Endurance Skating

Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports

Ben Greenfield’s Podcast: Five Simple Steps To Turning Yourself Into A Fat Burning Machine

Five Simple Steps To Turning Yourself Into A Fat Burning Machine

I used to listen to Ben Greenfield almost religiously and worked my through over 200 of his podcasts earlier this year. However I have to admit that more recently I’ve not really been tuning in with such regularity as a lot of his recent material is simply beyond esoteric, with not enough focus on basic core principles. Also, since he gave up regular IronMan racing he seems to focus more on health and wellness than sporting performance (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and this shows through in his podcast content.


However, the episode he released last week titled “Five Simple Steps To Turning Yourself Into A Fat Burning Machine” caught my attention, so I reacquainted myself with an old friend.


Even to me as someone who’s been researching this stuff continuously for over a year, Ben’s interview with Barry Murray blew me away. As well as reaffirming a lot of what I had previously known, I was surprised how much new stuff I also learnt.

Also, see my previous article: Fat-Adaptation For Athletes 101


Fat Adaptation is FAR more complex and nuanced than just entering nutritional ketosis (NK) where you restrict dietary carbohydrate intake to the point at which your liver produces ketone bodies. While NK can be achieved relatively quickly, Fat Adaptation describes a much wider set of physiological changes that occur over a much longer period of months and even years – Barry says that he is still improving his fat burning after 5 years.

Fat adaptation encompasses:

– Increased Lipolysis – the breaking down of stored bodyfat into fatty acid.

– Upregulation of beta-oxidation; the conversion of fatty acid into Acetyl-CoA, which is a precursor to the krebs cycles (one of the body’s primary energy pathways in the production of ATP).

– Development and growth of of intra-muscular triglycerides; these fats are stored in close proximity to the muscle so are more efficient than subcutaneous fat stores. Provides ~3,000 calories worth of energy (still more than you can hold in muscle/liver glycogen).

– Upregulation of your gluco-neogenesis mechanism (conversion of protein into glucose in the absence of sufficient carbohydrate intake).

All this can happen WITHOUT ketone bodies! Ketones can be used as extra fuel, but ketone production is expensive and limited.  Ketotic != Fat-Adapted.  Yes, being ketotic can help you achieve good fat adaptation, but just being in ketosis doesn’t automatically make you fat-adapted. “Fat adapted” describes your cellular mitochondia’s increased ability to burn fatty acids at an increase volume and rate for ATP synthesis.

Here are the steps they discuss to achieve optimal fat adaptation:

Step 1 – Cleanup your diet

– Restrict processed carbohydrate and sugars

– Include more fats, especially saturated fat (ding dong!).

– Upregulate Lipase – the enzyme responsible for breaking down dietary fat; inhibited by insulin, by including more fats in your diet.

– Eat real food; LCHF, Paleo, NSNG.. however you want to describe it. If you are going to eat some carbs, try to stick to lower GI carbs, eg sweet potatoes.


Step 2 – Optimize Meal Timing

– Think about the hormonal response to meals throughout the day

– Backload carbs after workouts, never before.

– Compare/contrast to Kiefer’s Carb Backloading (CBL) protocol (which recommends eating high-GI carbs in the evening (I have been researching this… much more to follow!) or a cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD).

Step 3 – Intermittent/Fasted Training Sessions

– Fasted sessions further upregulate beta oxidation; lots of enzymatic messengers are activated to produce physiological adaptations resulting in increase mitochondrial biogenesis -> forces efficiency adaptations

– 16-18hr fast is most beneficial

– Start out with 1-2 easy fasted sessions/week; build up to longer faster sessions

– Depends on context and intensity of fasted workout – low intensity/yoga not a problem at all. Long/high intensity workouts may need fueling.

Step 4 – Remove Lifestyle & Electromagnetic Inhibitors

SLEEP is of utmost importance! Improper and poor quality sleep can undermine all your other efforts

– Good idea to limit exposure to electromagnetic devices – mobile phones, laptops, wifi, any other electrical devices etc.

– At a quantum mechanics level, normal atomic behaviour is disrupted by electrical devices

– Ben notes that this is one of the most challenging things to get his clients to change, much more so that simply following an eating/training plan.

– Note that they did not even touch on the topic of stress – this can be a real inhibitor to effective fat furning.


Step 5 – Travel & Racing

– Avoid airport/travel food by a spot of planning ahead. Carry a few of your usual go-tos (nuts, avocadoes, sardines… add them to a salad).

– In-race carbs do NOT switch off fat-burning, as the insulin mechanism is not activated during exercise….

…Therefore, gels etc are OK, but their role is NOT to provide fuel for the muscles (that is what fat-adaptation is for), but help fuel the brain to help prevent the Central Governor from crashing.

– Don’t make the mistake of trying to race on just low carb fuel, even as a fat-adapted athlete.

– 100-150 calories/ph from carbs should be the ballpark roughly 25-40gr/hr of gels per hr, but it also depends on the nature of the race, how well fat-adapted you are and how often you push nearer to carb-burning intensity.

What do you think? All in all, a pretty brilliant summary of how to become a fat-burning machine.  There are take-away points here even for the most grizzled fat-adapted vet.


Personally for me it extends my desire to use more in-race carbs (as per OFM protocol), and play around with carb backloading and intermittent fasting.


One comment on “Ben Greenfield’s Podcast: Five Simple Steps To Turning Yourself Into A Fat Burning Machine

  1. Pingback: Lab Ratting: Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate & Substrate Usage | Endurance Skating

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2014 by in Nutrition, Podcast, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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