I’ve been thinking about this podcast topic for a while now and finally just felt ready to share my thoughts with you. This is one of those “tough love” episodes, so fair warning in advance. If …
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 126 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners and today, are you eating like an athlete? I’ve been thinking about this podcast topic for a while now. And I finally just felt ready to kind of organize and share my thoughts with you here.
So this might be one of those tough love episodes. So just a little fair warning in advance if you’re the kind of person who just wants to keep doing whatever you’re doing and, and just stay where you are, then this episode may not be for you. Okay, but if you’re somebody who’s interested in making changes to the way you feel your body, for not just your overall health and fitness, but you want to improve your athletic performance, then today’s message is definitely for you.
And I’ll be talking about the disconnect. There’s this disconnect that I think a lot of runners experienced when it comes to their diet and nutrition the way they eat. The truth is a lot of runners eat like crap all the time. And then they expect something amazing to happen on race day. And this is just not reality. Okay, so by the end of this episode, I want you to honestly know whether or not you’re eating like an athlete and understand why or why not. You might be or not be, okay.
Fair warning, a little bit of tough love is coming your way today. And listen, eating like an athlete seems pretty straightforward, right? But it’s not, there’s a lot of extra stuff that gets in the way of stuff. Like, you know, peer pressure marketing messages from food companies, worrying about what other people are doing, or what other people are gonna think of you.
And then there’s all the mental and emotional stuff that comes up, like just wanting to eat something amazing. So you can feel good, and all this stuff can work against you, it can make it very hard for you to actually make progress towards your health and fitness goals. This is why I decided to become a coach to help you navigate all of the BS that’s out there and in your head.
So that you can actually stay on track and hit your goal. So you can unleash that badass, it’s lurking inside you right now. So if you’re ready to become more, if you’re ready to take your health and fitness to the next level, and you gotta be ready to show up and do the work. That’s important, then you’re ready for the Running Lean Coaching Project.
In my coaching program, you’ll get all the knowledge, support and accountability that you need to make realistic lifestyle changes, mindset shifts, and start getting sustainable results. If you’re interested, cool, just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply. To get started, you’ll fill out a short application schedule call with me. We’ll talk about your goals and we’ll see if this is a good fit for you. Cool. Just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply. I would love to have you join us in the Running Lean Coaching Project. Cool.
So first of all, are you eating like an athlete? The first question I want to kind of propose to you here is are you an athlete or not? Do you consider yourself an athlete and if you do, or don’t like why or why not? So the definition of an athlete is a person who competes in one or more sports that involve physical strength, speed or endurance. So that’s pretty much all of us, right? I would imagine.
I mean, if you run, you’re an athlete, if you lift weights, if you do yoga or CrossFit or you swim or bike or row or skate or ski or do Jazzercise or hike, or climb or play golf, softball, hockey, soccer on and on and on. Like there’s so many different ways that we can classify ourselves as athletes, you know, if you’re, if you’re competing or participating in anything that involves, you know, the use of endurance, strength or speed or any combination of any of those things, then you should consider yourself an athlete.
But I think we get it into our heads that oh, I’m not a real runner because I just run marathons for fun. Come on, you are an athlete, you know, or I just started running so I’m really, I’m really not an athlete. You know, maybe someday but no, no, no you’re an athlete. If you’re, you know, participating in any kind of endurance, strength or speed, exercise, then you’re an athlete.
You’re not an athlete. If your idea of a marathon is like binge watching Netflix all weekend, that’s a different type of athlete. That’s a non athlete. But that’s not you. I know that’s not who you are. So if you’re listening to this podcast, chances are you’re a runner of some form, maybe you’re just getting started. Maybe you’ve run 25 marathons, it doesn’t matter. If you run, you’re a runner.
And if you’re a runner, then you are an athlete. Okay, so I want to make this very, very clear upfront. So to answer the question, are you an athlete? I’m going to say probably yes. For most of us, yes. If you’re doing any kind of exercise on a regular basis, that involves speed strength, or, or endurance or any combination of those than you are an athlete. Okay? So let’s make that distinction upfront. All right, let’s all agree that we’re athletes, okay.
And the thing that I really want you to get out of this podcast today, is that you are an athlete, and you need to start acting like one. Okay, specifically, you need to start eating like an athlete. Think about that. And I want you to really ask yourself, honestly, this question, are you eating like an athlete? Are you fueling your body the way an athlete would fuel their body? Or are you just eating a bunch of crap and eating whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it? That’s not what athletes do.
