One of the most confusing topics in the health and fitness world today is…what should I eat? There is just so much noise out there on social media, in the news, and even on podcasts. And almost …
169. What Should I Eat?
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 169 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners and today, what should I eat? One of the most confusing topics in the health and fitness world today is what should I eat?
There’s just so much noise out there on social media, in the news, even on podcasts. And almost every one of the principles someone says you need to follow is contradicted by some other principle that someone else says you need to follow. And just about every person that I talked to tells me how frustrating all of this is. And honestly, it’s probably the number one reason why I do what I do.
I became a coach to help you navigate around all the BS, and figure out exactly what you should eat and shouldn’t eat, so that you can achieve your own personal weight loss and running goals. So today, I’m gonna explain why what’s out there in the media is so confusing and what you should do instead.
And by the end of this episode, you should have a much better understanding of the complexity of the question, what should I eat? And I have a few simple steps you can take right away to help you get started on your own weight loss journey. But first, losing weight, getting stronger, running faster; all of these things require a high level of commitment, not a half-assed “I’m sort of in sort of out” type of commitment, but an “I’m all in no matter what” type of commitment.
Because whether you’re fully committed or not, your own health and fitness journey will be riddled with challenges, you might progress slowly or your progress might be minimal. You might lose motivation. You might slip back into old habits or behaviors. You know, you might have a really bad run or you might gain a few pounds, whatever, these things will happen.
If however, you’ve made a real commitment, none of these things will really matter. Most people don’t do this though. Most people come face to face with one of these challenges and they just quit. They give up. In order to get through this tough stuff, you have to have a solid commitment and then you have to recommit to your goals daily.
When you make a daily recommitment to accomplishing your goals, you stay laser focused, you stay motivated, you keep making progress, you gain massive confidence in yourself. So a couple things I want you to consider. Two questions I want you to ask yourself, number one, what are your goals? And then two, how are you recommitting to these goals today?
And if you’re looking for a little help setting goals and staying committed, join us in the Running Lean Coaching Project where we’re all about supporting each other to accomplish big goals. Okay, just learn more at runningleancoaching.com/join.
Okay, arguably one of the biggest questions I get is, what should I eat even with the people that I’m working with my coaching clients, we talk about this extensively, especially at the beginning. Why? Because there’s so much freaking confusing information out there. Sugar is good. Sugar is bad. Carbs are fine. Don’t eat carbs, keto, carnivore, low carb, no carb, all carb Mediterranean, South Beach, vegan, paleo, plant based, Whole 30. And on and on and on, right?
What are you supposed to do with all of this? Which one of these diets is going to work for you? Seriously, like which one? Do you know? How do you know? How do you know if you choose the right one? And then people will say well, you know, this study came out recently that says an insert diet here. Insert diet here will kill you, whatever that is, you know?
There are some things we have to understand when it comes to these studies that we see out there. Sometimes these studies are pretty poorly done. And they make the news anyway. You got to look at a couple of things like number one, how many people are in the study? How long did they do the study?
Is it a randomized controlled trial or is it just a what they call an observational study where they just ask people some questions? You know, are they actually like monitoring these things directly? Who paid for the study? Big food, Coca Cola, some big pharmaceutical company, you’ve got to like look into that kind of stuff too.
Okay, so recently there was a couple of studies, I’m going to call out a couple of these because I want to show you what I’m talking about here. There were a couple of studies that came to my attention. One of them was a study they did on one of the sugar alcohols, so it’s a sugar substitute called erythritol. And, you know, I’ve eaten this stuff before, it’s okay. I don’t really do much of it anymore. It doesn’t really agree with me too much.
But the headline said this, “Zero calorie sweetener linked to heart attack and stroke, study finds.” So this was the CNN Headline. And I was like, wow, that sounds terrible, like a big attention grabbing headline, right? Basically, you’re gonna die if you eat erythritol, okay, or some other sugar substitute, so I looked into this a little bit.
And the actual study, and I use that term loosely, was done on eight people, eight people who were eating erythritol, and they were eating the amount that can be found in a pint of low carb ice cream, or like, no sugar ice cream, okay. Kind of a lot, but you know, whatever, but it was eight people, okay.
And then this was kind of buried in the text of the article. It said, “And while the study found an association between erythritol and elevated cardiovascular risk, it did not prove that the compound itself causes strokes and heart attacks. The study includes observational research that requires further validation.”
So if you read the actual article, it will tell you that this doesn’t prove anything. But we see this headline, and CNN puts this headline out there, and they’re just trying to get clicks, right? They’re selling advertising, they want to get clicks, they put these sensational headlines out there.
