Becoming Fat Adapted
Ah, nothing like a bottle of GatorAde to quench your thirst, replenish electrolytes and give us much needed carbs during exercise, right?
Yesterday, in the first part of this two-section post, I left off in the middle of sharing how I’ve recently changed my training and racing fueling strategy from being heavily reliant on carbohydrate to training my body to use fat for fuel.
It’s worth noting that I didn’t do this because I was having performance issues, or GI distress or any obvious deleterious side effects…yet.
Yet being the key word.
Aside from the bothersome fact that each and every time I used a gel, I felt I was ingesting something that illustrated the epitome of what wasn’t Paleo, I also couldn’t exactly be completely sure that in the long run, it wouldn’t come back to bite me in the butt.
Wait a sec.
Don’t endurance athletes just need to get the calories in? I mean, come on, we’re out there
sweating for hours on our bikes, running and swimming and expending thousands of calories. Not only do we need the calories, we can really just get away with eating whatever we want, right?
Not by a long shot.
First of all, the idea that calories are calories and it doesn’t matter where they come from is nonsense for all of us, not just athletes. If sheer number were all that mattered, there would be no difference from consuming 2,000 calories per day from vegetables, protein and fat and consuming the same amount from candy and soda.
Next, one might argue that a lean athlete who trains frequently but eats a horrendously processed diet, high in sugar and lacking in nutritional density may be worse off than an overweight person with the same diet.
Because the lean athlete may look on the outside as though they’re the picture of health, while the overweight person would at least visibly see that there was an issue with their caloric balance.
We all know that eating a high sugar diet is a bad idea. And while the frequent exerciser is making some gains by making their body less likely to become insulin resistant through their training, as physical training can be considered to play an important, if not essential role in the treatment and prevention of insulin resistance , they’re simultaneously setting themselves up to develop Type 2 diabetes by following what is, in effect, a high sugar diet.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is caused by a combination of factors, including insulin resistance1, a condition in which the body’s muscle, fat, and liver cells do not use insulin effectively2.
And athletes are not immune to it; we can’t cancel out the consumption of copious amounts of sugar by number of hours spent per week on the trainer or treadmill.
Yet another reason to go au naturel when it came to my fueling.
But when I stopped to consider what could be eaten during a workout or training session that will be digested properly, and delivered to the exercising skeletal muscle at the proper rate, without causing stomach distress, I was left with few choices.
Sure, a yam in a baggie with some coconut oil would work for a long, aerobic bike ride, but I was hardly going to try to choke down a solid food concoction while I was racing at a good clip with my heart rate in Zone 4!
(Incidentally, this rationale was precisely why I relied on gel for so darn long!)
Anyway, it dawned on me that since I’d built up to training in a fasted state for a few hours thus far, I didn’t really have a reason to think that there was some inherent limit to which one could train their body to do in a fasted state.
So I began doing some research and came across the work of Drs. Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney3.
Their home page summed it up quite succinctly and enticed me in heartbeat to soak in every last morsel of information like the proverbial sponge.
I was greeted with an invitation to learn more4 about why:
• Carbohydrate restriction is the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ for managing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type-2 diabetes.
• A well-formulated low carbohydrate diet improves blood glucose and lipids while reducing inflammation, all without drugs.
• Carbohydrate restriction induces the process of keto-adaptation, refining the body’s metabolism to allow the mobilization and clearance of excess body fat.
• Dietary saturated fat is not a demon when you are keto-adapted.
• Dietary sugars and starches are not necessary to feed your brain or fuel exercise.
• Long-term success involves much more than simply cutting out dietary carbs.
• There is an ‘art’ to electrolyte and mineral management that is key to avoiding side effects and ensuring success.
• Trading up from sugars and starches to a cornucopia of nutrient-rich, satisfying, and healthy natural foods is empowering.
This was it! Exactly what I’d been looking for. Ironically, this came to past almost exactly the same way I learned about the work of Dr. Loren Cordain, in a very similar online search, back in 2005, when I was desperately trying to figure out how to heal myself from years of GI-related illness.
I read the website in its entirety. I ordered and poured over both their books and knew it was just what I’d been looking for.
And while their approach isn’t necessarily Paleo, it falls in line with so many of the criteria that it wasn’t the least bit difficult to merge the two into what is proving to be a balanced approach to eating not just for the training portion of my life, but for me professionally and personally as well.
Further, the applications it has for the clients with who I work and the readers who follow my blog are endless.
Think about how many people you know who are keen to do any of the following:
• Lose weight
• Improve their mental focus
• Have more energy
• Prevent Diabetes
As I’ve always said and written, it’s not just about sourcing a list of foods that are Paleo and foods that are not and picking and choosing on a whim.
Timing and maco-nutrient balance are crucial in ensuring success following a Real Paleo diet for the long run.
Yes, our brains need glucose, that hasn’t changed, but did you know it doesn’t need carbohydrate to make that glucose?
Not to be confused with ketoacidosis5, a diet resulting in nutritional ketosis is one that many can benefit from, including athletes.
• Benign dietary ketosis is a controlled, insulin-regulated process, which results in a release of fatty acids and ketone body production in response to low carbohydrate intake, and higher fat consumption.
• Ketoacidosis is a condition in which abnormal quantities of ketones are produced in an unregulated biochemical situation. In order to reach a state of ketoacidosis, the body has to be in a state of not producing enough insulin to regulate the flow of fatty acids and the creation of ketone bodies .
The research is there.
Some might opt to learn the science while others may start out on becoming fat adapted without even knowing they’re doing so, simply by beginning to add short, fasted workouts in the morning before breakfast.
Notice how you feel when you do as well as when you don’t.
Unless you can honestly say you’re completely satisfied with where your nutritional regime has gotten you thus far, both with regard to performance in sport as well in daily living, you’ve got nothing to lose from a little open minded learning, not too different from the approach you likely used when you first learned about Paleo!
Implementing a fasted, fat-burning regime into my own training regime has proven so incredibly effective for me as well as my clients, don’t be surprised if you read more and more about it and its many benefits for all of us!
1 “Exercise and Insulin Sensitivity: A Review.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 15 July 2015
2 “Causes of Diabetes.” National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2015
4 “Low Carb Diets | Art and Science of Low Carb.” Art and Science of Low Carb. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2015
5 Ketoacidosis and Ketosis: What’s the Difference?” Ketoacidosis and Ketosis: What’s the Difference? N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.