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It’s time to stop vilifying the fats, and let’s debunk some carbohydrate myths while we are at it!

Fats, proteins and carbohydrates will be key characters in this column as we discuss how best to fuel your muscles and your exercise in general. It may well be time to look at changing your fuel source for your exercise…and for general health benefits too, including weight loss.

Traditionally, the belief has held that when we exercise, the major source of our fuel should be carbohydrates. This was a strongly held belief that has been prescribed for the best part of 40 years. Now we are saying, “hang on, that isn’t quite the way”.  In a similar way we were told that eating fats was linked to cardio and blood pressure issues. Fats were vilified and carbohydrates were lauded. It’s time to get the facts right.

Flipping the food pyramid

In reality, the traditional food pyramid we have operated by for far too long can be turned upside down. That pyramid has breads, cereal, rice and pasta at the bottom in the “eat plenty of” category, and fats at the top in the “use sparingly” zone.

Things change. What we now know is that we store more fat in our body than we do carbohydrates (glycogen). Essentially, we are now acknowledging that the fat tank provides equal, if not better, benefits. What we need to do is get our body to burn and use the fat tank, not the carbohydrate/glycogen tank. Keto adaptation is the official term for this and is the most efficient path to accelerated fat burning. In short: a keto adapted diet is one that has low carbohydrate intake and higher levels of good fats and protein.

What is Keto adaptation then?

This is the process of shifting your metabolism from relying mostly on glucose for fuel, to relying mostly on fat-based sources of fuel. Not only does fat oxidation increase, but your body will start producing enough ketones. They can be used as a significant source of fuel as well. Ketones are derived from partially metabolized fat, and they can be used in many of the same tissues of the body as glucose can, including the brain. The benefits of using fat and ketones rather than glucose for fuel are many. Fat is an important source of essential fatty acids and nutrients. Moreover, ingesting fat with protein helps to moderate the insulin response. A keto diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, and a high fat diet. How do you know if you are burning fat? Your body goes into a state called ketosis. This can be measured with a quick dipstick into your urine. This will tell you when you are fat burning.

Insulin is a critical part of the whole equation, and this is, essentially, what causes problems. When we are on a high carbohydrate diet we end up producing and having altered insulin and this inhibits fat burning.

Here’s an analogy. If you light a fire you use twigs to ensure it burns fast and hard. The twigs are carbohydrates. If you want a fire for a good barbeque you have to put charcoal on. Charcoal is the fat in this equation. We are teaching the body how to go from burning the twigs to the charcoal.

A key point is that, when you adapt your diet accordingly, your body gets better at burning and utilising fats as a primary energy source.

It is literally an adaptive process – a time to look at what is in your diet. Now is a good time to increase good fats, nuts and fibrous vegetables and reduce bread, pasta and white rice, for example.


In brief

  • Carbohydrate-based fueling is a self-perpetuating cycle: it runs out quickly, and every time you eat more carbs you delay adaptation to fat-burning.
  • Fat-based fueling is sustainable, because it allows access to a very large store of energy without you frequently stopping to refuel. Blood sugar is maintained though precise internal processes without wild swings. These two together create a desirable flow of even, stable energy, mood, and alertness.

It takes time for our metabolism to adjust to dietary change

So, if we reduce carbohydrates in our diet, we reduce insulin levels and with this comes an increased ability to burn fat. But, this doesn’t happen in a day. It takes time for the metabolism to adjust to producing and using ketones at a significant rate – you may feel a bit slow during the change-over. Even though changes are evident within days of carbohydrate restriction, improvements continue for weeks.

We recommend committing to a very low level of carbohydrate intake, and staying with it consistently for at least long enough to get ketone production in full force – about thirty days. Remember, you can measure this in your urine. We have the urine sticks to measure this by. Rest assured, if you experience any discomfort at all, you are likely to feel fully functional within 4 or 5 days. However, metabolic changes continue for at least two weeks and often more.

The individual touch – we’re here to help

Unfortunately results can vary from individual to individual. Paddy and I are here to provide assistance and help you gain maximum advantage from this positive paradigm shift.

I am here to talk about exercise your muscles will thrive from, and how your performance will be better on this recommended type of fuel source. Paddy can offer expert advice on how to make this adaptation easier and incredibly effective – all backed by the latest science. She will also be able to discuss keto diets and assist with the weight loss benefits to this.