I’ve taught a lot of nutrition and mindset concepts over the last two and a half years of doing this podcast, and some of these topics are worth a revisit. Either because I’ve discovered new …
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 123 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners and today, Back to Basics Eating Real Food. I’ve talked a lot about nutrition and mindset over the last two and a half years of doing this podcast. And some of these topics are worth a revisit, either because I’ve discovered new information about the topic and I want to share that with you.
Or because it’s just so important, it’s worth another look. So over the next several weeks, I’m going to be sprinkling in some of these back to basics episodes to share new and improved info, and then revisit some of the key concepts for weight loss and sports nutrition for runners. And today’s topic, eating real food falls into both categories.
So I’ve learned a lot since first talking about eating real food. And it’s also one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall health and fitness. So it absolutely deserves another look. And eating real food is a simple concept. But it looks a little different for everyone.
If you’re a runner, and you’re interested in making a change in your eating habits so that you can lose weight while also supporting your running goals, then I want to invite you to join the Running Lean coaching project. This is my immersive coaching program that includes group coaching one-on-one coaching with me, you get all the knowledge, support and accountability that you need to learn what to do to learn how to do it, and to help you stay on track.
Just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply, you will fill out a short application, schedule a Zoom call with me. And we’ll talk about your goals and see if coaching is a good fit for you. I would love to help you learn how to eat real food, lose the weight without all the frustration and learn how to build good habits that last for life.
If you’re ready for some realistic lifestyle changes, mindset shifts and sustainable results, then you’re ready for the Running Lean coaching project. Just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply to get started down. All right back to basics, eating real food.
So I’m just gonna jump in and talk about why I teach this concept. And the really the first reason why I talk about eating real food is that there’s something really wrong with the standard American diet. Alright. So for millions of years as humans, we did really well, you know, eating real food was just something we did naturally.
But then pretty recently, we screwed it all up, all right? The standard American diet is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it was created back in the late 70s. It was like 1977, I believe, I think they published it in like 1980. But they basically told us that we should all be eating a very high carbohydrate diet, like upwards of 65% of your calories should be coming from carbohydrates. And low fat, like fat is bad. They just decided this right?
And immediately upon implementing these guidelines, the health of this country began to decline. So why did they make this change? Well, there was this guy named Ancel Keys. And he was a researcher and a doctor. And back in the 50s, he proposed this idea. It was called The Diet Heart Hypothesis. And it was an idea that eating fat would cause people to die of heart attacks. So he did all these studies. And he did. He published a study called The Seven Countries Study.
And the interesting thing about this study is actually there were 22 countries involved, but he just cherry picked the seven that kind of fit with his idea of what he wanted the results to be and he only published the seven countries that that kind of supported his claims. Anyway, none of the stuff that he proposed in this study have actually been proven.
In fact, a lot of it has been disproven over the years. A lot of the stuff that he proposed in this Diet Heart Hypothesis has been disproven yet. We changed our dietary guidelines back in 1977/1980 and we’ve changed everything, this has affected everything. It still does today, the guidelines that they produce and they haven’t changed much over the last 50 years or whatever.
But these guidelines have a profound effect on all areas of our lives. So all school lunch programs are being generated based on those guidelines. Right now, 19% of school aged kids are obese. This is a problem. All military rations, all mess hall food and military is dictated by the guidelines. 7% of our troops are obese.
All the special nutrition programs for women, infants and children like WIC are being determined by the guidelines. 15% of toddlers and WIC are obese toddlers, all hospital food is dictated by the guidelines. Food Programs for the elderly are being dictated by the guidelines. Life expectancy in the elderly is going down.
There’s more Alzheimer’s disease, more diabetes, more cancer. These things are rampant among the elderly. And they’re all diet and lifestyle caused diseases. Agricultural production is dictated by those guidelines. It’s simplified, it’s incentivizing farmers to produce more and more cheap carbohydrates like soybeans, wheat and corn.
Those are like the main things that we produce here in this country. And then of course, the food industry uses the guidelines too, so they produce more garbage food that’s loaded with things like vegetable oil, right? And high fructose corn syrup and all this junk. So all these things I just mentioned, they all are using those guidelines to produce, you know, the foods that we eat, and the guidelines are just wrong. They don’t work.
Since implementing the guidelines in ‘80, 88% of Americans are today considered metabolically unhealthy meaning they’re overweight, they’re obese, their insulin resistant they have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and on and on, only 12% of us are considered healthy. This is wrong. This does not work.
