#172: Cate Shanahan, MD- Traditional Diets and Fat Adapted Athletes

by Deanna Mutzel, DC


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Mike Mutzel Podcast High Intensity Health


About Cate Shanahan M.D.

Dr. Shanahan is a board certified Family Physician. She trained in biochemistry and genetics at Cornell University before attending Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She practiced in Hawaii for ten years where she studied ethnobotany and her healthiest patient’s culinary habits. She consults for the LA Lakers.


Books and Products Discussed

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food

Optimal Prenatal Protein Powder | Choose From Vanilla or Chocolate | Comprehensive Prenatal and Multivitamin Formula for the Nutritional Needs of Women | Non-GMO | Free of Common Allergens | Physician Formulated | Seeking Health (Chocolate – 15 Servings)

Optimal Electrolyte | Berry Flavor | 30 Single-Serving Packets | Provides Key Nutrients In An Easy-To-Use Powder Form To Support Peak Physical Performance | Physician Formulated | Seeking Health

Optimal Creatine | Functional Food Powder | Provides Creatine Bound To Magnesium For Optimal Absorption | 247.5 Grams | 225 Servings Per Container | Seeking Health

Show Notes

02:15 Working with Professional Athletes: When working with the LA Lakers, Dr. Shanahan tried to get them to get healthy by taking advantage of culinary principles that humans have used for thousands of generations.  Not only can these improve your diet, they can be delicious. The goal of the team managers was to get away from sports nutrition advice. Dr. Shanahan finds sports nutrition to be backward. Protein is from powder. It uses bad fats and encourages sugar for fuel. The chef had grown up learning from her traditional-cooking mother. She worked magic with the players pushing the envelope of their culinary choices.

06:40 Effects of Sugar: Sugar is toxic and your body knows it. When we overload on sugar in any of its forms, our hormones that regulate blood sugar need to do extra work. When it is done meal after meal, it seems to wear out your hormone systems, making them less sensitive and developing insulin resistance.

08:02 Calorie Storage: We store more calories in fat than we do in sugar. This means that we can go for longer between meals without getting hungry and we can exert ourselves for longer. The more you train your body to burn sugar, the less it will burn fat. This effects performance because you will be dependent upon continuous sugar infusions. Periodic use can turn sugar into a performance enhancer. The real edge comes from burning fat.

10:54 Weight Maintenance:  The more you burn fat, the more your appetite is naturally regulated. Ketogenic diets help you not be hungry. The importance of calories in weight management is secondary to hormone effects, appetite effects and more complicated processes.

12:37 Athletes Becoming Fat Adapted: There can be a temporary performance drop if you go from one extreme to the other.

13:43 Phosphocreatine: Phosphocreatine provides 15 seconds of energy without any oxygen. A good fat burner can go from sitting to running fast and transition from the phosphocreatine into fat burning. Sugar burners need a warm up. Your circulatory system needs to be more responsive to be a good fat burner. Your body looks for sugar to burn first, before fat.

16:42 Optimal Human Diet: For most of human history, we were following an optimal human diet. Cigarette smoking in the 50s and 60s was the number one cause of heart attacks. Instead placing the blame there, we became obsessed with possible causes in our diet. Saturated fats became the fall guy. There was no data or science to support it. The government incorporated it into dietary guidelines. It was a science experiment without a control group.

19:08 Experimental Diets: Natural diets eaten for generations of humans and animals are optimal. Diets developed in the lab are more likely to lead to disease than our natural diet. We keep finding more disease as we get further away from the traditional human diet.

20:13 The Traditional Human Diet:  Dr. Shanahan wants us to return to our original human diet. There is a huge body of science around what humans should eat to be optimally healthy. We call it cuisine, not a diet. The culinary arts represent the largest body of scientific knowledge on what humans should eat to be healthy. It represents traditional wisdom handed down for generations. It was lovingly developed to create the healthiest possible child for your family. Our genes depend upon us consuming this optimal diet.

