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Fat Adapted

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  • Fat Adapted

    Ok, so I'm on day 3 of my fat adaptation process. I'm almost zero carb and I'm going to be under 50 carbs/day for the next 3-4 weeks to jump start the process.

    My question is on exercise. I realize that I need to go long and slow and stay in my aerobic zone, but should I be exercising at all during this 3-4 week transformation process? My goal is to be a fat adapted endurance athlete within a few months. Do I need a heart rate monitor? Should I ride my bike fasted to help with the process?

  • #2
    yep. exercise away. 2-3 days of lifting heavy things, 1 day of sprinting, and 3-5 hours of moving slowly throughout the week. no need for a heartrate monitor. if you can talk while sprinting, you're not working hard enough; if you can't talk while moving slowly, you're working to hard.


    • #3
      If you are sprinting and lifting heavy on such low carbs and so early on in the transition, you may have a really really hard time. What I did was slow way down on my exercise. I went for leisurely 2-3 mile walks every day at lunch and hiking in the mountains on weekends. I found that I was much slower hiking in the mountains than usual. I used to be at the front of the pack but now was at the back and kind of struggling. Eventually once I got truly adapted I was back up front again. I really loved the ability to go for a strenuous hike totally fasted (with the exception of some coffee.)
      Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


      • #4
        My Personal Nutrition Journey The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D.

        A multipart series - but lots of lessons learned in it.


        • #5
          if you're going to cut carbs like that (and i think it's overkill anyway, but you may as well try it for yourself!), just listen to your body you may find that you can only do so much in terms of exercise at that point. if you're bonking, back off. if you feel good, keep going.


          • #6
            Everyone is different but I think you've gotten some good advice here. My two cents based on my experience, if you're going that low on carbs, stay away from prolonged aerobic exercise. Walking and hiking are probably fine but you may need to increase the carbs a bit after sprinting or heavy lifting (I'm talking 100-200g here depending on your size). The worst thing you could possibly do is engage in the kind of sustained aerobic activity that would necessitate a heart monitor and do it over prolonged periods of time on low carb. That is just an express road to glycogen depletion and believe me, you so don't want to be there- you'll be miserable, have zero energy or stamina, sleep will suffer, you'll get mad sugar cravings, overeat and generally be a really unpleasant individual to be around.


            • #7
              I have depleted my glycogen stores in the past through very low carb eating and exercise. It's a horrible feeling. Does anyone know how long it takes the body to replenish stores through gluconeogenesis if u keep carbs low? Does ur body get better at it? Do people who are fat adapted replenish stores quicker over time?


              • #8
                OP, I just noticed you said your goal is to become a fat adapted endurance athlete? I presume that means your primary goal is not fat loss? If that is the case, why do you need to go VLC? I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think it's possible to be an endurance athlete and be VLC. Either you go VLC for fat loss, jump start the process or fix metabolic issues and give up endurance training or you up the carbs and continue endurance training. Something's got to give or your poor body will. Really, I believe if you don't have a ton of weight to lose or some kind of health problem, there's no need to be consistently under 50g carbs per day.

                See below for Mark's blog entry on marathon training in the "primal" way for some guidance (note that Mark's low threshold for carbs is 150g per day):

                How to Train for a Marathon | Mark's Daily Apple

                How to Fuel a Marathon | Mark's Daily Apple
                Last edited by Fiji; 07-17-2012, 08:34 PM.


                • #9
                  My desire to become a fat adapated endurance athlete comes from reading "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Peformance" by Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek. In terms of my low carbs now, it really is more weight loss issues. I probably have about 50 pounds that I need to lose. Once there, though, I plan on training and racing in long distance events with fat as a primary fuel source. I certainly realize that this can be done on higher carbs.......50 to 150 for example. My original question really was in regard to initially training my body to use fat for energy instead of sugar. I'm on day 4 right now of very little carbs - probably about 10 yesterday. I feel absolutely fine, but I haven't done any aerobic activity the last 3 days. I'm going to start today, however, with a slow run (almost a fast walk). That will be the tough part. In the past, I would pick a distance and then race against my previous times on that distance or simply want to get done quickly so I can do something else. This will be a change for sure.


                  • #10
                    I'm female and I have raced in ultra races for years, as a fat-adapted beast. I did not ascribe to fuelling with sugar during ultra long races (no gels, sugary treats, candies etc etc). I was careful to ensure I was taking in the proper amount of electrolytes and salt (especially in hotter temps/climates).

                    I also trained my body to eat whole foods WHILE training -- this was very helpful for very long training days. For instance, I would ride my bike on an indoor trainer and eat my dinner while on my bike. So long as effort was moderate to steady, my body adapted to eating and digesting.....this came in especially helpful when I raced Ironman and ultra running (100 mile run).

                    Everybody responds differently, but this is what worked for me.

                    At the time of my ultra racing I was 37 - 44 yrs old, 144lbs, 17% body fat.

                    F, 48, 5'10"
                    Start Date: 25-06-12 @ 161lbs
                    Goal Reached: 30-09-12 @ 143lb. Now bouncing between 145lb - 149lb. I'd like less bounce and more consistency :-)

                    Started Cross Fit 20.12.12 ---- Can't wait to submit my success story on the 1st anniversary of starting primal.


