Becoming Fat Adapted — What It Means and How To Do It
Jumping into the Carnivore Diet at the end of February 2022 meant a lot of studying, learning, asking questions, and figuring out how our lives would change. A huge part of that was what it means and how to become fat-adapted. I’m leaning on the experts here — so there are links to full posts from the information I’ve gathered. My goal was to present this from many sources, in a way that made more sense to me, so that hopefully it would save you all the research.
Most of the articles are from Keto enthusiasts, which I am not. Ketosis and fat burning CAN go together, however, they don’t need to. Your body can be fat-adapted regardless of if you track ketones, or follow the Keto Diet. I follow the Carnivore Diet and fat-adaptation works the same minus discussing ketones.
This post bridges the gap between “normal weight” and the weight gain issue I had, including what i did to try to “fix” it for the past 3 1/2 years prior to starting the Carnivore diet
Dane was awesome about sharing his story as well!
What Is Fat Adaptation and How Do You Get It?
The short story of fat adaptation is it’s your body’s ability to burn fat as a fuel source, which is the most energy-efficient way our body can not only use energy but save energy as well. Carbs (and sugar) — what most people use for energy — elevates blood sugar levels which raise insulin and promote fat gain. Not the best cycle, although the most common in the Western world. It also doesn’t last long as an energy source, isn’t as efficient, and causes inflammation.
When you’re fat-adapted, you don’t need a steady stream of carbs (glucose) to power your day. This is an important point. When you’re fat-adapted, you can handle a carb load and rapidly return to burning fat once blood sugar and insulin levels subside. Many athletes eat carbs and/or fruit on high-intensity workout days, for example.
What Happens When You Become Fat Adapted? How Do You Know It’s Happening?
Lowering your carbs, increasing fat, fasting, and exercising are all ways to become fat adapted. The bottom line is, your fat-adaptation time depends on your genes, proclivity for fasting, dietary choices, and a host of other factors. An athlete may take hours, while a couch potato may take months, so don’t get discouraged. Most information says the fat-adaptation process takes anywhere between 4–12 weeks. If that seems like a long time, remember the time will pass whether you’re working towards this or not, so any time you jump on is a good time.
- Losing body fat. At first you drop water weight and then you lose weight while you’re still becoming fat adapted
- Better sleep. This can get worse before it gets better, and it does get better. Hang in there
- Craving control. Compared to carbohydrates, fat fills you up better and cravings for carbs and sugar reduce
- You need less food. I see this a lot. After fat-adapting, folks naturally adjust to a lower caloric load. Hunger hormones are partly responsible, but the body also gets more efficient at using fat over time. It’s challenging for some people to stop relying on calories, macros or weighing food
- Steady energy. Being fat-adapted means relying less on sugar, and more on fatty acids, for energy production. Fat is a more stable energy source.
- Mental performance. A fat-adapted brain creates less oxidative stress. It’s like upgrading to a car that drives faster and emits less exhaust.
- Endurance capacity. Fat-adaptation uses fat as fuel, so your reserve tank stays full for longer during endurance exercise.
Some of these were easy for me to notice, whereas others weren’t. Prior to the Carnivore diet, I didn’t eat many carbs and rarely consumed sugar, I’m not a “snacker”, so my cravings weren’t going away — I rarely have them.
Better sleep, not being hungry between meals, losing weight, and not needing as much food to feel satiated along with consistent energy throughout the day (no crashes) were things that were easy for me to notice.
Mental clarity and better endurance were slower and more difficult to know when I “arrived” because it’s not like flipping a switch. I didn’t have extreme issues prior, as an athlete building endurance is always something I’m working on, and fat loss — I watched the scale slowly go down but did that mean I was fat-adapted?
“Fat adaptation is the state in which the metabolism burns fat as its primary source of energy… Fat adaptation is an ongoing state. As long as your body is fully adjusted to burning fat instead of carbs, you’re considered fat adapted, and you can remain so in the long term by consistently staying low carb.
…”we “teach” our formerly carb adapted bodies to thrive in the absence of carbs. There are telltale signs that show us we’ve successfully learned.”
Fat adaptation has been available to us since the dawn of humanity, but carb culture has made us forget. When you’ve accessed it, there will be no denying the feeling of wellness in every area of your life. I can say — because I tracked the process on a calendar and blog post — that I noticed small things often. The bumps on my arms and thighs went away, eczema under my wedding ring cleared up, my skin looked better, I easily drank 80 ounces of water a day, my lack of sleep and hot flashes initially became much worse and were then significantly better, I had an overall sense of calm and I didn’t feel wiped out around 2–3 in the afternoon.
After 30+ days, I know I’m NOT fat-adapted — YET — and I also know it will happen. I do feel the shift in many areas which is not only encouraging, it means you begin to feel better in a short amount of time. Some things get worse before they get better, and you FEEL it getting better, which I loved. Even though it takes time to become completely fat-adapted, your journey to an overall amazing feeling of wellness begins on day one.
What results have you had?