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Thread: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

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    Default Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Before I spend an epoch writing a mini-textbook about fat-adaptation in training, does anyone here have an interest in this? Perhaps already practice it?

    Very briefly: fat-adaptation occurs when, for a variety of reasons, blood glucose and insulin drop to very low levels (during fasting, carbohydrate restriction..etc.) and the liver begins to take fats from storage (adipose tissue) and release them into the bloodstream as free fatty acids (FFA). These FFAs are extremely energy-dense and can be taken up and used by any cell that is powered by mitochondria (this includes muscles [skeletal and heart], and the brain). Fats are much more energy dense than carbohydrates (such as glucose), in the realm of 9cal/g vs 4cal/g. To put that in perspective, the average person has about 50,000-60,000kcal of energy stored in their adipose tissue (about 12-15lb). An equivalent amount of available glucose energy, since glucose only exists bound to water, would be about 100lb. That's essentially impossible though, and most people top out around 3,000kcal of available energy stored in muscle tissue from carbohydrate ingestion. Fat-adaptation is a method (or methods, as it were) of training one's body to increase efficiency of fat-oxidation (the process of turning this adipose tissue into useable energy) so that the body favors fat as a fuel source over glucose. The advantage is, using cycling as an example, one can do 4+hr of zone 3 work with little-to-no food in their pockets since they are feeding their muscles through fat that is already in the body rather than constantly topping up glucose.

    This is something I've been practicing for a couple of years now (through some unconventional methods, particularly because I've been a vegan for about 6 years now and a vegetarian for 7 before that) and the results have been slow but pretty stunning. For example, about an hour ago I got back from a 30km (18.6mi) run during which I consumed nothing but water and hadn't eaten for about 5 hours prior. I regularly ride with people, doing 150-200km, wherein at least once per hour they have to eat a bar/gel/banana of at least 200kcal/hr to not "bonk" while I can comfortably do the entire ride on little more than a couple hundred kcal. For the record, I maintain a very consistent weight and bf% so I'm not starving myself. I still eat 3500kcal/day on average (cycling 18-20hr/wk and running 4-6hr/wk), it's just the composition and timing that matters.

    Anywho, I'm really curious to know if anyone else here is interested and/or practicing this. With the rise of "paleo" and "ketogenic" diets, I would think it'd have worked it's tentacles into a few people around here.
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Yeah, I'd like hear more. I don't practice. You know your physiology. Share the knowledge.

    How does this work on hard efforts?
     

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    I often do my trainer rides before breakfast. When I had a 1.5 hour bike to work I would wait to eat til I got there. I'm definitely interested in hearing what others think/do.

    A key point to remember is that this isn't for weight training or all out efforts on the bike.

    Sadly this morning I wasn't able to get to my trainer ride before breakfast. Maybe if I'd seen this thread before.
     

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    This sounds like the Barry Sears Zone stuff. Of course I could be way off as well.
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    I tried to start riding after a layoff while practicing ~95% complaint paleo for over a year. It was a complete failure. I could lift without issues, but I could not figure out how to ride on that diet without bonking horribly and having no pickup.
    I still stay fairly light on the carbs as a day to day practice, but I always fuel rides and recovery.
    Guy Washburn

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    It depends on what your goals are.

    If you need to lose fat and many diets have not worked- Keto might. Especially if carbs tend to make you fat.

    If you are doing very long stuff at a very aerobic pace- It might also work.

    If you are trying to go fast- it will not work.
    You don't get to choose the fat/carb/blood glucose ratio at or above threshold. You effort chooses it.
    The harder the effort- the more glycogen you burn.
    Also- you want to have a full tank of available glycogen when going hard (I.E. racing)- you need carbs to for that.
     

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by defspace View Post
    Yeah, I'd like hear more. I don't practice. You know your physiology. Share the knowledge.

