My guest today is chef Dan Churchill. Some of the top athletes in the world have called on Dan to cook their meals. He served as Lindsey Vonn’s personal chef during the 2018 Winter Olympics, and is an author, podcast host and TV regular.
Dan is also an expert on physiology, fitness, and the science of nutrition. He explains why eating late can negatively impact your sleep, and how mindset can completely alter digestion and prevent you from reaching your weight-loss goals.
Plus, Dan shares his secret to making the perfect steak.
I know you’ll enjoy this episode. Stay healthy and stay in the green!
2:16 – A High-Performance Chef. “I’m in the recovery game. My job as a performance chef is to provide people with the best opportunity from a nutritional standpoint to be at their best the next day. … My job is to facilitate that by providing as much nutrient-rich and tasty [food] available.”
3:19 – Getting Hooked on Cooking. “Cooking became a family orientation. I always say I’m 100% spiritually Italian. That’s probably what induced me to cook more.”
4:38 – The Science of Nutrition. “There’s still so many blurred lines as to how [nutrition] can optimize our performance individually.” Dan has a bachelor’s degree in sports and exercise management and a master’s degree in strength and conditioning.
6:00 – Coming to America. Dan shares why he left Australia 5 years ago to come to the United States and grow his career.
7:04 – Mission. “I’m the kind of person who bridges the gap between performance and cooking. That’s my role. That’s what I do.”
9:06 – Knowing Yourself. “It’s interesting to know how much more people are wary of their sleep and their performance during COVID. COVID has been an unfortunate time, but it has definitely brought about our understanding of putting more time into ourselves.”
15:26 – Secret to Cooking the Perfect Steak. Dan shares the 5 steps you need to know before cooking steak.
19:54 – Right Nutrition for Athletes. He says there isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan for nutrition. “The most important thing to remember is that we’re all individually different. Individuality is so important to remember, particularly for athletes because their gut matrix is so different due to how much activity they’re doing throughout the day.”
22:52 – Crafting Meal Plans. Dan walks Will through how he goes about preparing meals for his athletes on the day of a competition.
25:37 – Getting Athletes Ready to Perform. “I think about [nutrition] from a psychological perspective. What’s going to give this athlete the edge mentally? If it’s knowing that they’ve got that in their system, even if that’s not necessarily the best thing for them, for them that is. Mental over physical, for me.”
29:01 – Non-Workout Strain. “When I’m in the kitchen, I [burn] 5,000 calories a day. Compare that to an athlete, they’re doing so much. They need to get that fuel into them.”
29:23 – Freakishly Low Resting Heart Rate. Dan has a resting heart rate of 31 beats per minute. “That’s Olympic swimmer low,” Will notes. “To be completely honest Will, I reckon I can get it down, because I haven’t done enough [to improve it].”
35:30 – Dan’s Weight Loss Tips. “Reduce your fine sugar intake,” Dan says. “If you’re going to have sugar in your day no matter what, through certain energy forms, it’s important to cut out the ones you do not need. Control the controllable. … But let’s also keep in the mind the happiness that we get from enjoying the dark chocolates of the world or the red wines of the world. I’m not here to say ‘Eliminate them completely.’ If I did, I would be the Grinch, and also I would be taking away a super important aspect of your digestion, which is your happiness.”
37:21 – Science Behind Mindset and Weight Loss. “The gut is a second brain. There are more neurons in the gut than there are the brain, which is pretty amazing. For these guys to talk to each other, it’s pretty important. … Our perceived state is so important when it comes to eating and enjoying. You look at people who are depressed and sad versus those who are happy and enjoying themselves, there’s a distinction between how those individuals will be able to digest food.”
42:27 – Why You Should Avoid Eating Late Meals. “Your body doesn’t switch off when it’s digesting at nighttime. So all of a sudden if you look at your WHOOP and it tells you that you’re waking up, [having bad sleep] latency, all that kind of stuff. … Part of the reason your mind might not switch off [while trying to sleep] is because of that connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut is not switching off because it’s digesting food in a way that’s not efficient and your brain, in response, is trying to work out what’s going on so you don’t fall asleep properly.”
43:56 – The Meal-Bed Buffer. Dan says to make sure you’re going to bed no earlier than 2 hours after eating your final meal of the day.