Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Beginners Guide to Being a Primal Fat Adapted Athlete

The Concept
I was struggling to come up with a beginners guide to ketosis for some friends that wanted to use LCHF to lose some body fat and stay fit. It was then I realised that ketosis is only a small part of what we're trying to achieve here, although using fat adaption and ketosis is definitely important the real key is being able to strike a balance between fat loss and still performing to a high standard athletically.

The Exception
The only proviso I would like to place on this guide is that I do believe carbs are an important part of your diet for certain people or certain goals. The first is high performance athletes, don't get me wrong there's an ever growing list of banting, primal and LCHF athletes that perform at a higher athletic ability when eating LCHF but it is my belief that these are the exception and not the rule. The second group are those looking to build muscle, this ultimately comes down to the anabolic properties of insulin which are heavily restricted when consuming a LCHF diet. Once again there are plenty of individuals who are able to build strength and size with a LCHF diet but the science make it clear this is the more difficult path to those goals. What a LCHF diet can achieve however is the ability to effortlessly perform at a high athletic standard whilst maintaining a very aesthetically pleasing physique.

The Transformation
Just to show you I'm not full of it here's the transformation I was able to achieve in just 8 weeks of fasting and LCHF dieting whilst still maintaining a very high level of activity and strength

Track Your Macros
Using a macro/calorie tracker is going to make your life much easier. Despite it's recent acquisition by under armour and being flooded by ads myfitnesspal is by the far the best application to be using.

Metabolic Adaption
If you're looking to use this diet to lose weight one of the most integral factors in long term weight loss is metabolic adaption. It is very important for healthy sustained weight loss to eat as many calories as possible whilst still losing weight. Particularly on keto you're going to drop weight from dropping carbs out of your diet so start with a generous amount of "maintenance" calories and drop 200 calories per day after your first week and then another 100 per day after your second week. After this point you should only be dropping calories when your weight loss plateaus.

LCHF Advantages
A large part of the advantage of being primal and fat adapted is how easy it is to stay lean. This is due to 4 factors
  1. Because your body is adapted to using fat for fuel it is much more efficient at burning your fat stores.
  2. Because your carbohydrate intake is limited your insulinogenic response remains blunted which drastically limits your appetite. This means you will find keeping your calories below maintenance quite simple.
  3. You remain highly sensitive to insulin which helps maintain a lower body fat % even when consuming maintenance calories
  4. LCHF food is just flat out delicious, honestly eating this makes me feel like I'm not even dieting
Protein Protein Protein
Being fat adapted instead of worrying about constant nutritional ketosis also means you don't have to worry about excessive protein consumption. For nutritional ketosis you need to make sure your consuming no more than 50g net carbs per day and no more than 120g of protein per day or you risk being knocked out of ketosis by gluconeogenesis (the bodies conversion of protein to glucose) but because we are happy to be fluctuating in and out of ketone production this isn't an issue

Fasting and the Fasted State
We've always been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. My philosophy on this was put on its head when I started following an intermittent fasting diet and had great success in dieting whilst forgoing this meal. However the advantages of fasting are about keeping insulin low or being in a "fasted state" and the only thing better for low insulin than skipping breakfast altogether is a fat only meal. The pinnacle of fat only meals is the Bullet Proof Coffee (please find my BP Coffee guide here). However for those not fond of butter in the morning beverages I have come up with a alternative that still delivers 30g of fat and not much else.

  • 1 egg
  • 30ml Double Cream
  • 10g Butter
  • Herbs and spices of your choosing (my preference Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Chilli and Oregano)
Combined these ingrdients to make a scrambled eggs mixture. You can add more cream or butter if you wish but I would ideally keep it down to a maximum of one egg which means you will only be ingesting 6g of protein as part of this meal which will keep your insulinogenic response from this meal limited which is the desired effect. These scrambled eggs can be pre cooked the night before and refrigerated so you can have your breakfast on the run if need be. For the most part you should be trying to eat in a 16/8 fast feed window in order to maximise insulin sensitivity and for most LCHF individuals they find fasting a breeze due to their low insulin levels and blunted insulin response. I also suggest you read my guide to fasting for fat loss here. However obviously you can substitute the BP coffee for the fatty eggs mentioned above.

If you're a bit worried about how this will piece together fear not, I have some pratical interpretations of the primal LCHF eating plan below.

Benefits of Fat Only Meal
Although this is covered in my post on BP coffee it is that important it bears repeating
  • A brain boost thanks to the good cholesterol and fats in the butter. Your brain is made up of a lot of fat and cholesterol the consumption of a fat only meal on an empty stomach allows rapid absorption of these fats fuelling brain function
  • A boost to fat burning thanks to the butyric acid in the butter and the fat consumption boosts the bodies release of ghrelin which plays a key role in the burning of fat stores.
  • Blunts the insulin response immediately and for the rest of the day. Meaning that you'll immediately feel full and will require a lot less food to feel satiated from your remaining meals.

What to Eat?
Whilst primal, banting athletes can consume some fairly high volumes of carbs depending on your activity level or fat loss goals, it's probably a good idea to work out what are the best and worst foods to build your diet around. Avoiding carbs in the early stages of getting fat adapted is a very good idea. In the first couple of weeks I would try to limit carb intake to no more than 50g per day to make it easier for your body to adapt to ketone production, after a couple of weeks you can increase it a bit depending on your training volume and intensity. Ideally you don't want to be going over 100g per day if you're highly active and 80g if you're moderately active.

