HOW TO BECOME FAT ADAPTED, BURN BODY FAT AND USE FAT FOR FUEL
If I could only get rid of this fat! Have you or anyone you know ever uttered those words? The answer of course is Yes! The problem is that for most of us knowing that we need to lose body fat and actually achieving that goal, is somewhat like hiking the Grand Canyon, if you get out of breath going to get the mail!
LOSING FAT IS HARD!
As a Baby Boomer the idea of losing body fat seems to get more difficult and further away each passing year or the Grand Canyon keeps widening. But the idea of burning fat and getting the body of our dreams, regaining that high school or college physique always seems to be at the back of our minds. If that wasn’t the case would we see all those diet ads on TV or in magazines each year, especially around New Years! Probably not! But the people selling those programs know what we’re thinking. How? Because they ask or they see what most of us respond to.
Something else to be aware of is that Baby Boomers still represent a huge number of people who can still afford many of these programs, supplements and other so called solutions to Burning Fat, losing Fat and achieving that Dream body! Lastly Baby Boomers have been chasing that elusive “Fountain of Youth.” They have been fighting and screaming to avoid aging almost their entire life. They have made maintaining a healthy body-image something they keep at the tip of the spear in their never ending quest for looking and feeling good.
At this point you might be asking, “where are you going with this?” First off, I’ve been involved with wellness since the early 80’s, as an athlete, coach and personal trainer. Nutrition as always been a passion of mine, knowing how important it was for physical performance and appearance. I have had a keen curiosity for different diets and supplements and how they affected my performance and health. So strong was my curiosity that I tried virtually every type of diet from no-fat to raw foods and everything in between. I have even presented at many “Raw Foods” groups in order to really learn as much as possible about it. What I finally began to understand on my journey was that it really was about HEALTH!
I have a deep interest in finding out what works best for each individuals. I even coined the phrase, “Get Your PhD in You!” I am driven by having You become your own expert. If we can measure great results, from blood work and other simple performance tests that measure general health and fitness, then I truly don’t care if you eat M&M’s all day long! But obviously we know that’s not the case.
Let’s fast forward to 2016. As an Exercise Physiologist and Endurance Athlete with that deep curiosity still burning, now turned towards “Endurance Nutrition.” I wanted to know the best, most effective way for me and others to use fat for fuel, lose fat, burn fat, and permanently remove body fat. But most importantly will this process allow me to be healthier? Because as we age I have determined that sacrificing health for performance is just not worth it! At least not for me.
BE A DETECTIVE
So what I’s like to do in this article at his point is put on my detective hat and look at one of the best ways to burn Body Fat and achieve optimal health. I will investigate and present information on what’s known as “Fat Adaptation.” I will present information good or bad as to whether this type of nutrition meets my goal of better health, improved fat burning and better performance.
FAT ADAPTATION-MY JOURNEY
I first became aware of the term Fat Adaptation just a few months ago when reading Chris McDougall’s new book, “Natural Born Heroes.” In it he mentioned a great American ultra-distance runner, Stu Mittleman, who under the coaching of Phil Maffetone, set amazing records in distances over 1000 miles, more than 30 years ago. What excited me most was not that he did it, but how. They talked about using “Fat for Fuel.” That got my attention, first as an endurance athlete I’m always looking for the edge. And at the time of reading this I was going through an injury recovery situation and thought, “why not?!” As I mentioned previously I’ve done this many times over the years. Plus, going through an injury, I wouldn’t be as concerned about performance. So I set out to learn as much as I could about becoming “Fat Adapted.” My mission became to learn it, do it and then teach it. But first I had to truly understand it. Before I jumped! Which I have a tendency to do, I wanted to know would being Fat Adapted allow me to use body fat for fuel and most importantly, would I improve my overall health?
FAT ADAPTATION-A HISTORY
During my journey one big question was nagging me. How did I miss this and where did this whole “Fat Adaptation” thing come from? The answer was pretty amazing and added to my need to want to learn more. I actually found evidence clear back to the middle ages, where restricting carbohydrates was used to treat illnesses, including childhood epilepsy.
HIGH FAT EATING IS BORN
Let’s fast forward to the mid 1800’s and the discovery by British undertaker, William Banting, working with Dr. William Harvey discovered that eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet led to a significant, permanent weight loss of over 50 pounds and improved health and wellbeing. Still not fully understood by society stuck on eating a carbohydrate based diet, we move forward again to the 1920’s where Dr. RM Wilder was once again able to successfully treat childhood epilepsy, where drug therapy could not. But as the drugs became more effective the need for the “Fat Adapted” lifestyle went away.
