When every step of your run begins to feel like the first step of your run, you have mastered fat adapted running.
That’s the best way I can explain becoming a fat adapted runner.
After running 31 miles with no food or water, I discovered just how incredible fat adapted running was.
But I have to warn you, the guide you are about to read on fat adapted running is NOT for everyone. It takes work, and it takes having a constant intention in fine-tuning your fat metabolism.
YES, you can implement what I teach you and turn into a fat adapted runner. But fat adapted running challenges you both physically and mentally. And well…not everyone is ready to make these lifestyle changes.
Understand that it wasn’t a coincidence that I began every ultramarathon with an empty stomach and ran the first 20 miles with no water. It took a commitment to do that.
I didn’t just so happen to start running 50-mile ultramarathons with only liquids. It was a struggle to get there.
Waking up in the morning and fasting until 7:00 pm wasn’t something I did for fun. The discipline it required was intense.
It took a HUGE step backward, but once I started moving forward, the results were astonishing. My body transformed, I couldn’t believe it. I could now leave my house with ZERO supplies during all my training runs under 31 miles.
Just this past weekend I ran 40 miles with no food or water during a 60-mile training run. I then finished without eating any food.
So unless I’m training for a 100-mile ultramarathon, I’m running on EMPTY.
There are weight loss benefits too. Not only did I cut an extra 15-20 lbs. off my running weight, but a high-fat diet provides more energy throughout your day.
The energy is long lasting, and it’s sustainable, and as long as you have the fat in your body, then it will use it as fuel.
But things didn’t always feel so great. The reason I began fat adapted running wasn’t just an idea, it was a SOLUTION to a BIG problem I was experiencing….
The Solution to A BIG Problem
After two years of ultra running, every race led to an upset nauseated stomach. Even with how challenging they are, I fell in LOVE with ultramarathon running. But things were getting worse.
The thought of not being able to run an ultramarathon again was heartbreaking. But every single race left me extremely nauseous towards the 25-30 mile mark.
Nausea would intensify haunting me for the rest of the race. I would then find myself curled up on the coach shortly after. I needed to fix this problem…and FAST.
Eventually, I realized the nausea was from the excess sugars I ate before, during, and after races. My carbo-loading strategy was completely outdated, and my body knew it. It was an explosive sugary massacre, and my stomach was the victim.
So, after a whole lot of trial and error, I eliminated ALL processed foods from my life. Here’s the thing: most processed foods contain A LOT of sugar. I began eating a diet rich in good fats and upped my intake of green leafy vegetables.
I also began fueling all-natural. No more gels, no more sports drinks, no more bars or blocks or any other performance supplements. I went back to the ultimate expert in performance and well-being herself: Mother Nature.
And it not only changed my running for the better…it changed my LIFE.
Eating all-natural and eliminating foods like grains, dairy, and processed food naturally reduced my sugars. Then increasing my consumption of essential oils and nuts & seeds added more goods fats to my diet.
So, as you now know, it was nausea that led me to research fat adapted running and implement it into my life. Not only did it cure my issue with nausea but I morphed into a runner who can run long distances with minimal support.
I began listening to my body, and eventually…it naturally led me to a high-fat lifestyle. I even became plant-based and stopped eating meat, so vegetarians, fat adaption is an option for you too.
But what I can say is none of my dietary choices are forever. I’ve just let my body dictate my eating habits as I run further and further as an ultramarathon runner.
Maybe one day it will take me on another course. But for now, I eat a high-fat diet and have learned the art of fat adapted running.
As I mentioned earlier, I routinely run a 50k (31 miles) with no food or water. If you are reading this, I’m sure you would like to know what steps I took to become a fat adapted runner.
So read on as I first briefly discuss what fat adapted running is, followed by the 11 practical steps I TOOK to becoming a fat adapted runner.
Please note: I am not a certified nutritionist and make no claims to the contrary. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This is simply what worked for ME in MY journey in becoming a fat adapted runner.
RELATED: Why Fat Is Your Friend
What Is Fat Adapted Running?
You may have heard terms like “fat as fuel,” “fat adapted running,” or even “the keto diet” thrown around. But they all refer to a high-fat diet. Although it’s not really a “diet” at all, just a new way of eating.
Remember— it’s not a diet change, but a LIFESTYLE change that’s required. Change the way you eat and change your life FOREVER.
So how does a high-fat diet actually work? What is fat adaptation?
The process of fat adaptation refers to moving your body’s primary energy source from glucose (sugar) to fats. When this occurs, your body stops depending on sugars (carbs) and prefers fat as fuel instead.