Vegetables are an essential part of the primal fat adapted athletes food intake. Because we are limiting fruit and grain consumption vegetables become our key intake of vitamins and fibre. Green, leafy or fibrous vegetables like broccoli are an amazing source of vitamins and fibre and if you're being generous with your carb intake almost all vegetables are permissible (excluding potatoes). However here's a rough guide of which vegetables to eat with impunity and which to be slightly cautious of.

Very low carb vegetables
  • leafy greens (Swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, lettuce, chard, chives, endive, radicchio, etc.)
  • cruciferous vegetables like kale (dark leaf), kohlrabi, radishes, white and green cabbage, red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, fennel, turnips, rutabaga / swede
  • celery stalk, asparagus, cucumber, summer squash (zucchini, spaghetti squash), bamboo shoots
  • avocado (technically a fruit obviously)
  • some root vegetables (parsley root), spring onion, leek, onion, garlic, mushrooms, winter squash (pumpkin)
  • nightshades (eggplant, tomatoes, peppers)
  • sea vegetables (nori, kombu), okra, bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, wax beans, globe or French artichokes, water chestnuts

Vegetables to be more cautious of
  • root vegetables (celery root, carrot, beetroot, parsnip) ~10g of carbs per 100g
  • sweet potato has 20g of carbs per 100g so be particularly careful with that

As stated above you can go crazyon protein which means eating as much meat and high fat dairy as you can fit into your caloric goals. Nuts are also a personal favourite of mine. All that being said here's a rough guide of some of my LCHF staples.
  • I use 18% or 20% beef mince to cook bolognese and mexican chilli beef
  • The bolognese I eat with courgette spaghetti and heaps of cheddar to keep the fat content nice and high
  • The mexican chilli beef I mate into naked burritos with salsa, guacamole, sour cream and cheddar. So delicious it doesn't feel like I'm on a diet
  • I also use high fat mince to cook burger pizza or meatza as some call it, basically pizza ingredients with a burger patty replacing the pizza base
  • Thai currys are super easy to make and super delicious
  • Heaps of eggs and bacon including cream added to scrambled eggs
  • Add cheddar cheese to everything :)
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Pan fried halloumi (saganaki)
  • 85% dark choc (or higher but 85% tastes the best)
  • Lindt 85% and peanut butter is absolutely amazing, keto friendly peanut butter cups

I love pre-workout and highly recommend you find one that works for you. I also supplement my pre-workout with beta-alanine and AAKG which are both normal ingredients in PWO formulas anyway but I like to add more. The caffeine in most preowkouts will also have good thermogenic effects for those trying to lose weight

If your trying to lose weight Creatine might not be the ideal supplement because of it's water retention effects. However if your using LCHF to maintain low body fat but gain strength then I highly recommend it.

When to Eat?
The final piece of the puzzle is how this will all look depending on your training times. This part of the guide is adapted from Martin Berkhan's because despite having a slightly different nutritional philosophy we see things pretty much the same way. Ideally you don't want to beating a massive meal just before bed

Early morning fasted training

6 AM: 5-15 minutes pre-workout: 10 g BCAA or your choice of pre-workout
6-7 AM: Training.
8 AM: (as soon as possible after training) fat only meal
12-1 PM: Feeding window opens
8-9 PM: Last meal before the fast.

Fasted training

11.30-12 AM or 5-15 minutes pre-workout: 10 g BCAA or your choice of pre-workout
12-1 PM: Training
1 PM: (as soon as possible after training) fat only meal
2 PM: Feeding window opens
8-9 PM: Last meal before the fast.

One pre-workout meal

11 AM: Fat only meal
12-1 PM or around lunch/noon: Pre-workout meal. Approximately 20-25% of daily total calorie intake.
3-4 PM: Training should happen a few hours after the pre-workout meal.
4-5 PM: Post-workout meal
8-9 PM: Last meal before the fast.

Two pre-workout meals 

11 AM: Fat only meal
12-1 PM or around lunch/noon: Meal one. Approximately 20-25% of daily total calorie intake.
4-5 PM: Pre-workout meal. Roughly equal to the first meal.
8-9 PM: Post-workout meal

At the end of the day you need to try and find an eating and training routine that works for you.

Help Me I Binged On Carbs
Obviously not ideal but hey it happens. The best thing to do is complete a 24 hour fast combined with a fat only meal (see the guide here) as this is guaranteed to get you immediately back into ketosis. However this obviously won't be possible every time you have a few beers or a pizza. Basically you should try and complete any type of training as early as possible and combine this with a fat only meal. Try and wait for at least 2 hours before consuming your next meal so your body is encouraged to metabolise the fuel it's been given (fat) and start releasing ketones again.

I'm Dying of the Keto Flu
Unfortunately the Keto Flu is a pretty common side effect of fat adaption. It was certainly something I really struggled with when I was first using keto to lose weight. What changed things for me was the introduction of a fat only meal as my first meal of the day. That and caffeine have meant my most recent descents into ketosis have not been accompanied by any lethargy at all. If you are I would suggest increasing your fat consumption and performing a 24 hour fast (with a fat only meal as lunch) combined with morning fasted cardio in order to ensure your body is releasing adequate ketones.

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