    How does this work on hard efforts?
    Cool, seems like there's an interest so I'll lay out what I know in a bigger, longer post. It's interesting stuff and there's a handful of good studies on cyclists, runners and other athletes that I can get into. With regards to the question, the answer depends on what you mean by hard efforts. If you're talking sprints and VO2max stuff, you're definitely limited. You still carry some free glycogen (there are plenty of metabolic processes that require it so you can't be 100% free of it) so you've got a few hard efforts in you, but you have less "matches to burn" as it were. This would not work well for someone who is racing a lot of crits, unless you've mastered hiding in pack and only need enough glycogen for the finishing sprint. In short, you won't be able to do repeated hard efforts like closing gaps, rubber-banding around corners in a pack, and still have anything left for the sprint.

    Quote Originally Posted by rec head View Post
    I often do my trainer rides before breakfast. When I had a 1.5 hour bike to work I would wait to eat til I got there. I'm definitely interested in hearing what others think/do.
    This'll do it to some degree, but it depends on what that breakfast was like after the ride.

    Quote Originally Posted by rec head View Post
    A key point to remember is that this isn't for weight training or all out efforts on the bike.
    True, see above.


    Quote Originally Posted by David Tollefson View Post
    This sounds like the Barry Sears Zone stuff. Of course I could be way off as well.
    Somewhat, yes. He focuses a lot on the anti-inflammatory stuff, which is a side-benefit of all of this. Gluconeogenesis through fat oxidation results in far less muscle inflammation than high glycemic food intake. Fat-adapted athletes have far lower inflammation, higher anti-oxidant production, and quicker recovery.

    Quote Originally Posted by guido View Post
    I tried to start riding after a layoff while practicing ~95% complaint paleo for over a year. It was a complete failure. I could lift without issues, but I could not figure out how to ride on that diet without bonking horribly and having no pickup.
    I still stay fairly light on the carbs as a day to day practice, but I always fuel rides and recovery.
    That's really interesting. Did you ever have your ketone levels checked or look at insulin responses? There's a lot of explanations for why you might have felt that way...
    Quote Originally Posted by boots2000 View Post
    It depends on what your goals are.

    If you need to lose fat and many diets have not worked- Keto might. Especially if carbs tend to make you fat.

    If you are doing very long stuff at a very aerobic pace- It might also work.

    If you are trying to go fast- it will not work.
    You don't get to choose the fat/carb/blood glucose ratio at or above threshold. You effort chooses it.
    The harder the effort- the more glycogen you burn.
    Also- you want to have a full tank of available glycogen when going hard (I.E. racing)- you need carbs to for that.
    Again, this depends on what you mean by fast. I still race, and do pretty well in competitive fields. But, that is largely due to "wars of attrition" in road races. I can podium by outpacing others, but if it comes down to a sprint I'm S.O.L for sure.

    To think about it in terms of type of effort, you have to understand the "crossover point" concept. Basically: everyone burns fat. Everyone also uses free glycogen. There is a point (the "crossover point") at which you switch from the former to the latter. As you become fat-adapted that point is pushed farther with regards to intensity. Volek et al., 2016 (PMID: 26892521) did a nice breakdown of this and showed that you can still use fat as an energy source during VOmax work, but the duration is likely shorter and it takes quite a while to become so well adapted.

    More on all of this later. Glad people are interested.
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Yes I am always interested in this topic and it isn't discussed much.

    After eating Paleolithic for a year trying to curb the Corhn's Disease progression I became very interested in fat adaptation/ketogenic diet regiments from the standpoint of sports performance.

    This is quite an interesting study also:

    'Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners'
    or - F.A.S.T.E.R

    PDF download is here http://www.metabolismjournal.com/art...334-0/fulltext
    justin rogers.

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by guido View Post
    I tried to start riding after a layoff while practicing ~95% complaint paleo for over a year. It was a complete failure. I could lift without issues, but I could not figure out how to ride on that diet without bonking horribly and having no pickup.
    I still stay fairly light on the carbs as a day to day practice, but I always fuel rides and recovery.
    I was thinking the same, and a crude way to check at home is with these- Target : Expect More. Pay Less.

    No real levels, per se as in having bloodwork done, but it's a decent indicator of how deeply into ketosis one may be. Again, roughly but I have found them helpful myself and well, they're cheap.
    justin rogers.

