Dear Mehmet, I'm Stuck. Please Help.
Response to a reader on how to get fat-adapted
A mature-aged reader reached out to me on my website, requesting clarification on how to transform themselves into a fat-adapted state. He asked for step-by-step guidance based on my experience. I explain my approach to fat-adaption, using fat as the primary energy source to lose fat and keep the lean muscle. This article is not advice but aims to share my experience in my fitness transformation journey.
Below, I summarize the request from this valued reader.
I read your articles on News Break with great interest. Your articles resonate well with me. You keep highlighting the significance of getting into a fat-adapted state for your transformation. I also read many relevant articles about it from other sources and watched lots of videos on YouTube. Like yourself, I tried many diets, and nothing worked for me. I am overweight and dissatisfied with my life.
Guessing from your articles, I am at a similar age with you. Your achievements inspired me. You question the status quo and offer practical and alternative solutions in plain language based on your exemplary lifestyle. By the way, instead of preaching to your readers, you share your experiences as a storyteller. I value and enjoy your approach.
My specific request from you is simple. How can someone like me, over 50 years of age, get into a fat-adapted state? As you wisely pointed out the significance of muscles in our age, I don't want to lose muscle for sure. My purpose is to get rid of my excess belly fat. You give me hope that we can even gain 6-packs after 50, and even better, we can get rid of loose skin by simply changing our lifestyle.
I am far from reaching these goals right now but have to start from somewhere. Losing fat and shaping my body is my New Year's resolution.
Thank you for your inspiration and motivation."
Here is my response.
Thank you for your kind feedback and request for more information. I'd be delighted to provide you with further clarification on the fat-adapted state based on my experience. This is by no means any sort of health advice; it purely reflects my personal experience. We are all unique and different. Something working for me may not work for another person.
Let me explain in simple terms.
Fat adaption is a fancy way of saying our body uses its own fat as a primary energy source.
The body and brain use two significant sources of energy, glucose and ketones.
Our body makes ketones from fat. My brain loves ketones as a source of energy. Since I started ketosis, my brain is happier and calmer. Of course, my brain still uses glucose like several other organs such as the liver. Even though I am on a near zero-carb diet, not consuming foods including carbohydrates, my blood glucose level is still at an optimal state. I regularly measure it.
Let me answer your question on how the body can create sufficient glucose if we don't eat any carbs or sugar-containing foods. The answer is the gluconeogenic process. In simple terms, our body converts protein to glucose on demand. Gluconeogenesis is a natural process.
Since I started a ketogenic diet and remained in ketosis at most times, my blood sugar is controlled and managed by gluconeogenesis. This natural process keeps my insulin level at an optimal state, too. My insulin only spikes when I have my main meal. I eat only one meal a day and don't snack anymore.
However, the spike of insulin is not as much as when I used to eat carbs. Spike from protein is relatively lower. Even fat can cause a minor release of insulin.
The natural release of insulin is a good thing. Insulin is an anabolic hormone and needed at an adequate amount to maintain our muscle health. Some people may have a perception of insulin as a bad guy. This perception is not accurate. Insulin is our friend. It does its natural work well.
The problem with insulin is when it is released too much and too frequently. Excessive and frequent release of insulin can cause insulin resistance. In simple terms, this means that our body may require more and more insulin to handle the increased blood glucose.
As a reminder, even though we need an adequate amount of sugar in our bloodstream to serve our vital organs, our bodies cannot handle too much glucose. It perceives too much glucose as toxic. Therefore, insulin is a critical hormone to regulate blood glucose.
Once I understood this critical fact, I gradually reduced my carbs intake until I reached the near zero-carbs state. Yes, everything has a little carbohydrate in it, even meat and liver. But this amount is negligible. Therefore, I call it near zero-carbs.
As soon as I stopped eating carbs, replaced them with healthy fats, and ate a moderate amount of protein for my needs, my body started producing ketones. I measure my glucose and ketones regularly.
Intermittent fasting speeds up the creation of ketones. After fasting 18 hours, ketone levels in my bloodstream can reach to around 2.5 mmol/L. Blood glucose level is approximately 3.5 to 4 mmol/L.
Even though this glucose level looks low for many people, I don't feel any symptoms of low blood glucose since I am in ketosis. My brain uses ketones as an alternative energy source.
Before being fat-adapted when my body was not producing ketones yet, I felt lethargic, sluggish, and uninspired to do anything. It was causing me extreme hunger and food cravings.
It took me around three months to go to a fully fat-adapted state.
The indication of fat-adaptation was that my body was creating sufficient ketones to give me energy. Symptoms of low blood glucose level disappeared. I felt energetic and clear-minded.
In the first week of my ketogenic diet, I had some minor issues. I found out it is called keto-flu. The primary reason for me to feel keto-flu was insufficient salt in my body. I used to fear salt. But when I was in ketosis, my body was releasing salt much faster when consuming no carbs. Salt is essential for our health. It is critical for the heart to function well.
When I increased salt intake, the symptoms disappeared. I never felt keto-flu again. In addition, I increased my magnesium intake because my food-source did not provide the optimal magnesium amount for my body requirements. I take magnesium through my skin and take 400 mg tablets as a supplement before bed. I learned to watch my electrolytes during the fat-adaption period.
When I got fully fat-adapted, I noticed a considerable amount of fat-loss all over the body. The best news was losing belly fat as when I measure my belly. I was losing inches of fat from my abdominal area. I also get my fat percentage, muscle quality, and bone density checked twice a year using the Dexa scan.
Since I have gotten fat-adapted, I have lost substantial body fat, especially from the belly area, increased the quality of lean muscles, and increased bone density. I don't have to count calories anymore.
The main benefits for me are not having food cravings, an abundance of energy created by my body fat reserves, and experiencing a calm and composed state of mind.
I hope this brief explanation gives you some insights about the fat-adaption process stemming from my personal experience. I plan to share more experiences in upcoming articles.
Thank you for reading my perspectives.
About the author
I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at https://digitalmehmet.com.