But if you’re somebody who’s trying to find a good, you know, sugar substitute and erythritol, has been shown to be fine up until whatever this study on these eight people, eight people, really? That’s a study? I just don’t understand how you can call it a study with eight people.
There was another one that several of my clients brought this to my attention, because we do kind of a lower carb approach, typically, for most people. Now, it’s not what everybody does, but we typically don’t eat a ton of carbs. Some people like to go a little lower carb and do things like keto, carnivore or whatever, which is fine, if that’s what you want to do. But I’m not trying to say like you have to do this or that. But the program that I teach is not about any particular diet. And I’ll get more into that in a second.
But there was a study that said, and here’s the headline on like Fox News or whatever, “Keto diets could increase risk of heart attack and stroke, says news study.” So the things you have to understand about this study, is it says the participants self-reported their food intake via a questionnaire at only one point in time, which could impact accuracy. With only one day of food choices reported, there could be a lot of variation as to what diet these subjects actually followed on an ongoing basis.
Again, you’ve got to read through even the news article, if you just read the actual news article, it basically says these people reported one day of food choices, right? One, one day, one day.
And somebody replied to this with a comment that I thought was really good. And I’ll just read what they said. They said this quote, unquote, study was a really poorly done observational study of 305 people. So 305 people is a very small study group, okay, but better than eight, right?
They gave them a one time 24 hour food survey. That’s right. They asked them what they ate over the last 24 hours. And that was it. That was the quote unquote, study. Okay. And then here’s the part that doesn’t make any sense at all. They labeled anyone eating less than 25% of calories from carbs, and more than 45% from fat, they labeled them the Keto group. Yeah, so 3000 calories a day. That’s up to 187 grams of carbs a day. That is like 10 times what typically people say is Keto. Okay.
So basically, the group that they’re calling Keto is a high fat, high carbohydrate diet is what they were actually doing. Okay? So labeling something like this as dangerous is irresponsible, in my opinion. Now I’m not saying like, oh, keto is amazing and everybody should do it. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But we have to look at these studies, and really like read not just the article, but even go into the study itself and look at who’s funding the study. How many people were they really talking about? Was it eight people? Can you actually publish data on a study done with eight people? I guess you can, right.
But calling this high carb, high fat diet keto, having test subjects report on one day’s worth of food, is this really a study? No, this is an abomination. This is like, this is fleecing us. It’s fleecing. It’s whoever’s writing these things, or doing these studies has some kind of an agenda to make this stuff more confusing for us. Right? So.
Okay, my point with telling you all this, is to say that making a decision about what you should eat can be challenging, and confusing, and somewhat stressful. And by the way, I’ve tried all these things. You know, before I’ve tried all these diets that I mentioned before, you know, the Whole 30, and the vegan and the whatever. I tried all this different stuff until I finally figured out what works for me. And what I’m doing today doesn’t look like any one of those particular diets, right?
The best study that you should follow is the study of one. And that’s you what works for you, you need to figure that out, you need to figure out what actually works best for you. And if what you’re doing improves your health, helps you to lose weight, makes you feel amazing, improves your running; but it doesn’t line up perfectly with some rando study out there. Don’t worry about it, right?
You know, if you’re getting good markers from your doctor, and like everything is looking good, and you’re feeling good, you’re losing weight, don’t worry about it. You do you, okay? So I just wanted to frame this conversation, like there’s a lot of confusing and a lot of misleading information out there.
And what people come to me and they say is, “just tell me what to eat”. So here’s where I’m going to give you like the bad news, okay? Because no one can do this. Not really, ethically, right? Because there’s no dietician, or nutritionist or doctor out there, that’s going to be able to tell you what you should eat and what you shouldn’t eat, and know for sure 100% certainty that this is going to work for you no matter what. No one, right? Including me. And you just have to accept this fact. Okay, so I just want to start there.
You’re asking, a lot of people are asking, for someone to just tell them what they should eat, and what’s gonna work for them and work forever. And it just doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t. The human body is a complicated organism. With a lot of interconnected systems, we’re not steam engines where the amount of energy we put out is exchanged exactly for the amount of energy we put in, it’s not like that it’s not all about calories in calories out, there’s a lot more going on. Okay.
We’re all very different individually, we’re fundamentally different from each other, which is good. This is a good thing. As humans, we are all unique. And this is beautiful, we all have our own goals. For example, some of us want to lose weight, some of us want to gain muscle, get stronger, fit into our clothes again, see our abs again. Look better by the pool or look better by the beach, or run a faster marathon or run an ultra marathon or just run. Or just feel better about ourselves, have more energy, not feel so bloated all the time, whatever, we all have our unique goals.
