There’s a lot of conflicting information out there in the world today about proper nutrition, the best ways to lose weight, what types of exercise are best for weight loss, and on and on. But I …
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 163 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners and today three proven ways to get your body burning fat. I know that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there in the world today about proper nutrition, the best ways to lose weight, what types of exercise are best for weight loss, and so on and so on.
But I think we can all agree on one thing that if you want to lose weight, you have to burn fat, right? Losing weight means reducing the amount of fat you have stored in your body period. When you look at yourself in the mirror naked, you see exactly where this fat is to write. That’s the stuff you want to get rid of. But how do you do it?
Maybe you’ve tried running it off. And maybe you’ve made some progress with that, but maybe not. For many of us running just doesn’t move the needle at all. There are lots of ways to reduce body fat. Today, I’m gonna go over the three proven ways to get your body burning fat so that you can lose weight and so that you can improve your running performance.
But first I want to talk about something. Here’s something that most coaches get wrong. Most coaches focus on one thing, they focus on what you should do, which is fine. That’s part of coaching, you need to know what to do, you need to know how to do it. But there’s more to it than that, especially if you really want to make changes to your health and fitness that lasts, especially if you want to make sustainable, long lasting lifetime changes.
So in my program, we don’t focus on just what you’re doing. That’s part of it. But rather, we focus on something bigger, like who are you becoming? This is a much more powerful approach to creating lasting change. Because when you focus on who you are becoming, you are way more likely to get there, you’re more focused, you’re more committed, you stay on track, more healthy habits become a way of life, they just become part of who you are, and what you do. So decide on who it is that you want to become.
And then hey, let’s make a plan to get you there. To learn more and apply for coaching, just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply. Okay, so three proven ways to get your body burning fat. The first thing I want to talk about here is what is weight? Because we talk about weight loss a lot. And people say I just want to lose weight, I want to lose weight.
So what is this weight that we’re talking about? Well, we’re talking about body fat, right? A lot of times when people go on calorie restrictive diets to lose weight, a lot of the weight that they’re losing is muscle mass, we don’t want to do that, especially if you are somebody who wants to continue improving your running performance or get stronger and just be a healthy fit human being you want to maintain or even gain muscle weight.
And while you are getting rid of the fat weight, and this is something that you can absolutely do, is what we call improving your body composition. Your body is composed of fat, muscle and bone and all kinds of things. We want to improve your body composition, we want to increase your muscle mass while reducing your fat mass. So this, this is really what we’re talking about when we talk about losing weight, we just don’t want to drop weight, we want to drop the fat weight, right.
And this all makes total common sense, right, we want to get stronger, we want to have more energy, we want to feel better, we want to be as healthy and as fit as possible. That is really what the goal is here. The goal isn’t even to lose weight, the goal is to be as healthy and as strong and fit as possible.
When we do that, when we make that our goal, the fat loss happens as a nice side result of all that right. So let’s just make sure that we understand we’re talking about fat weight here. Okay. And how do you lose the fat weight? Well, you gotta burn the fat. We can all agree on that. All right. I know there’s a lot of information out there and different ways of doing things and calorie restriction and don’t count calories and track all your food and never track your food. Only eat these kinds of foods, never eat those kinds of foods. And on and on and on.
And it gets pretty frustrating, right? But I think we can all agree that if you want to lose weight, you want to lose fat weight, you’ve got to burn the fat. Right? So let’s just focus on that this is what our focus is on this discussion today is how do we burn fat? How do we get our body burning fat more efficiently, we’re always burning a little bit of that.
But if we’re not losing that fat weight, we’re not burning enough. So we have to increase that fat burning capacity in our bodies. So the first thing I want to talk about here is the insulin model, because this is something that is very well adopted now and very well researched, and something that I think most people could agree is probably what’s going on with the majority of people who have a hard time losing weight.
And the insulin model looks something like this. When your insulin is high, in your blood, when your body has a high amounts of insulin, then your hormones are put into a state where your body cannot burn fat. High insulin means your body is storing fat, not burning fat. So the idea is to keep insulin levels low, so that your body can burn fat. So this is, this is what the insulin model is, it’s pretty simple.
It gets a little complicated when you talk about the best ways to keep insulin levels low. And a lot of this has to do with the study of obesity and the study of type two diabetes. But it applies to all of us really, and this is something that I think is really fascinating is that even though we might be healthy, and we don’t have pre diabetes, or diabetes, you know, we’re not obese, but we were runners, we’re pretty fit people, but we can’t seem to lose weight.