HIGH FAT NUTRITION-UNDER ATTACK
During the 70’s and 80’s the work of Dr. Robert Atkins was highly criticized as pure madness! But was it? The next leap happened in the early 90’s where this “Fat Adapted” knowledge resurfaced again, this time as the Ketogenic Diet, thanks to a father’s search for a cure for his two-year-old son Charlie, who suffered from epilepsy. They have since set up the Charlie Foundation which trains doctors and dieticians all over the world on how to best use the ketogenic diet and become “Fat Adapted.”
It continues to be studied today at Stanford University, where other medical uses have been discovered with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Autism, Migraine and emotional conditions. At this point you may be asking, why aren’t more individuals affected by these various conditions following this? My best answer is that unless you’re serious about changing your health or the health of others in your care, along with establishing a new lifestyle, this process is not for you. I believe from my research that this “Fat Adapted” lifestyle is not something to move in and out of. This then becomes the challenge for those whose lives are a series of failed diet and endless strategies.
SOLUTIONS TO SOCIETAL PRESSURE
I read something that really had an impact on me from Dr. Tim Noakes of South Africa. He had stated that a carbohydrate diet has only been around for 2-12,000 years depending on your historical model. Regardless he states that a diet based on fat and plants has been around for more than 90 percent of the times us humans have been here, so why is becoming “Fat Adapted” considered a “Fad Diet!” Something to truly think about if you choose, as I did, to take this journey.
Also one must never lose sight of the science behind this lifestyle and how it can and does solve many terrible medical conditions, without or with limited medication from childhood epilepsy to Type 2 Diabetes. I have even found amazing evidence of success with cancer, especially when combined with hyperbaric oxygen.
Let me list a few more of the other benefits that many are experiencing by becoming “Fat Adapted." The first one that caught my eye and that I was most interested in was that your body could be trained to burn more fat for fuel. I discovered it does work!
The science has proven this, thanks to noted sports scientists Professor Jeff Volek and Professor Stephen Phinney, who showed in the FASTER study that very fit endurance athletes whom had become “Fat Adapted” were burning up to 90 percent fat for fuel. This research had a big impact on me, as an older ultra-endurance trail runner, who was always looking for the edge. But I soon discovered that it was much more than just providing me an edge with my endurance training, it truly was much more. It was about my HEALTH!
My research was showing that other benefits were an improved immune system, a big part of better recovery from training along with avoiding colds and flu, which is key to those wanting better health. It also was providing individuals with better clarity and focus. This I found had a lot to do with not having to deal with the up and down energy cycle that many experience on a daily basis whose main energy source is SUGAR. I want to be clear here and remind you that most carbohydrates break down into simple sugar, regardless of how healthy they are for you. This is important to understand! Avoiding those daily emotional roller coaster rides is a big part to possibly the biggest benefit of being “Fat Adapted” for most. That being better emotional balance. I have found that food has such a powerful hold on individuals, both physically and psychologically and how your blood sugar, which directly affects your emotions, is controlled by what we eat. By interrupting this process with a lifestyle that provides for better focus, clarity and energy, without those big energy swings is powerful. It truly is the path to having better emotional fitness.
Another huge benefit is not being as hungry. Your hunger will be satiated. Eating healthy fat will do this. Now comes the dilemma for many. Learning through the process of being “Fat Adapted” to recognize the difference between physical and psychological hunger, this will take hard work and listening to your body.
Having begun my journey as an athlete and coach, I realized after a short amount of time that my number one priority had become to achieve better health. The idea of taking better care of my body, rather than performing at a high level in an event, would better drive me for the rest of my life. I now better understand that performance in athletes and certain life pleasures could not override the value that one places on Health. Fat Adaptation is not just intended for those seeking better performance, although it certainly will. It is for all individuals looking to create a complete Endurance Lifestyle. One that has them enjoying more energy, improved stamina and greater self-esteem, along with better mental and emotional fitness. Having a goal of better physical, mental and emotional health will serve to Drive you to becoming “Fat Adapted!”
