Our body needs energy to function properly, this fuel is provided by carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Carbohydrates being the most readily available, but fleeting source of energy, needing regular and continuous replenishment because our bodies don’t have a way to store large amounts. Yes, some excess carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in muscles and liver, but that is a very small amount.
Most of us are “Sugar Burners”, primarily relying on carbohydrates as energy source, to keep the brain and other organs running, and keeping hunger at bay. Our body utilizes the required carbs and converts the rest of them into “Fat” and is designed to store huge quantities of Fat in the form of adipose tissue and visceral Fat.
What is the purpose of this and why do we store extra energy in the form of Fats, if we can’t use it?
The simple explanation is that our bodies were designed to run on fats as energy source and that is the reason we have a lot of it stored in our bodies. Being “Fat Adapted” means to reset the body back to burning “Fat as Fuel” so the body has a reliable source of energy in the form of stored fats that doesn’t need a top up every few hours.
What is Fat Adapted?
“Fat adaptation” is also referred to as “Nutritional Ketoacidosis” (NK). NK is different from “Ketoacidosis” or “Starvation Ketoacidosis”. Via NK the human body makes a profound shift towards burning fat as primary source of energy without using muscle protein as in case of “Starvation Ketosis”
This is the shift back to the original source our bodies are designed to use for energy requirements. When in a Fat Adapted state, the body prefers to metabolize saturated fats rather than accumulating them, and they become the most potent and efficient energy reservoir.
Contrary to popular belief, this study proves that human bodies work efficiently at very low carbohydrate intake.
Our bodies are in fact really good at burning fat, once they get adapted. It takes some time but eventually the metabolic pathways get re-programmed, and fats are metabolised directly via beta-oxidation and carbohydrates by glycolysis.
When you become fat adapted, there is a lot of fat in the muscle cells and these fat droplets are situated right next to the mitochondria, where fat metabolism takes place. The working muscle cells also become more efficient in pulling fatty acids from blood.
After being fat adapted, required energy during exercise or training can be extracted by fats, sparing glycogen for the time, when it is really needed. This ability to mobilize and oxidise fats stores during exercise can improve athletic performance and endurance tremendously.
Benefits of Being Fat Adapted
- By primarily relying on fats, the body is exposed to lesser amounts on glycolysis by products and less oxidative stress. It results in a stronger immune system and better health.
- Ketones, a by product of fat metabolism, are used by brain as readily available energy source. This article from the US National Library of Medicine, supports this.
- As there is less glucose in the body, less insulin is released, and insulin sensitivity and its ability to mobilize fat from fat stores is increased. Insulin resistance is a major cause of metabolic syndrome and fat adaptation significantly reduces the risks like Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes associated with insulin resistance.
- Satiety levels are reached with fewer calories, and there are no constant reminders from the brains demanding food. The appetite control centre in brain functions better and it is easier to control and maintain a healthy weight.
- Missing a meal does not send your body into a panic mode.
How to become Fat Adapted
The benefits of conversion can often be seen early, but bear in mind that there is a transition phase. Once the body knows how to rely on fat, the true benefits of effortless weight management and stable energy levels are experienced.
It takes a minimum of 3 weeks to transition the body to fat burning mode, but to become really good and maximize its efficiency it may take up to six months or a year on a ketogenic diet to train the body to burn fat for life.
Reduce Daily Carb Intake (LCHF Diet)
Daily Carb intake must be reduced to less than 50 Grams, if you have a sedentary lifestyle or 100 to 150 if you are pretty active. It seems low but eating too many carbs will not deplete the body of glucose enough for it to re set its fuel supply.
Increase Fat Intake:
Increasing your fat intake is the key to forcing your body to release more fat digesting enzymes. Try to stick to high nutrient value fats, like animal fat, Butter, egg yolks, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and red palm oil.
Try to take Medium Chain Triglycerides, like coconut oil, more as they are used by brain as a direct energy source.
This influx of fat will train the mitochondria to start burning more fat as fuel.
Choose Proteins Carefully:
Try to avoid lean meat, eat meat that has fat attached to it. Remember that eating extra proteins triggers the process of gluconeogenesis, through which the surplus amount is converted into glucose. This can be a bit tricky.
There are certain amino acids like Lysine and leuciene that are ketogenic and are rapidly converted to ketone bodies.
Watch out your workout:
Try to become fat adapted first, before starting any form of rigorous training requiring a lot of glucose.
Stick to walking and/or occasional weight training. Once the goal of fat adaptation is achieved you can train and perform in a much efficient way.
Small Things to Remember
Following are little things to remember while keeping the big goal in mind:
Remember the Salt:
As the body re adjusts and re learns to shift its energy source, the sodium potassium balance needs to be perfect helping in transition and preventing symptoms like cramps, dizziness, headache and lack of energy.
During the adjustment to these new metabolic shifts, it is very common to lose water. The kidneys tend to retain less water as glycogen stores are mobilised and insulin levels drop. So it is very important to drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated.
How to Check If you have become Fat- Adapted:
If you can handle missing meals and are able to go hours without getting hungry, the fat adapted state is likely achieved and your body has successfully made the transition.
Once fat adapted, metabolic flexibility is also achieved, and the body is able to effortlessly switch between fuel sources as needed.
If you are fat adapted, you have an abundant internal source of energy in the form of body fat and an ability to use it as fuel. The more fat you are going to burn, the faster your body composition will improve.