make moderating sugar extremely difficult, right? Do you understand now why putting the brakes on sugar is so hard, you’ve got five accelerators all going at the same time. Okay? But just understanding all of this should help you.
Understanding all of this should help you to start making better choices around food for yourself. And I’m not saying that sugar is bad, or that you should stop eating sugar altogether. You know, listen, life is for living, you should enjoy some foods every now and then. I enjoy a little dark chocolate here and there.
What did I eat recently, I had a piece of cake recently. Which was not really all that good. I’m not a big fan of cake, to be honest with you. Cheesecake on the other hand, love, love, love me some cheesecake. But you have to understand that the cards are stacked against us when it comes to moderating sugar intake.
Sugar is powerful. It’s a powerful substance. Is it a drug man, that’s just let’s just say it’s like a drug. Right? It has the same effect on our bodies and our brains, right? So be armed with this information so you can make better choices around food in your life and around sugar, especially a few suggestions.
Try to avoid the hyper palatable foods. So these are the foods that are overly amazing, right stick to eating whole foods. Stay away from packaged foods. If you’re going to eat food with a package, read the label carefully. Watch out for hidden sugars. Sugar comes in many, many names. I think there’s like 96 different names that they use for sugar in packaging. And they do this to confuse us. They do it so they can hide the sugar.
So understand those 96 names for sugar, and be on the lookout for them. Start learning how to deal with your emotions. Without using sugar to numb yourself to your emotions. Just feel your feelings, right. Learn how to say no to the social pressures around sugar, the peer pressure that you get from others.
And maybe one thing that you can do that tends to help people just kind of reset their brain and their body which is to just take a break from eating sugar, maybe 30 days. 30 days away from sugar can reset your dopamine levels. It can help you to get rid of the cravings that you have for sugar. It can do wonders for you physically, get you burning fat again, and helps with mental clarity. It’ll help with your emotions because now you’ve learned how to start dealing with your emotions.
So maybe a break is an order of always if you want help with any of this stuff, reach out I got you okay. That’s all I got for you today here. I hope you got something out of this episode. Love you all, keep on Running Lean and I will talk to you soon.
I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on human metabolism and I’ve noticed a lot of inconsistencies in the data available. There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about metabolism, especially …
Hey there, and welcome to episode 186 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today, Demystifying Metabolism. So I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on human metabolism.
And I’ve noticed a lot of inconsistencies in the data that’s available out there. There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about metabolism, especially when it comes to you know people who want to lose weight.
So today, I want to take some time to address some of the most common myths and misconceptions around human metabolism. I did an entire episode on Fixing Your Metabolism that was Episode 141. So you can definitely check that one out.
I won’t be rehashing all of that here today. Today, I’m going to focus on demystifying metabolism. So you can separate fact from fiction and make better choices to improve your overall health and fitness.
But first, if you’re anything like most runners, you’re probably really good at being an endurance badass. You’re amazing at getting out there pounding out the miles on the roads or on the trails. But when it comes to being strong, if you’re like most runners, you probably fall a little bit short.
Building and maintaining strength is essential to improving your running performance and your overall health and hitting your weight loss goals. But most runners just don’t do it or they just don’t do it well.
So building strength is probably the second biggest driver when it comes to improving your body composition after nutrition. So if you want to lose fat and gain muscle, you have to be doing some sort of resistance training regularly because lean runners are strong runners.
So some of the benefits that you will experience, if you participate in some sort of regular resistance training, you’ll lose more weight and faster, you’ll be at a much lower risk of injury from running, your endurance will improve, you can actually run longer before you get fatigued, you will run faster, your power to weight ratio goes up making you a more powerful runner.
And evidence has shown that you actually live longer. People that do regular strength training tend to live longer than those who don’t. So it’s one of the best things you can do for your overall health and fitness and to change your body composition is to get stronger. Regular strength training will help you burn more fat and gain lean muscle the more weight you lose, you’ll run more injury free you’ll be able to run longer and run faster and live longer.
All these things are amazing. If you want to learn exactly how to become a stronger, faster, leaner runner, join the Running Lean Coaching Project. That is my unique weight loss coaching program for runners. Just go to runningleancoaching.com/join to learn more about that.
And if you just want a little help getting started with all this stuff, I’ve got this great training program that I put together, you can watch it for free, it’s called Five Simple Steps To Becoming A Leaner Stronger Runner. Just go to runningleancoaching.com and click on Free Training to get started.
Alright, let’s talk about demystifying metabolism. So I want to start with what is metabolism? So metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body that keep your body alive and functioning.
It’s also responsible for converting nutrients from the foods that you eat into fuel. So this provides your body with the energy it needs to breathe and move, digest foods, circulate blood, repair damaged tissues and cells and so much more.
