This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Mat Lalonde Nutrition Seminar at Crossfit Academy of Lions. I will sum up Mat in 3 words: thorough, passionate and cool. He is a nutrition genius who knows his stuff inside and out. He is able to take what is super technical and make it relevant and translatable to non-science peep’s (like me!) – with a bit of humour and 1 cute dimple (i couldn’t resist…as Robb Wolf says, “the ladies will be throwing their panties at him”). Mat said that he would be happy if everyone walked out with 10% of the information that he gave – I hopefully took away much more than that. Here is a brief run-down of what I learned from this seminar:
Big Words: like polysaccharides, postprandial, carnitine and epidemiological. Mat said he was amazing at Scrabble and you can see why. When you have a repertoire of words like these, you would always win. Prior to the seminar my nutrition lingo was limited to things like macronutrient, insulin, glucagon and gluconeogenesis (thanks to Mr Wolf for that one)….now I’ve got way more fun words to drop! In all seriousness, I got a thorough learning of the words beyond carbs, hormones, fats which will helped me to further understand the inner mechanics of the body and what really happens when you eat that piece of cake.
Good Science vs Bad Science: When Mat said that he had to go deep into the bowels of the Havard Library to get some of his references, he is not kidding. (I picture it being like the opening scene in Ghostbusters). Mat presented a plethora of studies and scientific articles – he actually shows each study and highlights the important points – and you get an understanding of how to read these types of articles and what to look for to determine their validity and approach. One of the cool new big words I learned was Epidemological: it’s the study of factors effecting people and illnesses. It’s also a flawed way of deriving causes of obesity. Epidemological studies identify a correlation between 2 variables – we see these studies in the media all the time. For example (and I’m not joking), there was a study that came out recently that said “Children who eat 3 or more burgers a week are more likely to be obese.” What they found was a correlation, not a cause. What your average-joe might take away from this is that burgers cause obesity, which is not necessarily true. A HUGE proportion of studies released to the not-too-smart masses these days are based on correlations, bad funding (always read the fine print to see who is funding the study!) and poor scientific experimental design. Hence, we end up with recommendations like ‘eat more fiber!’ and ‘don’t eat red meat!’ I now have a better idea of how to read studies and determine whether it’s good science looking for the truth or bad science looking to support a hidden agenda.
The ins & outs of Fructose, Linoleic Acid and Saponin: We covered a great amount of detail on Fructose, Linoleic Acid and Saponin which was eye-opening because I learned a lot of new material on how the body processes these and their detrimental effects. I’m not going to go into detail on these, so i highly encourage you to research these further on your own. I will point out a couple things: Unlike Glucose, Fructose doesn’t spike your insulin. BUT when too much fructose enters the liver, the liver can’t process it all fast enough for the body to use as sugar. Instead, it starts making fats from the fructose and sending them off into the bloodstream as triglycerides. Fructose can cause damage to the body and brain via a process known as glycation which can literally age you (google AGE). In some situations (like when you’re doing athletics) fructose is good because it can fill up your liver glycogen stores. However, on an everyday basis you want to limit Fructose consumption. Mat compared chronic fructose consumption to chronic boozing showing that a similar level of damage can be done to the body and mind with prolonged usage. Linoleic acid is found in PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fats) and has elevated levels in fats such as sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil – this stuff is bad! Mat compared it to free radicals entering your body and it can wreak havoc on your liver. Finally, Saponin increases gut permeability which can contribute to leaky-gut – it’s found in things like the skin of potatoes (peel those babies!), soybeans, certain nightshades and other foods.
What to eat: Mat doesn’t preach a Paleo or Primal or Caveman diet. He eats foods that your body needs based on scientific truth and evidence. It happens to align fairly close to the Paleo/Primal approach, yet is slightly different. In a nutshell, eat Meat, Fish, Fowl, Eggs, Veggies, Tubers/Roots/Bulbs (they’re mostly glucose not fructose….YEA!), Animal Fat (mmmmmm), Lard, Tallow, Ghee, Avocados and Coconut. Limit nuts, seeds and fruit – this is due to the fructose in fruit and linoleic acid in certain nuts/seeds. Berries are your best source of fruit. Cashews, macadamia nuts and a little bit of almonds are your best choices. Olive oil is OK. Cooking with coconut oil or animal fat/lard is best. Quality meat is key – choose grass-fed beef, pastured pork or chicken and wild fish (News flash: You can order grass-fed beef and other harder to find Paleo foods from Crossfit Academy of Lions in Toronto). Quality becomes even more important when you’re eating the animal fat. Slow-cook or grill your meat with a marinade rich in antioxidant spices (like rosemary). High-heat cooking promotes risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Make sure your training, sleep and stress are in-check. Vitamin D3 (4-5,000 IU in a liquid cap or liquid), Fish Oil (2-3g/day and maybe none if you’re sticking to the recommended foods including quality meat and fish), Magnesium (300mg-2g/day). I also learned that Kelp is a good source of Iodine (yay for kelp noodles!). Lastly, Mat considers Dairy a grey area with not enough scientific evidence to support it one way or the other.
There was SO MUCH MORE covered in Mat’s seminar and I’m not even scratching the surface with this post. I would highly encourage you to attend one of his seminars – he did a webinar presentation for people who wanted to attend remotely. He is truly a genius and I feel so lucky that I was able to attend and meet him this past weekend. It has enriched my knowledge of nutrition immensely and I excited to begin applying to it my life and others.
I would say that if you can’t attend one of Mat’s seminars and want some of the learnings that come out of his seminar, read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes which gives a detailed history of nutrition science and the studies that shaped the various diet movements over the past century and their flaws. Also, Primal Body Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas which I think gives similar food/diet recommendations as Mat (he suggested this one too) – I’ve said before that this is my favourite paleo/primal book! Mat also recommended Robb Wolf’s book that is coming out in the Fall, The Paleolithic Solution. Lastly, Mat also suggested The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson (which I also love!).