Your body becomes far more efficient in burning its own stored fat as fuel and less dependent on sugar. Low sugar in a perfect world means NO sugar crash, NO constant replenishment, and NO sugar addiction.
Just a constant flow of sustainable energy, available to you ALWAYS.
As you can imagine, this comes in handy during periods of prolonged running.
When your body is efficient at burning fat as fuel, you can run longer without needing to refuel because the fuel comes from within. Fat adaptation is the body’s preferred metabolic state.
That’s what our bodies are designed to do. We eat, store fat, and use it for energy later.
Okay, so you may be asking yourself… What about sugar (carbs)?…Shouldn’t runners eat carbs for energy?
Well, to understand better, let’s take a look at a sugar-dependent runner.
The Sugar-Dependent Runner
Runners who depend on sugar are extremely inefficient at burning fat as fuel. So their body’s only other option is to burn glucose (sugar). This makes them reliant on carbs and sugar when they run. And if they run long enough without it, they crash HARD.
So when a runner “HITS THE WALL,” the brain is actually shutting the muscles down in order to conserve sugar for the nervous system. But when you are efficient at burning fat as fuel…there is NO WALL. Your body has plenty of energy to go around.
Here’s the secret…once you can efficiently burn fat as fuel, you tap into a nearly infinite supply of energy. The average body contains 160,000 calories of fat, and only roughly 5,000 stores as sugar.
So when you are burning fat as fuel, you are pulling from an enormous energy source. But if you burn sugar as fuel, it burns FAST, and you must replenish regularly.
This explanation is very basic. But I write from experience. From miles and miles of fat burning ultramarathon experience. Between races and training runs I’ve run 100 ultra distances. If I haven’t experienced something, then I don’t write about it.
So if a runner primarily burns sugar as fuel, they can’t stay in a fasted state without experiencing extreme fatigue. A sugar dependent runner will not be able to benefit from the advantages of fat adapted running. Advantages like more sustainable energy, longer mileage, and healthy weight loss.
This leaves sugar burners with only a few options…and they aren’t pretty: constantly eating, consistent hunger, burning more food but less fat, and even poor hormonal balance.
Note: In theory, the body uses both fatty acids (fat) and glucose (sugar) for energy but never at the same time. The type of fuel the body uses is regulated by its hormones (insulin). And hormones in the body are regulated mainly by the food you eat (carbs, fat, protein).
Remember—insulin is produced whenever your blood glucose (sugar) levels extend over a set threshold. Briefly summarized: when insulin is available, you burn glucose. When insulin is unavailable, you burn fat.
Do you feel stuck as a sugar-dependent runner?
Don’t worry…there’s a way out.
How To Escape The Sugar Bowl
By discussing how I became a fat adapted runner, I will be throwing you a life saver into the sugary pit of constant fatigue. I will pull you out onto the other side where some of the greatest endurance athletes in the world reside.
Soon instead of BAD food being your reward for a good run… a good run will be your reward for eating GOOD food.
And you will PREFER it that way.
Are you ready to jump out of the sugar bowl for good?
The way out is through fat adapted running. To help better serve you, I will explain my process of becoming a fat adapted runner. It’s a process you won’t find in books or through an online course.
This process is from my hands-on experience. As a fat adapted runner I’ve run as long as 40 miles with no food or water; I run 31 miles with no food or water routinely, eliminated nausea when running ultramarathons; it also has helped me through 100-mile races, and I’ve reduced my running weight by 15-20lbs.
But once you become a fat adapted runner, it’s up to you to maintain your new superpowers. And what effects it the most is what you’re doing when you’re NOT running. It’s about how true you can stay to a healthy lifestyle.
So one last thing before jumping into the 11 tips to become a fat adapted runner.
I always learn best with analogies, so if it helps, let me give you one for burning sugar versus fat as fuel.
Burning fat is like burning coal, slow and steady, burning and burning for a long time. On the other side, sugar is like lighter fluid, a quick flash, then POOF…it’s gone.
So when you’re trying to reach longer distances, especially ultramarathon distances, which type of fire do you want burning?
If you’re ready to burn some coal, that is, ready to burn fat as fuel, read on and we will start this fat adapted running process TODAY.
11 Proven Tips To Become A Fat Adapted Runner
There are many different opinions on fat adapted running, as well as contradictory beliefs. So remember…the following tips are what helped ME transform MY body into a fat adapted runner.
These 11 tips are what I practiced to run 31 miles with no food or water routinely.
Also, know that becoming fat adapted did not happen overnight. It takes a continuous effort and a constant awareness of your eating habits. However, if you stick with it, eventually you reach a tipping point.