“For the first time in history, we had a government telling us what to eat.” This is a quote from Ben Bikman. He’s a PhD, a Utah professor and a leading metabolic scientist and he says, “For the first time, we have a government telling us what to eat, encouraging us to eat far more refined carbohydrates, and much less healthy fats and proteins and our weight, and our health has only suffered for it.”
The results on the nation’s health and weight have been dire since the government first set dietary guidelines in 1977. The food industry has completely shifted the types of foods they produce to our overall detriment. According to the CDC, the weight of the average adult American today is nearly 30 pounds more than that of the average adult American in 1977.
This is a problem. What are we doing? There’s all sorts of issues and diseases related to eating this particular diet too, by the way. Obesity rates have more than tripled in the US because we’re following the guidelines. We have a diabetes epidemic. 14 different types of cancer have been related to diet, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer.
Alzheimer’s disease is diet related. They call it type three diabetes, PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, is diet related. All of these issues are mostly caused by you know too much insulin in the bud. And that’s called hyperinsulinemia. And how do you get too much insulin in the blood? Eat a lot of carbohydrates and eat a lot of sugar. Right?
So the diet is wrong. It’s making us sicker, it’s making us fatter, and we need to get off of that. Do anything else do anything else, then what the dietary guidelines are telling you to do? Okay. And I don’t think I’ve talked about this, but they did a study a while back, and this was called The Pure Study.
And they did this over a 10 year period. And they did it from 2003 to 2013. And they followed over 135,000 people in 18 different countries. And they basically, you know, divided these people up based on their macronutrient intake and basically there were people who are eating high carbohydrate and lower fat, and then low carbohydrate, high fat.
And the conclusion basically is this: I’ll just read the conclusion to you. High carbohydrate intake was associated with a higher risk of total mortality body death. Whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke.
Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings. So that’s the conclusion from this study. The interesting part about that, I mean, the whole thing is fascinating to me, because basically they just disprove that Diet Heart Hypothesis right there, they’re saying fat has nothing to do with it.
In fact, the people with the high fat diet had lower risk of dying from all these diseases. And the saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke, meaning that the people who ate more saturated fat had less stroke than the other people. So that was really fascinating, right? That kind of blows all that out of the water, right?
Okay, so how does this affect you, as a runner? Aren’t runners just immune to all this stuff? Can’t runners just eat whatever we want? No, we cannot. Runners are humans too, in case you haven’t noticed, and lots of runners experience a lot of these health issues, weight gain, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type two diabetes, right?
There’s this phenomenon called TOFI. And this is someone who is thin on the outside, fat on the inside. And this is especially true with runners who look pretty lean on the outside. But on the inside, they might have a lot of visceral fat. And they might have developed something like type two diabetes, and no amount of running more is going to fix this right.
This is a diet related problem, a diet related disease. And one of the famous examples of this is Professor Tim Noakes, who wrote the book, The Lore of Running, and this guy is a total badass, right? He’s a researcher, he’s run over 70 marathons, but he ended up getting Type Two Diabetes. As a runner, he looked fine on the outside, but his doctor was like, you need to switch your diet.
It opened his eyes, he switched to a low carbohydrate diet. And now he coaches world class athletes on this low carb approach and this fat-adapted approach to running. And in his book, The Law of Running, he has a chapter on nutrition in there, which he advocates for the traditional high carbohydrate approach that, you know, you’ve probably heard of that most runners have heard of, right.
But he famously like, tore that chapter out of the book, because he just could no longer support that he’s like, I was wrong. I wrote this stuff about eating all the carbs. And it’s completely wrong. It’s bad for you, it’s killing us, we’ve got to stop doing it. Okay. So this whole low carb approach to running to sports nutrition, it’s no longer some weird fringe thing.
This is becoming more and more common. So the NASM, the National Association of Sports Nutrition, this is where I got my sports nutrition license. They used to teach the traditional high carb approach to nutrition for endurance activities running and such.
Several years ago, they made a big decision in that they couldn’t do that anymore, they’re going to move away from that high carb approach, and move to a more of a low carb fat adapted approach to sports nutrition. This is a bold move for this organization. But they could not in good conscience keep telling people, especially athletes to eat this crap diet, this diet that is literally killing us.
So they said we can’t do it, no more. And the funny thing is, is that this decision was not well received by everybody. Like there’s people who, you know, we’re following that traditional all carb approach to sports nutrition, and they wanted to get trained in this and wanted to get licensed in this approach. And they were not happy about this, but they just decided that this was what they had to do.