APPLICATION FOR ATHLETES
Let’s start first with high end athletes. Mainly because these individuals are always seeking out what works. They want RESULTS! I always find it amusing how many so called normal individuals who want to wait until something has supposedly been proven by science, or some expert they trust says its so! By waiting for things to be perfect before they “jump” into something, the experts give them a built in excuse not to change. I get it! Believe me I know how hard it is to change anything in life. This is one of the main reasons working with athletes can be so enjoyable for many. Athletes are always looking for the edge. Many times when they find it, they keep it too themselves and those they trust. Remember for an athlete it’s not about what sells, it’s about what works, measured by RESULTS! This is the mindset that I want everyone to embrace. When you can measure by the results, seen in your blood work and in other simple health tests, you then will know that you’re on the right path.
WHAT DO ATHLETES WANT
So, I wanted to know what exactly were these high end athletes looking for? I was after using fat for fuel, were they? Most were trying to avoid gut issues, hitting the wall or generally bonking. Some wanted the obvious, maximize lean muscle and lose unnecessary body fat, lastly they wanted better health so that they could train harder, longer and more productively. Providing a path to those wants and desires would be a simpler sell to make. Going back to what I said previously, why wouldn’t they all become “Fat Adapted?!” Old habits. The thought of sacrificing performance. Already getting great results with their nutrition plan. It's hard to argue with RESULTS! As Professor Volek noted in the FASTER study, although both groups of high end athletes performed amazingly well regardless of being a sugar burner or fat burner. The sugar burners were interested in the idea of eliminating gut issues. This would be a big deal, as many DNF’s (Did Not Finish) are directly related to gut issues!
BENEFIT TO YOU
Some may be again asking, how does this affect me? I’m not an endurance athlete. I’m lucky if I have the energy to walk my dog in the evening! Well, that’s another topic we’ll get to another time. But seriously let’s look at the whole gut issue topic. Is there anyone we know that either is experiencing or knows someone who has gut problems? On this thought, I was listening to a radio show recently where they were talking with two different individuals who have developed products to address “gut issues.” They stated how many individuals everywhere were using ant acid and acid reflux products. Both stated how eliminating sugar would greatly reduce the need for these types of products, but they were clear that most just would not make the necessary changes. So they both were providing what seemed to be great natural products to address something that we could generally eliminate ourselves, but refused to! At first it made me angry, but I quickly realized these guys were smart by meeting a need. Taking away someone’s pain. But my mind was saying, come on, this is easy, just stop eating sugar!
I know this is not easy, it’s hard, really hard! It’s at this point that the comparisons of average people and many high level athletes, go in different directions. Athletes will generally take RESULTS over comfort, to a fault. Meaning they may sacrifice health for better performance. Most people will take comfort over RESULTS, if they can’t see a clear picture and path to what they want. So my question is how can we bridge this gap? This I know, we are driven by either pain or pleasure. The athlete who gets RESULTS, experiences great joy and wants more of that feeling. Whereas the individual who has daily gut issues, may not be in enough pain to change, especially if medication is taking care of the symptoms and physical pain. This is where we need to begin looking at other health benefits that will express pain or pleasure. I strongly believe that if someone could be shown that eating better will take away the pain, they just might be willing to try to change.
So what types of “pain” could someone be shown to avoid? Let’s start with Type 2 Diabetes. Are you aware that diabetes is the fastest growing condition in our country? And it is totally avoidable as an adult! That’s right! So you can choose to potentially lose your sight, and feeling in your feet, amongst many other Diabetes related affects or choose to change! For many this is a tough choice! How about your immune system? Do you suffer with frequent colds and flu? Talk about an energy drain! It doesn’t have to be that way! Do you suffer from frequent emotional highs and lows during your day? How would you feel if you could eliminate or reduce these? I believe that deep down many would rather get off this emotional roller coaster ride! Bottom line, having a stronger immune system, where you rarely are sick, avoiding diabetes and having better emotional stability are hopefully strong enough reasons that could drive others to make changes. But this is the great unknown. As we are all different. I’m pretty clear with higher level athletes, they want RESULTS! My concern is that the average person doesn’t want or value good health the way athletes value RESULTS. This has to stop! Ok enough of my rant, let’s get started!
Let me once again be clear, it’s tough to make a decision to want to change, and once you do, it’s going to be very hard to follow through, really hard. But when you come out on the other side of this change, you’ll never be the same, you’ll be better! So let me begin with some simple strategies that will get you started on your journey to burning more fat!