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    As an another vegan endurance rider, I'd be very interested to hear more. I already intermittently fast and have seen great benefits from this but have been put off going for a more ketogenic diet due to the massive hassle of doing it without animal products.
     

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Alrighty then, let's dig in -

    Part 1: What is fat-adaptation?

    On a standard, diverse diet, the brain and most muscles use glycogen as a primary energy source. Glycogen, coming from dietary carbohydrates, is mostly stored in the liver (a small amount is also stored in muscles and can be manipulated using nutrient timing and density) in a water-bound formation. It is a finite resource and even a well-trained athlete will top out at a few thousand calories worth of useable glycogen as energy. When that runs out, you bonk. It can be somewhat quickly replenished using dietary carbohydrates.

    When the body lacks glycogen for long enough, it begins the upregulates (increases) the process of ketogenesis. Ketogenesis is the process by which fatty acids and amino acids are broken down into ketones (ketone bodies) which can act as an alternative source of energy for brain cells and muscle cells (the biochemistry is relatively straightforward, and the byproducts are relevant to our interests here, but we'll get to that later). This process takes some time, as both the liver must adapt towards ketone production and the nerves of both the brain and muscle must adapt to using this as a fuel source. An excellent review of what happens during this process can be read here - yes, the process of fat-adaptation through diet is essentially what happens during starvation.

    As explained the the original post, one major advantage of this is storage capacity. The liver can only hold so much glycogen, and because it is bound to several water molecules, it's also heavy. From an energy-density perspective, fat is much richer. It is also a much higher-capacity resource in the body (in that the body can hold more than 10x the potential energy in fat than in glycogen). In a number of studies, time-to-exhaustion in athletes (including cyclists, one example here) as well as efficiency-markers like respiratory requirements are enhanced (Helge et al., 2001). It's also been demonstrated to enhance time-trial performance (Lambert et al., 2001) and reduce markers of muscle-tissue damage (which would in turn reduce time to recovery).

    Of course, fat-adapted training is not a pristine field of poppies; there are weeds and manure in there, too. While the body doesn't entirely rid itself of useable glycogen (there are certain organs which require it as a fuel source and will not convert to ketone-use), it does drastically reduce it's storage. And while ketones are a great source of energy for muscle activity, they don't cut it when it comes to engaging very large muscles at maximum capacity; that requires glycogen. In other words, hard, repeated efforts cannot be fueled well by fat (more on this in Part 3). Additionally, as you'll see in the next section, it requires an altered diet (both in content and timing) and pretty consistent adherence (after all, if it were quick to happen and sustain, we would all be ketogenic in the overnight "starvation" period). The process of ketogenic conversion takes several weeks to initiate and can be completely reversed in a couple of days. It is also not readily engaged in some people's bodies for a lot of different reasons. In short, while it can be hugely beneficial, it's also a borderline PITA until you get into a rhythm and serves a very specific purpose.

    Tomorrow, Part 2: methods of achieving/promoting ketogenesis (diet, timing and more) + Part 3: Impacts on training and racing
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    In the fall I listened to a nutrition podcast w/ Jeremy Powers. He talked about playing with a ketogenic diet being his one big change for 2016. I don't think that worked out very well for him.
     

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Nothing to add other than encouragement. I am interested in hearing anything you're willing to share, or reading anything you're willing to link.

    Thanks for this.
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by zachateseverything View Post
    In the fall I listened to a nutrition podcast w/ Jeremy Powers. He talked about playing with a ketogenic diet being his one big change for 2016. I don't think that worked out very well for him.
    Interesting - cyclocross (next to criterium racing) seems like perhaps the poorest possible choice for a ketogenic diet. Basically, any type of racing that involves repeated, suprathreshold to VO2max efforts requires a metric buttload of glycogen. Ketones won't cut it there.
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Octave View Post
    Interesting - cyclocross (next to criterium racing) seems like perhaps the poorest possible choice for a ketogenic diet. Basically, any type of racing that involves repeated, suprathreshold to VO2max efforts requires a metric buttload of glycogen. Ketones won't cut it there.
    I find ketogenic talk interesting. It's not anything I'd do, because I enjoy stuff that requires metric buttloads of glycogen, interesting nevertheless.

    You mention that you still race. If you know this is something that gives you a smaller matchbook and ensures a loss in a field sprint, why do you do it? What's the upside?
     

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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Part 2: Methods of achieving/promoting ketogenesis (diet, timing and more)

    The principle of fat-adaptation or ketosis is relatively straight forward: reduce glycogen in the blood by restricting carbohydrate consumption until the body is forced to switch to ketone production via the liver and cells adapt to using ketones as a primary fuel source. However, there are many ways to achieve this and measure it. Now, to clarify: fat-adaptation and ketosis are not necessarily the same thing. An individual can be fat-adapted without entering a state of full blown ketosis. Fat-adaptation occurs when the body increases it's capacity to use fat as a fuel, while ketosis implies that a full transition to fat as a primary fuel source has occurred.

    Depending on the person, carbohydrate consumption must be restricted to 20g or less of net carbs per day. The easiest way to begin is to cut out sugar and refined carbohydrates and introduce fasting periods. If you have a blood glucose monitoring device, this is when it becomes useful. After several days or a week of carbohydrate restriction, you should have a resting insulin level of 80-90mg/dL that should remain well under 100 even after a large meal. This can also be achieved to some by reducing fast-digesting sugars like maltodextrin (gels, sugary sports-drinks..etc.) and replacing them with slow-digesting carbohydrates. Personally, I spent a long time fueling bike rides with a sweet potato wrapped in sandwich paper. Super-starch is quite popular, as well.

    In addition to carbohydrate restriction, an increase in the total ratio of fats in your diet is a requisite for fat-adaptation and eventual ketosis (in other words, simply replacing carbohydrates with proteins will not achieve these states). In the classic ketogenic diet, a 4:1 ratio of fats to combined proteins/carbohydrates (which should themselves be nearly 4:1) is required. This is very difficult to maintain, and can result in nutrient deficiencies from lack of fruit and vegetable intake and almost always results in some capacity of supplementation for vitamins. The source of fats is also a necessary consideration, as not all fats are equally useable for ketogenesis; in particular, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are most readily converted for this purpose. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are very high in MCTs, while dairy sources tend to be lower (10-20% in most milks, for example). Using MCTs as your primary fat source is an excellent way to induce a state of ketosis (in addition, of course, to carbohydrate restriction).

    There are nearly endless guides to specific diet plans for inducing ketosis, so I will not go into a specific diet here, save for my own experience as a vegan. While most ketogenic diets rely heavily on butter and high-fat meat sources, it is certainly possible to achieve ketosis without either of these. Much of this depends on carefully learning quality fat sources and being in control of your diet. One small note is that without a well-rounded diet one can find themselves in a far worse state than they began - nutrient and vitamin deficiencies from diets like the Whole30 are quite common, and other dangers lurk too; as an example, using milk as a primary fat source can result in reductions in bone-density due to the calcium-leaching effects of dairy. There are too many potential pitfalls to name here, but if you're worried or curious there are plenty of online calculators you could use to plug in a few days worth of your potential diet and see what's missing. I'm not a fan of vitamin supplements (I don't take any, nor does my also-vegan wife, and both of us have fine levels in our bloodwork), but for some people they may be necessary to follow a strict dietary change and not lose out on important nutritional components.

    (see next section below, as together they surpassed the content limit for a single post)
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Ketosis and fat-adaptation as a vegan

