Can you get better at fat burning by eating fat?

running

New research shows that endurance athletes who eat a low-carb/high fat diet are better at fat burning.

We’ve long been taught that people who take part in endurance sports – anything from a 10k upwards in running, say – should have a high carbohydrate diet. The theory being that our body uses glucose as a fuel and carbohydrates can readily be broken down into glucose by the digestive system to provide that fuel.

Back in the 1970s though, some healthcare professionals, led by the ‘pesky’ Dr Atkins postulated that cutting carbs and eating more fat was a good way to loose weight. Their theory being that from an evolution perspective, fat was stored by the body to be used as a secondary fuel source when times were hard. Cut the carbs and the body will burn fat as fuel instead they argued.

Atkins and similar diets were demonised at the time by the health authorities who were bent prescribing low-fat diets and by the media who went for the easy ‘lose weight by eating fry ups’ headline (something never really advocated in the Atkins books).

Over the past few years, the thinking in healthcare has started to change… fats are no longer demonised, and healthy fats (think those avocado, nut butters, olive oil and coconut oil) are considered essential for healthy hearts and bodily functions.

And this new research by Ohio State University has gone one further and shown that decades of thinking in sports nutrition could be about to be turned on its head.

In the study of 20 ultramarathon runners, they found that those on a high-fat diet burned twice as much fat in exercise than those on a high-carb one.

The 10 low-carb runners  ate a diet with 10 percent carbs, 19 percent protein and 70 percent fat. High-carb runners ate a diet with 59 percent carbs, 14 percent protein and 25 percent fat.

If you want to find out more, there’s an excellent article in Science Daily here.

For those who are not runners, switching to a low-carb diet may help… Studies have shown that Atkins-style diets do lead to weight loss, although some have theorised that sticking to such a rigid regime can be challenging.

If you do want to try this kind of thing to see if it works for you, there’s a couple of things to be aware of.

One study has shown that the make up of Atkins-style diets can see reduce levels of vitamins such as thiamine, folic acid, vitamin C and iron. And they can cause constipation due to a lack of dietary fibre.

As such, supplementation with a good multivitamin is essential… and even the latest Atkins books encourage the use of psyllium husks, flaxseed and increased water consumption to reduce the possibility of constipation.