“It’s so logical and so simple. Fat is the backup fuel system. The role it plays in the body is that when there’s no carbohydrate around, fat will become the primary energy fuel. That’s pretty well known.” –Robert Atkins
My perception of a “healthy meal” has changed over time.
A few years ago, I used to think a bowl of oatmeal and glass of OJ was a healthy meal. I also used to think that scrambled eggs and bacon was an unhealthy meal. Now, I believe the exact opposite. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about calories in vs. calories out and how creating a calorie deficit is the single most important thing you can do for weight loss. While I still believe this is true, I’ve more recently learned that you can take this much further. Adopting a low carb diet will take care of the calorie deficit naturally (because it’s very difficult to overeat while restricting carbs) and also dramatically accelerate fat loss. By restricting carbohydrate intake over the long-term, you can essentially flip a switch in your metabolism that changes how your body uses energy and really see the benefits of low carb diet plans.
This switch turns your body into a fat burning machine.
When this happens, weight loss and more importantly, fat loss, becomes automatic and effortless. This is because fat becomes your body’s go-to source of fuel instead of carbs. This phenomenon is known as being fat-adapted or keto-adapted. In the absence of carbs, your body primarily burns fat and also increases ketone production. Ketones can also be used for fuel, particularly in the brain. This dispels the myth that you need glucose to keep your brain running. How many times have you heard that you should eat a high carb breakfast to help keep you mentally focused during the day? The truth is that ketones can easily step in and do the job in the absence of glucose, or even during fasting in the absence of any type of food energy.
But back to being a fat burner and why it’s so awesome…
When you become a fat burner, lots of good things happen. First and foremost, you will lower your body fat stores and therefore your body fat percentage which will make you look better and feel better. The feeling better part isn’t a coincidence. You will actually experience more energy. This is because you have way more fat stores in your body than carb stores to tap into. Your body can only store a finite amount of glycogen in your muscles and liver. When you are a carb burner, you need to constantly replenish these stores because you are highly dependent on glucose for energy. The problem is when you are continually eating carbs, you are more prone to store excess carbs as fat. So over time, unless you are an Olympic athlete, chances are you will gain fat.
When you are a fat burner, it becomes more difficult to store fat.
When you are on a low carb diet, your rate of lipogenesis, the process that turns your carbs into fat, decreases. So not only do you burn more fat when you are moving around doing stuff, but you also make less fat when you are sitting around doing nothing. Double win! On top of that, your insulin sensitivity increases. What this means is that when you do happen to eat a lot of carbs, your body reacts appropriately to deal with them. In contrast, someone who is constantly on a high carb diet is prone to insulin resistance which means your body can’t deal with carbs and ends up storing more of them as fat because that’s the easy thing to do. As you may know, insulin resistance can lead to a whole host of deadly diseases such as diabetes.
These are just a few reasons why you should strive to become fat-adapted.
Creating a calorie deficit is a great goal to shoot for and will serve as a decent starting point for weight loss. But if you really want to eradicate the ugly monster that is body fat once and for all, you need to become fat-adapted. How do you do this? You must consistently moderate carbs to reap the benefits of a low carb diet lifestyle. Yes, lifestyle. This isn’t a quick fix. It will take a couple of weeks on a very low carb diet (less than 50g of carbs per day is the sweet spot for ketosis) to become keto-adapted. To give you an idea of how extreme this may seem, one slice of wheat bread may contain 20-25g of carbs. But remember, nothing worthwhile is easy. Even after that, you must stick with it. If you go back to your old eating habits, you’ll quickly regain carb dependence and the ugly cycle of insulin resistance, fat gain, and disease that comes with it. Becoming a fat burner is worth it. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss my approach and what I feel is a relatively painless way to go about it.