Instead of living on a slippery slope back to sugary substances and processed foods, one day…the scale TIPS. And it almost feels like a slippery slope in the opposing direction. It starts to feel natural to eliminate foods and behaviors that don’t serve you in a fat-burning metabolism.
I can tell you from experience. Once I reached the other side, ultramarathons went from a torturous build-up and release to an incredible journey of struggle and growth.
And here’s the best part of all: I now know I have found longevity in my running.
I now know I can run ultramarathon distances into the late stages of my life if I desire. I know this because I’ve taught my body to fuel naturally from the inside, instead of an acidic artificial way from the outside.
The following tips for fat adapted running were not pre-planned or strategically designed. It took trial and error on my side. I learned, made adjustments, and most importantly…listened to MY body. Sooner or later, my body fell into alignment and the way I eat and how I ran just felt…right.
Looking back to when I first started, I wish I stumbled upon a list like this one. A quick guide from someone who has pushed the envelope of human endurance as a fat adapted runner. It would have taken much less time to get there.
So here’s my GIFT to YOU. A quick guide of tips and steps to take to learn fat adapted running and save you a whole lot of time.
Follow some of the tips, follow all of them, but most importantly LISTEN to YOUR body, be safe, and enjoy the journey into fat adapted running.
1. Cut Out Grain COMPLETELY
If you already know what fat adapted running is then you may have heard the term “low carb running” or “high-fat diet.” But in essence, they all have the same meaning.
When I first started fat adapted running, I wanted to find a few big dominos up front. You know, one or two steps I could initially take that would have the LARGEST impact.
Going grain-free was the first step I took towards becoming a fat adapted runner. In my mind, since carbs turn into sugars, this was an obvious move to make. Although I already did not eat bread or pasta, that meant no more granola, oats, brown rice, rye, buckwheat, and yes… even quinoa.
I understand this may be tough for some, and it’s not required in fat adapted running. As long as you keep your carb intake to a minimum and make sure when you do eat grains they are low-starch, you will be fine.
But as I mentioned, I listened to MY body, and I noticed it responded much better when I eliminated grains in all forms.
Even just given up bread and pasta will make a HUGE difference. It’s easy to take the bread off your sandwiches or eat lettuce wraps. Or take your croutons out of your salad. Or order a side of vegetables instead of pasta.
The problem is most grain products are processed.
So when I eliminated all processed foods from my diet, it brought my fat adaptation to a new level.
Please note: eliminating all processed foods is not required in fat adapted running…but it speeds up the process. And you feel great!
That’s because sugars hide in processed foods and you may not even know it. It disguises itself. It may call itself “high-fructose corn syrup” or “dextrose” or “sucralose.” It’s in your salad dressings, beverages, yogurts, and even in popcorn.
By eliminating grains and processed foods, I was able to reduce my sugar intake significantly. This helped my body find a new way to fuel itself…and that’s where FAT came in.
Game Changer: Eliminate processed foods entirely.
2. Discover The Magic Of Essential Oils
One of the most impactful steps you can take to speed up the process of fat adaptation is taking an essential oil.
The use of essential oils dates back to over five thousand years ago. Not only are they one of the best tools for becoming fat adapted, but they are one of the best forms of medicine on the planet.
Here’s the thing: taking an essential oil isn’t some miracle solution or magical pill to burn fat as fuel. Nothing can be more beneficial than eating a healthy diet rich in green water-soluble vegetables and good fats. However, it helps… and in a BIG way.
For example, essential oils can speed up your metabolism, help with digestion, and naturally boost your energy. It basically speeds up the process of burning fat primarily as fuel.
Plus, if you take it before meals, it significantly reduces sugar cravings. I can tell you this from experience. And by reducing sugar cravings, you will eat less of them, thus speeding up the path to fat adapted running even more.
My preferred brand and the one I always recommend is Udo’s 3-6-9 blend. After my morning glass of water, it’s the first thing I put in my body every day.
Again, I’m not recommending this as the only way, this is just what I do, and it’s helped me along MY journey into fat adapted running.
Game Changer: After taking your essential oil, drink a cup of coffee or tea.
3. Run On An Empty Stomach
Okay, LISTEN UP, I really want you to lean into this one.
Next to removing grains, this was the MOST effective technique to help me become a fat adapted runner. But it’s NOT for everyone.
Remember—this is what helped me during MY transition into fat adapted running.
Maybe the most effective strategy I used to become fat adapted was running on an EMPTY stomach. That’s in combination with removing grains. That’s also considering you are not drinking sugary beverages…I drink water or lemon water.