They couldn’t, you know, in good conscience, they couldn’t keep telling people to eat this garbage food anymore. Okay. And this is probably the biggest reason why I signed up with NASN is because they promote the low carb approach to sports nutrition, they understand the importance of being fat-adapted and how it’s not just good for for us as humans and to become the healthiest people that we can be.
But also, it’s great for endurance sports. And then there’s doctors like Stephen Finney and Jeff Bullock, who wrote the book on low carb sports nutrition called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. And then there’s all these companies out there right now that are making nutrition products for low carb running like Mirror Energy, s fuels, you have Elemental Labs, and there are more companies coming on board all the time, they’re springing up all over the place.
Why? Because there’s a need. There are a lot of athletes like me and you who want to perform at our best without eating all the garbage. All those like nutrition food like substances like Clif Bars, I used to eat a lot of Clif bars back in the day when I was like doing the high carbohydrate thing. And I would eat a couple Clif Bars every day and I was like, well, this is healthy, you know?
And look at the ingredients, Clif Bars, these things are not good for you. In fact, I was on their website and I was like what is in a Clif Bar. And so I’m going to read you some of these ingredients: organic rolled oats, so that’s all carbs, organic brown rice syrup, sugar, soy rice crisps, which are made from soy protein isolate rice flour and barley, barley malt extract, which is a form of sugar. Organic roasted soybeans, organic tapioca syrup, that’s sugar, organic cane syrup, that’s sugar. Unsweetened chocolate, chicory fiber, soy flour, high oleic, sunflower oil, natural flavor, sea salt, cinnamon, there’s not a whole lot of nutrition in here.
Okay, this is a bunch of carbs. This one bar is 43 grams of carbohydrates, including 17 grams of sugar with 16 grams of added sugars. And only 10 grams of protein. So this is just a candy bar essentially, is what it is okay. And on their website, it says there’s like a FAQ section like frequently asked questions that says are Clif Bars good for you? And here’s their answer, “Clif Bar is the ultimate energy bar trusted for nearly 30 years by athletes and sports nutrition experts to get you started and help you keep going during long outings on the bike trail or slopes.” Notice how they don’t actually answer that question.
Because their lawyers probably were like, you can’t say that they’re not good for you. Right? So they kind of skirt that answer. But anyway, I’m just trying to tell you that instead of eating this, like processed garbage food, we need to be eating real food. And I’m gonna get into that in just a second. Okay, I’m gonna tell you what that means.
But we’ve evolved as humans to like, eat real food. We’ve thrived on eating real food for millions of years. And I just want to say that we’ve changed things recently, pretty recently, right? I mean, we’ve evolved as hunter gatherers, our diet was mostly animal based for hundreds of thousands of years. You know, we’re also omnivores, we can eat a lot of different foods. It doesn’t mean we should.
But for the most part, we were eating a diet of meat, tubers, fruit, not like the fruit we have today, honey, but there wasn’t broccoli. Broccoli didn’t come around until the 1700s. There wasn’t tomatoes, tomatoes didn’t come around until 700 ad. Even bread is a relatively recent thing, like refining grains that happened about 1000 years BC, so maybe about 10,000 years ago, right?
But in the grand scheme of things, two and a half million years of human evolution 10,000 years is not that much time. And prior to that, you know, we just didn’t need that stuff. You know, and if you look at the mummies of ancient Egyptians, they, you know, we can study the actual bodies, you know, because they’re, they’ve been preserved for the last few thousand years.
They have rotten teeth and distended bellies, and they’ve determined that this is from eating refined grains, a lot of refined grains, rotten teeth, distended bellies. Prior to that though, Paleolithic man, they found all these, you know, they didn’t find the bodies, but they found the skeletons and the skulls and they all have like perfect teeth.
So no refined grains, no tooth decay, you start eating this stuff, and it starts to be bad for you, right? The bottom line is that the refined grains are a problem, right? Alright, so what I mean when I say like, let’s eat real food. Let’s go back to eating real food. Real food is food that still looks like and it’s food that our ancestors would recognize.
So a Clif Bar does not fit into this description. Okay. So eating real food means you’re sticking with unrefined unprocessed food. Food that still looks like it’s supposed to look, if it’s a piece of salmon, it’s a piece of salmon. If it’s a sweet potato, it’s a sweet potato. If it’s broccoli, it’s broccoli. Not food that’s been ground up into powders or liquids, not food that’s been extracted from whole foods, but the actual food, okay.