So you’re an athlete, but are you eating like one? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and probably say that most of you the answer is probably no, no, I know, some of you are on board with all this stuff. And you’re good. And that’s awesome. Go you, keep doing you. But I talk to people every single day who tell me their diet is crap. They have, you know, they binge out on sugar and processed garbage.
They’re out of control, they feel out of control with their eating, right. They know their diet sucks, but they’re just they don’t know what to do about it. And they just feel out of control. And I get it. You know, you’ve been told to eat like, all this junk, all these high carbs. And whatever it jacks up your hunger, hunger signals, it messes up your body, it causes inflammation, it causes you to gain weight, but you keep doing it, because that’s what everybody says you’re supposed to do.
Especially if you’re a runner, you’ve got to eat all the carbs and all the sugar, eat the doughnuts, carb load pasta, fettuccine Alfredo the night before you run all that stuff, right? And if that stuff works for you, that is amazing. Love it, keep doing it. But I’m gonna guess for most of you, it doesn’t work. And if it doesn’t work for you, and you consider yourself an athlete, then stop doing that to stop it.
Now, stop treating your body like it’s a garbage disposal and start treating it like you are an athlete. So what would an athlete do? Like think about this, so maybe we should get little wristbands that say, well, what an athlete too. So think about any given situation where you find yourself needing to make a choice around food or nutrition. And, you know, ask yourself, what would an athlete do in this situation?
So let’s say you’re in training mode, right? You’re training for a marathon. And you’re getting leaner and stronger, and you’re, you know, you’re feeling good, you’re sticking to your schedule, your diet is pretty much on point. And then somebody’s like, hey, you know, I made these homemade cupcakes, they put a couple of them on your desk and, and they’re like, I made these cupcakes, and they’re homemade from scratch. And, you know, they’re made with love. So I just wanted to give them to you, and I really hope you enjoy it.
And what would you do? Are you going to eat those cupcakes? Maybe cupcakes are not on your plan. They’re not on your part of your training plan. And you know, that eating those cupcakes is moving you away from your goals. As an athlete, it’s moving you away from your health and fitness goals. Cupcakes, not on the plan. Okay.
So what do you do? Do you do what you always do, which is like, I just don’t want them to feel bad, they spent so much time and they put so much love into making these cupcakes for me. So I’m just going to eat them, even though I will regret it and feel guilt and shame for a few days afterwards. And you know, my weight will probably go up with all the inflammation and water retention, but I’m going to do it anyway. Because you know, I just don’t want to feel.
Is that what you want to do? No, this isn’t complicated. All right. Let’s not make this more complicated than it needs to be right. If you’re an athlete, and you are then start eating like an athlete. Let’s just stop with the eating the garbage food, okay. I’m not saying you can never eat a cupcake. I’m gonna get into that in just a minute. I’ve got some thoughts about that.
But what I am saying is that you need to treat yourself like the athlete that you are, okay? So I could just stop right here, stop this podcast and stop talking. Because this is the main message I’m trying to get across today. In every situation, I just want you to be honest and ask yourself, am I fueling my body like an athlete would in this moment? Yes or no? Yes or no? It’s a very cut and dry black and white type of situation here. It is not complicated. Am I fueling myself? Like an athlete or not? And if not, I want to, I want you to ask yourself, why? Why not? Why aren’t you taking your health and fitness seriously? Why isn’t this important to you?
Because when you just eat garbage, you are basically saying to yourself, my health and fitness is not important to me. It’s okay. If I keep gaining weight, it’s okay. If I feel like crap, it’s okay. If my health continues to decline, it’s okay. If running continues to be hard for me. But that’s not what you want. I know, that’s not what you want. And you know what, I’m coming at this from a place of like, experience and empathy because I get it. And I’ve been there. And I did the same thing. And I had to ask myself, why am I doing this? Why am I treating myself like crap?
You know, I was training for marathons and ultra marathons. I was eating a terrible diet. I kept gaining weight, right there, that’s a sign that something is amiss, right? If you’re training for ultra marathons, and you’re put on like 40 pounds and that process over a couple of years, it’s like, whoa, something is not working right here. But I just was so stuck on eating all the sugar and junk food and, you know, processed food and just highly palatable food, all the foods, it’s like, amazingly delicious.
