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How to Become a Fat-Adapted Cyclist: Lifestyle

By Jiří Kaloč

How do you become a fat adapted athlete? Long-term health, metabolic efficiency, and mental clarity all sound pretty good, but what do you do to get there? There are several areas you have to focus on. The main ones are diet, training, and lifestyle habits.

Firstly, we can’t train the body to use fat for fuel if we are always training near or at the anaerobic threshold, and the same thing goes for always eating “healthy carbs” for energy. I will talk about the specific changes we can make regarding this diet and training in the following articles. Now, let’s look at the overarching lifestyle habits that influence our ability to successfully use fat as a fuel, or implement any change for that matter.

Deal with chronic stress

Relationships, work, finances, environment, exercise – there are lots of potential stressors in our lives. We need to learn how to manage those that threaten to become chronic. The cortisol response that is triggered by any recurring stressful event is what can ruin our efforts to make a lasting lifestyle change, especially one related to metabolism. We should regard stress as something that helps us perform better, not as something dangerous. But, if it comes from the same source too often, we need to make adjustments.

It’s also important to recognize that the change itself is stressful for the body. That’s why I recommend using common sense, and listening to your body, rather than counting calories and suffering through pre-planned training sessions you aren’t ready for yet.

Prioritize sleep and recovery

Becoming a fat adapted athlete means changing on a cellular level. Fat requires more oxygen than carbohydrate to be utilized for energy, so your body will need to create more mitochondria to keep up with the same demands. That’s why proper regeneration is the key.

The basic building block for good recovery will always be quality, deep sleep. Try to eliminate blue light (screens of any kind) 2hrs before sleeping, make your room cool and dark, and go to sleep calm. Active recovery techniques like saunas, whirlpools, massages, and complementary movement activities like swimming or yoga are very useful too.


Wait for it

Keep in mind that genetics are a factor. Some people are better suited to using fat as opposed to carbohydrate as an energy source. Though this can be influenced by lifestyle, diet, and exercise, it takes time. The basic fat adaptation process takes usually about four weeks, but it can take up to a couple of years to gain all the benefits. So be patient.