You've probably read the title and immediately had the classic WTF self-talk. In this post, I will decipher why being “fat adapted” can pose major advantages to your training, the Jozi Urban Adventure Race (JURA) and an embarrassing story which involved a homeless man, an old lady and needing the restroom half-way through my race.
Fat adaption and how it can benefit your training
Before I go further, to satisfy the keto-community out there, I will delve into ketosis deeper in another post. For the rest that have absolutely no cooking clue what I'm talking about, fear not. “Fat adaption,” or ketosis, is a state where your body derives its primary source of energy from fat. That fat can come from your own stubborn belly, or the food you consume—otherwise known as nutritional ketosis.
I'm very intrigued about the benefits of a ketogenic diet. I practice ketogenic principles even though I have no way of measuring it, yet. From what I’ve read, the Precision Xtra by Abbott Labs is a very reliable way of measuring your blood ketone/glucose levels. I have found it beneficial to cycle between a paleo, slow-carb diet and a ketogenic, very low-carb, high-fat diet. There are advantages to being “fat adapted” when it comes to endurance—thus, why top cyclists are now going the keto route. The reason I lazily chose the term "fat adapted" was because I'm not referring specifically to ketosis, but rather, your body being adapted to primarily functioning off the high-quality fat you consume, instead of carbs.
How do I become fat adapted?
You can become “fat adapted” nutritionally, via regular fasting or intermittent fasting and/or exercise. It’s easier than you think. The biggest mistake people make when wanting to lose weight, for instance, is having any form of carbs for breakfast. Having carbs for breakfast is like the scene from Yes Man where Jim Carrey goes for a run in the morning after a night of binge drinking Redbulls and ends up face first in the dirt sleeping. Your biology will respond accordingly when you feed it carbs, especially processed cereal bullshit, early in the morning. You are setting your day up for a rollercoaster of crashes that end with you A) snacking on more carb-filled nonsense to satisfy your low blood sugar or B) being an asshole to every living soul because you’re tired, low on energy and relying on pure mental discipline to get you through the day. I’m not demonizing all carbs—however, timing is important. Save your carbs for dinner, the spike in insulin will make you sleep like a baby and the glucose will aide in muscle tissue repair.
Food you can eat to become fat adapted
Instead of the usual sugar-filled crap, opt for a fat/protein dominant breakfast. Eggs, bacon, avocados, spinach cooked in coconut oil and Bulletproof Coffee are some good choices. The fat and protein will suppress your ghrelin, the most influential hormone for hunger cravings, satiating your cravings until lunch and maybe even dinner. If you’re vegan and/or want to have some form of carbs in the morning, opt for organic lentils or beans. Recently I’ve included beans and lentils in my diet, as per the 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, and the results have been great thus far. I highly recommend this book for any serious athlete or personal trainers, the depth and knowledge that Tim writes about is unrivaled.
Due to my history of easy weight gain, I tend to inherently categorize all carbs as equal—which is hypocritical, since the bane of my existence is people who think all fat are created equal. I’m not blaming people--I blame bad science, Big Food and politics.
Influence of exercise and fat adaption
Some form of exercise on an empty stomach early in the morning is another effective way to get your blood pumped full of ketones. This is how I eventually managed to lose most of my weight. It’s extremely effective, but once you’re under 15% body fat it becomes inevitably harder. In fact, I had a very hard time with this because I was so used to the dramatic changes in my weight when I was extremely fat, that I became despondent when I didn’t see progress. I got to a point where dramatic changes were replaced with incremental nudges. I ate less and exercised more which turned me into a lethargic zombie. It is important to adapt to your activity level and body fat percentage. Therefore, measuring your performance is so important. “You can’t manage something you can’t measure,” is what Tony Robbins said and it’s so true. Whether it’s goals, the size of your waist or even finances—measuring your progress or failure will help you make better decisions.
fasting and fat adaption
Fasting or intermittent fasting is another efficient way to get into ketosis. When fasting, start small if you are adapted to sugar and carbs. Not only does fasting help you get into ketosis, improve endurance and mental performance—but, fasting is supposedly meant to purge any rogue cells that may be cancerous too. Dominic D’Agostino is leading the research in the field of ketosis and its many benefits.
You may be wondering why I am writing about “fat adaption.” The race I ran/walked this past weekend, the JURA, was 18 kilometers (11 miles). The only training I did was CrossFit, which involves high intensity interval training (HIIT), 3 times a week. Nevertheless, I knew that my diet was clean and I was fully “fat adapted.” The only “meal” I had before the race was Bulletproof Coffee—that’s it. Gels, energy bars and drinks will only get you so far.
The Jozi Urban Run Adventure (JURA) is a fun obstacle-like 18 km race through Johannesburg’s majestic urban playground. I did little to no training and it certainly showed on the day. I did manage, however, to finish which proved to be a test of character considering I nearly bribed an old lady to either catch me an Uber home, or politely ask her if I can make delicate use of the restroom in her home (too much MCT oil in my Bulletproof coffee is the likely culprit).
The day got off to a great start, it’s 6:15am and I’m thinking to myself, “I can quickly make some Bulletproof Coffee…you've got time Josh.” The race started at 7am. Rushing to the car, I hop in and we (my mother and myself) speed off like we’ve just robbed a bank—but wait, obviously, I’ve left my race pack with my race number and timing chip behind.
