In North American society, we have cultural norms. Many of them we’ve known are not ideal, but yet we follow them anyway. Let’s face it, it’s easier to follow along than blaze our own trail. It’s all harmless anyway right? Maybe not. When it comes to nutrition, your health is at stake. Unfortunately for a lot of people, this has become way too real. Our “cultural norm” of consuming excess carbohydrates, especially processed, has created health problem after health problem. If you haven’t noticed the obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease around you, it’s time to wake up.
What if I told you there was a way to become healthier and leaner at the same time?? The best way to lose body fat is also the best way to reverse many of these health issues. In order to do that though, we need to stop being carb burners and start being fat burners.
What does that mean “carb burner” and “fat burner”?
Firstly, you should check out these two phenomenal books on the ketogenic diet…
I wrote years ago on how to plan your carbs around workouts to reduce fat storage [HERE]. For those who didn’t read it, here’s the general synopsis of how we treat carbohydrates in our bodies. First off, our body stores glycogen (the energy source that carbs convert to in our body) in two places, the liver and our muscles. We have limited amounts of storage and once it’s full, it’s full. In The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, they suggest approximately 2000kcal worth of glycogen. Now, when we consume carbohydrates, our blood sugar rises. In order to rectify this, we release insulin to transport it into the body. There are three options for where we will put this sugar/glycogen: Liver, Muscle and Fat storage. If we’re already full in the first two, we go right to storing body fat. If this keeps occurring, it requires more and more insulin and we become insulin resistant. This is a symptom of metabolic syndrome. Once we’re insulin resistant, we no longer remove the blood sugar and our blood sugar levels stay high (we become diabetic). This occurs because we’ve been told that carbs are important for energy and that we need them at every meal. Tell me this, how am I supposed to be burning fat, if I’m constantly getting in a fuel source for the body in the form of carbs? If i’m always burning carbs, how am I supposed to lose weight? Imagine having a jerry can of gasoline in your trunk that you need to get rid of, but every time you go out, you stop at the gas station for a refill. The fat we have stored is a perfectly good fuel source, we just need to learn how to tap into it.
How good is our body at getting fuel from fat? According to Volek and Phinney, an athlete with 10% Body fat will have access to approximately 40000 kcal in fat stores. If you’re above 10% body fat, that number will increase considerably. Remember the 2000 kcal we mentioned above?
See the picture below, which fuel tank would you rather have access to?? It’s no wonder we ‘hit the wall’ on carbohydrates and need to supplement with sports drinks and gels, there’s a tiny fuel capacity.
So how do we tap into this source that we’ve been holding onto for so long? The answer is nutritional ketosis. Ketosis is a term for breaking down fatty acids for fuel. I’ve written about how fatty acids (MCTs in this case) can be converted into ketones which are a very efficient fuel source in the absence of carbohydrates. In fact, ketones are actually a more efficient fuel source and one that is preferred to your brain.
HOW DO I GET INTO KETOSIS?
Getting into ketosis is fairly simple, and you’ve got multiple options to do it. At the very core, you’re going to deplete your body of glycogen and only refuel your body with fatty acids so that it begins to start burning fat for fuel. The most basic way is to change your diet to a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet (aka Ketogenic Diet). To be Ketogenic, Volek and Phinney suggest 50g or less per day. This means cutting refined and processed carbs, starches, and even some grains. Your carb intake will come from vegetables and greens as well as carbohydrates in your fat and protein sources. Your protein intake must stay moderate and not too high as high protein can still spike insulin. The majority of your calories needs to come from fats. It sounds tough but it’s not as bad as you think. Popular sources of fats include: Fatty proteins (meat, fish, fowl, seafood, etc.), Dairy (high fat yogurt, cream, butter, cheese), avocadoes, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, MCT Oil and a few others. Hopefully after my [Dairy Article], you’ve realized fats aren’t the problem. In fact, here are some quotes from a front page story in the daily mail (UK) this past week.
“* Eating a diet rich in full fat dairy – such as cheese, milk and yoghurt – can actually lower the chance of obesity.
* Saturated fat does not cause heart disease, while full fat dairy can actually protect the heart.
It states: ‘The most natural and nutritious foods available – meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olive, avocados – all contain saturated fat.” (Dailymail HERE )
If you’re changing to a ketogenic diet, it will take a week or two to become fat adapted, so you’ll have to be patient and stick with it. Fat adapted is what it means for your body to start breaking down fats more efficiently for energy. When you are not fat adapted, your body continues to wait for carbohydrates. As you continue, you will continue to notice more and more optimal adaptations further down the path, but a week or two will already show you significant changes.
Other ways of achieving ketosis involve: intermittent fasting (periods without eating) or through exercise as both will deplete glycogen levels fairly quickly. Unless coupled with a ketogenic diet, these two options would both be temporary. We will discuss fasting more in a later article. Due to the level of satiety associated with increased fat intake, it’s very common for people to couple ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting.
Now that you know how to get into ketosis, let’s next look at what your roadblocks might be.
WHAT’S STOPPING ME FROM BURNING FAT?
The one hormone that blocks fat metabolism (burning fat) is insulin. The sure fire way to stop fat metabolism is to consume insulin inducing carbohydrates. Insulin is meant to take glucose from the blood and store it elsewhere. If we can attempt to avoid causing insulin spikes in our blood (reducing refined sugars and starches), we should be able to maintain our fat burning state and avoid storage of excess body fat.
BENEFITS OF KETOSIS.
There are a number of benefits that people generally see from ketogenic diets. The most obvious are weight loss/fat loss, lowering of blood sugar, improved triglyceride levels and improved cholesterol ratios [Here]. Studies have also shown decreases in inflammasomes [here], as well as benefits in treating diseases like parkinsons, alzheimers, seizures, cancer and many more. On top of this, there have been a number of studies showing increased athletic performance. The ketogenic diet has been used in various degrees and in various circles since the 1920s. I realize this diet isn’t for everyone, but it might just be what you’re looking for to achieve a greater level of health and performance.
It’s About Getting Better!