And your goals will influence how you structure your particular nutrition plan. Okay, so that’s one factor we have to think about. Another factor is that we all have a unique metabolism. Some of us can eat more processed food, some of us can eat more sugar and we still like lose weight or we don’t gain weight. Some of us like me, if I just smell pizza, I gained a few pounds.
I’m very carbohydrate sensitive. When I eat carbs, I gain weight, so I keep my carb intake pretty low. And I had this friend some years ago, who was a small guy, he was probably like 140 pounds soaking wet. He was a short guy, thin guy. He never exercised, he never ran, he didn’t lift weights, he didn’t do anything like that.
But this little guy could eat more food than anybody I’ve ever seen. More bread, and pasta, and cake and sugar and whatever. And this guy never gained an ounce, ever. He just stayed the same. So is he a freak of nature? I don’t know, maybe I was always jealous. I’m like, dude, I would try to keep up with him eating and I would just gain weight like crazy.
So, your unique metabolism will make a huge difference in what works for you and what doesn’t work for you, some of us have to be a little more conscious of things like sugar and in, you know, refined carbohydrates and things like that, right? Okay, so we all have a unique metabolism that we have to factor in here, we all have our own genetics, like genetics does play a part in your, you know, weight loss, or, you know, your ability to, let’s say, you know, metabolize carbohydrates and things like that.
But it’s not the whole story, because many people have the gene for obesity, but they don’t become overweight, right. So your genetics might play a part here. And we have to kind of factor that in as well. And then we have things like cultural influences, right? Sometimes your family of origin and the culture you grew up in will dictate some foods that you eat and some foods that you definitely need to avoid. And we have to factor this into the equation as well, right.
And then we have our own likes and dislikes. Some people love Brussels sprouts, others hate Brussels sprouts, some people prefer mostly like an animal based diet and other people are more like on the vegetarian side of things. So your personal food preferences, your personal likes and dislikes have to play a part in this equation as well. Right? Because if you don’t like the food that you’re eating, you won’t stick to the plan.
I don’t care how great you think the plan is. If you don’t like it, you’re not going to stick with it, it’s not sustainable for you, right? So it has to be a consideration. Other things that we need to consider is like how much food should you be eating? How often should you eat? What should your particular macronutrient breakdown look like? Like how much fat, protein, carbs should you be getting? What should that breakdown look like?
Your hydration, your supplements, electrolytes, all kinds of stuff, right? So all those factors right there. Just think about those factors, there’s probably some I’m not thinking of right now. But all those factors right there, create a super unique plan that doesn’t really follow any one of those diets that I mentioned before. There is not one diet out there, that is going to hit all of those things perfectly for you. Or if it does, that’s pretty rare and pretty amazing.
And so do that, if that works for you, whatever. But pretty much no quote unquote, like fad diet or whatever out there is going to be the perfect plan for you out of the gate. It just isn’t, you know, some of this stuff may be a good place to start. Okay, start with Whole 30 or whatever feels good to you. Start with like paleo, maybe and then go from there. You know, you can add in more vegetables or more fruit, or maybe you do more carbs or fewer carbs, whatever.
The number one reason why I am a coach is to help you navigate all this stuff and put together a plan that’s actually made for you. And that works for you. Is it going to be keto or carnivore or vegan or paleo or Whole 30? Probably is going to include some aspects of some of these things, or all of them, but it’s not going to be one of those. Right?
So you’re probably thinking right now like, great, so you can’t tell me what I should eat then, right? Yeah, that’s exactly right. Because I can’t, even with my coaching clients, they have to fill out like a food questionnaire, I need to see like kind of where they’re coming from today. That way, we can start moving them in the right direction, right?
So they fill out a questionnaire of like, what does a typical day look like for you? What kinds of foods do you like? What kinds of foods do you not like? And then we get into some conversation about what their goals are and what they’re trying to accomplish with all of this. Right?
So and then we start them out on a plan and I have some frameworks that I can use some blueprints that we can use to get you started. But as we go, we keep track of things, right. This is the beauty of coaching, by the way, because it’s a feedback system. So if the plan is working, then we can like layer on the next step. And if that continues to work, okay, cool, then we kind of move on to the next step, and so on.
But if anywhere along this process, things stop working, we need to address those things, we need to find out why they’re not working. And then we need to make some corrections here. And this is where the custom plan that does work for you really begins to take shape. Right, it’s not some cookie cutter program, you know that you bought a book and read it, and then that’s what you’re going to do, and it’s going to work for you, you know.
And then all my clients, they don’t all do the same thing everybody does, that does something a little bit different, because we factor in all these different things, okay. But I don’t want to leave you hanging here today, I do want to give you some general guidelines to get you started on this, because there are a few things that pretty much work for most people, not everybody, but pretty much work for most people.
