When you go on a diet, you want your body to burn body fat efficiently. This is what happens when your body is fat-adapted. In this post, I discuss what it means to be fat adapted and the foundational foods that help you get there.
Fat Adapted Foods At-A-Glance
- Fat adaptation occurs when you have restricted carbs enough to induce an increase in fat burning.
- A low carb, high fat diet helps your body become fat adapted
- Fat adapted foods include meat, fish, seafood, non-starchy vegetables, eggs, dairy products, and added fats.
Foods to Eat to Get Fat Adapted Fast [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- What it means to be “fat-adapted.”
- How to get your body to this fat burning state
- The foods that support fat adaptation
Fat Adapted Definition
The term fat adapted is loosely defined and differs between sources. However, Dr. Stephen Phinney, who is credited with coining the term, states that fat adaptation occurs when you have restricted carbs enough to induce an increase in fat burning.
Carbohydrates are an easy fuel source for your body. All of your cells can utilize the glucose that comes from carbs to generate the energy they need to keep you going. But carbs also burn up quickly and are only stored in small amounts. If carbs are the primary fuel you take in, the energy doesn’t last long, and hunger and cravings become a regular occurrence because your body is asking for more fuel.
From Dr. Phinney’s definition of fat adaption, we see that carbohydrate restriction is a crucial factor. When you reduce that easy fuel source, it forces your body to pull energy out of body fat storage or utilize dietary fats for energy.
The longer you limit carbs, the more efficient your body will become at burning fat for fuel. And, because a low carb, high fat diet keeps insulin levels down, it is easier for fat to be released from fat cells.
How Do You Know You’re Fat Adapted?
How do you know your body has become fat adapted? There is no test to mark this distinction. However, you’ll notice changes in your body, such as fat loss, sustained energy, mental clarity, and less hunger because the fuel you need to get through your day is always available, coming from body fat.
Keep in mind that getting fat adapted is a process. It takes time for your body to produce the enzymes and pathways needed to reach this stage. So, these positive changes will not happen overnight. In fact, you will likely experience some fatigue, cravings, and mental fogginess when you first change your diet. Hang in there. The benefits are worth it.
Foods to Eat to Get Fat Adapted
Let’s go over the foundational foods to focus on to make this shift happen.
Meat, Fish, and Seafood
When you build a day of eating, one of the focal points is your dinner entrée. To get fat adapted, you want to choose an entrée that is low in carbs. Foods that work well are meats, fish, and seafood. So, meals can be built around steak, hamburger, chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp, or scallops. From this list of low carb foods, you can see that it is as easy to eat out as it is to eat at home.
What you want to avoid at a restaurant is breading and sauces because they often contain hidden carbs that can delay the shift to a fat-adapted body. You’ll also notice that poultry, fish, and seafood tend to have less fat than beef. It’s hard to consciously increase your dietary fat intake, but it helps your body become more efficient at using fat for fuel when you do.
If you choose a lower-fat entrée, you can cook it in butter or a heat-tolerant oil like coconut oil or avocado oil or use an acceptable sauce like tartar sauce or pesto. Just check the label on condiments to avoid added sugar.
When you select food to go with your entrée, you’ll likely be choosing a plant-based food. Plants are the living organisms that make carbohydrates, so all plant foods contain carbs. However, the amount they have varies. Your best low carb vegetable choices are cooked or raw non-starchy vegetables, like asparagus, broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, and peppers, as well as leafy salad greens.
By themselves, vegetables may not have a lot of appeal. However, because you are training your body to run on fat rather than carbs, you can feel free to add flavorful fat to your vegetables. When you enjoy the foods you eat, you stick with your diet.
You will enjoy your veggie side dish more if you cook it in butter or oil or add bacon, walnuts, or alfredo sauce. And, you’ll find that salad works great as a meal when it is topped with fats, like avocados, nuts, seeds, and full-fat dressing.
Eggs & Dairy
You can also add eggs and dairy products to your daily diet as you work toward becoming fat adapted. Eggs contain a good mix of protein and fat. They are also versatile. Scrambled eggs make for a quick breakfast, a hard-boiled egg is a portable afternoon snack, and quiche works as a low carb, high fat dinner.
However, eggs have had to overcome a bad reputation due to the high cholesterol content found in the yolk. For many years, the fear was that eating cholesterol increased blood cholesterol. That sounds logical, but research has shown this to be untrue. A three-month study that compared a group of people with type 2 diabetes who ate 12 eggs a week to a group that ate less than two eggs a week found no between-group differences in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, or triglycerides (1).
Therefore, you can feel comfortable including eggs in your daily diet.
If you tolerate them, dairy products can also be included in your daily diet. However, you want to select full-fat dairy foods, not low-fat varieties. Here again, it is hard to get away from the fear of adding fat to your diet. However, you’ll find a high-fat diet to be satisfying and help you lose weight.
One interesting study followed more than 18,000 middle-aged women (age 45 and older) for more than a decade. The study found that the women who choose high-fat dairy over low-fat versions were less likely to become overweight (2).
The speculation was that the dairy fat helped with hunger satisfaction, so the study women ended up eating less and consuming fewer calories throughout the day.
We think we are doing the right thing by choosing low-fat cheese, milk, and yogurt, which have fewer calories, but in reality, those low-fat foods have more sugar, which works against fat adaption, and ultimately causes us to eat more.
When you focus your diet on low carb, high fat foods, your body becomes fat adapted, and you reap benefits, including faster fat loss, sustained mental and physical energy, and more control over cravings. Meat, fish, seafood, non-starchy vegetables, eggs, full-fat dairy products, and flavorful fats are the foundational foods that will help your body make this switch.
If you’d like a full list of 100 low carb foods, you can download a copy from my website. Thanks for reading and have a great week!
(1) Fuller, Nicholas R., et al. “The effect of a high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) study—a 3-mo randomized controlled trial.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 101.4 (2015): 705-713.
(2) Rautiainen, Susanne, et al. “Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 103.4 (2016): 979-988.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.