Why is training my body to burn fat a good thing to do?
Dr. Bonnie: Because it’s incredibly healthy. It’s something you used to be able to do, we all did as babies, but we lost that ability. Instead of being able to burn fat, we carry it!
OK, where do we start?
Dr. Bonnie: First, some background information. Our bodies are designed to use two sources of fuel — glucose from carbohydrates and ketones from fat. When we were born, we could use either of them. We naturally burned ketones from fat.
Dr. Rod: Mother’s milk is very high in fat, and babies even turn milk sugar (lactose) into ketones, presumably because it is a better fuel. But then we all grew up eating carbohydrate-heavy diets, so our bodies stopped producing the enzymes needed to burn fat. Now, we just use glucose for fuel. Use it or lose it, that’s how our bodies work.
Say more about how we lost our fat-burning ability.
Dr. Bonnie: If we had experienced feast or famine, or fasted, or had periods where we ate very low carbohydrates, like our distant ancestors did, we would have maintained our ability to burn fat. Instead, we became addicted to carbohydrates as our main energy source. Then there’s the problem of refined foods, which are designed to make us want more and more. Of course, no matter how much we eat, we are never satisfied.
What are the problems with losing our ability to burn fat effectively?
Dr. Rod: Well, different people respond very differently, depending on their genes, the types and amounts of carbohydrates they eat, how much they exercise, how many environmental toxins they are exposed to, and how much stress they are under. But a very significant percentage of people, probably the majority of people, develop some level of carbohydrate intolerance. This is a big problem, because we need carbohydrates for fuel, and yet with carbohydrate intolerance, we can’t metabolize carbs very well. Poor metabolism of carbs can lead to degenerative diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
What are the health problems created by carbohydrate intolerance?
Dr. Bonnie: First we develop insulin resistance, which means that although our insulin is secreted, our cells don’t respond well and blood sugar is poorly controlled. This leads to weight gain, especially belly fat. Inflammation also increases, which can lead to heart disease and the aches and pains we associate with aging. As our insulin resistance increases, we can develop metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Dr. Rod: Fortunately, you can become what’s called “keto-adapted” (train your body to burn fat), and delay many of these disease processes.
What are the benefits of becoming keto-adapted?
Dr. Bonnie: It’s easier to lose weight, normalize your blood sugar, blood lipids and blood pressure, reduce inflammation so your joints don’t ache, improve your memory, stabilize your moods, and improve your athletic performance, especially endurance. Ketogenic (ketone producing) diets are being used to treat and prevent diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, seizures, autism, obesity, blood sugar handling disorders, sleep apnea, depression, and anxiety.
How do you train your body to burn fat?
Dr. Rod: You just eat in such a way that your body produces ketones continuously over a period of about 8 weeks. Your body will then regain the ability to burn the ketones from fat effectively. Within about 3-4 weeks your muscles will be able to burn ketones, and you won’t run out of fuel like you did before. It takes a couple more weeks for your kidneys, liver, and brain to completely adapt. Most people lose a significant amount of weight during this period, and at the same time, gain muscle. Although you might experience periodic fatigue and some mental fog during the adaptation period, most people report that soon afterwards they have noticeably more energy, mental clarity, and mood stability.
Finally, how do I eat to produce ketones?
Dr. Bonnie: You lower your carbohydrate intake significantly, cutting out all refined foods and getting your carbs from above the ground veggies. The optimum amount depends on your insulin sensitivity and tolerance for carbohydrates. Fortunately, there is a simple finger prick blood test you use to monitor your ketones at home the way diabetics monitor their blood glucose.
Dr. Rod: You’ll need to get enough protein, but not too much. The rest of your calories will come from healthy fats — avocados, olives, butter, cream, coconut oil, and fats from meat and fish. By the way, this is a very satisfying diet, without calorie restriction.
For more details, we are offering a class on Wednesday, Sept. 11th, and then again on Monday, Sept. 30th, at Hidden Springs Wellness Center, 6:30-8pm. Tuition is $15 and space is limited. Please call 541-488-8858 to register.