So the faster your metabolism is, the more calories your body tends to need. Metabolism is the reason why some people can eat a lot without gaining weight while others seem to need less to accumulate fat. The speed of your metabolism is commonly known as your metabolic rate or resting metabolic rate.
It’s the number of calories you burn in a given amount of time, okay, and some people talk about it as calorie expenditure. So, the first myth I kind of want to address here is that metabolism is not just about calories. So many people consider metabolism only under the scope of calories and weight.
And you know, for the most part we are talking about that, but you have to understand that metabolism encompasses all chemical reactions in the body, from absorption of light to the creation of usable ATP energy to body temperature regulation to hormone production to balance of fluids and hydration in the body to your circadian rhythm and so much more.
So if it’s a function of the body, it’s likely to be related to metabolism in some way or another. Okay, so just understand that metabolism is about a lot more than just burning calories.
Okay, the next myth I wanted to address is that eating more often will increase your metabolism. So eating small, frequent meals throughout the day will help boost your metabolism. And the idea is pretty simple. Because whenever we eat food, our body does burn some calories to break the food down to absorb the nutrients. This is called the thermic effect of food.
So if we are constantly eating, wouldn’t our bodies constantly be burning calories? It just doesn’t quite work that way. Okay, so eating small meals throughout the day may help you with portion control, but it doesn’t really speed up your metabolism.
Researchers have studied people eating six meals a day compared to people eating three meals a day, and they found that there really wasn’t any difference in a 24 hour fat oxidation rate. So this is one measure of metabolism, okay.
They actually found that people that eat more often throughout the day, have increased feelings of hunger and tend to eat more in general, okay. So understand that there is a temporary boost in your metabolic rate when you’re eating food, all right.
But eating six small meals over the course of a day isn’t really going to cause any kind of overall increase in your metabolism. In fact, it’s going to probably cause you more hunger, and cause you to eat more food overall. Okay, so eating more often does not increase your metabolism.
Another big myth that a lot of people adhere to is that your metabolism slows down as you get older. And this is sort of true, but I want to break this down, so you fully understand what this means. Okay, so a lot of people will just say, well, I’m older, and so my metabolism has slowed down.
And you can pick any age, and people will tell me this, because I talk to people all the time in their 40s 50s 60s 70s, whatever. And they just tell me, oh, yeah, my metabolism, my metabolism has slowed down. So I tend to put on more weight.
Okay, so they’ve done some studies recently in like 2021. And they’ve shown that this is not really the case, okay. So the rate at which your body burns energy, your metabolism is thought to decline during middle age as people gradually lose muscle mass, okay.
So they did a study where they looked at total energy expenditure, including energy burned at rest, to perform basic functions like digesting food as well as energy burned during physical activity. And they looked at like 6400 people ranging in age from eight days old to 95 years old, okay, they looked at their height, their weight, their body fat percentage. So they calculated average metabolic rates for men, women and different people in different age groups.
And the data indicated that there were some differences in metabolism based on four distinct periods in people’s lives. So the first is from infancy to one year old, this is where your metabolic rate surge is, okay? It was about 50% higher than it will be during adulthood.
So this is a huge surge in your metabolism, which makes sense. You’ve just been born, you got to, you know, grow bones and get a big brain and all these things, your metabolism is super high during that first year of life, okay. Then, from age one to age 20, this is like the second period that we’re talking about here. Your metabolism decreases by about 3% a year. Okay, so your metabolism is actually decreasing from one until you hit age 20.
But then, from age 20 to age 60, they’ve shown that your metabolism really doesn’t change. It stays pretty consistent. Okay. After age 60, and this is the fourth period, metabolism decreases by 0.7% annually, which is not insignificant, but it’s not as much as people think. Okay.
So infancy to one year old, your metabolism is surging, it’s about 50% higher than it will be during adulthood from one to 20 when it decreases by about 3% a year. From 20 to 60 doesn’t change. And then after 60, it decreases by around 0.7% annually.
And something interesting about this is that there are ways to actually prevent that deep annual decrease after age 60. And it’s more likely changes in lifestyle, like eating the proper diet, staying active and maintaining lean muscle mass all have positive effects on your metabolism after age 60.
So even though the data is saying like, oh, you know, the average tends to be a 0.7% annual decrease after age 60, you can still offset that by resistance training by staying active. And by eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercise and good relationships. And all that stuff helps do good mental health helps with all that stuff, too.
Okay, the other myth that’s sort of correlated with this is that menopause causes your metabolism to slow down. And so many women talk about this, that, oh, you know, I’ve hit menopause. And so I’m just gonna, I’ve just gained a bunch of weight. So we’re talking about perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, just understand that the same principles apply, as you get older.
