The 4th way: Lose and use fat for energy.
The type of exercise you do can either contribute to burning ketones (derived from fat) or it can pull you out of ketosis and promote glucose or sugar burning. For those who are interested in promoting ketosis and you are already exercising, it is important to read this post and be sure to add the recommendations here to your routine. This is not to say that the current sports or exercises you do, need to be scrapped if they do not promote ketosis as efficiently, it simply means it’s important to add to your routine those methods that will protect you from inflammation and possible injury caused by having imbalances in your exercise routine.
If you currently do not exercise at all, I think you’ll find that the exercises outlined here can be incorporated into anyone’s “couch potato” routine in a way that does not promote anxiety or suffering that people who “hate” exercise feel. The routines are also excellent at reducing inflammation and chronic pain associated with old injuries or sedentary living.
If you already exercise and take it very seriously, you may want to add the principles shared here into your routine. If losing body fat, preserving muscle mass and strength, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation and damage associated high intensity exercise, are important to you then read on.
Review of some concepts:
In previous posts we’ve outlined the importance of producing energy by multiple methods. In particular interest to most people is producing energy by burning fat. We have already discussed the fact that we are all pretty efficient at burning the most readily available fuel called glucose. And we are pretty inefficient at producing the cleaner, preferred fuel source derived from fat called ketones.
The people who need to be interested in these concepts are those interested in topics as far reaching as:
- Sustainable healthy weight loss
- Sports performance
- Brain health as is needed in:
- Neurodegeneration (MS, ALS, Alzheimers, Parkinsons and dementia)
- Brain fog seen in autoimmunity, chronic fatigue and lyme disease
- Bipolar Type 2
- CTE, Persistent post concussion syndrome
- Diabetes, type 1 & 2
- Immune dysregulation seen with chronic infections and autoimmunity
- ……and more
Dirty fuel Vs. Clean Fuel
Burning glucose as a fuel source full time for all of our organs, tissues and cells can yield a certain amount of oxidative stress which results in free radical damage, the kind of damage that we see in nearly all chronic diseases and degenerative processes often attributed to aging. Of course aging in inevitable and all of our days are limited, however why allow it to happen faster and more aggressively than it needs to be.
Glucose as a fuel coupled with oxygen in the mitochondria of our cells is considered a “dirty fuel” Click To Tweetit leaves behind a lot of residue we call inflammation due to the damage done to our cells by free radicals.
Think of free radicals as bullets bouncing around your office making holes in the walls and all of the furniture and machinery in the room. The more holes made over time, the less productive work can come out of that office. In this analogy the office is one of your cells, perhaps a brain, heart or muscle cell.
Inside your office you have a power generator for the machines in the office to run on (the cell mitochondria). The generator can burn glucose or ketones as fuel to make energy.
When using glucose for fuel, the power generator (mitochondria) emits free radicals as a waste product that bounce around the office damaging everything it hits, like a bullet damaging everything it hits. Over time the office will not be very efficient due to the damage being done by free radicals over time.
When the power generator (mitochondria) uses the other fuel, ketones, the production of free radicals dramatically reduces because the fuel burns much cleaner. Producing less reactive oxygen species (ROS, another term used for free radicals, the bullets that do the damage over time.)
3 methods of promoting clean fuel + 1
In my ebook entitled Holy Grail of Fat Loss: The Science Behind Ketosis I outline the 3 methods of promoting ketosis in the body. After reading the above section, you can see how important it is to burn ketones for fuel. My ebook goes into the reasons why, as humans living in a modern industrial nation, we can go a lifetime only burning the dirty fuel and hardly ever burn the preferred, more efficient, cleaner fuel.
The book also outlines the 3 methods of increasing the presence of ketones in our blood.
- Ketogenic type diet. This is a mostly healthy fat diet. 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrate. A difficult diet to follow for most people, to say the least. If this were the only method used, you would have to strictly stick to this formula.
- Intermittent fasting. There are several methods used by people very successfully depending on lifestyle. If you were to only use this method, you would have to do several extended fasts that can exceed 24 hours, some people require multi-day fasts to achieve ketosis.
- Taking exogenous ketones that are formulated according to research standards that have proven their ability to be effective in promoting elevated ketone levels. Products like KETO-FX by Cyrene Labs that have over 14 grams per serving of the active ketone ingredient (beta hydroxybutyrate, BHB).
Each of these methods, done strictly will promote ketosis, however if you do all 3 methods in combination, then you do not have to do any one with such strict adherence that would make your social life difficult or give you symptoms that are common during the initial 3-6 months it can take to establish efficiency in ketosis.