We eventually arrive at Marks Park Sports Club, Emmerentia, at around 6:50. Ransacking about, I’m not only trying to locate the nearest bathroom, but I’m putting on my compression socks, fitting my race number on my shirt and placing the timing chip around my right forearm. Warming up is over-rated anyway—pfft.
6:57am, the race starts in 3-minutes, I can do this. I rock up to the starting line where I see my batch’s group holding, what looked to be like, large sacks that covered their lower extremities. Now I’m thinking, “Oh gosh, what the f*ck have I gotten myself into.” Adrenaline pumping, one shoe untied and a wedgie like you cannot believe—an official comes to me with a sack and says that I must get ready because the race is starting soon. Everyone looking just as confused as I am, I promptly get into the sack and get ready to start.
Bang! The starting gun goes off. Wait, was it even a gun? I don’t remember. JURA was like a typical Friday night on the town—I don’t remember much, I felt sick, I felt like crap—but, I would do it again. Feeling like a school of stranded fish in a dry dessert, we had to hop 100 meters before getting out the sacks and proceed to run. With the race well under way, the mixture of nerves and adrenaline delayed my much-needed morning bathroom ritual.
The first 7 km we did several challenging activities. From entering the local cryotherapy pools (Johannesburg’s below zero sewage-filled rivers), various obstacles, running on water (they had a water bridge that went across the lake—it was awesome), carrying tires and even attempted Tom Cruise like shit that involved a rope—it should only be done in the movies.
Kilometer 9; most of the beginning obstacles are done and dusted—I can hear Morgan Freeman narrating my race, “Disaster has struck.” Running peacefully, enjoying the view, I feel my stomach turning like a cement truck. All I can do now is pray that the MCT Gods to just hang in there. They don’t listen, it gets worse. I’m now fast approaching kilometer 10 and I’m bee-lining it for an official. I politely ask her if there are ablutions along the route, looking surprised, she says, “Uhm…I don’t think so.” I’m not a violent person, but I mentally murdered her. We finally exit the trails and enter familiar territory—a road. I spot a few secluded bushes along the road and start anxiously glazing around, trying to see if anyone has noticed me. I make a sharp left turn and run straight for the bushes. At this moment in time, I’m in survival mode. All I can think is I need to do what I must do to live. Squatting down like a primitive caveman, about to take my pants off and do the business, I notice a homeless man approximately 3-feet from my exit path. “Jeepers!” Quickly pulling my pants up, I make a run for it.
Kilometer 13, on a steep incline, still desperately needing the bathroom, I spot an elderly lady taking out the trash. I knew this was my last chance to relieve my suffering. I started running towards her, frantically—like a dog that has just been diagnosed with rabies. She either thought I was a potential reverse pedophile or homeless man, because she quickly ran back inside her house.
It’s the home stretch and I’ve found my rhythm—the agony of my stomach ache has magically disappeared, I’m feeling good—time to finish. I caught up with two of the gentlemen I was pacing in the beginning. One of them asked me where I had been, I said my “hamstring” was giving me problems. Yeah right, more like my bowels. I glanced at my Garmin, 1 kilometer left—sweet baby Jesus I could taste finish line. I faintly heard Morgan’s Godly voice again, “It was at this moment, Josh knew, he f*cked up.” Boom—calf cramp. I fell to the ground in the most dramatic way. Determined to finish, I picked myself up, and marched on—securing a time of 2hours 5 minutes.
I have no doubt there will be a few seasoned runners out there laughing at this Mickey Mouse of a run/obstacle course. I found JURA to be an unexpected journey into self-preservation, commitment, as well as mental toughness. Jokes aside, it taught me a few things. Firstly, no matter how bad things may seem, it could always be worse—you could be a homeless dude staring at a stranger attempting to excrete fecal matter in the middle of Johannesburg. Secondly, the value of persistence. When I’m having a difficult time with anything, physically or emotionally, I always say to myself, “This too shall pass.” That’s all it is. It’s a fragment of time out your life. Lastly, just show up. I entered the race not having ran even 5 kilometers in over two weeks. I was unfit, but I knew my diet was good. Being "fat adapted," stretching and high intensity interval training helped. Another great advocate of this is Kelly Starrett—a world-class CrossFit coach that trains everyone from Tour de France cyclists to Navy SEALs.
Bottom line, don’t naively categorize yourself into the predisposition that you’ve been “gifted.” I’m a short-limbed, naturally impotent and mentally weak person—running should be the furthest act I should be participating in—yet, I gave it a try and I love it.
Post-workout Paleo Ice cream
If you’re anything like me, you love ice cream. Fortunately, I have the ultimate high fat, low-sugar alternative that’s simply orgasmic and full of natural goodness to nourish your soul and guide you to enlightenment.
- ½ cup organic coconut cream (no added sugar)
- 1 cup organic berries (blueberries or raspberries)
- teaspoon of vanilla extract
- tablespoon (or more) of Ceylon cinnamon
- tablespoon of raw honey (optional—if I haven’t had any carbs throughout the day)
- Pour the berries into a blender (I use the Nutribullet)
- Pour the coconut cream over the berries (this will make a solid clump of goodness)
- Add the vanilla extract, Ceylon cinnamon and honey
- Blend, and enjoy straight up like that.
I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I did writing it. Feedback is always appreciated. What do you want more of, what do you want less of? Any specific topics, questions or concerns you want me to cover please contact me.
Go and be the best version of yourself today. Transcend your limitations.