You know, so they did the studies on men and women, and from ages, you know, all the way up to 95 years old. So lots of menopausal women and postmenopausal women. So just going through menopause does not mean you’ll automatically gain weight, whether you are a male or female, whether you’re going through menopause or not.
As you get older, you know, you need to stay active, get good sleep, maintain muscle mass, practice healthy eating habits, get in plenty of protein, that kind of stuff, and you should keep your metabolism going pretty well. Okay, regardless of menopause or age. Cool.
I know that was a big one. A lot of people don’t understand that. And these are pretty new studies. So this is good data that’s coming out here. Love this. Right. Alright, the next myth I want to address is that active people have higher metabolisms.
Okay, so this one is sort of true and false. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna start with why it’s sort of true. So, exercise will temporarily increase your metabolism, but it only lasts about a day or so. Okay, so you might think, oh, yeah, well just exercise every day. And that’ll keep your metabolism going. And that’ll raise your metabolism.
And yes, that’s kind of true, it will. But you have to understand that, you know, your body also needs enough rest and recovery. And if you don’t give your body enough rest and recovery, you are going to chronically elevate stress hormones in your body, you’re going to put your body into this state of chronic stress. And that will actually slow your metabolism down.
So I do know people who love to do these running streaks, and they run three or five, five miles every day, no matter what, and they never give themselves a rest. I’m a little concerned that they’re constantly in a state of stress and slowing their metabolism down.
I’ve told the story about a client of mine who was running at least five kg every day for something like seven straight years and gained about 50 pounds in the process. That shows me that running every day does not really increase your metabolism all that much. Or maybe putting yourself in a state of chronic stress is doing the opposite, having the opposite effect that you know that slight gain in your metabolism has okay.
And this is one of the reasons why I say you can’t outrun a bad diet because exercise alone isn’t going to move the needle that much from a metabolism standpoint. Okay. So, interesting studies they have done on Hadza hunter-gatherers in Tanzania.
So these are groups of people who are very lean, very active, very active people. And it was always thought that their resting metabolic rate was much higher than the typical, you know, American, or whatever. And it turns out that they’re burning about the same number of calories that we do per day.
So Hadza men and women, they walk like four to seven miles a day. They hunt wild game, they harvest honey, they’re digging for tubers, they’re picking berries, they’re fetching water and firewood. They get more activity in a day than the standard American gets in a week.
And surprisingly, the researchers have found that the Hadza don’t burn more calories than the average adults in the US and other industrialized countries. Hadza men burn about 2500 calories a day, Hadza women it’s about 1900. This tracks perfectly with what we know here in the US like what the average Americans, men and women burn per day, the resting metabolic rate.
So, it appears that human energy expenditure is pretty tightly controlled, right? The human body seems to adjust to physical activity by saving energy saving calories on other physiological processes to keep total energy expenditure in check. So your body’s really good at maintaining homeostasis.
And if you’re used to burning 2500 calories, you know, it doesn’t matter how much more activity you’re doing, it’s going to slow some things down. So you’re constantly just burning that 2500 calories. It’s just something interesting to think about. Because being more active isn’t really going to increase your overall metabolism.
Like I said, it does increase your metabolism for a short period of time. Another thing to keep in mind about this is that most of the energy that you burn in a day is really from your resting metabolism, your resting metabolic rate.
So there are three main ways that your body burns energy or uses energy each day. So there’s your resting metabolic rate, your basal metabolism. So this is energy used for your body’s basic functioning, while you’re at rest, you’re sitting on the couch, your body is actually just burning calories. Cool, right?
You can sit there and watch Netflix and know that your body is burning, you know, let’s say it’s around 2500 calories a day. So you know, let’s say it’s just around 100 calories an hour. Cool. Okay, you can go for a run, or you can sit on the couch watching Netflix, and you’re burning about the same amount of calories. So just understand that.
And then number two, the energy, there’s energy used when you break down foods. So this is called the thermic effect of food. I talked about this earlier, when you ingest food, your body actually has to use energy to digest that food. And the thermic effect of food is highest when you’re eating protein.
So you’re going to burn more calories when you eat protein than when you eat carbohydrates and fat. And then thirdly, there’s energy that you use in physical activity. So you have your basal metabolic rate or your resting metabolism, you have the energy used to break down food thermic effect of food, T.F. And then there’s energy used during physical activity.
Your resting metabolism, though, accounts for a huge amount of the total calories you burn each day. Physical activity accounts for about, let’s say about 20% and your resting metabolism. It counts for like 60 to 80% of your total energy. And that digesting of food is just about 10%.