21:44 Reproducing a Traditional Human Diet: Dr. Shanahan looked for what all traditional cuisines from around the world had in common. There were four common strategies. The combination of the four are the crux. Dr. Shanahan calls them the four pillars.

22:41 The Four Pillars: Fresh food, fermented and sprouted foods, meat on the bone and organ meats. Fresh food is like salad or uncooked animal foods, like sushi. The hallmark of this is antioxidants. Fermented food offers probiotics. Sprouted foods awaken the enzymes in the seed that naturally break down some of the antinutrients and converts some of the starch into more diverse nutrients, like vitamins and fiber. Meat on the bone is not only delicious, but it provides you with a complete protein. Meat cooked on the bone includes the skin and the collagen tissues. Cooking this releases important nutrients that benefit our cells (fibroblasts) that manufacture collagen. Collagen literally holds us together impacting bone and connective tissue. The healthier your collagen, the more you can ask from your body. Different organ meats concentrate different nutrients. The rest of the world regularly eats organ meats and blood. Pasture raised eggs provide some of the benefits of organ meats. Eat organic and animals that have been humanely treated.

29:56 Breakfast: The most important meal of the day is breakfast. When we or our kids have sugar at breakfast, we are setting our taste buds to desire sweet. Our cortisol levels are higher in the morning. Cortisol forms habits in the appetite center of our brain. You crave what was around when there were high levels of cortisol.

31:55 Seed Oils: In 1909 we consumed 1/3 of an ounce of soy oil per year. Now we consume about 22 pounds per year. In the amounts that we consume seed oils, it breaks down into some of the worst toxins ever discovered. They are also capable of damaging our DNA. Many diseases are due to mutations that children have that their parents did not have. This means that mothers and fathers with poor diets have eggs/sperm that have mutated DNA. Children with autism have 10 times the number of usual mutations in their genes. Getting off of seed oils is one of the most impactful things prospective parents can do. The sperm has more mutations than the egg.

38:48 Oxidation of Oils: The oils also accelerate the aging process. Fries and other deep fried foods are the worst sources of toxic oils. Seed oils oxidize easily and degrade. Heat accelerates the process. As the oil sits in the fryer, it becomes highly toxic. The factory processing causes some degradation. We were never meant to use these oils the way we are. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids which react quickly with oxygen. They react with the oxygen in your body. Iron accelerates the reaction. They damage your lipoproteins, important in the development of cardiovascular disease.

41:39 Gene Expression: Dr. Shanahan is a family practice doctor. While practicing medicine in Hawaii, she found that many people still followed traditional ways and their ability to heal was incredible. She noticed that the structure of their faces was the square jaw we see in photos from long ago. There is a certain facial structure that develops when a person is exposed to optimal nutrition, allowing genes to express optimally. She noticed that younger generations had narrower faces and smaller jaws. The need for glasses is an abnormality from poorly shaped eyes. There is a universal mathematical principle for optimal growth. It is so important that we see it as deep beauty and are greatly attracted to it when we see it in someone.

46:31 Deep Nutrition: We are a reflection of the health of nature. When we alter our food, land, water, and oceans where we get our food, we are altering our DNA.

47:14 Cooking: If you don’t know how to cook and read Dr. Shanahan’s book, it may be overwhelming. Don’t try to do it all at once. To change your diet, start with one thing, your worst thing. By tackling that, you feel better and more motivated to cook and make more changes.

48:59 Dr. Shanahan’s Morning Routine: Upon waking, she feeds the cats and drains her cold brewed coffee. She stretches for about 15 minutes. She puts lots of raw milk and raw cream into her coffee. She doesn’t get hungry for lunch and seldom eats lunch.

50:49 Dr. Shanahan’s Favorite Nutrient: She would bring a cow for milk and periodic draining of its jugular. The Maasai people drain the blood and let it ferment, thus it is fresh and fermented.

52:34 Dr. Shanahan’s Elevator Speech: The way to make America great again is through our stomachs. We were fed well in the 50s. There were family farms.


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