REMOVE THE JUNK FOODS
First you must go two weeks, cold turkey without any refined sugar products, that means the obvious candy, cakes and crackers. It also includes refined flour, rice, pasta, potatoes and bread. I know this sounds harsh, but we’re just getting started. I found it best to put fruit on hold during this first two weeks. You see, you could take longer, but why extend the trauma. You will experience how wonderful your body feels without sugar. Just do it! You’re ready now! Most of you are reading this because you’re looking for the edge or you’re in enough pain that you must change. So get it done! After two weeks we can begin to develop your personal plan. It gives you time to find your blood type. Why? I have found a great tool that has worked extremely well for myself and others and is the work of Dr. D’Adamo and his book, “Eat Right for Your Blood Type.” I believe this knowledge is another tool, a piece of the puzzle. I’m not suggesting that you strictly follow his program, but you can. I’m suggesting to do as I do and use the knowledge to your advantage. This first step is about finding foods that work for you, they will help you become “Fat Adapted.”
What you must begin doing is to listen to your body. How do you respond physically and psychologically to certain foods? These actually could be foods that would be considered healthy, but for some reason they don’t agree with you. Some of these might be some of your favorite foods. But you have ignored this because you enjoy them! It’s time to stop these patterns and listen you’re your body! It’s the only way change will happen.
My next step for you is to investigate the only two supplements besides real food that I would suggest. But this involves learning how they affect you. We are all different. Nutrition is individual! The first one I would encourage you to get is a good Digestive Enzyme. I have studied the late Dr. Edward Howell and strongly believe that unless you are eating only raw foods, the use of a good digestive enzyme is an excellent idea to not only help you utilize your food better but will aid your recovery and immune system. Secondly I would suggest for some to look into a good fiber supplement like raw psyllium husk. Especially if you need to lower your carbohydrate closer to 25 grams per day. Because normally eating lots of vegetables and healthy oils will remove the need for extra fiber. But incase by listening to your body, you’ll know.
I have found it very important to increase your intake of fluids during the day, especially as you increase the amount of fiber you eat from all the vegetables. It also will serve to provide a healthy daily cleanse as you super hydrate each day. Although we are all different, I would start with 60 ounces and move up. Remember to listen to your body!
Since a big part of this process is getting enough calories from healthy fat sources. Let me list some of the best sources to go to. Start with oils, like olive, coconut and palm when it comes to cooking. Lots of raw nuts and nut butters are great. Fish, like salmon provide more great sources. The best vegetable maybe avocados. For some certain hard cheeses, raw butter, eggs and whole milk may work. Lastly for many, red meat and pork may work well and does provide a good source of fat. Again note that each of you will have to find which of these works best.
PROVIDE THE BODY WHAT IT NEEDS
As you develop your plan you need to provide your body what it needs nutritionally. How many carbohydrates do you need and from what sources. Make sure your getting enough protein for repair and recovery. Lastly includes a majority of your calories from healthy sources of fat.
What I suggest as does the research, is a plan where 50 percent of your daily calories are coming from healthy fat. Now before you go crazy. Remember change is tough. I’m not presenting a new diet here. I’ve rarely even used that word. I’m suggesting as Dr. Noakes has presented that we should eat like we have for thousands of years. Much longer than how most currently eat! Never lose sight of the goal, better HEALTH! Back to the plan. Lots of healthy fats. Next moderate amounts of protein. This is not a high protein plan. Protein provides the nutrients to grow and repair. Lastly your carbs. I recommend mostly vegetables. Try to keep them low glycemic, meaning the glucose enters your bloodstream more slowly. With carbs you need to continue to be a detective. You need to discover at what level do you feel the best. This will depend on how glucose intolerant you are. The less tolerant the closer to 25 grams a day you will find yourself, or it could be as high as 150 grams. Remember this is about HEALTH and RESULTS. What works for you, may not work for me!
- Step One: Remove the Junk Food.
- Step Two: Listen to your body.
- Step Three: Supplements
- Step Four: Hydration
- Step Five: Provide the body what it needs.
What I have discovered in my recent journey concerning “How to become Fat Adapted” so that I could better use fat for fuel and burn more body fat, is that it represents a pathway to overall better HEALTH and Longevity. After thoroughly going through the information, which I recommend all of you do, I’ve concluded that the benefits of more sustained energy, less risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer far outweigh the temporary joy one might get from eating certain foods. The RESULTS of improved physical appearance, and potentially better performance I believe should be enough for myself and others to go all in with “Fat Adaptation.” One last reminder, this is not something to bounce in and out of. It’s a lifestyle that can and will bring better health. If you’re like me and interested in looking good and feeling good for the long term, I truly believe that “Fat Adaptation” is a legitimate vehicle to take you there.