A few years ago, as I was filling up my car with gas, I found myself looking at an advertisement for the gas station. The add touted their gas and oil as being better for your car engine with cleaner emissions, therefore providing superior performance of your car engine. Did you know many mechanical devices we use daily, replicate how or bodies or other things in nature work? People that work in healthcare had to study science; anatomy, physiology, physics, chemistry, biomechanics, the list goes on and on depending on the eventual field of expertise. Beyond expertise, it is a use it or lose it situation. As quickly as the information is memorized, it is gone unless it is used in daily practice or unless processes are understood vs just memorizing information. Interestingly, all the science subjects previously mentioned come into play with achieving your best as a runner. Seeing the gasoline advertisement really resonated with me, beyond the intended purpose of the advertisement. It was from that moment on that I started saying to my runners…back when I only had five runners, “On race day, we want your body to perform like a well-oiled machine”.
Last week I had 31 runners conclude a 3-week long nutrition experiment and I am really excited to give a synopsis of their results. Let me first disclose that I am not a registered dietician or medical doctor, but a healthcare provider, coach, and personal trainer, qualified in guiding the experiment without telling them what to eat. Each subject kept a three-day log of what they consumed to get an average of their individual macronutrient profile and how many calories they typically consume. Throughout the experiment, they were supposed to hit that average for macronutrients and calories every day and make up what they expended in exercise calories. However, the “experiment” was to reduce their sugar content to specific grams. This was a reduced sugar experiment, but they still had to consume just as many carbohydrates as they did prior to the study, therefore, changing the quality of some of their carbohydrate consumption.
Initially this was tough for many. They had to overcome their sweet cravings, pass on treats at weddings, parties, and the office break room. It was torture in a society that eats socially and takes comfort in foods, especially the reward center in the brain that responds to sugar. They became food loggers and their awareness for what they put in their body became a lifestyle. Grocery store trips took longer, and restaurant food ordering became complicated. It wasn’t easy at first anyway. They were forced to eat with intention. Consciously, not just habitually. Not habitually grabbing for the cookie in the break room or the “protein” bar that has more crap in it than protein content. Was all this trouble worth it in the long run? They were blindly following my lead after all.
To share the stats of all 31 of the experiment participants would be tedious, so I will share a glimpse into the magic. The results were incredible!!!! Both objective measurable data, weight and waist/hip circumference and subjective observations. In my opinion, the subjective observations, the ah ha moments were the icing on the cake. Okay, bad pun for this experiment, but you get the picture.
At the cessation of the experiment, everyone experienced some weight loss or loss of inches off their waist and/or hips. Many people lost more than one pound per week. The largest weight loss during the three-week experiment was 10 pounds, with several people losing more than 5 pounds. The largest loss in hip and waist circumference was 3.5 inches from the waist and 2.5 inches from the hips. Most of the participants lost at least one inch off their waist and hips. Hello saggy pants! Good thing the trend is in.
Not everyone had favorable results. The smaller someone is to start, the less weight they have to lose. But what about that icing on the cake? What about the subjective observations? Some of the experiment participants reported; improved sleep, clearer skin, less joint pain, no heart burn, less sugar cravings, less bloat, and less fatigue. Oh, and some of them love their new found, sexy waist!
But what about me? What did I learn? I learned I have been failing some of my runners. Not all of the experiment participants were following my training plan as some are friends of Run With Gina (Rwg). It was crystal clear in the three-day data collection portion of the experiment, many of these runners were eating like dieters and not athletes. Remember, in the intro to this blog, I said, to perform like a well-oiled machine you need to put fuel (food) in your body. Hello under eaters! Under eaters, yet some of them had pounds to lose? How does that work? Here is another interesting point, that gives a hint to the latter question. It turns out seven of the females in the experiment stand 5’1”. The female that runs the most in that height group, eats the least, yet weighs more than most of them. No, this is not a muscle weighs more than fat thing. One needs to eat to build muscle. This is too much energy out without enough energy in and chemical/metabolic processes in the body cannot work properly. Under fuel = under performance. Under fuel with excessive energy out = the body goes into survival mode and holds onto the body fat and chemical reactions that need to occur, cannot occur.
Just like your car, whether you are driving it fast or slow, it still needs fuel or a charge if you are driving an electric car. Your body expends energy (calories) whether you are running/exercising or not. The majority of our calorie needs come from basal metabolic rate (BMR). As a matter of fact, about 75% of our energy needs come from BMR. BMR is the rate at which the body expends energy to maintain basic physiological survival. For the average male that is 1500 calories just to fuel his day, not his athletic performance. Then there is the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF represents the energy (calories) required to digest, absorb, transport, mobilize, and store nutrients. You need those nutrients to fuel your body! TEF uses up about 10% of your calories. Lastly and the only thing people seem to think about is thermic effect of physical activity (TEPA). TEPA is only about 15-30% of your energy expenditure. So many people don’t even consume what their body needs for all the metabolic processes to occur. Including weight loss and athletic performance. No more under fueling guys!
The 3-week reduced sugar experiment was so much fun, informative, and successful that 32 people are moving onto a longer, more controlled experiment. I cannot share the details because I can’t give away all my success secrets. But here is what I hypothesize; the experiment participants will be consuming more calories than before. The participants that need to lose weight, will lose weight. The participants that are “normal” weight at the start, will see visible body composition changes. All participants will see improvements in recovery from their running/exercise, which will support better performance.
I want to thank all of you that take the time to read my blog and share my blogs across social media. Coach Gina, Run With Gina, Rwg is a healthcare provider first before all things and then a coach and personal trainer. I try my best to bring the “personal” into coaching. I have said it before, people don’t pay for coaching/training, they pay for the coach/trainer. If you are reading this blog on Facebook, check me out at www.runwithgina.com