In the previous post, (How & Why OFM Actually Enhances Carbohydrate Metabolism), I dove into why optimizing fat metabolism enhances carbohydrate utilization, but guess what! It goes the other way too! Carbs & sugars, used strategically, can actually improve your fat metabolism.
Used chronically, however, in the way the conventional sports nutrition world recommends carbs, has a host of ‘unintended consequences’.
“It’s not a question of if you are going to have a problem. It is one of ‘when’ & ‘what form’ if you are consuming massive amounts of carbohydrates to fuel your athletic pursuits.”
Are Carbs "from the Devil?"
Now, if you come from the Keto, Paleo or Low Carb camps, you already know a lot of carbs leads to the Devil, but the ‘Devil is in the details’ as they say, and thus, there is actually a time and place to make use of ‘Strategic Carbohydrates’, a term I coined way back in 2008 when fat adaptation became my day job (literally)!
Without the occasional bolus of glucose, combined with OFM Disruptive Periodization Training (which includes all modalities of training), you limit your performance potential no matter the energy substrate.
- ‘Use it or lose it’. Just like when we over consume carbohydrates and lose our ability to burn fat at the levels evolution shaped us for, when we go super low carb we compromise our ability to metabolize glucose at high rates. This is due to the down-regulation of the Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Enzyme, or PDH for short. With limited PDH, we limit our ability to ‘push’ ourselves at the very threshold of aerobic metabolism as well as anaerobic pushes. It is just as important to maintain our ‘Fight or flight’ pathways as our aerobic base energy.
- When fat-adapted, the occasional consumption of glucose, fructose and even alcohol are your friends because your liver will store these as readily available liver fat to be quickly converted to fatty acids, ketones and even glucose to meet the metabolic need of training and competition so you can perform instead of limit yourself. Liver fat & liver metabolism in the context of fat adaptation is not the runaway train of metabolic disease seen in people who are chronically over consuming alcohol, fructose and sugar to wind up with fatty liver disease… quite the opposite.
Enhance Your Ability to Perform
And while there are tons of variables that factor into optimizing your metabolic health and performance, here are some of the main reasons why ‘Strategic Carbs’ actually enhance your ability to perform on fat:
- Your body needs regular bouts of adaptive stress to adapt, maintain and increase strength & robustness. This is part of the ‘cycle of life’. By bolusing with strategic carbs you give your body the ability to push harder when the difficulty of the workload pushes against you. This creates the adaptive stress or ‘hormesis’ to get stronger, fitter and more robust.
- The hormetic response from the stress causes our cells to become more robust on a mitochondrial level. During the recovery phase where carbohydrates are low and nutritional delivery is high, your cells build more mitochondria via mitochondrial biogenesis, meaning your cells have more mitochondria and each of your mitochondria become more robust. This increase in mitochondrial potential increases the fat oxidation in two ways:
- The rate of fat you can burn.
- The ability to metabolize fat at higher intensity levels of exercise.
- Insulin, yes, insulin because context matters!
Insulin is actually one of the most anabolic hormones when used sparingly in an insulin sensitive environment. In this anabolic state, insulin helps build your muscles and cells. Those occasional hits of carbs help drive the anabolic effects of insulin so you can perform better and not limit yourself without affecting your fat metabolism and, as a result, improving it!
Can Carbs and Fat coexist in Harmony
As you can see there is this really tight, complex yet complementary relationship between optimal fat metabolism and optimal use of carbohydrates. It is our current binary, compartmentalized thinking that creates the conflict. Dare I say, this is not too far off from other ‘Human Condition’ situations where binary thinking breeds relationships of conflict rather than complimentary ones.
Consider the ancient Chinese philosophical mantra of ‘Yin/Yang’, the concept of duality of seemingly opposing forces that not only coexist in harmony but each is dependent upon the other.
Optimizing your fat metabolism grows your tolerance to carbohydrates to get the most out of them, while, at the same time, ‘Strategic Carbohydrates’ helps to increase your fat metabolism. This is why OFM is what I term as a ‘Dynamic Matrix’ rather than a static, binary and ‘one size fits all’ program.
So if you are tired of conflict and want to get your body back into Harmony with the physiology and metabolism Nature shaped us for, you can do the following: