Fat Adapted

If you’ve clicked through to here because you need a reinforced toilet, a chair lift and a mobility scooter then I think you might be in the wrong place but read on in case you need a laugh.

In my frantic search to latch onto any and every snake oil solution to making ultra marathons less of a physically demeaning day out and more of a positive experience I am currently investigating the LCHF approach to nutrition. Before I launch into explaining how my hobby is decoupling me from normal life I’ll give you a bit of  man-in-the-pub science:

If you cut out the sugar you will have to use fat to get by. If you eat fat you will force you body to burn the fat as fuel. You will become fat adapted.

Note: the words FORCE, BURN  and FUEL should be signal enough to you that this theory is both ill understood by me and the sort of faddish thing that you’d likely find in a fashion magazine.  i.e. prepare to add a large pinch of salt to everything you’re about to read.

You will hear this approach being touted around the internet, health magazines, fashion magazines and what ever you’re having yourself as the paleo diet (named after the paleolithic era where we all wore fur underpants and went ugg, ugg) or LCHF (low carb high fat) diet which is more or less the same: Stop shoving bread, pasta, cereal and sweets into your gob.

Even if a low carb diet does nothing else it can help prevent hanger – hanger is the special human condition that exists where the blood-sugar drop after an insulin spike and turns you into an irrational psychopath (hanger = hungry & angry). I know lots of people with this condition – I’m sure you do too. I see that the manufacturers of Snickers bars have actually used it in their latest marketing campaign – You’re not you when you’re hungry.

From a running (long distances) point of view the idea is that if you can exercise in ketosis (the science name for “fat burning”) you can tap a much greater reservoir of energy within your body (fats). One of the notable exponents of this approach (mainly to bring about a reduction in type II diabetes in over weight people) is Tim Noakes (if you’ve been into running for a while and like to read on the toilet then you’ll have read his book  the lore of running several time).

So what do you have to do to ascend to this level of higher conciousness? Eat butter by the spoonful? – close.

I’m not really a big eater of sweets anyway so I though I’d try out some medium to long distance runs on fat.

I rooted out a recipe for what is known as “bulletproof” coffee on the internet. Its not actually bulletproof but I think it sounds better than “fat coffee” which might be overlapping on some of the lattes on offer at my local coffee shop.

Brew some coffee, add it to a blender with a knob of butter and a spoon of coconut oil (I’ll be honest – it looks like lard). Blend the whole lot and drink. Despite what you might think it actually tastes fine – like a coffee with cream in it.

I tried this a few weeks ago on an 20 morning mile run. I had no breakfast but I did bring some chocolate bars with me in case this magic coffee thing was just another sign I was going mad and I would actually need some energy to get home.  I made it to 13 miles before I started to feel tired and stopped at 16 miles for a chocolate bar so I could make it home with my dignity in tact.

The following week I had a 10 mile mid-week run on magic coffee that went off without a problem.

Over the next few weeks I went through a few more big runs on magic coffee and replaced the chocolate bars with cheese and some water and have made it to 22 miles with no ill effects. Pace doesn’t drop off, there’s no bonk, recovery is fine.

I must admit I’m quite impressed with results – having a normal evening meal at 7pm, a full nights sleep and then a 35k+ run at 10am on a mug of coffee and a square of cheese (500 cals max) is something that I think would be something a lot of runners would like to be able to do. High energy refined sugars that runners normally use tend to lead to stomach problems over long distances.

Are there problems with living on magic coffee? I suppose that depends on whether you like food, think nutrients are essential or whether you need to lose any weight. It does suppress your appetite pretty spectacularly so if you have a nice frock you need to fit into in two weeks then email me and I’ll get you started.



2 responses to “Fat Adapted

  1. Reblogged this on runwelshman and commented:
    I am probably at the same learning point as you. I have also added trying to do 80% of training runs in heart rate zone 2 but can only manage 56%. It is supposed to teach your body to burn fat but is hard to do – my Garmin tells me I keep slipping into zone 3.
    I love the coffee, use liquid mct oil from coconut rather than solid and don’t eat carbs until evening.
    If you are running ultras you may find it hard not to lose too much weight!
    Do you listen to the Dave Asprey podcast?

  2. You are aware it will take 7-10 days to deplete glycogen stores and become fat adaptive. You simply can’t expect to have a fatty coffee and presume the body will go for that to fuel. It Would be interesting to see how you get on when in ketosis consistently and then racing truly fat adapted.
    Good luck on your experimenting.

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