+1: The 4th method for promoting ketosis: Exercise
Dr. Phil Maffetone, one of the world’s most influential minds in the endurance athletic world, deserves credit for this entire section. Dr. Maffetone has been studying inflammation, injury, performance, speed and health as it related to the best endurance athletes in the world. His research is applicable to the highest level Ironman Triathlete and to the average patient in my office suffering from chronic “idontfeelgooditis”.
Ketones are burned in the mitochondria of our cells only which means it requires oxygen. Glucose also is burned in the mitochondria of our cells in the presence of oxygen, however when glucose is burned in the mitochondria, it produces more of the ROS (reactive oxygen species) and free radicals we discussed above, resulting in damage. However when a cell is working very hard, like our muscle cells when we are doing high intensity exercise, the cells need to make energy at a faster rate than the oxygen can get there, therefore when we are at a higher intensity, we can burn glucose outside of the mitochondria, without the need for oxygen. Ketones cannot do this.
Burning glucose can be both aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen). Ketones are aerobic only. High intensity exercise like the 100 yard sprint or olympic lifting, is purely anaerobic and requires glucose. Low intensity exercise like a walking, jogging, elliptical, cycling, hiking, etc. can be purely aerobic (if done at a low enough intensity). The purely aerobic exercise will allow ketones to be the dominant fuel burned. When given a choice the brain, heart and muscles will choose ketones over glucose, they can only do this if both are present in the blood. Ketones can be made present in your blood by making them yourself or taking an exogenous source (methods 1-3 listed above).
“Cardio” is not necessarily aerobic.
The challenge is knowing if your exercise is aerobic or anaerobic. If you think your “cardio” workout is aerobic, you may be wrong. With all of the emphasis being placed on high intensity interval training (HIIT) in recent years, our need for immediate gratification and other cultural factors as well as our general lack of time and attention; we are likely doing our “cardio” type exercise in the anaerobic (without oxygen) zone. The aerobic threshold is different for everyone but a general rule of thumb is to use the formula devised by Dr. Phil Maffetone (MAF method) which has been proven to be incredibly accurate.
The MAF formula is: 180 – (Your Age)= Target aerobic heart rate.
(there are some modifications of +/- 5 to 10 beats depending on your age (someone 70 years old may want to exercise at 120-130, a very fit athlete may want to add 10 beats to this formula, etc)
For the couch potato:
For those who have not exercised at all in recent months and who may be couch potatoes, this formula may be reached with a brisk walk. If that is the case starting with a 30-40 minute walk and not exceeding 1 hour, you may find that your ability to start jogging will come naturally and enjoyably at the target heart rate.
For the athlete, the gym rat and the weekend warrior:
This can sound painfully slow. I am 46 years old. I am not a runner by any definition of the word, as it relates to athletes, but I may run a 5k a few times per year, as well as a HIIT class at the gym 2X per week and the occasional spin class. A typical 5k for me (I historically hate running) is just over 26 minutes. However when I am trying to keep my heart rate at 135-145 according to the MAF method my 5k time went to an alarming 39 minutes. There were times i had to walk to get my heart rate to come down to the target. I barely felt like I was exercising. However, over time, sticking to my heart rate, the 5k time kept getting faster and faster. It is now at about 29 minutes and it will continue to drop. More importantly when I am aerobic, I actually enjoy running. I never thought I could enjoy running, ever.
For athletes who care about improving their time, this is a great method of improving your distance times, albeit it does require patience. For the rest of us who are looking to increase fat burning and ketosis, this is the best way to mobilize your own fat to use as ketones for energy. Remember, a ketone is simply a water soluble fat that can be used for energy. The best ketones are the ones you make yourself from your fat stores and or your diet.
This is not to say that you should not do HIIT exercise, it merely is to say that you need to train both your aerobic capacity and your anaerobic capacity in a balanced program. Most people I know are simply not training their aerobic system, forcing them to create more inflammation by burning more and more “dirty fuel”. Increased ROS or free radicals, increased susceptibility to injury, chronic long term changes seen in stress hormones like cortisol, increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system, decreases in testosterone, etc.
Incidentally and in closing, it is interesting to note that the health problems associated with imbalanced training (also known as overtraining) in athletes are identical to the sedentary, high stress, overweight CEO or banker. That includes heart disease.
The anaerobic system should not be trained exclusively for an event (like a marathon) that is 95+% aerobic. When you use the aerobic system 95% of the time and burn ketones, you preserve the anaerobic (jet) fuel, glucose, in your liver for when you need to turn the power and speed on to win the race or achieve your personal record.
This should give you a general sense of how exercise can promote ketosis. For more questions associated with exercise, training, different sports that are mixed energy sports like soccer, you would need to pursue further education on the subject.
Thank you for reading.