Like I just couldn’t get away from that stuff. It had its claws in me, you know. And that was hard for me to like, break away from that, but I did. So I get it. I’m not being unsympathetic. But I do want you to have this moment with yourself where you’re just like, you gotta be honest with yourself, am I feeling myself like an athlete or not. And that’s the moment I had, where I had to say, I’m not, I’m not feeling myself, like an athlete. I’m feeling myself. Like, I don’t care about myself, like, I don’t care about my physical health, or my mental or emotional health. And I had to make a decision. And that decision was not doing that anymore.
I’m not going to keep treating myself like this anymore. I am going to do something about it. I’m going to start acting like the athlete that I am, I’m going to start fueling my body like the athlete that I am. I am training for ultra marathons here. I cannot afford to treat myself like garbage 90% of the year and think that everything is going to go perfectly right on race day. It doesn’t work that way. Okay, so that’s the main message today. Just ask yourself that question. Am I fueling myself like an athlete or not?
An athlete sees food as fuel, right? The food that you put into your body as an athlete should help you to run longer, run faster, it should help you to build strong bones and muscles. It should help improve your cardiovascular health. It should give you steady energy. It should help you sleep better at night. It should help you recover from hard workouts and rebuild muscle tissue. That’s what food is designed for. For human beings for human consumption.
Especially if you’re an athlete, you put your body under all this stress, you’ve got to have the right fuel coming in to replace that energy to repair the muscles to continue to build strong, you know, bones and strong cardiovascular system and all the energy that you need. You have to like be fueling yourself properly. So the food that you eat as an athlete should be in alignment with your health and fitness goals. So here’s the next question for you. Is it be honest, it’s a yes or no question, right? Is the food you eat in alignment with your health and fitness goals? Is the is the food that you’re putting into your body helping you become a better athlete or not? Or is it just keeping you stuck? Or is it like moving you in the opposite direction? Right? Why? Why if not why?
Why are you choosing a diet that’s working against you? Why are you continually to Using foods that keep you gaining weight and feeling like crap, why the hell would you do this to yourself over and over and over and over again, you are an athlete. So start acting like one. Because when you do, I promise you, you’re going to feel so much better, you’re going to feel stronger, you’re going to have all this energy, you’re going to recover faster, you’re gonna feel better about yourself, you’re gonna feel like a total badass.
But if you don’t feel strong, if you don’t have all day energy, if you kind of feel like crap about yourself a lot of the time, why are you doing this to yourself? You deserve better. You deserve to love yourself. Better than this, to treat yourself better than this. You deserve to be the fittest, healthiest, most badass person that you want to be. It’s just a choice you get to choose. It’s a choice that you get to make with every decision you make around food.
And then it’s just recommitting to that choice every day. It’s a recommitment to that mentality of just like, hey, I’m going to feed myself like an athlete today. And then tomorrow, you sort of make that commitment again, and so on. Athletes don’t eat like crap 90% of the time, and then just clean up their diet for, you know, a short period of time, right before they have a race or something like that. They pretty much stay on track, they pretty much stay lean, and stay strong and stay healthy all the time. Because they know how hard it is to like, quote unquote, like get back in shape.
You know what I’m talking about? Have you ever tried to get back in shape, that sucks, that’s really hard. It’s so hard to like, gain and lose the same thing, like 20 pounds over and over again. Right? It’s very difficult to do, it’s very bad for you to actually do that, it’s really not good for you, it’s better to just stay overweight, to be honest with you than it is to like gain and lose. Obviously, the best choice is to just lose it and be done with it. Right.
So most athletes, what they do is they stay lean and strong all the time. You know, there might be a couple of pounds difference between offseason and training season or something like that, but it’s minimal. So they know how important it is to just stay on point all year long. Okay. And I’ve done the whole yo yo dieting, yo yo weight gain loss thing for years. And I gotta tell you, it’s, it’s frustrating.
And you’re, I was always in this state of like, never feeling good about myself, because I was never where I wanted to be. Or if I was, I knew that it wasn’t gonna last. But I’m done with all that now, I made a decision some years ago where I’m just not doing that anymore. And so today, I eat like an athlete all the time. I maintain my weight effortlessly.
And I still indulge in it on occasion. Alright, once I got to my goal weight, and I and I got to this place where I felt super confident in my ability to maintain my weight. Then I started to allow myself some indulgences here and there, something that you have to kind of experiment with a little bit. So I’m going to say something here that I’ve really never really talked about before. And maybe you never thought you’d hear from me, but this is what I call the 90/10 rule. Some people call it the 80/20 rule, but I think that’s too, too loosey goosey. So I call it the 90/10 rule.
