Our sport, running ultramarathons requires high levels of physical endurance and mental toughness. As a result, many runners opt for high-carbohydrate diets to fuel their training and racing efforts. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that a fat-adapted approach to running may offer numerous benefits to ultra marathoners.
First and foremost, a fat-adapted approach to running can result in improved endurance. By training the body to rely on fat as a primary fuel source, runners are able to spare glycogen, a carbohydrate stored in the muscles and liver, for later in the race when it is needed most. This can lead to better endurance and decreased risk of "hitting the wall," a term used to describe the point in a race when glycogen stores become depleted and fatigue sets in.
In addition to improved endurance, a fat-adapted approach to running can also result in decreased recovery time. Because fat is a slower-burning fuel source, runners who are fat-adapted may experience less muscle damage and inflammation compared to those who rely on a high-carbohydrate diet. This can translate to faster recovery times and reduced risk of injury.
Another advantage of being fat-adapted is the potential for improved body composition. While a high-carbohydrate diet can lead to weight gain, a fat-adapted approach to running can promote the loss of body fat and the preservation of lean muscle mass. This can be particularly beneficial for runners who are looking to maintain a healthy weight or those who are training for races in which weight is a factor, such as mountaineering or trail running.
Finally, a fat-adapted approach to running can also offer mental benefits. By relying on fat as a primary fuel source, runners may experience improved mental clarity and reduced brain fog, as well as reduced cravings for sugary and processed foods. This can help runners maintain a positive mindset and stay motivated during the often-grueling training and racing process.
To become fat-adapted, runners should focus on increasing their intake of healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fatty fish, while reducing their intake of carbohydrates, especially processed and sugary foods. It is also important to incorporate training sessions in which the body is pushed to rely on fat as a fuel source, such as low-intensity endurance training, hill repeats, and long runs.
In conclusion, a fat-adapted approach to running can offer numerous benefits to ultra marathoners, including improved endurance, decreased recovery time, improved body composition, and enhanced mental well-being. By incorporating healthy fats into their diets and training regimes, runners can become more efficient at using fat as a fuel source, helping them perform at their best during races and in training. So, if you're an ultra-marathoner looking to improve your performance and take your training to the next level, consider becoming fat-adapted.