How can you improve your fat metabolism?
As an endurance athlete – do you need to add in carbs to improve performance, power and speed?
It depends on the individual, the intensity, duration, hormones (female cycle) and more.
You have unlimited energy on board for energy …but how do you train your body to use your stored fat fuel for exercise and at rest?
Step one: become a fat adapted athlete with a four phase process as discussed in previous posts and videos.
Step two: course correct and adjust to match fueling and training …strategic carb timing.
Here is a great blog post and video from Peter Defty on carb timing… use it or lose it. We want to train low and race high …but we also want to cycle in and out of nutritional ketosis so we are able to metabolize FATS and CARBS with metabolic FLEXIBILITY. Too much of anything can lead to imbalances and dysfunction- including fasting too long for athletes, eating too low of carbs for too long and training too frequently without a deload or recovery sessions! More is not better. LESS is sometimes more. This is what we talk about “THE GOLDILOCKS EFFECT”.
Peter Defty on Optimal Fat Metabolism & Strategic Carb Timing
“Without the occasional bolus of glucose, combined with OFM Disruptive Periodization Training (which includes all modalities of training), you limit your performance potential no matter the energy substrate.
- ‘Use it or lose it’. Just like when we over consume carbohydrates and lose our ability to burn fat at the levels evolution shaped us for, when we go super low carb we compromise our ability to metabolize glucose at high rates. This is due to the down-regulation of the Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Enzyme, or PDH for short. With limited PDH, we limit our ability to ‘push’ ourselves at the very threshold of aerobic metabolism as well as anaerobic pushes. It is just as important to maintain our ‘Fight or flight’ pathways as our aerobic base energy.
- When fat-adapted, the occasional consumption of glucose, fructose and even alcohol are your friends because your liver will store these as readily available liver fat to be quickly converted to fatty acids, ketones and even glucose to meet the metabolic need of training and competition so you can perform instead of limit yourself. Liver fat & liver metabolism in the context of fat adaptation is not the runaway train of metabolic disease seen in people who are chronically over consuming alcohol, fructose and sugar to wind up with fatty liver disease… quite the opposite.
Enhance Your Ability to Perform
And while there are tons of variables that factor into optimizing your metabolic health and performance, here are some of the main reasons why ‘Strategic Carbs’ actually enhance your ability to perform on fat:
- Your body needs regular bouts of adaptive stress to adapt, maintain and increase strength & robustness. This is part of the ‘cycle of life’. By bolusing with strategic carbs you give your body the ability to push harder when the difficulty of the workload pushes against you. This creates the adaptive stress or ‘hormesis’ to get stronger, fitter and more robust.
- The hormetic response from the stress causes our cells to become more robust on a mitochondrial level. During the recovery phase where carbohydrates are low and nutritional delivery is high, your cells build more mitochondria via mitochondrial biogenesis, meaning your cells have more mitochondria and each of your mitochondria become more robust. This increase in mitochondrial potential increases the fat oxidation in two ways:
- The rate of fat you can burn.
- The ability to metabolize fat at higher intensity levels of exercise.
- Insulin, yes, insulin because context matters!
Insulin is actually one of the most anabolic hormones when used sparingly in an insulin sensitive environment. In this anabolic state, insulin helps build your muscles and cells. Those occasional hits of carbs help drive the anabolic effects of insulin so you can perform better and not limit yourself without affecting your fat metabolism and, as a result, improving it!
Can Carbs and Fat coexist in Harmony
As you can see there is this really tight, complex yet complementary relationship between optimal fat metabolism and optimal use of carbohydrates. It is our current binary, compartmentalized thinking that creates the conflict. Dare I say, this is not too far off from other ‘Human Condition’ situations where binary thinking breeds relationships of conflict rather than complimentary ones.
Consider the ancient Chinese philosophical mantra of ‘Yin/Yang’, the concept of duality of seemingly opposing forces that not only coexist in harmony but each is dependent upon the other.