So 90% of the time, you need to be disciplined about your diet, you need to be fueling your body like an athlete. And then 10% of the time, you can indulge so what this looks like, typically is about one meal a week, something like that. I maybe even do it less than that. So maybe twice a month, I indulge in a meal that would be considered a little indulgent or off plan.
You know, I talk a lot about going out for Mexican food because I just grew up on Mexican food. I’m from you know, LA/Southern California and I just love Mexican food, especially like good traditional Mexican food. And with that, I know it’s chips and salsa and guacamole and tacos and I love all that stuff. Right? And instead of like saying I can never eat that stuff again. I do it minimally, I do it like once a month, you know and then I might go out for sushi and some other kind of you know, indulgent foods, another time or whatever.
So I like this 90/10 rule because I know it’s hard for people to not eat a burger or to eliminate stuff from their diet. And when we get into this place where we’re feeling deprived, like we can never eat corn chips again in our life, that just makes you crave it more, right, it makes you one and even more. I’ve seen this over and over again with people. So you know, at the beginning, we’re a little more strict about our food plan because we got to get ourselves off of the sugar, we got to get ourselves off the processed foods, we got to get ourselves off the refined carbohydrates.
Once we do that, and we sort of, you know, balance our hormones, we’ve kind of gotten to our goal weight or are closer to it, and we feel confident or ability to to maintain our weight, then we can start indulging a little bit. And this is where the 90/10 kind of principle comes into play here. Okay. So I understand it can be very hard for some people to do this. For example, eating sugar can be very addictive. And if you have a problem in this area, it’s something you have to be very careful with.
Because for some of us, for me, it’s the same thing with sugar. For me, once I start, it’s very hard for me to stop, I had the same issue with drinking alcohol too like, I can’t just drink one I drink until I’m passed out basically, is the way I’ve always done it. And so there’s this phenomenon of craving that happens as soon as I get some alcohol into my body, I just want more and more and more, and I can’t stop.
And I have a very similar kind of dysfunctional relationship with sugar, I guess, you know, so instead of dabbling in sugar and trying to moderate it, I just don’t eat sugar, I really don’t. I can’t remember the last time I ate sugar was probably like, a year and a half ago or something like that. So I just don’t eat and it’s fine. It doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t crave it. So for some of us, just total abstinence from some of this stuff is on point. It’s like what we need to do. If you can dabble in this a little bit and apply this 90/10 rule and eat some sugar and things like that. And you can do it in a way that is intentional, purposeful, and not like binging then good for you do it, okay, let’s not, let’s not deprive ourselves of things, but understand that some of these foods are not moving us in the direction of our goals that they will actually set us back, we might gain a little bit of weight, we might feel terrible, it might affect our training negatively.
So just know that that’s all part of it. Okay? Athletes, they do this too, they indulge in some of these things every now and then. And they do it at strategic times when it’s not going to affect their training when it’s not not before a race not before a long run or whatever they’re doing right.
So just know that if you’re if your goal is to lose weight, that you know indulging and things like this is going to you know, it’s going to kind of throw out your progress. It’s hard to eat sugar and lose weight. It just really is right? The whole idea of like putting your body into fat burning mode, getting it out of fat storing mode, sugar puts your body into fat storing mode, we got to limit the sugar for sure. Okay.
Okay, but all of this is to say that if we apply the 90/10 rule, and one meal a week, two meals a month, whatever you want to do, you can indulge, but then the rest of the time you stay disciplined, you’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine. Okay? Athletes don’t use these, like cheat meals, and I don’t even like the word cheat meal because they’re planned. They’re intentional. They’re purposeful.
A cheat implies that you’re engaging in something that’s deceptive. Like, you’re tricking someone, you’re not tricking anybody here, you’re just making a choice for yourself. You got to feel good about that choice you’re making for yourself. So do this intentionally. Right? We’re not cheating. Anyway, so we want to play in our exceptions, we want to plan these indulgent meals, okay.
So, athletes will allow themselves this on occasion, you know, to celebrate to feel a part of but it’s a minor exception. It’s not the rule. So that’s why I say 90/10. So my, my taco night is like one of my, it’s like part of my 10% right. Come on chips and guacamole. So amazing, right. It’s also a way for me to connect with people I love with family, with friends, and I do it in a way that is very intentional and planned.