Maybe you know, there’s some truth to this insulin model of weight gain and weight loss. And maybe there’s something that we can apply to even us as runners, right. So, I think that we have to just take this as a baseline, understanding that when we have high levels of insulin, that our body is storing fat, when we can keep our insulin levels low, then we can create an environment where our body can burn our stored body fat.
Okay, so how do we keep our insulin levels low? So the first suggestion or tip or the first way, the first proven way to get your body burning fat is to lower your carbohydrate intake, get off the sugars, get off the refined grains, stop eating tons of carbs, this is not about you know, zero carbs. But you gotta get away from those refined carbs and the foods that really spike your blood sugar.
And here’s why. Because when you eat sugar, for example, your blood sugar spikes like crazy. So you get this huge spike in your blood sugar. When you have a huge spike in your blood sugar, insulin gets produced, again in a huge amount in order to bring that blood sugar back down to baseline.
So a high spike of blood sugar, glucose in the blood, high spike of insulin; now your body is storing fat, your body cannot burn fat when you’re in this high insulin mode. Okay, so we keep our carbs low. We don’t eat a ton of sugar, we don’t eat any sugar if we can avoid it. We don’t eat a lot of things like you know refined grains.
And, what happens is the food that you do eat, let’s say you eat some chicken and some broccoli, or some scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon and some avocado. These are all foods that are low glycemic. These are foods that won’t raise your blood sugar, a ton of good sources of protein, good sources of fat, and will not raise your blood sugar.
So what happens when you eat these foods is that your blood sugar stays pretty, pretty steady. It’ll go up a little bit. When you eat protein, your blood sugar will go up slightly. When you eat fat, your blood sugar doesn’t go up at all. So if you ate for example, I have coffee in the morning. I’ve put a little MCT oil in my coffee, maybe a little bit of grass fed butter in there, blend it up. Tastes amazing. Gives me a little bit of energy in the morning but does nothing to raise my blood sugar because it’s just pure fat.
Pure fat does not raise your blood sugar, carbs and protein will raise your blood sugar, carbs much more so than protein. Okay, so we eat a diet that is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. And what happens? Well, you’re getting all the nutrients that you need. You’re getting a very nutrient dense diet when you do this and you are keeping your blood sugar pretty low.
And when you do this, insulin is low, which means your body is constantly in fat, fat burning mode, not fat storing mode. Alright, so do we understand this much of this process so far? Because it’s very important that we understand this concept.
So here’s something we need to understand. As runners, we need to understand this as well, because we basically have, you know, two types of fuel that our body can use, there’s more, but I’m just gonna go over these two. So we have glucose, carbs, and we have fat; stored body fat as fuel. And think of it as a gas tank, and at the bottom of the gas tank is this huge supply of stored body fat as fuel.
So this is going to burn for days and days and days. But then at the very top of that gas tank, we have a little bit of glucose, so we have a little bit of fast burning glucose, there’s only a little bit but as long as that’s there, that’s going to be the preferred fuel source. So our body wants to burn that first. So if we burn that top layer of glucose off, then our body can start tapping into that huge supply of clean burning long lasting, stored body fat.
And this is how you start to burn fat really efficiently. And you can start to lose weight and things like that. As long as you keep that top level of fuel topped off, as long as you keep carbs, and glucose. As readily available fuel for your body to use as energy, you will not get into that fat burning, you will not be able to get into that other source of fuel.
Think about this: as runners, we’ve been told we need to keep our carbs up, we need to keep our glycogen levels topped off, which means that we need to continually eat carbs, continually eat sugar, so that we always have that to use as fuel. Fine, okay, that works as a fuel source just purely for running performance. But it also keeps your body in this fat storing mode. So you’re constantly going to be gaining weight in this process.
This is why so many people come to me and they’re like Patrick, I am training for this marathon. And I’m gaining weight, like what is going on here? And we look at the diet, we see that you know, maybe this person is eating the typical runner’s diet of nothing but carbs and sugar and then fueling with carbs and sugar, recovering with carbs and sugar and then repeating that process day in and day out. And they can’t figure out why they’re gaining weight.
And this is the process here, you just keep topping off the carbs and keep topping off the glucose and so you don’t have the ability to access that huge supply of stored body fat, okay, so get rid of that top layer of fuel, get rid of the glucose, get rid of the glycogen. And now you’ve got the ability to start burning stored body fat.
Okay, so the first proven method of getting your body to start burning fat more efficiently, is to lower your carb intake and just cut out most of the carbs. And we’re not talking about anything crazy here, if you’re eating 50-75 grams of carbs a day, that’s pretty low compared to what most people do. I know people that do very low, I probably do around 30-40 grams of carbs a day, maybe 50.