Here’s is my process…
- wake up early in the morning
- drink a glass of water
- go on my training run.
There’s a magnificent beauty in SIMPLICITY, wouldn’t you agree?
I would then run with NO food or water for a specific mileage.
As I progressively increased my mileage, I gradually increased the distance I ran without any intake.
For example, in the beginning, let’s say I ran a 20-mile training run. I ran 10 miles without fuel and then began fueling for the last 10 miles.
Then, let’s say my next run was 22 miles long. I ran 11 miles without fuel. If I ran a 30-mile training run, I ran 15 miles with no food or water. And so on.
Eventually, I ran my whole training run without fuel.
So whether I went out for a 10, 15, 20, or 25-mile run, I would do so without any supplies. And then I pushed it to 31 miles with no food or water, and that became my set point.
It’s funny as I’m editing this I just ran 40 miles with no food or water. The genius of the human animal is its adaptation response.
Please note: I do not consider this healthy nor do I recommend taking it to this extreme. Remember—this is what helped me in MY journey into fat adapted running.
Game Changer: Follow the training programs from A Runner’s Secret and run once per week. With each new week, increase how far you run on empty.
4. Slow Down Your Pace A LOT
It’s essential to slow down your pace considerably as you become a fat adapted runner.
However, this can be discouraging. You feel like you are losing your speed. Or losing ground on your next PR.
Running is about growth and progress, but you feel like you are taking steps in the wrong direction.
But I have a question for you…
Have you ever heard the saying: two steps forward, one step backward?
I know, it may sound cliche, but this couldn’t be any closer to the truth. It’s imperative to keep your body in an aerobic state when becoming fat adapted. The body burns a much greater amount of fat at a lower-intensity.
What’s an aerobic state?
Here’s how I explain it in The Holistic Runner’s Guide: How To Lose Weight And Increase Energy Naturally…
“…First, there is AEROBIC activity. Aerobic literally means ‘with oxygen’ it’s when you exercise at a moderate pace like when you run. When you perform Aerobic activity, you are mainly burning fat as fuel. Your breathing isn’t too heavy, and you can still hold a conversation.
For example, you are performing aerobic activity when you are on a long run. When you run long distance you are actually building your aerobic base. This type of exercise strengthens your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and all other aerobic muscles. It builds your entire running foundation!”
That’s versus ANAEROBIC activity which I explain this way…
“…ANAEROBIC activity, meaning ‘without oxygen’. It refers to exercise at a fast pace. It’s your short bursts of power, like when you run a sprint or lift heavy weights. Anaerobic activity is when you get out of breath and burn sugar primarily as fuel. It’s what gives you power! It’s what gives your speed! It’s what gives you the ability to develop tunnel vision straight to the finish line!…”
So what’s the right amount of aerobic activity for fat adapted running?
At first, I ran at an easy aerobic pace 100% of the time. I was sluggish and tired, and it helped my body adjust to low carb/high fat running.
Then eventually, as my body adjusted, I was able to fine tune it. I now try to run 75% at an easy aerobic pace, 20% at a moderate pace, and 5% at an edgy fast anaerobic pace.
But any time my stomach grumbles…or a hill naturally increases my heart rate…or if I’m running too fast for too long…I then immediately fall back into an easy aerobic pace. Eventually, my body adjusts, and I can pick it up again.
Now, if you know me and my running style, you know I do not wear a watch. I’ve been running on feel for a long time, so I’m more in tune with my body than the average runner. However, for those who like to use numbers, it can be done through a heart rate monitor.
At one time you could only measure your heart rate with a chest strap while running. Now heart rate monitors are built into mostly all smartwatches. Today, your bpm is measurable through wireless headphones! Tracking your heart rate has become more convenient than ever.
Here is a very BASIC formula for monitoring your heart rate to find your easy aerobic fat burning pace, I will use a 35 year old runner as an example…
Calculate your EASY aerobic pace heart rate zone (75% of the time)
- Subtract your age from 180 to calculate the UPPER limit of the zone for your EASY aerobic pace. (180 – 35 yrs old = 145)
- Take your UPPER limit and subtract 10 to calculate your LOWER limit (145 – 10= 135 bpm)
- Put your upper and lower limit together for your fat burning sweet spot (135-145 bpm)
- Add or subtract 5 bpm depending on experience and how your body feels. (e.g. if I’m an endurance athlete my new zone is 140-150 bpm)
Pretty simple right?
Read on to the next section as I talk about speed training and provide calculations for your MODERATE and HIGH-intensity heart rate zones.
