The Unseen ‘Heavyweight Champion’ of Fat Metabolism: Beta-oxidation and It’s ‘Cornermen’; Ketones and Glucose

Years before Keto exploded, when I was pioneering fat-adapted performance, I dove deep into fat metabolism and realized it was all about “Beta-Oxidation”.  Beta-oxidation is the sustainable delivery of fatty acids, literally, the tens of thousands of calories you have on your body and more than any gel, shots or liquid nutrition can deliver!

So what is Beta-oxidation?

Beta-oxidation is THE solid foundation to optimize fat metabolism. Like a house, you never ‘see’ the foundation but it’s a given you want a rock solid foundation to build upon. Beta-oxidation is that metaphorical “Rock of Gibraltar” for optimal physiology.

Beta-Oxidation is complex. This ‘magic’ happens inside the mitochondria, so you can’t measure it like Ketones or Glucose. Ketones are an important energy substrate, a proxy for fat metabolism and an important biomarker, however, the real work is done by beta-oxidation when you are talking about the principle pathway for  fat metabolism.  

Certain cells like those in the brain and nervous system are very limited in their beta-oxidation capacity and require ketones and glucose for almost all of their energy.  When you are fat adapted your liver can easily make plenty of ketones and even glucose without catabolizing protein. Like glucose, ketones can be mobilized and taken up in the cells as a quick energy source.  In a fat adapted athlete, ketones may even be the preferred source of energy, however, for threshold and anaerobic work you need glucose. Being fat adapted allows your body to generate and utilize both ketones and glucose to meet the metabolic needs of hard sustained pushes and surges all while Beta-oxidation supplies that base load of steady energy from fat. 

Dispelling the binary myth of carbs throwing you out of Keto . . .

What we have learned is in our pioneering experience of being fat-adapted and aerobically conditioned is you should not be scared to add in carbohydrates before and during an intense workout or competition. Carbs ‘work’ to give you performance. The OFM view is they are a ‘Legal PED’. 

While there are a few hyper-responders who thrive doing athletic activities on a strict keto diet most athletes need some carbohydrates to prevent adrenal stress and achieve peak performance. Otherwise your body will be looking for quick energy and, if your body can’t find it, you could potentially be digging an adrenal stress hole. We have seen a number of athletes who have come to us who have gone ‘keto’ and GAIN weight when they try to increase their training load and intensity. Adding carbs “Strategically as part of the OFM Program allows them to shed the weight and get their training going without any loss of fat adaptation. 

Remember, the body of science on Keto is based upon relatively sedentary and/or metabolically compromised subjects, not the fat-adapted aerobically-fit athlete. This is how the 50 grams per day threshold for carbohydrate intake came about. As you build your fat-adapted aerobic capacity your carbohydrate tolerance opens up . . . WAY UP!  In fact, in young fat-adapted male athletes, the carbohydrate tolerance levels we’ve seen are in line with the original carbohydrate loading studies out of Sweden. 

The ‘Take Home’? If you are fat-adapted, carbs can and should be used ‘Strategically’ to provide that quick energy to reach your peak health & performance.

The difference between men and women plays a BIG role in fat-adapted female performance.

Women are much more complex than men on all levels so when it comes to performance there is a lot more to consider.   

YOU are also an Individual so it’s important to consider the context of all the well-intended advice we are bombarded with on a daily basis, especially the binary thinking which claims one fixed methodology is the ‘right’ solution!

It is about finding the correct balance for your individual physiology and energy needs.

Whether you are new to fat adaptation, doing ‘keto’ and stuck or looking to dial in your health & performance contact us to learn more on how ‘Optimizing your Fat Metabolism’ can help you achieve your health and performance potential!

To see how Vespa can support your physiology and help you in your fat adaptation journey click here.

>