Is Sports Science at the back of the fat burning pack?

Posted by on Nov 15, 2014 in Blog, News | 10 comments

Is Sports Science at the back of the fat burning pack?

This question struck me yesterday after an enthusiastic barrage of tweets from sports scientists, nutritionists and carb fueling evangelists reacting strongly to the “Run on Fat” narrative (their word but we like it!).

The exchange went on for some time, gathering new participants, interested followers, and supporters on both sides. Even Zach Bitter (world 12 hour ultra record holder) chimed in.  Aside: Hope to meet him one day – schoolteachers have my respect, but when they can also run non stop for 12 hours faster than anyone on the planet, that’s another level right there. 


Anyway, this all seemed fairly healthy at first even if there was some confusion from the get go. The initial tweet that kicked it all off suggested that “the future of endurance performance is LCHF.” While this would be consistent with our narrative, the reposte (that there is no evidence supporting lower carb fueling for high intensity Olympic sports) that triggered the escalation was a bit like ordering a latte in a tea house – close to relevant but nonetheless misplaced. The tweeter was unknown to me but seems to be a respected Canadian sports scientist.




That being the case, since when does a very qualified sports scientist not understand the significance of the term “endurance” in the context of performance? And since when do myriad others of a supposed scientific persuasion jump in without checking the authenticity and origin of the narrative? 

These are some smart folks, so it strikes me that the only logical answer is when they choose not to. That their pistols are cocked and carb loaded makes sense. Carb loading does what it says on the tin. It works. It’s easy to prescribe, understand and follow. Heck, the science has even supported it since Ron Hill won the European Marathon title as far back as the late 60s. It is the Acropolis of sports nutrition. I have done it myself. Why bother questioning it?

The problem is this. Sports science looks at performance from a very acute, performance centric perspective. The positive implications of a low carb fueling strategy reducing inflammatory markers in an athlete don’t really add up to much in that context.

Or do they?

Athletes and coaches know that nailing it on the day is a multifactorial process. The scientists do too, but they will never 100% replicate the competitive environment in a lab and they know this too. They do what they can with what they have. That they will never have enough is the very reason they get to do what they do.

When Sir Steve Redgrave developed Type 2 Diabetes just 3 years after powering his way to a 5th Olympic rowing gold medal, the scientists were long gone. They were not there because they don’t care. A retired Redgrave is just beyond their scope now. But did decades of carb loading (as would have been advocated by GB Rowing nutritionists) to fuel his superhuman performances contribute to his illness? It is a valid question with implications for athletes and their advisors.



Is there not a duty of care beyond the field of play?

If you ask them they will say Redgrave is an anecdote. But if he is an anecdote now, was he not an anecdote when he won 5 golds? Prof Tim Noakes believes no athlete requires more than 200g of carbs/day. Could Redgrave have trained in a lower carb state with some strategic carb uploading on race day to similar effect? If the greatest Olympian of them all had switched his energy tank towards fat adaptation, would he not now be  diabetic?

We don’t know.

As filmmakers we ask questions and try to answer them best they can. The narrative we use to do so is in our world equivalent to the data our scientifically minded commentators are screaming out for – it is what we use to weave a story, build drama and ultimately reach and deliver a conclusion.

It is revealing, refreshing and welcome when scientists respond as they did yesterday. I hope they come back with the increased heart rate variability required to engage in a more thoughtful exchange.

Sprinters need carbs they scream? Yes, of course they do. Powerlifters? Different. Split second explosive events where power to weight ratio matters enormously are interesting in this context.

Take high jumpers. That’s an Olympic sport, right? If a high jumper can knock 0.5kgs off an already lean frame, improve their power to weight ratio and reduce niggles with those lowered markers of inflammation accessible with a low carb diet, that could be the 0.5% he/she needs to win.

1968 Olympic high jump champion Dick Fosbury (below) did not wait on “science” to identify a quantum shift in the technique of his chosen discipline. The Fosbury flop (the technique you see used to this day) put its predecessor – the “western roll” – to sleep and the sport moved on to breach the 8 foot barrier. More than any scientist, the great Cuban Javier Sotomayor has Fosbury to thank for that achievement. He knows it and the scientists know it too.




Sotomayor competed at 81kgs. At a weight of 80 or 80.5kgs with no loss of power, what could he have done?