Game Changer: Slow down A LOT up hills and once you reach the top take it slow until your heart rate comes back down.
5. Reduce Your Speed Training
As I mentioned, when first practicing fat adapted running I ran at a low intensity 100% of the time. But once I started feeling the positive effects of burning fat as fuel, I began accepting a slower pace.
It wasn’t just making my body feel better over long distances, but it was making my body feel better in general. And in addition to eliminating processed foods, life just felt…good, like really REALLY good.
The thing is when you first start burning fat as fuel your body doesn’t like it. You are depriving it of its primary energy source. It has not yet begun to efficiently burn fat as fuel, so it feels tired and weak. Your stomach rumbles and you feel out of whack.
But in these cases, I would slow down even more. I learned how critical it was not to pay attention to pace during my transformation period. Your body needs time to adjust.
Remember—your target is to eventually spend 75% at an easy aerobic pace, 20% at a moderate pace, and 5% at a fast pace.
Again, I always feel it out. I run 75% of the time at a pace I can hold a conversation in, 20% in an edgy groove, and 5% in a FAST pace broken up at intervals throughout my run.
I never track it numerically. If I did, I would probably be faster and burn fat more efficiently. But I prefer running on feel.
So let’s say I’m running for two hours, I know 6 one minute sprints spaced out throughout my run will get me there. During these sprints, I will look down at the song I’m listening to and track the time that way.
For those who use a heart rate monitor, let’s calculate your moderate and fast pace heart rate zones. I will continue with the example of a 35-year-old with an EASY aerobic heart rate zone of 135-145 bpm.
Calculate your MODERATE pace bpm zone (20% of the time)
- Take the UPPER limit from your EASY aerobic pace and use it as the LOWER limit for your MODERATE pace. (if EASY upper limit is 145 bpm than your MODERATE pace lower limit is 145 bpm)
- Take your new LOWER limit and add 10 to calculate your UPPER limit (145 + 10 = 155 bpm)
- Put your upper and lower limit together for your MODERATE pace zone (145-155 bpm)
- Add or subtract 5 bpm depending on experience and how your body feels. (e.g. if I’m an endurance athlete my new zone is 150 bpm – 160 bpm)
As a 35-year-old runner, you now run 75% of the time at an EASY pace with a heart rate zone of 135-145 bpm. And you run 20% of the time at a MODERATE pace with a heart rate zone of 145-155 bpm.
So what about the last 5%? What is your heart rate zone for a FAST pace?
Calculate your FAST pace bpm zone (5% of the time)
- Take the UPPER limit from your MODERATE pace and use it as the LOWER limit of your FAST pace. (if your MODERATE upper limit is 155 bpm than your FAST pace lower limit is 155 bpm)
- Take your new LOWER limit and add 20 to calculate your UPPER limit (155 + 20 = 175 bpm)
- Put your upper and lower limit together for your FAST pace zone (155-175 bpm)
- Add or subtract 5 bpm depending on experience and how your body feels (e.g. if I’m an endurance athlete my new zone is 160 bpm – 180 bpm)
So for a 35-year-old, you’re fat adapted running bpm zones are…
- 135-145 bpm for 75%
- 145-155 bpm for 20%
- 155-175 bpm for 5%
And remember, you can adjust these ranges by 5 bpm in either direction depending on how YOUR body feels in the process.
Game Changer: Whenever your stomach grumbles slow down the pace and take quick short steps.
6. Leave The Fuel At Home
During the process of becoming a fat adapted runner, I left home with NO supplies. This way I had no option but to finish without fueling.
I do usually bring a credit in case of emergency; however, when your supplies are close by, it’s much more tempting to hit a store and grab a quick sugary drink.
To help, when I’m running on empty and running by a store on my way home I use a particular mental strategy. It’s similar to a mental strategy I recommend in 6 Mental Strategies To Run An Ultramarathon.
When I run long distances, especially the 100-mile ultramarathon, it’s critical to stay in the present moment. But if I lose that focus, I start breaking the race into sections. Like the race is only as long as the next aid station. Each small victories from aid station to aid station will help take your mind away from the incredibly long distance to the finish line.
So how does this apply when I run with no supplies?
Let’s take an extreme example and use when I run 31 miles with no food or water.
When I run 31 miles on empty, and if I’m on the road running by a store, it’s tempting to stop in for a drink.
So let’s say I’m 6 miles away from home, EVERYTHING in my body tells me to stop and refuel. But instead of trying to hype myself up and run past it and push through the last 6 miles, I just change the distance in my mind.
What do I mean by “change the distance”?
