How to become fat adapted
How to become fat adapted - training your body to burn fat for endurance
How to fuel for distance in running, cycling or triathlon is always a challenge. What to eat, when to eat it, and even – at times – how best to eat it, all become mighty important when we're going long. Researching the subject is all too often where problems begin because a lot of the information out there is, at best, misleading and at worst, total cr*p.
Too often this advice focuses exclusively on carbs and will be along the lines of: ‘carb stores last two hours so beyond this you'll need to top up, otherwise you’ll hit the wall and bonk’.
This is true, but it's not the whole story. Our carb stores, when topped up through regular healthy eating (no need to ‘load’, just eat well and normally) will indeed fuel around two hours of exercise.
The second part of this equation which is usually ignored is fuel the body obtains from stored fat. Ignore this in your long distance fueling and nutrition and you’ll be as reliable as car with a missing wheel.
Because while our carb tank has fuel for two hours, our stored fat – even in a lean body – has enough juice to power us for 24 hours and well beyond. Better still, stored fat delivers a beautifully stable energy base to work from which doesn't stress the body and mind anywhere near as much as peak/trough pure carb fueling.
Tap into stored fat to go long, fast and happy
So how does fat adaption work?
Below 70% of max effort (conversational pace and under) we’re primarily burning fat and primarily burning carbs above that level.
But, if we make the wrong moves (carb-heavy diet, intense training only) that fat-burning threshold can fall well below 70% and we suddenly become the person who can’t reach the end of the street without a gel in every pocket because our bodies are increasingly unable to fuel from anything other than carbs.
Make the right moves though and we can take our fat-burning threshold well above 70%, making us more efficient, happier athletes who only need to trickle in smaller doses of carbs to keep that tank topped up as we’re getting so much more by burning our stored fat. Get this sorted and we can go much further, much more efficiently and more easily, all on the same amount of carbs.
In short, we’re in charge of our nutrition and are stronger, healthier and happier into the bargain.
Becoming a fat adapted athlete in three easy steps
The best news is we’ve all got our stored fat already, the trick is accessing it for performance. This requires three simple training and dietary changes which are:
1 Reduce sugar and processed foods in your diet
The more of these in your daily diet, the more the body becomes accustomed to fueling from carbs instead of fat, and the more carbs you'll need, period. Reduce them in your daily diet and the opposite starts happening because the body’s seriously clever and will begin its adaption towards stored fat naturally.
2 Increase good fats in your diet
We’re talking nuts, avocados, hemp, oily fish, coconut, chia seeds, flax seeds, olive oil and so on - more good fat coming in helps your clever body recognise these fats as a prime fuel source.
Go nuts for nuts to boost fat adaption - packed with good fats and protein, they're a great wholefood fat source alongside other favourites like avocados, coconut, olive oil and oily fish
3 Fasted training for fat adaption - start slow and go hungry
For at least one training session a week, give yourself 15 minutes at conversational pace before turning up the wick. Firing straight into high intensity work makes the body automatically defer to carbs. Starting slow by contrast gives your fat fuel tank a chance to start kicking in.
Fasted sessions where you start on empty also encourage the body to burn fat, simply because there’s nothing else there to fuel from. The easiest way to incorporate this into your training is with pre-breakfast sessions.
How to become fat adapted: conclusion
Implement this little lot, build the strongest fat-burning base you can, and you’ll be a faster, happier athlete who suffers less stomach trouble, fewer see-saw energy level problems, and who doesn’t have to carry an entire sweet shop with them every time they train. Nice work!
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