Some days when I’m running, I’m going to increase that to be a little bit higher, because I’m using that as a little bit of fuel before running. But that’s because I’m very efficient at burning fat. I’m already fat adapted, and I can use some carbs as fuel. I’m not trying to lose weight. But if you are trying to lose weight, just keep that stuff out of the equation, you don’t really need carbs, you don’t need carbs for running you can, you can run really well without carbs.
You really can. You don’t have to do it all the time. But you can do it most of the time, especially for the longer distance, lower intensity stuff. Okay. So lower the carb intake, and you can start getting your body burning fat instead of storing fat. The other thing I want to say here before I go on to the next one is that burning fat is our natural state.
We as human beings have always been really proficient fat burners. We’ve always eaten a pretty low glycemic diet. And it can be argued what we ate as human beings. Lots of meat, lots of fat, lots of, you know, tubers and some berries and things like that, honey. So you know, it’s not like we ate zero carbs or zero vegetables or zero fruits, but we didn’t need the kinds of processed foods that we have today. We didn’t have access to that stuff.
They weren’t obese, you know, ancient ancestors were not obese people. If they didn’t have type two diabetes, they didn’t have heart disease then they would have all the problems that we have today. So they were really good at storing some of the energy that they consumed as body fat. And then they were really good at using that stored energy as body fat.
It’s kind of like you’re putting wood on the woodpile to burn later. But in modern society today, over the last 40 years or so, 40-50 years, we have been a society that just keeps putting more and more wood on the woodpile, we’re not burning the wood for fuel, we’re not burning that fat for fuel, we’re just adding to the fat stores that we have. So this is a really big problem.
But just understand that we are, we can take control of the way our bodies work, and we can get back to being really efficient fat burning machines, like we used to be, as human beings forever got. So this isn’t some weird thing that I’m explaining isn’t like some fringe thing that just happened, you know, a year ago or something like that. Now, we’ve always been efficient fat burning machines, we just want to get back to that natural state.
Okay, so lower the carbon take, that’s number one. Number two, don’t eat all the time. Another way to get fat burning going, is to not eat constantly. So remember what I said about blood sugar? Well, every time you eat, even if you’re eating just, you know fat and protein, your blood sugar will go up a little bit.
So that means that when your blood sugar goes up, your body is going to produce some insulin to bring that back down to normal. So instead of eating six times a day where our blood sugar is constantly up, and insulin is constantly present, why don’t we just eat a couple of times a day?
You know, the human body is really designed to eat like once or twice a day. When we do that, you’re keeping it. This is another great way of keeping insulin levels steady and low, and giving your body the ability to burn that stored body fat.
Well, you know, well, what about timing for running? I need to fuel my runs. I need protein right after a workout. And I have to tell you something like there’s been so many studies that have really proven that it really doesn’t matter when you consume protein after a workout. As long as you get the right amount of protein each day, the timing is not that important.
You might have some minuscule gains from eating protein within an hour after a hard workout. But the results have really shown to be negligible, there’s really not that big of a difference between people who time their protein, you know, right around a hard workout, or they just eat later, you know, give themselves a couple of hours after a workout and eat when they feel hungry again, so people don’t get hungry right after working out. It’s more important to get enough protein each day.
So as long as you’re getting the right amount of protein each day, then that’s going to be more important, that’s going to have a bigger impact on your recovery and on muscle maintaining and muscle building, then, you know, this one, our timing right after a workout or something like that. So maybe eat a couple times a day, eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not hungry.
When you do this, when you extend the amount of time between meals, and you know, we call this intermittent fasting, and people freak out when they hear the word fasting, but it’s just the thing. It’s not a big deal. We just don’t eat all the time. So we do some intermittent fasting, which means we’re just you know, going to maybe skip breakfast.
So maybe we do our workouts in the morning in that fasted state. And we do that there’s a reason why we want to work out in that fasted state, the number one reason is that we can really take advantage of the fact that we have not raised our blood sugar, we don’t have fuel onboard, we didn’t eat a bunch of you know, pancakes or whatever that we’re going to be using as fuel for our runs.
We can go out there and workout in that fasted state, which really improves your body’s ability to burn fat. So now you can start burning fat even more efficiently because you’re working out without any other fuel to draw from that glucose, that top level of fuel that I talked about earlier. It’s not there, you’re fasted.
So it helps to increase your fat burning. It increases your adrenaline when you work out in a fasted state. So it actually can work out a little bit harder. A you increase your recovery hormones like human growth hormone, which means you can recover faster from some of these harder workouts. And you’re kind of forcing your body to use stored body fat as a fuel source.
And the more you do this, the more efficient you get at it. So if you want to lose weight and you want to get your body really burning fat and you want a great source of fuel for running, just don’t eat all the time. Do some workouts in that fasted state, as well. And this will help to keep insulin low and it’ll help keep your body into that fat burning mode as opposed to the fat storing mode.