So I’m gonna give you a couple of places where you can start. And I think this will start moving you in the right direction, whether you’re trying to gain muscle, lose weight, improve your running, all of these kind of apply across the board. And this is generally where I start with, with most people I work with, again, everybody’s so different, we have to like, create a custom plan for each person. But here’s some things that you can do.
Number one, you’ve got to start with where you are. And the way you kind of figure out where you are is to do a detailed food inventory, like what are you eating. So you got to write this stuff down, like you got to keep track of what you’re doing right now. That means write everything down, you can write it down in a notebook, write down on a piece of paper, write a note on your computer, write on your phone.
There are apps that will help you track all this stuff. So you can actually see detailed data of like macros and things like that, My Fitness Pal, Carb Manager, Lose It. Those are three apps that all work to help you enter your food and keep track of what you’re doing. So step one is just what are you doing? Right? And it’s important that you track everything every BLT – bite, lick, taste, track everything.
And this first step might surprise you. Because you might start to notice some trends. Oh, I do notice that I do like snack on a bunch of junk food at the same time, every day, I really didn’t realize I was doing that. Or I’m eating like, you know, 10 times a day, is that normal? What’s up with that?
Or, boy, I sure eat a lot of these meals. So just keep track of what you’re doing. That’s step number one, you’ve got to find out where you’re starting, because you can’t change it if you don’t know where you’re starting from. Okay, so step number one, track everything. Do this for, I don’t know, a week or so that’s probably enough time to gather enough data. So you can kind of see, that’ll get you through a work week and through the weekend.
And if you want to do longer, that’s fine. But I think a week is a good amount of time to track just to see like where you are with all this stuff. Okay. A lot of times just being aware of what you’re doing is enough to elicit change. You know, this might inspire you to take some action that you didn’t even think about before you started tracking. So definitely track. Okay.
And then the next thing and the next easiest step is to eliminate a couple things, okay. And there’s a few things that I think work for most people if we can eliminate these three things. The most problematic for most people are going to be sugar, refined grains and seed oils. Seed oils are things like canola oil, and anything labeled like vegetable oil, corn oil. Refined grains are flours, you know, soy flour, if you just eliminate sugar, flour, and refined I’m sorry, sugar, flour and seed oils, you’re going to eliminate a huge, the three biggest contributors to metabolic dysfunction in the human body.
Okay, so most people can eliminate these things safely. My suggestion is try to eliminate these three things and see how you feel. My guess is that you’re going to feel better, pretty quickly. One caveat, if you give up sugar and you do this, like kind of cold turkey or like, Oh, I’m just gonna like give up sugar. You might experience a little headache or lightheadedness. This is normal. This is like withdrawal from sugar. Okay?
So make sure you’re drinking enough water, get enough electrolytes and you’ll you’ll do fine. You need to increase your salt intake a little bit when you when you stop eating sugar. Okay, so that’s kind of step number two first step just track everything for a little while. Try eliminating these three problematic foods and see how you feel.
All right now, after a week or two of doing that, like no sugar, no refined grains, no seed oils, you might layer in the next step would be like maybe stop snacking. Snacking is never a need for fuel. It’s never a need for like a whole meal. It’s always some emotionally driven event. So you’re bored, or you’re tired, or you’re stressed out, or you’re anxious, or you’re lonely or whatever. And these are all emotions. And snacking is just a way of dampening these negative emotions, right?
Eat, and you feel better, works like magic. And you do feel better for a minute, until the effect of that food wears off. And then you feel like crap again, right. And what are you snacking on? My guess is it’s not the Brussels sprouts, right? It’s probably chips, and cookies and crackers, and pretzels and leftover pizza, all the carbage By the way, pretty much all these snack foods out there are made with three ingredients sugar, refined grains and seed oils. So if you’re not eating that stuff, then snacking is pretty much like off the table anyway, right?
Okay, so these steps right here, these three steps, track everything. eliminate those three problematic foods, stop snacking, they’re very simple, right, but they’re also powerful. They will definitely get you started on your weight loss journey and help you get fat adapted. So not eating all the sugar and junk food will help your body turn to stored body fat as fuel and you’ll adapt to being a more efficient fat burner. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to do what?
That’s right, you got to burn fat. And the right nutrition plan should do two things. It should help you regulate your blood sugar and help you burn fat and help you become a fat burning machine. Okay, so those are some things you could do to get you started. And if you ever want help with all this, if you want to make all of this way easier, join the coaching project, we’ll put together a custom plan that works for you and gets you to that most badass version of yourself. Just head over to runningleancoaching.com/join to learn more. Cool.
All right, that’s all I got for you today. Love you all, keep on Running Lean and I will talk to you soon.
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