Burning Fat for Fuel (An Introduction)
Imagine if you could switch from multiple different fuel sources while exercising or competing in your sport, or for that matter, while trying to make it through a workday. In tank number one and two you have enough fuel to get through most of your day. Maybe lunch gives you a small boost, but then you are left lifeless at about 3 or 4pm. You look at the clock trying to get any work done at all. After fighting your way through traffic, which gives you a small adrenaline rush, you wait for tank 3 to turn on to give you what you need to survive another evening. You hope this energy will last so you can accomplish the list of chores you are building in your head. But that doesn’t happen today! Instead you either crash or you burn. Crash meaning you run out of gusto and nothing more will be checked off your list that day. Of course, if you have kids, this isn’t and option. This is when you burn. And by burn, we are talking about your adrenal glands. Too much gas pedal and not enough brake can lead to the chronic failing of the glands that allow you to rise the occasion when you are on “E”. You only have so much turbo booster available. Sure you can resort to caffeine or other drugs, but those can lead to addiction and a host of other problems.
So you struggle struggle struggle for years while doing this routine. Then you look in the mirror after
your last kid goes off to college and you think to yourself “what happened over the last 18 plus years?” You now have trouble thinking straight, you gained weight and maybe you have even been spending a little time on WebMDlooking up a whole list of other symptoms that the Internet is telling you might be a rare fatal disease. At this point you think to yourself that you need to find someone on your team to dig you out of the hole into which you put yourself. Maybe you went to your family doctor and they think you are just tired, depressed or maybe you just have a touch of anxiety (read here about risks of anxiety medication). That answer is not good enough.
And the proverb that goes “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” comes to mind. So let’s rewind to that exhausting day. How do you deviate from that course? And what can you do today to change the future? Of course a positive mindset, physical exercise and many other aspects need to be addressed. But how do you eat to unlock that crucial third tank of fuel? You need to develop something called metabolic flexibility. Metabolic flexibility allows you to switch between fat burning and sugar/carb burning for fuel. Kind of like a hybrid car does with electric and gas.
It may take time to foster this ability, but it is worth it. The first steps of diet modifications should include incorporating fasting, eating healthy fats (like MCT oil), avoiding sugar and getting carbohydrates from only nutrient dense sources such as vegetables. By fasting you are triggering your body to burn energy stores in your body. By eating fat you are giving it approval to burn fat in particular, which your body and brain will thank you for. Vegetables offer up the nutrients such as vitamins to keep the whole system running. While the word diet was used earlier, this is not a diet, this is a lifestyle modification that one has to choose for themselves. The best way to start getting into this is to have someone knowledgeable about functional health guide you through the process. A few details such as the correct water and salt intake can be crucial.
When your body has discovered how to switch between different fuel sources, you have achieved a higher level of metabolic flexibility. So what if tank 3 does turn on and you have a little extra vivacity to accomplish your tasks? Well…no crashing and burning.