There is a lot of talk today in the fitness community and medical world of utilizing fat as fuel. If you do a quick google search you will come up with tons of research on this topic. Obviously the number one thing to include in this approach is individuality. It is paramount you consider everyone’s unique needs and genetic makeup, but there are several concepts that apply to all of us. I have chosen 5 of my favorite’s that you can use in your daily life that will not only make you feel better, but will also lead to a healthier life longterm. Having a high percentage of body fat is a risk factor for almost every disease, so maintaining a healthy percent is optimal.
- Intermittent fasting- I have mentioned this one ad nauseam on my site, but it is something we all can utilize to help our bodies use fat for fuel. The idea here is to eat all of your calories in a short window of time (6-10 hours for example.) When you follow this plan your body will tap into your fat stores instead of your more recent meal which not only will help you stay lean (which helps everything from insulin to testosterone levels), but also gives your body a chance to reset itself cellularly with a process called autophagy where old cells are removed from your body and that can help increase your chances of not getting cancer down the road.
- High fat diet- Keto this and keto that is all the rage right now in the nutrition world. As “trendy” as it sounds, it actually has some health benefits. The old school concept of 60% carbs is now gone and health enthusiasts can now reap the benefits of higher percentage of fat in their diet. Now this does not mean you can go out and eat several pounds of lard at each meal, but it does mean you can enjoy more fats that was once thought to be a bad idea. There is a lot of debate on whether saturated fats should be consumed in excess, and whether a difference in the kinds of fat you consume makes a difference. My answer is moderation, but consuming a large majority of unsaturated fats can go a long way to a successful health strategy. Consuming up to 50% of your diet in fats has shown tremendous benefits from recent studies.
- Fasted aerobic exercise- Some of you might be thinking this belongs on #1 on this list, but they complement each other. Fasted aerobic exercise is doing aerobic exercise on an empty stomach. For those of you that HAVE to eat before a workout session, I encourage you to slowly make a change and do this workout on an empty stomach. Not only will it help keep you lean, but will also help utilize fat as fuel which helps ward off disease. The key takeaway is to slowly go about this and don’t dive in head first or you can get yourself in trouble. For example, If you typically exercise 1 hour every morning and eat 300 calories beforehand, try and cut that calorie consumption in half for week 1, and then for week 2 attempt eating nothing before it. The first 3-4 weeks you might feel a little sluggish, but over time you will actually start to feel better and are starting to pull on your fat stores for fuel!
- Lift weights- A large majority of the population equates weight loss with countless hours of aerobic exercise and this is never the right solution. Yes, you do need to do aerobic exercises that get your heart rate up but adding in 2-4 days of weight training can really rev up your metabolism and help burn fat as fuel. When you lift weights you increase your testosterone and growth hormone levels (which is directly related to losing body fat) and will also decrease cortisol levels(stress) if done properly. Doing just the right amount of lifting at just the right intensity is the answer. I recommend keeping your reps at 5-10 and if your new to lifting weights do 75% intensity the first few weeks and can slowly increase this intensity over time. Lifting weights should not take more than 30 minutes each session and the focus should be on big muscle groups like back, chest, and legs.
- Eat carbs- I know this is the last thing you thought you would see on my list, but quite often we let our OCD, more is better mentality get in the way of a more long-term realistic approach. I have seen many people hit the ground running with a diet change at 100 mph only to get a flat tire and go back to old unhealthy habits a year later. Like I mentioned earlier, eating most of your diet in the form of fat is the way to go. If your fat percentage is 50%, try and keep your carbs around 20-30% and choose the healthiest options available like veggies, fruits and natural unprocessed foods. Slow and steady with the occasional cheat meal is what wins the race for many people, and you will need SOME carbs with the consistent exercise you will be doing!