Optimizing your fat metabolism grows your tolerance to carbohydrates to get the most out of them, while, at the same time, ‘Strategic Carbohydrates’ helps to increase your fat metabolism. This is why OFM is what I term as a ‘Dynamic Matrix’ rather than a static, binary and ‘one size fits all’ program.
So if you are tired of conflict and want to get your body back into Harmony with the physiology and metabolism Nature shaped us for, you can do the following:
- Learn more by jumping on our websites at vespapower.com or ofm.io
What is a Low Carb Diet??
Review this article on the various types and forms of “LOW CARB DIET”
Those findings are something to consider if you’re thinking about going on a low-carb diet. And, if you’re set on starting one, know that there are many different types, from the ketogenic diet to the Dukan diet. Yet the name isn’t the biggest thing that matters. “You can put a label on the type of low-carb diet you want to do, but the bottom line — and one reason low-carb diets can be so successful — is you should focus on eating more real food than not,” adds Schmidt.
Right off the bat, know that many of the fad low-carb diets lack research. Therefore, many of their so-called benefits aren’t proven and may be based only on some individuals’ reported experience. With those limitations in mind, here’s a look at 12 popular low-carb plans and how they work:
1. A Basic Low-Carb Diet
There’s no official guideline that defines a low-carb diet, says Schmidt. But generally speaking, consuming about 50 to 100 g of carbs a day is considered a basic low-carb diet, she says. That said, it can be more — it’s all about eating fewer carbs than is normal for you. The perk of this plan is it’s individualized, allowing you to eat the amount that best meets your body’s needs. It also gives you leeway to choose what carbs you want to include (fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds) rather than being on a plan that tells you what you need to eat and when. It’s best for someone who likes that freedom, and doesn’t want to spend the time counting grams of carbs.
There may be benefits to following this traditional plan. A study published in June 2019 in the journal JCI Insight put obese adults who had metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risk factors, like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess belly fat, which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as the Mayo Clinic notes) on low-, moderate-, or a high-carbohydrate diet for four weeks. Those in the low-carb group decreased their triglycerides, improved “good” HDL cholesterol, and improved measures of their “bad” LDL cholesterol, whether they lost any weight or not.
2. The Ketogenic, or ‘Keto’ Diet
This is one of the strictest ways to do a low-carb diet because it limits you to eating foods that altogether fall under 50 g of carbs per day, though some experts recommend going to less than 30 or 20 g, says Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDCES, a low-carb dietitian who’s based in Hollywood, Florida. (Specifically, she says most people need to stay under 30 g, but some active folks can go a bit higher.) You’ll also be eating a significant amount of fat — up to 80 percent of your diet.
A keto diet shifts your body’s fuel-burning engine from one that relies on carbs for energy to one that incinerates fat. A major draw here is that you may lose a significant amount of weight quickly, and that can be initially motivating to see those results so quickly. The downside is that it’s a very limiting diet — you’re eating mostly sources of fat, plus a little protein, and some nonstarchy veggies — so it’s difficult to keep up, and it’s typically intended as a short-term diet, not a lifelong change.
A December 2018 review in Canadian Family Physician noted that keto diets produce slightly more weight loss compared with a low-fat diet (“slightly more” being about 4.4 pounds), but these results probably won’t last. In the study, after about five months, keto dieters begin to regain the weight they lost.
3. A Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet
This sounds similar to keto, but on this plan, you generally eat more carbs (so your body won’t be in the fat-burning state of ketosis, as it is during keto) and less fat. Carbs might make up about 25 percent of your calories, while fat accounts for over 60 percent. The good news here is that while the keto diet is so strict that it’s difficult for many dieters to stick to it, a more liberal carb allotment (100 to 150 g of carbs a day) is “more practical,” argue researchers of a June 2018 article published in the European Journal of Nutrition. That said, the authors also note that while low-carb, high-fat diets do help people lose weight, the long-term health benefits or risks are unknown, and more research needs to be done.