Okay, so think about this. 60 to 80% of your total energy each day is just your resting metabolism, okay. So just understand that when it comes to, you know, trying to outrun your diet or trying to out exercise to get your metabolism, you’re still going to be not really doing much, you’re not moving the needle much compared to what your resting metabolic rate looks like. Okay, all right.
Next myth is that thin people just have naturally faster metabolisms. And this is just not true. So it actually takes more energy for a larger body to function compared to a smaller body. So an overweight person tends to have a faster metabolism than a thin person.
Very overweight people tend to burn way more calories at rest. And they tend to lose weight much faster compared to leaner individuals. So it takes more energy to carry more mass even if, let’s say you kept to people with different body weights and you kept them in bed for an extended period of time.
The heavier person will just have a higher resting metabolic rate just based on their size alone, okay? Also understand that body composition does matter here. Okay, so at a given body weight, someone with a higher amount of lean mass, so lean mass is your connective tissues, muscle and bone.
You really can’t change bone size, you really can’t change your connective tissue size that I’m aware of. But you can control muscle size, okay? So your lean mass, really the one thing that we can concentrate on and actually physically change is our muscle mass. So somebody with a higher amount of muscle mass will burn more calories than someone with less muscle mass.
So think of an athlete and a non athlete with identical body weights, the athlete with a more muscular physique will actually have a higher metabolism. So carrying more lean muscle actually increases your metabolism, this is a good thing.
Similarly, a lean muscular person who weighs 120 pounds, and has a healthy amount of lean mass will have a relatively fast metabolism. But another person who weighs the exact same amount 120 pounds, who has more fat will actually have a slower metabolism.
Okay, so increasing muscle mass is a great way to naturally increase your metabolism. And that’s one of the reasons why I talk about strength training so much. If you’re somebody that wants to, you know, lose weight, improve your body composition, get stronger, improve running, all those things, definitely want to focus on strength training, resistance training to build muscle and build lean muscle.
Okay, next myth, your metabolism cannot change because it’s just genetic. So, understand that your resting metabolism is likely genetic, but you can change your metabolism, you can increase your lean muscle mass, like we just talked about.
Muscle burns more calories at rest, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t want to take responsibility, they don’t want to do the work to improve their metabolism by doing something like resistance training, because it takes some work, it takes some time to get stronger to grow muscles. Okay?
So genetics is at play here, it does provide a predisposition for metabolism. But environmental and lifestyle habits will actually have a positive effect on your metabolism, right. So it doesn’t matter the genes that you’re provided with, it’s always within your ability to improve your metabolic function, and to not necessarily let those genes express themselves to their fullest extent.
Okay, and then this leads me to the last myth I want to talk about today, which is that we can’t control our metabolism. So it’s easy to just blame your metabolism when you’re having trouble losing weight or something like that.
But studies have shown that we do have more control over our metabolism than we previously thought. Some stuff like strength training, getting good quality sleep each night helps to improve your metabolism, reducing stress, drinking more water, consistent resistance training, especially as you get older, building more lean muscle will help with that. Eating less often, these are things we’ve talked about here today.
Maybe just eat two or three times a day, eating enough food each day making sure that you’re getting enough quality protein each day, all these things can help to keep your metabolism going and could lead to improvements in your metabolism even as you get older. Okay.
And then the last thing I’m going to talk about here is, you know, we’re talking about metabolism and burning calories, but we have to think about what we are burning, what calories are we burning, you know, what is the substrate that we are burning?
And eating a diet high in sugar and carbs means that you’re mostly burning glucose, glycogen, sugar and carbs. Okay? If your goal is to lose weight, this is going to make it kind of difficult for you. Losing weight means you want to be burning mostly fat.
So when you ditch the sugar, you ditch the carbs and you get fat adapted, you train your body to be really good at burning fat. This means that you will burn more fat during exercise, but also at rest. So the factors that affect how your metabolism functions, that I’ve talked about here today, can increase either carbohydrate metabolism or fat metabolism.
Obviously, we want to increase our fat metabolism. So as an endurance athlete who also wants to lose fat, you want to increase your fat oxidation. The typical runners’ diet of all the sugar and carbs is probably not going to get you there. Okay. Your body always wants to prioritize that carbohydrate and glucose metabolism.
So ditch that stuff, get your body burning fat. That is the first step. That way when you do increase your metabolism, you will naturally be burning more fat, which is good. Burning fat is how you lose weight. Burning fat is how you improve your endurance as a runner.
Cool. I hope this has been helpful. That’s all I got for you today. Love you all, keep on Running Lean and I’ll talk to you soon.