How could the possibility of adding 1 cm to the high jump world record not interest a sports scientist?

In the fat adaptation debate, the lazy scientific eye looks to Kenyan endurance athletes who eat 75% carbs. “Look!” they shout. We all need carbs!! Thankfully, the dreamers and the thought leaders look to the sky and think how much higher Sotomayor may have flown with 0.5 kgs less on his 6’5” frame.

Kobe Bryant didn’t wait for a double blind trial to tell him what his body already has. Likewise Mitchell Johnson, ICC Cricketer of the Year and the fastest bowler in the world right now (who happens to be built more like a 400m Olympian) has the skin folds and a fat fuelled 150 mph arm to prove it’s working for him. But there is only one Mitch Johnson. Should he not stop until a double blind trial tells him his low carb, high fat regime is paying dividends?




It’s like this.

The horse has bolted.

The athletes are coming.

And so are we.



Disclosure: The movie Cereal Killers 2: “RUN ON FAT” is not financially supported, endorsed or influenced by any third party commercial or other interests. We are raising funds and pre-selling on kickstarter through Dec 13, 2015. Support us here.




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Ireland’s largest sporting organisation licenses chocolate bar targeting children

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Blog, Food, News | 2 comments



Former GAA President Dr Mick Loftus famously campaigned – on public health grounds – for the abolition of alcohol sponsorship in Ireland’s largest sporting organisation for over a decade.

He will be pleased to see that legislation is now closing in on the sponsorship of sporting events by alcoholic drinks brands in Ireland. That the outstanding issue appears to be financial means that this is not an “if” but a “when.” A cheque will be written to replace the “easy alcohol money” and everyone will move along.

Legislation around sponsorship is a relatively new phenomenon but it is typcially an accurate mirror of societal norms. Big Tobacco was hit hard in the 1990s as research outed the damage caused by their product and smoking fell out of favour.

Philip Morris and co were sentenced to sponsorship death and everyone wondered where the money would come from to replace the Marlboro men. They need not have – Big Booze, Telcoms and the Banks rode in to town on a horse weighed down with fresh moneybags.

My old mentor Mark McCormack had always advised us to think big, go long and disregard the small deals. Not surprisingly, I would quickly learn that the most powerful man in world sport was bang on the money – literally.

Big deals are easier to pitch, negotiate, close and manage than small ones. That’s where the “right money” resides. Once upon a time tobacco was the right money. That society and ultimately the authorities decided otherwise is a useful lesson.

Dr Loftus seemed like a lone voice in a long hall for much of his solo campaign. In hindsight, he was ahead of both society and the looming legislation.

To their credit, Diageo also knew when to leave the stage. The “right money” likes to plan ahead you see.

The GAA has it much easier.

As Commercial chief, Peter McKenna’s job requires not much more than an ability to say very little and let the hired help complete the job. You can rave about the “product” and the “benefits” all you want but the bottom line is this – the GAA is but a judge at their very own beauty pageant every 3-5 years.

When the GAA’s commercial rights become available, the corporate beauty queens bleach their teeth, reach for the swimsuit and call in their PR gurus for a practice Q & A.

“It’s like the X Factor but you pay them! If you win, you get to sit amongst and sing to all those kids. That McKenna fella even looks a bit like yer man Simon with the dyed hair who wears his t-shirts too tight.”

Let the games begin.

When the GAA was founded in 1884, Ireland was on first name terms with alcoholism but we had never met obesity or diabetes. 100 years later the greatest team ever were advertising Bendix washing machines that would presumably be used to clean regular sized dirty clothing.

For a very long time obesity and diabetes were not what we did, nor was the GAA a trojan horse for their commercial beneficiaries. Our children are now topping the overweight/obesity charts in Europe and Ireland’s type 2 (diet and lifestyle related) diabetics would fill Croke Park twice - with 20,000 left standing outside (nothing we haven’t seen before).

Another 200,000 are in a waiting room enjoying various GAA endorsed junk food and artifical food like products. This room is pre-diabetes and the average Irish person will have no idea that they are there in the first place.

If you’re over 40, overweight, constantly thirsty and low on energy then you’re very possibly in this room already. If they’re feeling generous, Paddy Power would give you odds of 1/3 on your own death by heart attack or stroke – odds which the average GP will have no idea how to lengthen.