Okay, so we want to lower the carb intake and then we do want to space out our meals a little bit and not eat constantly. And then the third way of getting your body burning fat and this one you probably have figured I was gonna be talking about is exercise, right? I mean, this is the most, most common way that people think of when you think of oh, how do you burn fat?
And people think cardio, step aerobics, Zumba, Jazzercise, whatever, they think, you know, you just need to like go out there and run more, and that’s going to be the answer. And moving your body more will help. Only as long as you’re doing the first two things right? As long as you’re eating the right diet, you’re not eating tons of sugar, refined grains and tons of carbs. And you’re not eating constantly.
If you do cardio, you know, without all the sugar and stuff and without, you know, eating constantly, you will actually be able to burn more fat than you would if you’re eating the wrong diet and things like that. This is why people have a really hard time losing weight when they are running a lot is because they’re just the diet is wrong, right, you can’t outrun that high carb diet, okay, all the exercise in the world isn’t going to help if the only fuel that you’re burning is carbs.
So if you want to burn fat, you have to get rid of the carbs first. So number one, change the diet, get your body burning fat naturally without exercise, then when you do add an exercise, you’re just going to improve your body’s ability to burn fat that much more.
Okay, now we’re going to talk about a couple different types of exercise. So there’s two types of exercise that we want to do in order to burn fat. Actually, there’s more, I’m just going to talk about these two today, though. So we’re going to talk about low intensity exercise and high intensity exercise.
So low intensity exercise, this is long distance running. This is like a lot of running in zones wanting to or if you use the RPE scale, the rate of perceived exertion, this is like one to four this is that very easy, comfortable conversational pace, this easy effort, the stuff that you can do all day, like just go out there and run doesn’t feel hard. You know, it just feels very natural and very comfortable for you. Whatever that is, that low intensity running. This is great for fat burning. Even a brisk walk can get you there, you know, whatever. Whatever gets you into that state where you’re in those zones one and two, then you’re in the fat burning zone. This is awesome.
And we call these steady state exercises. This is running, this is swimming, this is cycling, elliptical rowing, anything that is going to keep you in that steady state for an extended period of time and extended can be 30 minutes, it could be six hours, you know, just depends on what floats your boat, right. So we like the low intensity stuff for fat burning.
But also, we also want to include some high intensity workouts. The high intensity exercise is interesting, because when you add in moderate to high intensity, like running, for example, you’re going to make gains and your endurance and your speed and your power, which all help to increase your body’s ability to burn fat even more efficiently. And so these are exercises like sprinting, you know, HIIT workouts, weightlifting, hill repeats, even things like dancing and boxing and martial arts like these are all high intensity, shorter duration, typically maybe up to an hour or so, but higher intensity.
And something that I think is really fascinating is that most carb adapted athletes, so most traditional athletes who are following a traditional, you know approach to nutrition and stuff, they’ll hit the crossover point from where they’re burning mostly fat to burning mostly sugar. Most people, carb adapted athletes will hit this crossover point around 65% of their VO2 max.
Whereas fat adapted athletes who are very efficient at burning fat can push this crossover point much higher. So instead of 65% of their vo to max they can they’re burning mostly fat at 70% of their vo to max or 80% or 90%. Jeff Browning, he’s famous, he’s an ultra runner, he’s famous for still burning mostly fat at like 90-95% of his VO2 max so even at the higher intensities.
You can increase your fat burning ability. So just understand that the high intensity workouts can help to push your lactate threshold help push your your ability to burn fat at these higher levels as well. And you know, when we exercise, we’re always burning both types of fuel. So never just one, but the ratio goes way up and fat burning when you keep the carbs low when you don’t eat all the time. And when we do these fasted workouts, you’re just going to increase your body’s ability to burn fat. So, you know, the carb adapted athletes just burn less fat, they need to refuel constantly, they’re using sugar for fuel, they’re never tapping into that stored body fat as a fuel source, they have a hard time losing weight, and a lot of times they even gain weight, especially during higher training periods because they tend to up the carb intake. Okay, so that’s carb adapted athletes.
Fat adapted athletes, however, burn much higher amounts of fat, they don’t need much in the way of fuel if any, for most workouts, they train themselves to use stored body fat for fuel, they do high intensity workouts as well, which helped to push their fat burning ability even higher, they tend to lose weight pretty easily. So these are the three best ways to get your body burning fat, reduce your carb intake, and eat less frequently. And be sure to include both high intensity and low intensity exercises. So you can burn tons of stored body fat and turn your body into a lean mean fat burning running machine. Cool. Alright, 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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