I want you to be lean, energetic and able to race at a high percentage of your maximum pace for a long time.
To do that, I need you to be able to generate energy from fat.
While sugar is your quickest and easiest source of fuel, fat provides a sustained fuel. A fuel that will help to keep you lean, supply you with a constant and high level of energy and a fuel that will provide you with the majority of the energy you need in your long races – when in a good fat burning state.
Unfortunately, as I have witnessed in our lab, most people have turned off the switches that allow them to generate energy from fat and as a result, are heavily reliant on sugar for energy.
This reliance on sugar shows itself as excess body fat and is felt with constant sugar cravings, fluctuating energy levels and a few other symptoms.
In today’s post, I share a few simple steps you can take to turn your fat burning switches back on and ultimately, a better athlete.
Flick The Switch
Eat Fewer Carbohydrates
Eating carbohydrate raises insulin levels and insulin turns off fat burning.
Because the body wants to get rid of any sugar in the blood as quickly as possible, your body will ignore other fuel sources (fat) to focus on that sugar.
Insulin tries to shuttle this sugar to the muscles and liver which is a good thing.
Unfortunately, if you’re eating a standard Singaporean, western or Indian diet, it’s likely those cells are already full and insulin will store the carbs as body fat.
I have spoken before about why people are not losing weight when they run.
The body needs oxygen to metabolise fat, so it burns it in higher proportions at low intensity (when you’re not puffing much) and burns sugar at higher intensity when oxygen is not so available (when you’re breathing hard).
I believe many people are failing in this very important part of training because of a no pain, no gain mentality, the popularisation of the term calories (and our ability to measure them) and a lack of understanding on how to gauge intensity properly.
If you truly wish to improve your fat burning and reap the benefits that come with it, you need to check your ego at the door when you go out to train.
Forget about how many calories you’re burning and learn how to use a heart rate monitor to determine how hard to work in each of your training sessions.
Everyone I talk to these days is stressed.
We live in a high paced and frantic world and it’s leaving most of us in a massive state of fatigue and suffering from constant anxiety.
When you’re stressed, the body produces a number of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline and these hormones are known to suppress fat burning.
While most of us do not have the option to quit the job, get rid of the kids and go and lie on a tropical beach somewhere, there are some simple things you can do to simplify and calm, things down.
Simplifying could not only help your recovery and make you a better athlete, it will likely improve your health and mental well being too.
Sleep is important as your primary recovery mode as an athlete. Besides that, it also plays a role in your ability to burn fat.
A lack of sleep contributes to insulin resistance making you less able to tolerate carbohydrate foods. It also causes cortisol levels to rise which as you have learned is not great for fat burning.
While everyone is different, studies show that you need at least 7 hours of high quality sleep each night to function properly.
If you want to be a strong fat burner and are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep, it’s time to prioritise your sleep.
A simple (but not easy) recipe for turning on the switches that regulate your ability to generate energy from fat.
While they are very simple in theory, in practice they are a little harder to execute because of the many habitual, social and emotional changes that are often required.
Start small, be consistent and good things will begin to happen.
As you start to see positive changes, ride the momentum and continue to refine and improve.
Soon enough, this will be the new normal and you’ll no longer find it so hard.