Many people do this type of low-carb diet for performance benefits during a workout. Proponents say it can teach your body to use fat for fuel, thereby providing a longer-lasting form of energy during extended bouts of endurance activities. That said, whether this diet really does boost performance is still up in the air, suggested a study published in November 2015 in Sports Medicine. If you’re an athlete interested in this style of eating, your best bet is to consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition to see what’s right for you.
RELATED: What the Keto Diet Will Do to Your Workout
4. The Atkins Diet
When it comes to the low-carb craze, the Atkins diet started it all. “Dr. Atkins saw very early on that cutting back on carbs and allowing unlimited protein and fat had such a big impact on appetite and insulin levels,” says Spritzler.
On this plan, you start with a very-low, ketogenic-like intake and then gradually re-add carb sources, like vegetables and fruit. Spritzler notes that one common error is adding back in too many carbs, gaining weight, and then thinking the diet isn’t working. For instance, when you’re in maintenance mode, you probably shouldn’t be eating bread.
That said, this diet also features prepackaged foods and snacks, which are going to be processed fare, regardless of the label “low carb.” The best way to do this diet is to stick to eating whole foods, says Spritzler. As for how effective it is when stacked up against other diets, it may be the most effective — at least in the short-term. People following Atkins lost about 22 pounds at six months, per a meta-analysis of 59 trials on various diets published in September 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
One note: This diet differs from the Eco-Atkins diet, a diet ranked 22 of 40 in the 2018 US News & World Report Best Diets that did not rank in 2020. The “eco” twist is that it focuses on plant-based proteins and unsaturated fats with a greater carb allowance; you’ll likely eliminate most animal products and saturated fats.
5. Modified Atkins, Modified Keto Diet
A modified Atkins diet requires eating 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and 60 percent from fat. Research on this diet is on its effectiveness in treating epilepsy, but some people are moving toward this more “moderate” approach for weight loss. “Keto means that you’re in ketosis. For many people 10 percent carbs won’t allow them to be in that metabolic state, and this is more of a low-carb diet for them. For some it will,” says Ginger Hultin, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and owner of ChampagneNutrition, who is based in Seattle. If your goal is to get into ketosis, you should be working with a registered dietitian to make sure you’re eating the right ratio of macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) to get there, or monitoring your blood ketones.
RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Keto and Atkins?
6. Low-Carb Paleo
The caveman-eating style focuses on eating fat and protein with fewer carbs. That said, just because you cut out grains, legumes, beans, sweets, and dairy doesn’t make it automatically low carb, as you can still eat starchy veggies and fruits, which can add up. “A paleo diet can contain a number of carbs ranging from keto to normal carb levels,” says Spritzler. A benefit of a paleo eating plan is it emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, she says. It can feel meat-heavy if you normally prefer a more plant-based diet. To make sure it stays low-carb, focus on vegetables that fall naturally lower on the carb spectrum, like cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers.
There are a lack of studies on the paleo diet as a whole, and it’s unclear how effective a low-carb version would be. But in general, a paleo diet may help you lose weight, reduce belly fat, and lower blood pressure and lipid levels, according to preliminary studies outlined in a January–February 2016 review in Australian Family Physician. The downside, say researchers, is that the trials evaluating the diet are short-term and not high-quality; it’s also 10 percent more expensive compared with a regular diet and puts you at risk for calcium deficiency, note the researchers.
Whole30 is another diet (which bills itself as more of a program) that’s not specifically designed to be low in carbs. For 30 days, you’re asked to eat only meat, seafood, veggies, fruits, and fats and stay away from added sugar of any kind — alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy.
It can be a radical approach for someone who’s used to eating the standard American diet — which is low in fruits and veggies, and high in added sugar and fat — and it may help you lose weight, says Spritzler, adding that the freedom to eat as many carbs as you want may makes it a poor fit for people with type 2 diabetes. Because this is designed as a short-term challenge, it’s supposed to be tough. You have to weigh your stick-to-it-iveness before you start, and then plan out what you’re going to do after the 30 days is up.
8. Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet
This one wins big points for health from Spritzler. “I personally feel this is the ideal diet to follow, as it delivers all the benefits of both a Mediterranean and low-carb diet,” she says. The benefits of a Mediterranean diet are vast, as research shows that this style of eating is associated with a lower risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, per a September 2016 study in BMC Medicine.
The difference from other low-carb diets is that you’re going to swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats — a plus if you have type 2 diabetes, which leaves you more at risk for heart disease, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, or if you have a personal or family history of heart disease yourself, per the Mayo Clinic. That means rather than butter, cheese, and cream, you’re eating olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado as your main sources of fat.
The big pro to this diet is that it’s very heart-friendly; the con is that for some people, the lure of a low-carb diet is often the ability to eat highly palatable foods, like bacon and cheese. Research analyzing the benefit of a low-carb Mediterranean diet on diabetes, including a study published in July 2014 in Diabetes Care, have advised participants to keep carbohydrates to no more than 50 percent of their daily calories and get at least 30 percent of their calories from fat, focusing on vegetables and whole grains as carb sources.
9. Dukan Diet
On this diet, you’ll be led through four phases. For the first phase, you’ll focus on foods high in protein, and then add vegetables back in, followed by gradually introducing more carb-containing foods, like fruit and whole-grain bread, plus an allowance of two celebration meals per week. In the final phase, you’ll aim to maintain your weight loss results by eating foods from all food groups, supplementing with oat bran, and fitting in fitness daily.
According to 2020 rankings from US News & World Report, the Dukan Diet is rated 35 of 40 in terms of best diets overall — that’s pretty low. Why? There are a lot of rules to follow and you have to eat a lot of protein, something their panel of experts say can compromise health. What’s more, a September 2014 study in Translational Andrology and Urology pointed out that the high-protein initial phase of the diet could increase the risk of developing kidney stones as an unpleasant side effect. If you’ve gotten kidney stones in the past, you will want to rethink trying out this diet, the authors note.
10. The South Beach Diet
Unlike some of the other types of low-carb diets, which focus on health benefits, this one bills itself as a pure weight loss diet. While you focus more on lean protein and healthy fats, the Mayo Clinic notes, the South Beach Diet isn’t necessarily a strict low-carb diet. In fact, you eat “good carbs” — especially after the first phase.
On the diet, you can get frozen and ready-to-eat South Beach Diet meals, along with some meals you make on your own. They also encourage you to buy South Beach Diet–branded snacks. The upside is that they’ll tell you what to eat all day and there’s little cooking involved (great if you hate your kitchen); the downside is that you have to buy your food through them, and the choices can become limiting. Plus, when you’re buying packaged foods, you’re not getting the full nutritional benefit you would from eating whole foods.
Then, there’s the fact that this may lack nutrients. Past research analyzed several popular diet plans, South Beach being one of them, and concluded that the diet is extremely low calorie (about 1,200 calories) and did not offer a sufficient source of 21 out of 27 essential nutrients analyzed, including vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
11. Carb Cycling
In this twist on a low-carb diet, carb cycling means that you alternate low-carb days (50 to 150 g of carbs) with high-carb days (up to 400 grams of carbs), according to the American Council on Exercise. The number of high- and low-carb days differs according to the specific plan you’re following. (Keto cycling, for example, is a way of varying carb amounts on the keto diet.) “The main benefit is that being able to have higher carb days helps people tolerate the lower carb days, and also have more fuel for their workouts, which is why it’s popular with athletes and certain types of training,” says Hultin. The catch is that the low-carb days can make you feel restricted, and then you overcompensate on the higher-carb days. “I’d prefer a more balanced, daily plan so that you don’t have to worry so much about calculating a specific intake every single day,” she says.