                    • #11

                      Thanks for the insight. During the process of fat adaptation, what was your typical carb level on a daily basis? What did you eat during races?


                      • #12
                        I was not primal until 3 weeks ago. So in my racing days, my eating was very clean (no fast foods, no prepared foods), and limited sugar. Typical carbs came from tuber vegetables (sweet potatoes, rice, potatoes)...lots of fish and omega oils.

                        When racing, I had a powerful little concoction that my 'support team' prepared for me. In a 100 miler running race, I would have one of these every 20 km:
                        1/3 water bottle of juice
                        1 cup yogourt
                        2 Tbsp's oil
                        1/3 water bottle rice beverage
                        A very high quality, high protein supplement.

                        In this particular race, I did not ingest any whole foods - went strictly with the liquid and did not experience any stomach upset, diarrhea, nor loss of mind (happens in longer races). I also take high quality salt tablets and electrolytes that I mix with water (I like to have control over increasing or decreasing mixture %, depending how my stomach is feeling/ie., if I'm absorbing the calories, or if I'm overloading which results in vomiting or diarrhea/cramping etc.

                        For me, the key was training with these sources, and adjust amounts/quantities based on length of race, race effort, heat conditions and how my stomach is feeling.

                        When racing long on a bike (Ironman, or 100-200km bike rides), I am able and my body seems to want denser foods, thus I'll eat whole foods, up to a certain point, after which I switch to all liquid nutrition. Again, I trained by eating on my bike, so my stomach became adjusted to digesting while exercising.

                        I've also had the extreme pleasure of pacing and crewing a friend in the Badwater Ultra Marathon where heat (50+C) was an issue. We were ingesting 1L of water every 30 minutes to stay hydrated. This is not done without proper heat training, 3 months leading up to the race.

                        Anyway, these are some of the strategies that worked for me. Since I have many many friends who are exceptional ultra racers, I have come to accept that we all train differently, prefer different methods of fuel, and everything is always a science project of 1 :-) I always begin with Plan A, but also have a Plan B and Plan C to default to, when/if needed. I've learned to listen carefully to the body, and always record #'s in my training manual -- this has helped me to understand the needs of my body, and how it reacts to different stimuli.

                        Good luck!

                        F, 48, 5'10"
                        Start Date: 25-06-12 @ 161lbs
                        Goal Reached: 30-09-12 @ 143lb. Now bouncing between 145lb - 149lb. I'd like less bounce and more consistency :-)

                        Started Cross Fit 20.12.12 ---- Can't wait to submit my success story on the 1st anniversary of starting primal.


                        • #13
                          Mr O,
                          I just started reading the same book. Very interesting! I am an aspiring endurance athlete myself, and on the primal blueprint way of eating. I have always been conflicted about all the sugars you "have to" take during long runs. Let us know how your progress goes!


                          • #14
                            Hi everyone,

                            I was doing some googling to find out a bit more about fat adaptation and found this thread. I'm really trying to find the last few bits of information to complete my transition, and this place seemed like a good place to ask. I did try to send a PM to the OP but couldn't figure out how (if it's possible) so forgive me for dredging up an old thread.

                            I've been following a paleo-style diet for about 4 months. I've eaten low-ish carb (c. 150g a day) for about 9 months, dropping beans about 4 months ago to go pretty much paleo. (I still eat a bit of cheese, cream in coffee etc. so won't claim to be 100%).

                            Anyhow, about 2 months ago I started dropping carbs, in the last month aiming to always get under 100g for training days and under 60g on other days.

                            I felt like I was pretty fat adapted - I didn't get hunger pains (at least not in the same way - just felt like my stomach was empty but still had energy) and could go hours without food, especially after training which I used to have to eat straight afterwards, but I read that in order to complete the transition it was worth going keto on <25g carbs, <100g protein and the rest fat, in order to really kickstart the body becoming a fat burner.

                            I am mainly wondering what you (the OP and anyone else!) thinks of this. How long should it be done for? I've never hit keto before and am finding I have less energy and also cannot sleep. Like massive insomnia - just lie awake feeling wired. It's starting to affect my training (I train bar calisthenics - pull-ups, dips etc. and bodyweight stuff, plus running and burpees for cardio) because I don't seem to recover.

                            Really I'm wondering whether to a) stick with it and hope the above gets better, or b) to accept that where I was before - semi-adapted (I guess it's hard to tell really) - was an ok place and to start re-introducing those extra carbs (which took the form of PWO sweet potatoes and more vegetables).

                            I'd really appreciate your thoughts.




                            • #15
                              I really don't read anything in your post that indicates you were semi-adapted before. I think VLC is better suited for a lower level of activity. What's your body composition like? Are you trying to lower body fat? Are you trying to lose weight, improve performance for sports or gain weight? If you're lean and looking for better performance, feeling as you've described I'd add back the vegtables, sweet potatoes, (ie, good carbs) and try to improve the recovery and rest between training. It appears to me you could be over reaching some with training and very active to be trying to exist on a VLC diet. If you are lean and not needing fat loss or trying to lose weight to improve times running or cycling, up the carbs. With Primal, dairy is ok in moderation if it doesn't give you digestive problems. It's not exactly the same as paleo.