Friday, April 28, 2017

Fat Adapted

Fuelled from fat
There are always two things that people who are with me in the mountains climbing, ski touring, ice climbing, etc., and even while sport climbing at crags or on multi-pitch routes comment on. First is how small my backpack is and second, that I do not eat or drink much.

I do long days out often with just a litre bottle or thermos. I train a lot in a fasted state and many times with nothing to eat or drink - these can be four, six or even more hour-long endeavours  If I am doing a course or guiding a tour, I am generally too busy to eat anyways. However, I will on colder days have some nuts or high-quality dried sausage with me. In summer, nuts and raw vegetables.

The concept of being "fat adapted" is something that is making the rounds in a lot of sports endurance circles now. The idea is to get your body to utilise its fat stores at a greater and greater amount for work at an aerobic level. You are already carrying the potential energy with you on your body, so why not use it? In the alpine disciples there is great stuff on Steve House and Scott Johnston's website that supplements the information in House and Johnston's book, Training for the New Alpinism.

Perhaps one of the first to bring the ideas of training and eating for metabolic fat addaption was Dr. Phil Maffetone who coached a number of legendary Ironman athletes and ultra-distance runners. The more recent appearance of the idea of fat adaption has been the term "fat burning" seen in the diet books of those advocating 'paleo', 'primal' or 'ancestral' ways of eating as well as those who recommend ketogenic diets to readjust faulty metabolisms and cause body fat reduction.

Training the chicken for fat adaptation, everyone wants it now!
There is a ton of material on the webs, social media and in bookstores about this. It takes a bunch of patience and experimentation to see what works for you as an individual alpine athlete. The biggest hurdle for most however is to have an open mind about eating and training that often is very radically different from what you believe.

I have slowly figured things out for myself and now know what works for me to keep me able to train injury free across multi-alpine disciples and perform well. Unfortunately, most do not have the patience, discipline and determination to take this responsibility on themselves.

There was a time when I bought into the hype of the hawkers of sports nutrition products, energy bars and gels, re-fuelling, pre-fuelling, carb loading, protein-to-carb ratios, on and on. It wasn't until I just got fed up with it all - it wasnt't working, my body composition was not optimal, I wasn't recovering or sleeping well - and took the steps to figure it all out on my own, for myself, and only using my own experience as a yardstick for what worked and what did not. I also had to open my mind to completely new and enlightened ways of thinking about eating and training.

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