And then before that indulgent meal, and after I eat, like super clean. This is the way an athlete would do it. Right? They’re not going to just binge out on you know, burritos and stuff for a week straight. You know, they’re going to just do a meal, feel good about it, do it intentionally and then get back on plan with the next meal. Okay. So this isn’t about deprivation, this is about 100% of the time you have to fuel your fuel yourself like an athlete food can still be enjoyable food can still be you know, amazing and all that stuff, you know um, but we got to do it a minimally, we want for the most part, we want to be fueling ourselves like an athlete. Okay.
So back to that question I asked at the beginning of this episode, you know, are you eating like an athlete? Yes or no? What’s the answer? And if you’re not, why not? Why are you choosing to eat in a way that goes against your long term health and fitness goals? Why would you continue to eat like crap, and then hope that somehow everything’s gonna work out on race day or whatever? Right. And I did this too for my first few marathons. I was trying to run out a certain I wanted to run like a 9 minute mile on race day, all my training runs were way slower than that, like I never ran faster than a 10 minute mile.
And then somehow I expected something magical to happen on race day, like, all of a sudden, I was going to be able to run a minute faster per mile for 26 miles. Like, that’s ridiculous. But we do the same thing with our food, we think we can eat like crap all year long. And then somehow around race day, everything’s going to just magically fall into place. It doesn’t work that way. It really doesn’t. Okay. So just know that you’ve got to be honest with yourself and ask yourself whether or not you are eating like an athlete. Okay?
And if the answer is no, like, really ask yourself, why or why not? Like, are you afraid that you’re gonna feel like you’re missing out on something good? How much pleasure is that cupcake can actually give you? How about being a fit, strong, badass runner, how much pleasure you’re gonna get out of that. My guess is a lot, a lot more than that. Very temporary, cupcake pleasure you’re gonna get, don’t get me wrong, the cupcake will make you feel good for a minute.
But how about being a fit, strong, badass runner. That’s gonna last, that’s what you’re after. Right? Maybe you’re worried that you won’t be able to make it last, maybe you’re worried that like, this isn’t gonna, you’re not gonna be able to sustain this. And I get that that’s super common. It’s a very common worry, among people that I work with, like, I just don’t know if I’m gonna be able to make it last. But listen, what if you applied the same mindset to your nutrition that you put into your running schedule? Think about this, you are super good at sticking to stuff already.
Like, you get to work on time. Every day, you hit all your runs, like you never miss a workout, right? You never cheat on your husband or your wife or your partner, you always pick your kids up from school on time, right? You are very disciplined in many, many areas of your life. But when it comes to food, we’re all like, totally loosey goosey. And we’re like, I’m at a control. I’m like, dude, you are so disciplined in every other area of your life. Why aren’t you just applying that same mentality to your food plan?
Just copy and paste that same mindset over here to your food, and you’re gonna be a total badass and no time? I promise you. Right? That’s how you make it last. But maybe you’re afraid it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be too hard. And I can answer this one for you right now. Yes, it will be hard. At first anyway, all change is hard at first, right? Until it isn’t. You’ve got to embrace the discomfort of change. Get through the hard part.
Because the only way to become the badass version of yourself is to go through the hard stuff, you can’t go around it. You can’t avoid it. You got to go through it straight through it. It’s the challenges that change you. You want to see the view from the top of the mountain, you got to climb the mountain. There’s no other way to do it. It will be hard. But you can do it. So accept this, accept this fact that it’s going to be hard and do it anyway. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean we don’t do it. We do it anyway.
Or you might be afraid to try something new because you’ve already tried quote unquote, everything in the past and nothing ever works for you. That’s totally cool. I get that two people tell me this all the time. And I used to think this way too. But now I have a very different approach to things I do in my life. I keep freaking going. I do not stop when it gets hard. I do not stop until I’m done.
I don’t quit when things get challenging. I don’t stop when it seems like it’s not working. I don’t give up until I reach my goal of relentless forward progress. I keep going no matter what Because if it’s going to work, I have to make it work, period. And I’m committed to reaching my goals, no matter what. No matter how many times I stumble and fall, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many times I fail, I’m not in a hurry. I’m not about avoiding failure. I am absolutely freaking relentless in my pursuit of my goals, and you should be too. So ask yourself, honestly. Are you eating like an athlete? Don’t fool yourself. Just be 100% honest with yourself. Yes or no? Are you eating like an athlete? Why or why not?
And if you want some help with this, I got you. We’ll do it together. I’ll help you get through the hard stuff. I’ll get you up that mountain. But you got to commit to showing up and doing the work, right? You’ve got to make this daily commitment to yourself when you do that. There’s nothing you can’t do. I love you all. Keep on Running Lean. And I’ll talk to you soon.
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