    First off, I should note that I don't actually believe that one has to be under 20g of carbohydrate per day to achieve ketosis. I have measured my own state of ketogenesis in a number of ways, including respiratory exchange rate and actual blood ketone measurement, and I can sustain ketosis on about 35-40g of carbohydrate per day in a 3,500-4,000kcal diet (this is factoring in 18-20hr on the bike and another 4-6hr on foot per week). The basic outline of how I have achieved this is a combination of dietary input control, fasting, and nutrient timing. Dietary input control is to say simply, I cook about 98% of my own food (we eat out maybe 1x/month) and know what goes into it. No, I don't weigh all of my ingredients or use a nutrient tracker - I went through a brief period of doing this some years ago and the numbers stuck with me, but once you find a rhythm there's really no calculations involved. Fasting is to say that I do most of my workouts fasted and do not immediately refuel - after workouts your glycogen synthase is elevated which means that any carbohydrates consumed (and some fats, as well) will be quickly turned into glycogen for storage. Avoiding that window is a key to forcing your body into a ketogenic state. Nutrient timing is part of this, but also about the combinations of food that you consume. If you consume 20g of carbohydrate in a juice your insulin will spike and your body will immediately shift to glycogen as a fuel source. If however, you consume that same amount of carbohydrate with a good amount of fiber, fat and protein, the digestion is slowed and the insulin spike never arrives. Thus, a cup of strawberries with some coconut whip will have a vastly different effect on your insulin and glucose levels than the same amount of strawberries juiced and consumed alone.

    The other aspect of timing is so-called carb-cycling. In short, the body can maintain a state of ketosis with very low carbohydrate consumption on most days followed by higher carbohydrate consumption at certain intervals. Myself, I generally have a single high-carb day per week (usually a metric sh*tload of homemade pasta) wherein carbohydrates make up around 50% of my daily intake and as long as this is paired with plenty of fat and protein I don't feel a spike in blood sugar. This is all starting to sound hugely regimented, so I should interject here and note that a) it's not and b) my results are not typical. Many people find that a single high-carbohydrate day will throw their entire ketogenic state out the window. Or that only through careful tracking and weighing can they achieve this state. I am lucky in that I sort of fell into this - my diet slowly shifted towards a very high-fat distribution in terms of caloric percentage and I noticed that my body was changing in exercise responses, hunger rhythms...etc. Then out of curiosity I had some bloodwork done by a friend in a neighboring lab and saw that I was essentially already fat-adapted. I imagine that if I were to take daily readings (I don't) I would see some fluctuations, but I do not notice them. At this point I don't really think about what I eat and I'm not counting or measuring anything, I just do my thing and that thing apparently keeps me pretty well fat-adapted.

    Vegan sources of fat are quite readily available, and often more balanced than meat or dairy sources with regards to their distribution of fat-types (this is important for brain health, as several studies have shown impairments of cognition and development with an imbalanced fat-intake). Some of the best hight-fat, low-carbohydrate sources for vegans are coconut oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, MCT oil, cocoa butter... but of course, actual whole-foods such as avocados or olives are excellent sources as well (no one wants to be downing tablespoons of oil all day, and in my experience "bulletproof coffee" or other fat-enriched drinks are pretty gross).

    For protein, its best to rely on nuts and seeds or tofu, as many other vegan protein sources are equally high in carbohydrate. Firm tofu (preferably Ca-sulfate, not nigiri-hardened) for example has (per 100g serving) 16g of protein, 9g of fat and a mere 2g of net carbohydrates. Other excellent sources include chia, flax and pumpkin seeds, all of which have low net carbohydrates (despite appearing higher in carbohydrates pre-digestion). Almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts have similarly excellent ratios with regards to high-protein, high-fat and fiber with low net carbohydrates. Nuts to avoid are those much higher in carbohydrates like cashews and pistachios.

    Of course, there are tons of vegetables with low net carbohydrates as well as high fiber. Greens (endive, lettuce, chicory, beet and radish greens, spinach, chard...etc.), asparagus, eggplant, radishes, mushrooms and tomatoes all have 1 or less grams of net carbohydrate per serving. Slightly higher but still quite low are cauliflower, cucumbers, bell peppers and mushrooms. Low-carbohydrate fruits are obviously harder to come by, but some that have less than 3g of net carbohydrates per serving include some berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries) as well as rhubarb. Watermelon and pineapple are higher in carbohydrate content but still passable.

    So what does a typical day look like?

