Burn fat by training your body to burn fat: How to turn yourself into a high-performance fat-burnin
Ketogenic diets have become very popular for their ability to increase the body’s usage of fat for energy. A ketogenic diet is essentially a diet strategy that is high in fat and extremely low (or even no) carbs. This type of diet has many other benefits such as insulin regulation, improved cholesterol, and even mood stabilization. The ketogenic diet essentially works by providing an extreme lack of carbs, but an abundance of fat. As an adaptation, the body is forced to use this fat for energy, and in turn, it gets better at metabolizing fats for energy. On top of this, the body strives to maintain a particular amount of fatty acids in the bloodstream, and it doesn’t discriminate whether they come from the foods we eat or from stored body fat. Once we exhaust our external fat supplies, we will break down body fat to maintain the levels in the blood stream. Fats however, take much longer to digest and metabolize then do carbohydrates, and as such, aren’t nearly as efficient an energy source. This creates a problem for athletes and gym-goers being that in order to perform and lift at our best, our muscles need access to rapidly available energy, and fat sources alone simply can’t be tapped quickly enough to fill this high demand. Further, a diet that is very low or no carbs will, over time compromise the metabolism as the body loses its ability to properly metabolize carbs, primarily the result of not needing to. With all that said, athletes can use principles from the ketogenic diet, and add into that targeted carb intake to both achieve peak performance in the gym and optimal fat burning outside the gym. We can become a high-performance, fat-burning machine, and feel great while doing it.
So, how is this done? While the ketogenic approach isn’t quite perfect, we can use some its principles combined with some other tricks to create the ultimate fat-burning diet approach for athletes. Here are four strategies to both optimize fat burning and gym performance:
Rely on fats in low energy times – For meals that aren’t directly before training, rely on fats for energy. As stated previously, fats are what you want your body using for energy, but they metabolize slowly. While bad for pre-workout, this is perfect for all other times with a low energy requirement such as sitting on the couch or in the office. If you train around 4pm, don’t have any carbs until 2pm or so, then only have protein/fats afterward for energy as well.
Eat carbs before training – Energy usage and demand skyrockets during anaerobic training, and if we are going to get the most out of our workouts, we need fuel for the fire. Eat most or all your carbs for the day in the two hours prior to training. This will give your body time to assimilate them into glycogen stores for readily available energy. The goal is to eat just enough to fuel the workout, but no more. Depending on workout intensity and duration, this may be as little as 60 grams for a smaller woman or well over 300grams for a big guy with lots of muscle. Experimentation is the best way to get this amount right.
Slow paced cardio – At a time away from your training, when you have only eaten fat/protein, adding in some slow and steady cardio is a great way to increase fat usage. By keeping the cardio pace low, it will increase the metabolism and fat burning, but not too much as to tap into muscle for energy. A slow pace will ensure that primarily fat is used and metabolized.
Eat big Carbs once every few days – Since carb intake will be low most of the time, with the exception of before training, glycogen stores will in turn be depleted at all times with exception of before and during training. It is a good idea to then load up on carbs every few days to fill these stores and maintain and improve health of the metabolism. The body is a highly adaptable machine, and is good at figuring out what you are doing and downregulating the metabolism. Much the way a cheat meal spikes the metabolism, this carb load does the same. A good target carb number here would be twice the amount you typically eat leading up to your workout.
While total calorie intake trumps everything, manipulating which energy sources you feed yourself when can have a big impact on your body composition. Teaching your body to readily use fats for energy very easily spills over into using body fat once external fat sources are depleted. By doing this at all low-energy requirement times, but loading up on carbs pre-workout, we can train our body to metabolize fats while not compromising workout performance.