Well, I use the same mental strategy when running aid station to aid station. I break the run up into a smaller section, except in this example, the smaller section is ONLY past the store.
What I do is look for an object about a half a mile into the distance down the road. From where I am, to that object past the store, is the only distance I’m now running. It doesn’t matter how many miles I have left or how many miles I’ve run already. The only thing that matters is that half mile down the road. That’s all there is and all there ever was.
Sure, it’s a lot less than the 6 miles, and I know rationally I have 5.5 miles to go. But it’s far enough where I’m not willing to turn around and run the extra mile in total. I know it’s only a mile, but when you are running 31 miles with no food or water, you feel every single step in the later stages of your run.
Game Changer: If a store is on the right side of the street, run on the left side and vice versa.
7. Make Hills Disappear
We all have different relationships with hills. They are our best friends for some…and worst enemies for others. But one thing we know for certain is this: hills create more resistance.
If you are practicing fat adapted running and want to stay at an easy aerobic pace, then put an awareness on EVERY hill. When running uphill your heart rate will naturally increase if you run at the same pace.
Remember—the body burns a much greater amount of fat at a lower-intensity. Increasing your pace too much can have a negative effect when trying to become a fat adapted runner. It can create extreme fatigue making your run a whole lot tougher. Or it makes you reach for a sugary supplement to get you through it.
As I transferred into becoming a fat adapted runner, I took the hills slow…really REALLY slow. But sometimes the resistance of the hill makes it challenging to keep your heart rate down.
So, what’s the best way to keep your heart rate down when running uphill?
Easy… make the hill disappear.
Yes, that’s right. You can make hills vanish entirely.
What do I mean exactly?
I mean you can change the overall dynamic of your motion when running uphill. All you need to do is take smaller and quicker steps.
Similar to shifting a bike to a lower gear, a shorter step requires more revolutions but less energy per revolution. The change in motion can feel as if you’re running on flat terrain. In this way, the hills begin to disappear, and you can stay at an easy aerobic pace.
Think about it. If you put a pair of weights in your hands and walk uphill, what’s easier? To lunge or take quick short steps?
It’s the latter every time.
Smaller quicker steps will help keep the intensity down and your fat burning efficiently.
Game Changer: If I ran with liquids, it was coconut water, and if I came out of my easy aerobic pace I would drink it while running up steep hills.
8. Use Fuel Low In Sugar
Now I have to admit, I’m not the best with this one, but I’m getting better. As you now know, I eat and fuel all-naturally. No performance supplements like powders, gels, or sports drinks.
So, naturally, my sugars are low when running. Yes, your body needs sugar when you run, however, it becomes a balancing act during a race of too little or too much. During 100-mile ultramarathons I consume a little too much fruit than I would like.
However, as of late, I do run 50-mile ultramarathons with no food whatsoever. Just this past weekend I ran a 60-mile training run with no food. I can feel my fat burning metabolism at work when I take it to this level.
But how you fuel during a run tends to be a reflection of how you eat outside of running. For example, if you are eating a lot of processed foods and sugary drinks than you probably need a lot of gels and sports drinks when running.
However, if you are an efficient fat burning machine, you could fuel long races with low-sugar foods and keep your energy balanced.
It’s funny, when I’m out, and people see I don’t drink alcohol or eat deserts or bread, they think its a struggle. And I have to admit, at first it was. And even today I still have a few psychological snacking barriers I need to dissolve.
However, what most people don’t understand is it’s not a struggle anymore because the long-term superpower of fat adapted running COMPLETELY outweighs the short-term sugar fix.
Remember—by keeping sugars low you can run with balanced, sustainable energy that last long and you will avoid crashes on race day due to excess sugars.
And if you are as passionate about long distance running as I am, specifically ultra running for me, there is no decision to make. Sugar indulgence is not worth its consequences.
And don’t get me wrong, my eating habits are not flawless; however, I make healthy decisions the majority of the time.
Also, keep your post-run alcohol consumption to a minimal. I eventually cut out alcohol entirely because it hurt my progress. Also, ironically enough, the cleaner I ate the more my body rejected it.
Game Changer: If you have to cut out your favorite food or drink to keep your sugar low, replace it with a little fruit to satisfy your sugar cravings. Eat it on an empty stomach so your body can quickly digest it.
9. Practice Intermediate Fasting
Have you ever thought about what the word breakfast means?
Here, look at the word: breakfast
Okay now look at it one more time: break-fast
Yes, two words BREAK and FAST. Breakfast literally means “breaking the fast.” That’s because it’s the first meal of your day. It’s the first meal after a long sleep with no food or water
Intermediate fasting does wonders for expediting the transformation process into fat adapted running.
