Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 25 - Nancy Clark - Food is Fuel - Part 1 of 3

One of the big sources of confusion is that most of the nutrition messages that go out are targeted to the two thirds of Americans that are overweight or obese. And athletes who are health conscious and nutrition hungry listen to all these messages that aren't meant for them, like carbs are evil.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 25  - Nancy Clark - Food is Fuel - Part 1 of 3

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“One of the big sources of confusion is that most of the nutrition messages that go out are targeted to the two thirds of Americans that are overweight or obese. And athletes who are health conscious and nutrition hungry listen to all these messages that aren't meant for them, like carbs are evil. And it's like no, carbohydrate is really important for fueling your muscles.” This episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to JESSE: Welcome to Smart Athlete Podcast, I'm your host Jesse Funk. Today, my guest is a very special author. She has her Master's in Nutrition. She works with all athletes of all abilities anywhere from young amateurs all the way to Olympians. She's a fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition in Dietetics. Currently, she has a private practice in nutrition in the Boston area, so feel free to get in touch with her. And of course, she is the author of Nice Carbs Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Welcome to the show, Nancy Clark. NANCY: Thanks for inviting me to be on the show. JESSE: Absolutely. I mean, I always love talking to authors because anytime somebody has put a book together, they've definitely you've done the work know what they're talking about. But specifically you, so anybody who hasn't ever picked up this book before, or I hadn't before I had the opportunity to talk with Nancy. This is a very, I'll say thick, but very, almost exhaustive guidebook. If you have a question, it seems like it's in there. NANCY: But you don't have to read the whole book. JESSE: No, no. NANCY: Go to the index and look up pre-exercise food or weight loss or vitamins so it's a resource. But a lot of people do read it and actually, I got an email from a mom with a high school kid who said, my high school son read your book from cover to cover. JESSE: Yeah. I did go through it cover to cover. And when I'm going through things, I'm not absolutely every word, but I do spend a fair amount of time several hours with the books I go through. And it was definitely like, you can certainly sit down with it. But then, for me, I know how I can come back and just jump through this chapter and not have to like go back through from page one to 250 or whatever. So, I'm kind of curious. It seemed like I saw a few themes as I went through it, but I'm kind of curious of your opinion of I guess yourself. Do you have an overarching philosophy or guiding principle you kind of stick to when you are working with people? NANCY: My philosophy is, is that food is fuel, but food is also health, and it's one of life's pleasures or it should be one of my pleasures. So, the trick is, is how do you find healthy, yummy sports foods that help you perform at your best, and that you're willing to eat for the rest of your life? So, sustainability is a big issue. And there's not a one program that fits everybody because we're all very individual. And I try to listen to my clients, and figure out what works for them. JESSE: Yeah. Is it a matter of like taste that makes us vary so much in terms of what is going to work best for us? Or do you find that like, a different mix of macros is more effective for this person versus that person; does that come into play? NANCY: Food is so complex...come into play. I mean, just look at caffeine. I’m very caffeine sensitive, I have a little teaspoon of coffee in the morning and that sets me up for the day. My husband drink coffee before he goes to bed. Some people are very alcohol sensitive, one sip and it’s plenty for them, and others just hit the six pack and are back for more. So, we're all very unique, and I think there's a lot of just biological differences, even though our bodies look the same with one head and two hands and two feet. But inside is very, very different and that's where it's important to listen to each person and figure out what their food preferences are. And certainly some people, for them a vegetarian diet is preferred because the taste of meat is like yuck. And others, meat eaters go, I just have to have my meat every day. So, is that a biological difference? Is that a cultural difference? I don't know. But it's just a difference that can be honored. JESSE: Yeah. Right. And yeah, I understand that. It seems like you talk a lot about things-- As I was going through the book, it seemed like a lot of the themes and ideas you present really seem to be almost common sense to me, although they're not common sense, which I'm sure you know through your practice. So, I'm kind of curious and again, I don't mean this offensively, but it just seems like okay, there wasn't anything to me that seemed like crazy groundbreaking. So, in your opinion, should these things that you're trying to teach be common sense by now? NANCY: They should be common sense. I mean, eating used to be very simple. You ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, we enjoyed food. And now people are making it so complex and is it? They're looking, I mean at so many different aspects, the meal timing or macros or ultra processed, organic, fattening, good food, bad food, clean food, dirty food. I mean, it’s just way too complex. So, in my book, I tried really hard to make it common sense and simple because it doesn't have to be as complex as it is. And I think a lot of that is due to marketing. I mean, as one athlete summed it up very nicely, he said, “You know, I really liked to buy this recovery product because I know that it's the exact three to one ratio of carbs to protein.” And if he’s eating food, he has no idea what the three to one ratio is. Well, it doesn't have to be an exact three to one ratio. If you have cereal with milk, and you just need no carbs and protein combined together. So, I try to take the complexities and make them simple, so that people don't want to do. And I think the food industry and the advertisements have made it far more complex than it needs to be. JESSE: Yeah, I know. So, as we were talking before we got going, I have a couple companies, so I'm in the marketing and I see, there's this kind of philosophy with marketers. It's like, once you learn-- like marketing is all about psychology and trying to work with people psychology. It's like once you kind of learn the tricks of the trade, and you kind of like figure out how to sell things to people, there's kind of two paths you can go down; the light side and the dark side. And it seems like there are some marketers who use their powers for evil to sell something that isn't necessarily good for people. NANCY: Yeah, and the food business is a business, not necessarily a health business, though they try to claim that it is. And so it just gets confusing and so that's the role of a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians know food and know how food impacts health and how food impacts performance. And so for people that are confused, it's really worth it for them to seek out, not a nutritionist because anybody can call themselves a nutritionist. It’s like I love to eat, I'm a nutritionist. Whereas you want a registered dietician, who has four years of undergraduate work, a year of masters work, a year of internship and knows food more so than other people. JESSE: I think there's a lot of kind of the idea that I can do it myself nowadays, especially with the internet and there being so much information available. But I think it also leads to-- I think you touched on this in the book where there's this confusion because there's so many ideas about eat this, don't eat that, don't eat this, eat that. Do you do anything to kind of combat that mentality or do you just wait till people are tired and ready for your help? NANCY: Well, I mean, that's one of the reasons that I wrote my book is to give people information. I mean, I write a monthly nutrition article that goes to a lot of different publications and really looking at current topics and confusion like these foo meats; the impossible burger, the better beyond burger and it’s what's their role in our diet. So, I try hard to educate people, both the general public as well as the one on one when I'm counseling people. One of the big sources of confusion is that most of the nutrition messages that go out are targeted to the two thirds of Americans that are overweight or obese. And athletes who are health conscious and nutrition hungry listen to all these messages that aren't meant for them, like carbs or evil. And it's like no carbohydrate is really important for fueling your muscles. And just educating people that the physiology of an active person's body is very different from the physiology of someone who's unfit and living in a large body. JESSE: I think, again, there's something else. Like I said at the beginning your book is fairly exhaustive. So, I think you've touched on this as well, where I think people miss two, ?? 11:23> you’re not just feeding your body, you're feeding your brain and it's like when you starve your brain of certain things, then you're not going to-- Even if say supposedly, zero carbs was the perfect fuel for your body, but then your brain is suffering. You're not at maximum capacity because your brain is not functioning, you know? NANCY: What makes you think that zero carbs is the perfect fuel for your body? JESSE: I'm not saying it is. I'm just saying in a bizarre scenario, suppose that it is, but if you start like even if you figure out this magic formula for your body if you're starving your brain, it doesn't really matter. NANCY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. JESSE: One thing I saw it kind of the beginning you talked about, and you kind of mentioned this with the cereal for breakfast. I think you also mentioned like, possibly getting fruit juice and I think it was in the context of picking those things kind of over say, let's get a croissant or pastry or something for breakfast. Sometimes I've seen people suggest, like fruit juices evil because it doesn't have the fiber. Are those suggestions a matter of this is better than the alternative or are they like a staple for you? NANCY: Well, again, we have to look at who the audience is. For the average, over fat under fit person. Do they need to drink juice? No, they want to eat the whole fruit because it doesn't more fiber in it, and it's eating and chewing, which is more satiating than just drinking something. But I was working with a high school student who was playing soccer and couldn't get enough calories into his body, and was drinking a ton of water. So, you trained water into orange juice, and you get carbohydrates to fuel your muscles, you get water to replace your hydration, you get one glass-- eight ounces of orange juice gives you all the vitamin C that you need for the day. And so if he's drinking a whole bunch of it, and by drinking more water, and drinking more juice, and different colors of juice, because each color has its own health protective property. So, there's red cranberry juice, there's orange, orange juice, there's yellow pineapple juice, there's blue blueberry juice, there are green juices. And all of these have nutritional value that's anti-inflammatory. So, athletes that are training hard, they need calories, they need carbohydrates, they need fluids, they need quick and easy nutrition, and they need anti-inflammatory properties. So, what I find is that so many of my athletes, oh juice is bad. And instead of having juice-- they stopped drinking orange juice for breakfast, but it's not as though they eat an orange instead. They just have no fruit. So, again, we have to look at the whole picture, and so one on one conversation. It's not right, wrong my way or the highway. It's really a conversation looking at what's going on. But the number of people that have stopped drinking juice, haven't started eating more fruit. JESSE: Right. You make an excellent point where it's like, even in my own head, even as I'm asking these questions, I'm like, Nancy just give me the answer. I think it's almost conditioned in us where it's like, we want one answer like this is the answer for everybody, which I know from experience and other disciplines, not nutritionally that it's like if people ask me about skincare, they'll say-- I got a question this morning about my bar soap, can I use it on my hair. And was like, well, you can, but it depends. There's a lot of factors involved. And I think that it depends bugs the heck out of people, and they're like, I don't want to know all the information, just give me the answer. NANCY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. JESSE: So, thinking about that, I kind of wonder, with all your one on one clients, working on nutrition or coaching nutrition; how much is it a game of mental strategies versus education? NANCY: It's very much a game of mental strategies. Most of the people that come to me, they say, oh, I know what I should eat I just don't do it. Or they might say, I don't know what to eat anymore, and they're just so confused. But I see a pretty well educated clientele, I mean, athletes get better grades than non athletes in high school and college and they tend to be pretty smart and they’re nutrition savvy, but they're just confused. So, what was your question? JESSE: So, how much is it a game of mental strategies versus education? NANCY: So, I look a lot at cost benefit. I mean, people make it nutrition, change, a food change when there's a benefit. But there's also a cost. Like if you start eating trail mix for a snack, you aren't eating yummy chocolate chip cookies. And so there's a cost, there's a benefit. And how do you balance that out so that the benefits are higher than the costs? If people go, let's say if they knock out the carbs, the benefit is they aren't binge eating anymore. But the cost is they aren't fueling their muscles, they're denied, they're deprived, they're restricted. So, it's really addressing the costs and the benefits and coming up with a balance that is sustainable for the rest of a person's life. So, this going on and off diets is really health harmful, and it's better for even an obese person to stay obese than to yo-yo up and down and up and down. So, we want sustainability and steadiness. Go to Part 2 Go to Part 3

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