Fat adaption is the process of training your body to reach for stored fat for energy before stored glucous. This is a great thing, not just for fat loss, but also for increasing energy and brain function. Hello, smarter and fitter future you - let's do this!
First off, I have not had a serious weight problem for over 20 years (when I first lost about 70lbs), but since then I have fluctuated with the same 10 to 15 stubborn pounds over that time. And even though I got down to a record-breaking low for a fitness competition in 2012, I gained much of that weight back as soon as the show ended. But last year, I was introduced to the process of fat adaption, and since then I’ve literally transformed my body composition, hormonal health, brain clarity and overall mood stabilization.
What is Fat Adaption?
Fat adaptation is the process of moving your body’s primary energy source from glucose to fats. In doing so, your body becomes less dependent on sugars (carbs) and reaches for fat as fuel instead (both calorically and via body fat stores). So, basically, your body becomes far more efficient in using your own body fat for fuel instead of glucose, which tends to make you crash when depleted (like the sleepiness you feel 2 hours after lunch or that bonk you experience 40 minutes into your weekend run).
The idea behind fat adaptation is to stabilize blood sugars by avoiding insulin spikes, which over time can lead to weight gain and more serious issues like type 2 diabetes. The key change in your diet is shifting the majority of your calories from carbohydrates to healthy fats, and keeping protein somewhere between 20 to 40% of your diet, depending on individual needs.
So where your diet might typically look like this:
- Carbohydrates: 60%
- Protein: 25%
- Fat: 15%
It starts looking more like this
- Carbohydrates 20%
- Protein 30%
- Fats 50%
This is not a hard and fast template but gives you an idea of how you might prioritize your meals. So instead of toast or cereal for breakfast, you might opt for protein pancakes (made with coconut or almond flour), or eggs and half and avocado. Lunch and dinner are also some variations of fat and protein with a variety of non-starchy veggies.
What are the benefits of being fat adapted?
The largest and most immediate benefit of being fat adapted (beyond the speedy fat loss results) is the decrease in hunger. When I ate predominantly carbohydrates, I was perpetually hungry. Food and my next meal were always top of mind, and I had a huge tendency to snack. Now I am rarely hungry and often have to remind myself to eat (which is just crazy for a food lover like me).
Not only that, I now have fewer PMS symptoms which were becoming more and more of an issue for me prior to changing my diet, and my mood is pretty constant (unless I have to get Fedex on the phone, in which case, all bets are off). I also feel a lot less brain fog and that post-lunch sleepy feeling is never an issue for me anymore.
How does it accelerate weight loss?
In terms of weight loss, I have found that my hormones have rebalanced, which means that even if I do indulge here and there, my body is better equipped to handle the indulgence. Also, as I’ve lowered my glucose requirements, my body has released water retention in the cells, providing a quick release of puffiness and of course, overall inflammation has reduced the thickness of my waistline and my face is less puffy.
If you’re interested in learning more about this process, I’ve listed some ideas and tips below, but to be clear, this is not prescriptive as I’m not a doctor or a dietitian. My best advice is to do your own research and experiment on yourself to see what the right level of carbs, fat and protein are for you!!
Fat adaption 101
The fundamental idea behind this way of eating is to reduce processed foods as much as possible and choose the following instead:
• Non-starchy vegetables
• Full-fat, organic dairy (if you can tolerate it)
• Free-range, organic eggs (the cheap factory eggs will work against you!)
• Free range, grass fed meats (again, please buy from local sources rather than your local supermarket as the omega ratio and hormonal concoctions in cheap meat will cause visceral belly fat retention and a host of other health issues over time)
• Wild caught fish/seafood
• Healthy fats (coconut oil, ghee, real olive oil, avocado, raw nuts, and seeds)
• If you like baked goods – switch to almond, coconut, and other gluten-free flours.
Certainly with the pace of life these days, it might be difficult to stick entirely to this list, so if you need to buy pre-packaged food, at the very least, avoid products that have sugar added and by all means, stay away from gluten!!
Overall the transition to being fat adapted can take anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on the individual. The initial induction phase can be tough!! As you drop carbs and increase your intake of healthy fats, you might find yourself in a total brain fog for the first few days, but it won't take long for that to pass. When it does, you’ll start to feel clearer headed, happier and the weight will start coming off.
A few things to keep in mind
While I do suggest a “lower” carb diet, I’m not suggesting you should give up carbs entirely. Different people have different tolerance levels to carbs, and if you can handle more, you’re lucky! The best thing to do is to pair “smart carbs” with a “healthy fat” in order to down-regulate the insulin impact.
What does that mean? Choose items that:
- Minimally processed
- Don’t contain wheat or gluten
- Have no added sugars of any kind
And eat them with a quality source of fat like eggs, peanut butter or a piece of avocado.
Being fat adapted doesn’t mean you have to be a huge meat eater. If you are, all the power to you, but I hope you take my advice and only stick with the quality stuff as factory farmed meat is a waste of money and good health (as well as being unspeakably inhumane). Personally, I don’t eat any land animals (I’m a pescatarian), but if I did, I’d aim for quality over quantity as the hormonal impact and imbalanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3’s in cheap meat will greatly hinder your health and can make your body hold on to visceral belly fat (in women especially). Go grass-fed/free range or go without. Same idea with eggs, and avoid farm raised fish for the same reason.
Beyond that, there’s not much more to it. Try to keep grains to a minimum and stay away from sugar (which is just cancer fuel in my opinion). Xylitol and stevia are great alternatives to natural or artificial sweeteners. They don’t spike insulin levels and the taste is fantastic.
Learn More about Fat Adaption
- Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
- Why Women Need Fat: How "Healthy" Food Makes Us Gain Excess Weight and the Surprising Solution to Losing It Forever
- Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers
- Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
- It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways
- This is your brain on gluten – From the Atlantic
- What does it mean to be fat adapted? - From Mark's Daily Apple
- Vinnie Tortorich - The Angriest Trainer
- Fat Burning Man
- Fit Fat Fast
- The Calorie Myth
- The Paleo Solution
- The Primal BluePrint
Recipes for Fat Adaption
I hope you find this information helpful and inspires you to take a closer look at what you're eating. If you like what you read, I encourage you to sign up below as I share information in my newsletters that I don't write about on the blog.