Again, I’m not saying this is the only way, but it helped me in MY journey in becoming a fat adapted runner. Intermediate fasting was and still is a daily practice of mine. Some days I go until 7:00 pm without eating anything. Other days, just a few hours.
However, most mornings I have a few tables spoons of Udo’s oil and a cup of coffee with no sugar and then fast. Remember—milk and creamer are filled with sugar also. I’ve found that organic liquid stevia from a natural food store is an excellent alternative. It’s also a useful tool to wean off the sugar in your coffee or tea.
My next step is to eliminate caffeine completely. I can already feel my body rejecting it.
Either way, intermediate fasting will help with becoming a fat adapted runner more quickly.
Game Changer: Make your longest fast on Mondays since you are more likely to indulge over the weekend. Eat a few handfuls of nuts during the day if needed.
10. Burn Your Boats And Run Further
In running, sometimes you just have to get to the island and burn your boats. You sign up for a further distance, show up on race day, and just go for it.
Well, the same applies to fat adapted running—you just have to begin.
The process of fat adaptation does not occur without stress. If you want to run further and take advantage of fat adapted running, then you need to keep pushing your limits. There is no other way.
Being able to run 31 miles without fueling routinely didn’t happen overnight. I pushed the limits a little more each week. But if I didn’t constantly push the boundaries, I would have never made it that far.
And know that running 31 miles with no food or water is NOT good for your health and I DO NOT recommend trying it. But like running 100-mile ultramarathons, it’s just something I had to do for myself.
The point is, if you sign up for a further race then you will allow yourself to become fat adapted quicker. Don’t get lost in the generality of running. Set a clear and precise goal to run a further distance. This way you can take your fat adapted running to the next level in correspondence with that particular distance.
For example, it wasn’t until I trained for 50 and 100-mile ultramarathons that it was possible for me to run 31 miles without food or water.
For you, it may be a half marathon to a marathon, or a marathon to a 50k.
Even if you don’t have the time, you can do it by running ONE day per week. Just grab a copy of my book A Runner’s Secret: One Run Will Get It Done. There are training programs for the 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon, 50k, 50-mile, 100k, and 100-mile distances.
But whatever the distance, know that we are either growing or dying, becoming stronger or weaker, moving forward or backward. Know that your fat metabolism is either getting more efficient or less efficient. Nothing in life static.
So as you become more and more of a fat adapted runner, you will have to reach further and further past your comfort zone.
Before I start fueling during a run, I think to myself, “Have a started struggling yet?” If the answer is “No,” I keep pushing forward.
The endurance you develop from running derives directly from your struggles.
Game Changer: Sign up for a further race.
11. Enjoy The Journey
Fat adapted running is a process with no definitive end. It’s not like a race where there is a finish line. As you progress, you notice changes like being able to run further with no food or not craving that piece of cake. You begin to feel more balanced throughout your day.
But in the beginning, fat adapted running can create difficulty. Here’s the problem: for some, without a finish line, the process of becoming fat adapted is discouraging. But you have to trust the process, and most importantly…you must ENJOY THE JOURNEY.
Yes, there will be arrivals like the first time you run 10 miles without fueling or the first time you run without feeling sluggish.
But know that these arrivals come and go in a fraction of a second. What you really experience is all the small steps you took to become fat adapted.
It’s not about finally running that race without needing a gel or the 20 lbs you dropped off your racing weight. It’s about the 16 weeks of training while running on empty and the months you went without eating a single piece of bread.
That’s why fat adapted runners lose weight so well. It’s because you bring your awareness away from weight loss and focus on the actual fat adapted running process itself. You get to a point where you literally become excited to do things like fast and cut out processed foods.
The reward is no longer extrinsic like how you look in the mirror. But it becomes intrinsic because you are using fat burning as a tool to become a better runner. And if you are passionate enough about running, as you progress in your running, you will then become leaner automatically. Weight loss becomes a reciprocal of your passion for running.
By focusing on the journey of fat adapted running, what you are doing is training yourself to stay in the PRESENT MOMENT.
Know this: wherever you are running, you are there running NOW.
When transitioning into a fat adapted runner, there will be times you won’t want to go on. It’s much easier to give in and reach for that sugary drink, or that meal replacement bar, or to bring along a hand full of gels.
I know…I’ve been there myself. Fat adapted running is my lifestyle.
But just like running extreme distances, it’s critical to learn how to anchor into the present moment when becoming fat adapted, that is, run in the NOW. And when you find enjoyment in the journey, staying in the NOW will come easier.