    6am-ish; Coffee and a couple of tablespoons of nut butter (pecan, brazil nut, walnut...whatever was cheap at the market and fit into our blender). The note here as that I almost immediately get on the bike after this, which means that the digestive system is largely immobile so the fuel consumed here is largely irrelevant. If I'm going on a big ride I'll spread a couple of tablespoons of a high-MCT fat like coconut oil or coconut butter on a piece of homemade seed-bread for more readily useable energy. Then I'm on the bike for 2h-2h30 before work. At work I rehydrate, often throw in some branch-chain amino acids. If I feel like I need it I'll grab a cookie (made of soy or nut flour, oils...etc. [i.e. not an oreo])

    11am-noon-ish; A big plate of mixed greens (whatever we have in our garden at the moment) tossed with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Homemade cookies or bars (high-protein/fat, as above).

    6-7pm*; Dinner! We always eat a huge salad of mixed greens, radish, tomatoes, mushrooms and maybe some onion with a simple dressing (think oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper) then a main course, often a curry with tofu, sometimes sweet potato or beans depending on the night, cooked with a lot of good oil, coconut milk... and of course, dessert. Nut butter, homemade cakes and cookies (there are endless recipes that avoid flour and sugar these days, I'm happy to provide a few that we've vetted if there is interest), and maybe some fruit with coconut-whip.

    *Yes, this seems like a very long time to not really eat any substantial food. And it is. But a) I work in a laboratory where we can't eat anyways for fear of ingesting neurotoxins, so that makes things easy and b) you'll be surprised at how long the duration of energy supplied by fat is - hence the conception of the "bulletproof coffee" trend.

    10-11pm; A snack of more nuts, some crackers, or maybe a small smoothie if I'm feeling a bit low on energy. I also have a working theory, based on a few experiments with friends, that it is in exactly this window (i.e. right before sleeping) that one can consume an excess of carbohydrates without impairing ketosis. Basically, the idea being that if you move from carbohydrate consumption to being immediately inactive, your body preferentially converts glycogen to adipose fat storage (this is why eating a bunch of sugar at night is a great way to get fat...). I've personally noticed that I can eat a big bowl of sugar cereal (think Frosted Flakes or any of the other magically vegan offerings of the cereal industrial complex) at this hour and go right to bed without seeing or feeling a large insulin spike but this may be due entirely to genetics, intermittent fasting periods, or any other million factors that I know not.


    In sum, ketosis and fat-adaptation are obtained through a major reduction in carbohydrate consumption, an increase in fat consumption particularly through MCT-rich sources and control of nutrient timing similar to intermittent fasting. It is possible to achieve (for some people) without being the as*hole who shows up to a group dinner with a tupperware container and a protein shake, and it is also possible to achieve as a vegetarian or vegan.
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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by defspace View Post
    You mention that you still race. If you know this is something that gives you a smaller matchbook and ensures a loss in a field sprint, why do you do it? What's the upside?
    I do still race, though not nearly as frequently as I used to and rarely in conditions with a field sprint. I don't race crits and I don't race CX (the latter largely due to the absence of a large contingent here). Last year I podiumed at several road races in my category, mostly by simply riding people off of my wheel. I can hold tempo all day long and can climb endlessly without blinking, which is exactly when the puncheurs fall off the back. In 180+km road races in the mountains, a steady concerted effort will often leave you alone at the finish. Granted, these are no grand-tour races, but they are competitive fields nonetheless.

    The reason I do it is largely because the greatest pleasure I take in my relationship with my bike these days is in long, explorative, solo riding. My relationship with cycling at the moment is mostly about being out in nature, traveling to new and interesting places, and just enjoying myself. The upshot of a diet like this (though as you can read above, it mostly started by accident) is that I can go out on a Sunday with hardly anything in my pockets and rock out 200km in the mountains without stopping for anything other than water. When I do the same with friends, they carry 1500kcal of bars, gels, fruit, drink mixes...etc. and still come home with barely enough energy to make it to the couch and pass out. I come home from the same ride and work in the garden with my wife, go to the beach, and read a book.
    "Do you want ants? Because that's how you get ants."


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    Default Re: Fat-adapted training, anyone?

    this is good stuff!

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