Getting Fat Adapted? What Does That Even Mean?

It’s not as scary or extreme as you may think.

It just means adding some more yummy avocado, a little extra olive oil, a handful of raw walnuts to your salad and including some fattier grass fed meats and oily fish, while lowering the amount of sugar (yes, even the natural type from fruits) in your diet.

I first came across the term roughly a year ago when I came upon an article in an ultra running magazine my husband had lying around. It spoke of an athlete who’d trained his body to use fat as his fuel.

Intrigued, I wanted to learn more, and so I began to research the topic.

Now, if you don’t happen to be an ultra runner, or an athlete of any type, please keep reading anyway.

Getting ‘fat adapted’ isn’t as scary or extreme as it sounds; and again, it’s not something that only an athlete would be interested in exploring.

All it means is that all of us, men, women, athlete, desk junkie, weekend warrior, overweight and healthy weight alike could all benefit from becoming less reliant on carbs as the main source of fuel in our day to day regime and shifting more toward becoming better fat burners.

It does not mean:

  • That you have to eat sticks of butter and spoonfuls of lard
  • That you eat tons of low grade, processed meats and cheeses (actually, you’re better off skipping these entirely)
  • That you eat no carbs (remember, a real paleo inspired approach consists of up to 40% of calories coming from carbohydrates[1].
  • That you eat tons of protein (eating too much protein is not only taxing on the liver and kidneys, it can actually prevent you from training your brain to transition to make the glucose it needs from ketone bodies from fat, rather than carbs[2].
  • That you’re going to gain weight because of all the extra fat calories you’d have to consume; remember you’re simply shifting around the macronutrients a little. Put it this way- all you’d need to do is cut down on higher glycemic fruits, starchy veggies and add a little more olive oil or some extra avocado to your salad, if you’re already following a healthy grain-free, no white sugar eating regime.

Think back to the late 90’s when we were all trying to get over the low-fat or even fat-free hype of the early 90’2 (myself very much included) and we finally, cautiously got our heads around a Zone[3] type of macro nutrient ratio, closer to 40% of calories coming from fat and the remaining 60% evenly divided between carbohydrate and protein.

Nearly half of the USDA’s recommendation for carbohydrates (45 to 65% of total calories[4]) but if those guidelines have led us down the road to obesity, diabetes and related health concerns, we’ve got to take a good, hard look at where they’re coming from and what the ulterior motives might be.

So if you’re like me and you tried the ‘healthy diet’ of mostly carbs for years and years, as per the USDA and despite exercising regularly and thinking you were eating well, never managed to get that lean body you wanted, you may have eeked your way into the Zone and found some success.

For me, it was a segue to Paleo / Zone around 2005 where I remained for a good ten years and it wasn’t until last year when I began exploring the higher fat approach that I began making any tweaks.

It wasn’t radical.

I didn’t go off the deep end drinking cups of coconut oil and stop eating my precious kale.

All I did was be to add a bit more fat from varied sources while cutting down on my fruit intake.

Yes, I did lose two or three off-season pounds, but by far, the mental clarity I experienced was incredible.

Being able to approach my workday with such sharp focus was new to me, the ability to go for longer workouts without having to rely on those awful gels any longer and the significantly decreased muscle soreness I’d experience after training all made for a winning regime.

So what does a day of eating this way look like?

Here’s an example of a day in my life:


Hot green tea or coffee with a splash of coconut oil after drinking a couple of glasses of water

After the run… when I’m hungry (no need to hurriedly chug down a recovery shake to replace carbs you’ve used… because you’ve tapped into fat your body has stored up; even those of us who are already lean have plenty to rely on)

Two eggs over easy, on top of garlic kale sautéed in coconut oil, sliced avocado and perhaps some smoked salmon

Later in the day… again-when you’re hungry. Sometimes, I eat twice each day. Other times, it’s three. It just depends on what the training looked like, how long it was, and what I’m doing the rest of the day. The key is not to fit your hunger into a timeframe on the clock but to let your body tell you gently when it’s time. It’s a very different feeling to experience you’re getting hungry and will soon need to eat following this model, compared to that awful feeling of needing to eat anything immediately when your blood sugar dips!

Grilled grass-fed rib eye, arugula salad with EVOO, avocado, grated nori, lime juice, steamed broccoli

And to finish off… if it happens to have been a day where I’m eating three times, dinner would look quite the same.

Grilled, Wild Salmon on a Cedar Plank, Grilled Asparagus & Peppers, mixed lettuce salad with avocado and olive oil

Sometimes I’ll have another cuppa tea with coconut oil or MCT oil in it, or my favorite, a concoction I make by adding in some maca, turmeric and nutmeg, too.

Sometimes, we’ll have a drink with dinner, such as a nice glass of Cab or a neat, grain free spirit.

And that’s my own balance; which works for me, keeps my husband happy and has proven successful with clients of all walks of life, all over the globe.

It’s not that scary at all.

Give it a go, if even for a short period of time and sit back to observe any changes that may be ensue.

Curious to learn exactly what to do?

Book a consult.

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[1] Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011. Print

[2] Volek, Jeff, and Stephen D. Phinney. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance: A Revolutionary Program to Extend Your Physical and Mental Performance Envelope. Lexington, KY: Beyond Obesity, 2012. Print.

[3] Sears, Barry, and Bill Lawren. The Zone: A Dietary Road Map. New York, NY: Regan, 1995. Print

[4] “Dietary Guidelines for Carbohydrates.” Carbohydrates. USDA, n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2016