For most, the present moment hardly exists. We get so caught up in our past and future that we never take a second to be still and take in the present moment.
As an ultramarathon runner who runs for 100 miles at a time, I’ve developed this skill naturally. But it’s not something I’ve mastered, and it’s not my goal to master it. For me, that’s a journey in itself.
It’s easy to get caught focusing on the past, that’s how most identify themselves, it’s who they are. And the future is where people want to go because they believe that’s when they will be free of their problems.
But here’s the dilemma—as you work toward that future place, even if you were to get there you would still be looking farther into the future. It’s a forward way of thinking. Sure, this way of thinking serves us to reach goals and to motivate us, but the key is to use it as a tool…not LIVE in the future.
But if you stay in the NOW—which separates yourself from the mind, meaning instead of BEING the thinker you are the BEING, meaning you are the LISTENER of thought, not the THINKER—you find the freedom you’ve been searching for all along. Because right NOW in THIS present moment, what problems do you have?
No, not 5 minutes ago or 5 minutes ahead, but right NOW in THIS moment, there are no problems.
Plus this helps align you with your authentic self and who you really are. And when you can be yourself 100%…there’s no better freedom in the world.
So understand that it’s not about forgetting the past and present, it’s just about using them as a tool rather than becoming lost in compulsive thinking.
By tapping into the present moment, you can keep moving forward even when you are sluggish at the beginning of fat adapted running. Now you can say “NO” to that piece of bread when your mouth is watering from sugar withdrawal. And you can now walk out your door and run 10% further each week on empty.
Enjoying the journey will keep you in the present moment. And if you practice focusing on your breathing, putting awareness on your five senses, and being grateful, you will find the NOW. It will become easier to fight the urge of doing something that will harm your progressive journey into fat adapted running.
That fact is, as endurance runners, especially those becoming fat adapted, learning to stay in the present moment is advantageous. It will not just help you through the transformation period, but it has the potential to tranform your LIFE.
And if you practice it long and hard enough, one day… you WAKE UP…
How Do You Know If You Are Fat Adapted?
As I mentioned, there’s no way to measure how fat adapted you are or not. The way you feel is the best way to tell. But here’s a few signs that help you know if you are on the right path…
- Running without carbs no longer causes quick fatigue.
- You can go 3 hours without eating.
- Skipping a meal doesn’t cause a negative mood change.
- Your energy feels steady throughout the day.
- No headaches or foggy feelings.
If you feel like you’ve reached this, then you’ve probably reached the tipping point. You have become fat adapted! You have a normal human metabolism…welcome home!
REMEMBER—Here’s the biggest giveaway: When every step of your run begins to feel like the first step of your run…you have mastered fat adapted running.
Let’s Bring It Home
I reached the 100-mile ultra distance before becoming fat adapted. It was just a lot more involved. The insane amount of sugar intake from burning and grinding out mile after mile not only destroyed my stomach, but it drained me mentally.
Now, being able to leave my house with ZERO supplies for any distance under 31 miles is magical. It’s not only convenient, but it provides an increased level of freedom.
And maybe best yet, fasting for the body is food for the soul. When you run on empty, and take it to the limit, you find a deeper connection between yourself and your “higher self.” Running on empty is a constant means of renewing yourself spiritually.
Fat adapted running is a path not only to better your running and to lose weight, but you get in touch with something more profound. You get in touch with something MUCH MORE meaningful.
I know, we all have different beliefs. But whatever your deeper belief is… fasting as a fat adapted runner and pushing it to ultra distances makes you feel more connected. A connection deeper than what you can see, one of universal proportions that can not be verbalized.
As I like to say, during a 100-mile ultramarathon, you run the first 50% with your BODY, the second 40% with your MIND, and the last 10% with your SOUL.
Well, fat adapted running is running while fasted, and fasting strengthens the soul. So when you reach that last 10% as a fat adapted runner you’re now well prepared. That last 10% becomes no longer what you do, it becomes who you are, and you blow through it like you were born to run it.
Welcome to fat adaptation… the fuel for the soul of human endurance…
Remember…When every step of your run begins to feel like the first step of your run…you have mastered fat adapted running.
And don’t forget to use A Runner’s Secret: One Run Will Get It Done while becoming fat adapted. As I mentioned, it contains training programs for each distance in this order: 5k -> 10k -> half-marathon -> marathon -> 50k -> 50-mile -> 100k -> 100-mile. Simply determine your starting distance, click the book image below, and start training TODAY because…all it takes is one run per week!
Ebook version available here.
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