Dr Loftus will know that Ireland’s expenditure on diabetes (1.5 billion euros and rising) dwarfs alcohol related health costs. The biggest commercial health opportunity in the western world is feasting upon us but the spindoctors for its beneficiaries tell us there are “complex” and “multifactorial” issues causing these horrific health statistics. Balance is key. Go out and play the sports we sponsor and you’ll be grand.

To that list of spin we can now add a Father Ted-esque contribution from Peter McKenna. Announcing the launch of a GAA licensed chocolate bar with Cadbury’s last week, Peter preached -

“A bar of chocolate is a lovely treat. Let’s not lose sight of that.”

How quaint.

In 2006 Kelloggs had a policy “not to actively target primary schools.” Since 2012, the GAA have helped them deftly change the parameters of their promise. The organisation’s Cul Camps – sponsored by Kelloggs – have now spread across Britain and the US. They are “open to primary school children ages 6-13” and over 100,000 children will attend in 2014.

Kelloggs rap sheet is neither “complex” nor “multifactorial” They have been caught red handed telling lies and blatantly massaging the “benefits” of their highly refined, food like products on numerous occasions.

Let’s not lose sight of that either Peter.

Junk food is in the dock already and in time society, then the authorities will turn against sugar and its highly refined, processed food like bedfellows. The Kelloggs Cul camp will not be very cool any more and the “right money” will appear from elsewhere (it always does).

The Cadbury’s deal? That’s not even cool today.

What were you thinking Peter? Your head must have been up in the clouds….or the SKY?

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Protein will kill you

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Blog, Food, News | 5 comments


Why did the chicken cross the road?

I will give you $1 billion (in cash, not bitcoins) if you can answer correctly. I promise.

So now you have a few choices. You can choose to make something up and hope I am a very honest billionaire (due to the mega success of the Cereal Killers movie of course) who shares your very precise view of the world about why chickens cross roads. Alternatively, you could try gathering a large number of chickens and observe them crossing a road, draw a conclusion from that and construct what you believe to be a “correct” answer accordingly.

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An Open Letter to Brennan’s Bread

Posted by on Sep 18, 2013 in Blog, News | 10 comments

An Open Letter to Brennan’s Bread

Dear Mr Brennan

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! on achieving 3rd place in the “Biggest Selling brands in Ireland” groceries ranking!

Brennan’s Bread really is an iconic name in Ireland – I would love to know how you got there? The fact that bread is so cheap to make and really popular must have been a great help, right?

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Flower Powered FLORA not very Haight Ashbury

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in Blog, News | 0 comments


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Why you really can afford Grass Fed Meat

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Blog, News | 5 comments




While the benefits of Grass Fed Meat are a given, the affordability factor is often used as an excuse for NOT consuming it. Now this is a Great 8 Fatty Food so I figured it was important to counter these claims in a measured manner. The measure I’m referring to is of course financial – because that seems to be the crux of the matter!

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Show me the money Sugarpova!

Posted by on Aug 21, 2013 in Blog, News | 0 comments



In 1996 I joined an outstanding company called IMG. The next 3 years were supersonic – the sports marketing behemoth founded by Mark H McCormack would teach me pretty much everything I have ever needed to know about business. McCormack’s ethos was simple

Money matters. People matter. The rest is easy.

Notwithstanding a worldwide circular urging staff to re-use paper clips, in my time at IMG everyone knew that the way to get ahead was to make a shitload of money or lose a shitload of money. McCormack encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit amongst us with the caveat to be mindful of needless expense.

This was the Silicone Valley of sport.

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Seth Godin’s 7 Steps to Weight Loss?

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in Blog, News | 0 comments



The war on processed food will not be won with medical facts or an abundance of real food. Sure, they are pieces of the puzzle, but big lies backed by big $ DOLLARS create perceptions that over time manifest as reality – however distorted.

Coke wins because they create the playing field before inviting debate – their turf, their terms.

Now I am a big fan of Seth Godin (marketing genius!).

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Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Blog, News | 4 comments



  • Does FAT make you FAT?
  • Is sugar TOXIC?
  • Should BREAD be BANNED?
  • What the hell has Cholesterol PARTICLE SIZE got to do with HEART DISEASE?

Cereal Killers is the feature length documentary film with all the answers.

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