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A Transformation in Health

by Ian Muir McNally |

by Ian Ramsey, Ultra Runner

In my twenties and early thirties, I considered myself healthy. I ate whole foods, more or less. I exercised, more or less. As a typical modern bagel and pizza eater, my blood sugar went up and down throughout the day depending on what I was eating. Midafternoon often wasn’t pretty. Multiple cups of dark roast pushed me through, but my adrenal glands were paying the price.  Even though I hiked and kayaked extensively, I was starting to find my once carved abs were becoming as soft as those bagels. My sleep wasn’t great.

All of this changed at age 35 when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Everyone around me was shocked, including me-I ate from my own organic garden, I hiked, I meditated and lived in a passive solar house in the woods. The good news was that we caught it early, and after surgery and a few rounds of chemotherapy, I was able to put cancer behind me-something that is often not the case for people. I feel damn lucky.

As it turned out, the bout with cancer began a few years of massive transformation: my long-term partner and I married, then-almost as quickly-separated. I pursued an MFA in creative writing on the west coast, spending lots of time in wild places like Yosemite and the North Cascades. I started an environmental writing program where I took high school students to the Alaskan backcountry. I embraced trail- and ultra-running. With lots of research and experimentation motivated by the cancer scare, I began to follow a paleo/primal/LCHF diet and the changes, within a few weeks, were extraordinary: my body leaned out nearly ten pounds, dark circles under my eyes (that had been there for a decade) disappeared. I was in the best shape of my life and I had more energy than ever before.  

While I had always been quite healthy, I became a health wonk-diving into studies on insulin resistance and micronutrients. I read the FASTER study and followed a variety of health podcasts. I cut almost all sugar out of my diet. I became more intentional about sleep, about caffeine. This is not to say that I’m striving for perfection at-I still try anything once and enjoy everything I eat-but my default setting for health is pretty high now as I Eat to LIVE. And I feel AMAZING. Dude. Like, totally WAY better than when I was 19. I feel like I have a superpower compared to many of my peers who can’t seem to lose those last few pounds and who often bemoan feeling tired, “not like back in the day.”

When I’m home, most of my food comes from two farms at the local farmer’s market-I’ve known my farmers for years and I’ve been to their farms socially. As an athlete, I’ve changed my diet as well. A few years back, I would just tuck a few Snickers Bars and bready sandwich into my day hatch if I was going out to kayak for the day. Now I experiment with carb-fasting and OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism) which allows me to use fat as a fuel source during long endurance efforts, and which helps to avoid insulin spikes and GI issues.

The first time I tried a gel-at mile 25 of my first ultra-I nearly spit it out. It tasted like chemicals, bad sugar and old latex gloves.  But how to fuel my endurance efforts? During a trip in the Northwest, I stumbled across Muir Energy products in Portland, Oregon’s Mountain Shop. Real Food? Check. Dense with Micro-nutrients? Check. Low in Sugar when needed? Check. Named for one of my favorite trails and environmental heroes? Check. Most importantly, Delicious? Definitely.

I’ve since used Muir Energy’s products extensively-primarily the delicious slow-burning spreads and pouches (the Cacao Almond Mate is a favorite) for endurance efforts, but also the faster-burning gels (Hello-Sweet Potato Oregano, anyone?) when I really need to light it up. I love that Muir Energy is providing a new model of what sports nutrition can be, with more kale and mate than sodium benzoate and evaporated cane juice. Muir Energy helps to shift the overall conversation away from the processed-preservatived-sugared up- food model (“I can’t believe it’s not Disodium Inosinate/Guanylate!”) toward healthier, nutrient-dense foods that come from farmers, not corporate laboratories. It helps our bodies and souls operate to their full capacity.

This is not about being some kind of puritan-I still enjoy more than my fair share of dark chocolate, mezcal, red wine and locally roasted coffee. But mostly I really enjoy eating delicious, real food that gives me energy to fully embody my human potential. Muir Energy allows me to do the same thing on the trail, in the waves, on the mountain and on the road.

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Follow along with Ian on Instagram and at ianramsey.net

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