RELATED: The 10 Most Famous Fad Diets of All Time
12. Zero-Carb Diet
If you look around the web, you’ll see that many people have taken on the challenge of a zero-carb diet, a diet that lacks research, and involves eating only meat and fat. The controversial carnivore diet, where you eat only meat, is similar. The downside of this diet is that it can be exceptionally high in saturated fat and contains no fiber, something that helps digestion, and no vegetables or fruit, which provide critical vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Considering that experts recommend talking to your doctor even before going on a ketogenic diet — and this is a much more severe form — you need to consult a medical professional before attempting the zero-carb diet.
Okay…so which “diet” is the best one for YOU?
You are unique and we want to personalize your nutrition program, as well as time it to your exercise and lifestyle program.
- Ancestry background
- Genetics (see my results from The DNA Company and DNAFit)
- Microbiome diversity, pathogens, bacteria overgrowth, yeast and fungus/mold
- Food Sensitities (see my Vibrant Wellness Food Zoomers results)
- Liver Congestion – phase I, II and III (drainage pathways)
- External and HIDDEN internal sources of chronic stress
- Digestion – HCL and enzymes, PNS, mindful eating habits
- Exercise scheduel, type, duration and intensity
- Hormone cycle for pre-menopausal females
Another topic is not only on what to eat but also when NOT to eat for the endurance athlete and cycling female athlete.
Fasting & the female athlete
Studies suggest that even male athletes who eat regularly throughout the day struggle to consume enough calories to meet their energy demands. Also, there is no evidence that shows that fasting improves performance at all, and so female athletes training in a fasted state for 2-3 hours at a time might be harming their performance.
Getting back to the concept of fasting being a hormetic stressor, it is important to remember that the dose is relative. What is hormetic for one person, might be a plain stressor for another.
Many female athletes are already lean and possibly already in a calorie deficit. Being lean (depending on how lean) is probably sending a message of scarcity to the body, and being in a calorie deficit is definitely sending a message of scarcity to the body. Fasting, in this case, may stimulate a far too powerful response in the body. As an athlete, recovery, building strength and adapting to exercise is a priority, and a body in survival mode is definitely not going to achieve any of those goals.
There are questions women should consider before following a strict fasting routine, like how often do they exercise, what is the macronutrient ratio in their diet, do they have any hormonal imbalances already, and are they training for performance or weight loss?
Training in a fasted state, especially early in the morning can cause cortisol levels to rise, and perhaps stay elevated for a while. Cortisol, when chronically elevated, can lead to muscle catabolism and a heightened stress response.
Women who probably shouldn’t be fasting
While there are many positive health outcomes to be had from fasting, not everyone is in a position to benefit from it. Food restriction can be very detrimental in some cases. Here are some situations where people should probably be avoiding fasting.
- lean (<18%), or underweight
- high-performing athletes
- young women/teenagers
- pregnant or lactating mothers
- those with a history of eating disorder
- those with hypothyroidism
- those with amenorrhea or an irregular menstrual cycle
There are various types of fasting that you can choose from that will suit different lifestyles. To the hard-charging women out there, it is important to take a cautious and healthy approach based on what has been discussed above. Here are three types of fasting that are likely to place the least amount of metabolic stress on women:
- Intermittent Fast (16/8): Two to three days of intermittent fasting on low-activity days, with regular eating on high activity days
- ‘Eat-stop-eat’: Practice a 24-hour water-fast
- Caloric-liquid fast: Practice a longer three to four day fast while consuming low calorie beverages like bulletproof coffee, bone broth or teas.
A few points women should remember while fasting
- Avoid HIIT, prolonged exercise, especially in the morning
- Prioritize sleep
- Ensure adequate nutrients, protein and overall calories in the refeeding period
- Assess overall stress load and make sure to have time for rest and recovery
There is no clear cut answer on exactly when during the menstrual cycle is the best time …