I think it’s a good idea to stay away from most foods that come in packages. Most packaged food is basically processed food, okay, and I’m not anti packaged food, but most of it is highly processed. You just have to be careful, read the labels, right? Most processed food, most packaged food contains like the three worst things you can eat. I call this the Vile Triumvirate. Right?
It’s sugar, refined grains, and vegetable oil. If you stay away from packaged food, you’re not going to get any of that stuff. I promise you. Stick with whole foods, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, vegetables, fruit, natural fats, like olive oil, butter, some dairy like whole milk, Greek yogurt. Stay away from highly refined, highly processed food made with a million unpronounceable and unnatural ingredients. All right.
And then when I start talking about this, people get this idea in their head, and they’re like, isn’t this just like keto or low carb, high fat or paleo? And the short answer is like, no, it’s really none of those things. It’s similar. Paleo is pretty close. But even that isn’t quite right. Because here’s the thing. This is going to look different for each individual. And last week’s episode, I talked about this in depth, that’s episode 122.
Like we’re all different, we all have different goals. We all have different lifestyles, different food preferences, genetics, our metabolism, our culture, all that has to play a part in what you choose, as the diet that works best for you. Right? There’s not a one size fits all plan that’s going to work for everybody.
There just isn’t, there’s no such thing. And to be clear on this, this isn’t about eliminating a food group. This isn’t about eliminating carbohydrates, right? Or never eating a carb again, or anything like that. This is about shifting your body back to the way it’s supposed to function. The way that your body has been functioning beautifully, as humans for thousands or millions of years, right?
I think it’s ignorant to think that introducing all this processed food in the last like 60 to 100 years or so is not going to negatively impact our health it is it has, it’s a problem. So the best thing and simplest thing you can do for yourself right now is just eat real food, food that still looks like food, food our ancestors would recognize.
So what if you do this what happens when you start eating real food? Well, your body starts to function the way it’s supposed to. You know, the way that humans have been functioning for millions of years, hormones become balanced and regulated. You’re no longer hungry all the time. You’re getting all the nutrients your body actually needs. Things like insulin drop, like you stopped storing so much energy as fat, right?
You keep eating sugar, a lot of that sugar energy can’t be used right away. So your body stores it as fat. If you’re not eating that stuff, you’re not storing all this fat, you’re actually burning fat, your fat begins to be released from your fat cells and you begin to burn fat and you begin to lose weight.
You start sleeping better, you wake up feeling more rested. You have this steady supply of energy from burning fat, so you don’t have these afternoon crashes where you need that Starbucks Triple Shot, Caramel Macchiato with extra whip, just to get you through your workday. Right. So when you start eating real food, your body starts to function the way it’s supposed to.
So what about running? How does this affect your running? Or why would runners choose to eat this way? Well, one of the biggest benefits of eating this way is that you become really efficient at burning fat. And fat is an amazing fuel source for long distance running. And when you become fat adapted, this is a pretty amazing experience. Like if you’re into running and I know you are, then I suggest you try this. I can’t explain it.
Like you have to go and you know, try this for yourself and see how you feel. Now there are some misconceptions about what it means to be fat-adapted. So I want to explain this a little bit more. Being fat-adapted means you are training your body to burn fat very efficiently. And we all have a virtually unlimited supply of energy on our bodies at all times in the form of stored body fat.
Okay, now, I want to go back to our prehistoric man for a second because in doing a little bit of research for this episode, I came across this fascinating study in this article. And I just want to talk about what it means to be fat-adapted and how we have evolved to kind of, this is like our normal state of being okay.
So we are born runners, we are really good at running long distances. We’ve adapted to become these amazing long distance runners, right? Modern humans, and their immediate ancestors, like Homo erectus, have several adaptations that make humans instead of being some ferocious, furry fleet creature, the animals, the animal world’s best, we are the world’s best distance runners. Right?
Early humans, scavengers, ended up becoming persistence hunters. So we develop these long springy tendons in our legs and our feet that function like large elastics like rubber bands, right? They store energy, and then with each running stride, release it and this actually reduces the amount of energy it takes to take another step. There’s also other adaptations to keep our bodies stable as we run.
So we counterbalance each step with an arm swing, we have these large butts and these large buttock muscles that hold our bodies upright. And we have this elastic ligament in our neck to help keep our head steady. All of this stuff is designed to help us run very efficiently, right? Even the human waste, which is thinner and more flexible than that of our primate relatives, allows us to twist our upper bodies as we run to counterbalance the slightly off center. It forces exerted as we stride with each leg.
