So you’ve decided to implement a low-carb lifestyle to slim down. You’ve learned all about carbs and their vital role in impacting how your body uses nutrients for fuel and embark on a low-carb eating journey. You enter a state of ketosis, or fat burn, for the first time. Now your body is depleted of carb-derived glycogen and has made the switch to burning fat for fuel instead. This feels like a victory – and in so many ways, it is! But eventually, life creeps up on you, and suddenly you find yourself out of the fat-burning zone. What caused this to happen? What’s the best way to get back in? Will this cause your fat loss to stall?
What can kick you out of fat burn?
Those who’ve lived the fat burn lifestyle for a while know the thrill of finally reaching that sought-after state of burning fat for fuel. But they also know that this state is transient. Just as easy it is to get into it, it’s even easier to get out. When it comes to staying in fat burn, it mostly comes down to our food choices, and sticking to a whole new way of low-carb eating can be tricky, especially at first. Traveling for work or vacation, eating an unplanned meal, going through a major life transition during which well-meaning loved ones shower us with meals, or simply having a weekly cheat day can all cause us to fall out.
While no specific foods can cause us to be kicked out of fat burn, consuming too many carbs will. Carbs in the form of sugar, preservatives, and fillers are hidden in many foods we wouldn’t expect, making it all the more challenging to stay in fat burn for long if we aren’t careful. Many limit their total carbs to 20g to 50g per day, but ultimately how many carbs you can eat and still stay in fat burn will depend on your makeup, such as how active you are and how much muscle mass and body fat you have. The more active and more muscle you have, the more carbs you can safely eat. But it is still crucial to read labels, understand hidden carbs, understand portion control, and know what to avoid on your plate to keep you fat-adapted.
The foods that will kick you out of fat burn most quickly:
Too much fruit (banana, dates, raisins, mango)
Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, certain types of winter squash)
Sugary drinks (soda, juice, blended coffee drinks)
Grains (white bread, refined pasta, white rice, cereal, oatmeal)
Processed meats (salami, meatballs, sausages)
High-carb nuts (peanuts, cashews, pistachios, chestnuts)
Sugar alcohol sweeteners (maltitol)
Condiments (ketchup, teriyaki sauce, barbecue sauce, salad dressing)
Certain medications (sweetened gummies, liquids, chewables)
Too much protein from meat and seafood (can result in an uptick in glucose)
When these carbs are consumed, the glucose levels in the blood rise, and the pancreas secretes insulin, stimulating enzymes that store the glucose as glycogen in the liver. This process will halt the production of ketones until carbs are removed and the glycogen is used up once again.
How to return to fat burn?
Falling off the fat burn state you worked so hard to achieve can feel discouraging, to be sure, but it helps to remember that returning to it requires just the same as what started it in the first place – paying close attention to carb intake – and in many cases, your body can get back to burning fat even faster. How long will it take to get back to fat burn? It depends. How long you’ve been eating low-carb, how many carbs you consumed before falling off, and how active you are all playing a role. But in general, you might expect to get back into it after around one to three days.
So how can you ensure you’ll get back into fat burn and stay there?
The most important thing to do is to think ahead and make a solid plan so that you don’t fall off in the first place. Recognize that carb cravings can and do happen, and it’s all too easy to reach for carbs when we’re stressed, hungry, or on the go. Do your best to have low-carb snacks and meals at the ready for different scenarios that may arise. Notice if there’s a particular place or time when cravings strike and prepare to meet those cravings with healthier low-carb options. Fortunately, plenty of low-carb options are available and can be enjoyed even while away from home. Counting calories and carbs is no fun, but simply limiting your total daily carb intake to 50g is a good starting point. Adjust lower (or higher) from there depending upon your weight loss (or maintenance) goals.
Besides keeping your carb consumption in check, you can take several other actions that will speed up the return to fat burn. For example, exercising is effective at depleting excess glycogen faster. A higher intensity workout like circuit training or cardio interval training will burn through glycogen stores quickly. Loading up on healthy fats is also essential for keeping the body fed while burning fat, so eat plenty of avocados, coconut oil, full-fat dairy, grass-fed butter, and nuts like macadamia nuts. Fat is more calorically dense, but has a satiating effect that typically inadvertently leads to caloric restriction, unless you are gorging on hyperpalatagbe “fat bomb” snacks. Intermittent fasting is another effective method for quickly burning through glycogen stores to get back into fat burn and combines well when coupled with a low carb diet.
Just like the number of allowable carbs to remain in fat burn varies from one person to another, so does the effect that exercise, healthy fat intake, and fasting have on each individual. So how can you know exactly how your metabolism responds to these measures? Using Biosense® is an accurate, reliable, and effortless way to visually observe just how your food and activity choices either promote your fat burn or impede it. It becomes an effective behavioral tool to change eating patterns and food selection. With Biosense®, it’s easy to see how many carbs are too many for you, how much exercise you need, how many grams of healthy fat is helpful, and the best way to fast to get you back to burning fat as quickly as possible.
Getting back on the saddle after a setback
Transforming the way we live is no minor feat, and despite our victories big and small, unforeseen plans will come up to thwart our metabolic progress toward fat burn from time to time. This can understandably lead to a great deal of frustration and disappointment. Forming any new habit takes consistent planning, effort, and overcoming discomfort until the habit is fully ingrained. When obstacles arise, don’t let them derail you. Learn to view them as temporary setbacks. When you find yourself out of fat burn, pick right back up and do the necessary actions to get back into it. When things get tough, the most critical thing to keep in mind is your why. Why is maintaining fat burn so crucial to you? Why did you start this lifestyle in the first place? Let the answers to these questions inspire you to keep going and use Biosense® as your “coach”. When used just 3 times/day Biosense® provides the feedback you need to guide behavioral changes into daily habits that will become effortless over time.