Okay, so once humans start running, it only takes a little bit more energy for us to run faster. Other animals, on the other hand, expend a ton of energy as they speed up, particularly when they switch from a trot to a gallop, which most animals cannot maintain over long distances, right?
Those adaptations make humans and our ancestors better runners, it’s our ability to run in the heat that may have made the real difference in our ability to procure game. So humans have several adaptations that help us dump the amount of heat that we generate when we’re running. These adaptations include being hairless, virtually, some of us more than others, our ability to sweat, the fact that we breathe through our mouths when we run, it allows us to take bigger breaths, and helps us to dump heat.
And we can run in conditions that no other animal can run in. So other animals, they get to get rid of excess heat, they pant, they have to pant and they can’t pant when they’re running, so they have to stop and rest and pant to dump the heat. That means to run a prey animal into the ground, ancient humans, they just kept that animal running. So altogether, these adaptations allowed us to relentlessly pursue game in the hottest part of the day, when most animals are resting right.
So we practice persistence hunting. We would chase a game animal during the heat of the day, make it run faster than it can maintain, we would track it, flush it if it tried to rest and repeat the process, just keeping the thing going until the animal would literally overheat and collapse. And so the animal would develop hyperthermia, which is like heatstroke in humans after about 6 or 10 miles of this.
And so, by the end of all this, even humans with their crude, early weapons could have overcome stronger and more dangerous prey. And adding credence to this theory is the fact that some Aboriginal humans still practice persistent hunting today. And it remains an effective hunting technique. It requires very minimal technology, has a high success rate, and yields a lot of nutrient dense fuel in the form of meat.
Okay, so all that is just to say that running long distances is part of our DNA. And running long distances means that we needed a steady fuel source available at all times, especially when we were not eating we would be fasting we would be, you know, running an animal for days until we, you know, caught up with it and whatever. That’s where our stored body fat comes into play.
We’re naturally born fat burners. And when you get off the sugar, and you get off the refined grains and the packaged garbage food, you can turn your body back into a long distance running badass fat burning machine. And right now, most people, like the average runner probably has around 100,000 calories of stored energy in the form of stored body fat, enough to run for days and days without stopping.
On the contrary though, your body can only hold about 2000 calories of carbohydrate in the form of glucose. So if this was our preferred fuel source, we would need a lot, lot more of that to be able to track animals for days, right. So the idea of getting fat-adapted should be really stated like getting back to being fat-adapted like we were meant to be.
The other misconception about being fat-adapted is that you make this switch from burning all carbs, you know in sugar, and then burning all fat. And this is never the case, you’re always burning both your body produces glucose, all the glucose that your body needs your body actually creates at your liver creates glucose for your brain and for your muscles to function properly.
And as long as your activity level is kept low enough, like during most long distance running, you will continue to produce enough glucose glucose for your working muscles while also utilizing fat as your main source of fuel. But as your exercise intensity gets higher and higher as you start burning more glucose and less fat, and you will probably need to add some sort of fuel in the form of carbohydrate to maintain the more intense effort, okay, and you got to practice this in your training.
And then you can dial in exactly how much carbohydrate you need, at what level of intensity. So you can keep that inner fire burning hot, right? So you can keep delivering a steady supply of fat and glucose to working muscles and kick some serious butt out there. Okay, so when you get good at this when you practice both, using both fuel sources efficiently, this is known as being metabolically flexible or metabolic flexibility.
So you train your body to use both types of fuel very effectively. Again, this isn’t about eliminating carbohydrates. This is about switching your body to going back to being an efficient fat burner, okay? The only thing with this is that if you go too high in the carbs, you kind of shut down the fat burning process. So you have to be careful with how you do this. And you have to experiment with it.
Okay, and everybody’s a little bit different. And so you have to practice with this in your training. This is not something you’re going to just do on race day, for sure. Okay. So eating real food, I want to recap real quick, what I just talked about, the standard American diet is wrong, needs to be changed.
Runners are not immune to the effects of this terrible diet. So just stop doing it. Running does not mean you can eat whatever you want, okay. Humans have evolved by eating real food. We’ve become amazing creatures, the most advanced creatures in the universe as far as we know. And we did it by eating real food. So we need to get back to that.
Humans have also evolved to be badass runners and badass fat-burning machines. We need to get back to that too. And the easiest way to get back to that to get back to our badass purpose is to eat real food. Eat food that still looks like food, food our ancestors would recognize. Cool, this is fun. I love talking about this. I could talk about this all day. Hope you guys have an awesome day. Love you all. Keep on Running Lean, and I’ll talk to you soon.
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