UCAN UK November Update by Wendy Ralfe, triathlete

November 24, 2015


Fat burning or oxidising fat so that you can use it as fuel, seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind at the moment. It’s not just about losing weight and looking good; it’s more than that - it’s about feeling good, and being healthy too.

Burning fat as fuel (or being fat adapted) means you have a percentage of your fuel with you, and it is also the best form of fuel as it doesn’t run out easily (I won’t say ever, but pretty much ever).

Athletes with lower body fat percentages seem to perform better than ones with higher body fat percentages. Your thinnest athletes for example Mo with 6% body fat still has enough fat to do four Ironman races (wow!!!).

So it would seem that using your fat for fuel is the way to go, as well as being what your body has evolved to do over thousands of years – it does it naturally.  However in our haste we have “put a spanner in the works”, by having sugars (refined carbs, multi-dextrin, other sugars) as the fuel source. This has the knock on effect, which causes the pancreas to excrete insulin, which intern stops fat burning, and makes our body’s burn sugar instead, and causes blood sugar spikes. Problem with burning sugar is that it doesn’t last long and you bonk when it has run out, it also has bad effects on our bodies, and causes GI distress (in most people).

Every athlete knows that you need some carbohydrates to train (your muscles need the glycogen) some of us need more carbohydrates than others, depending on your body and how fat adapted you are.  Most of us also realise that there are “bad” carbohydrates (purified carbs like white bread, that turn into sugars in your body) which will spike your blood sugar and cause your body to release insulin, and “good” carbohydrates (like sweet potatoes, or oats, vegetables) which are a slower release carbohydrates and don’t spike your blood sugar as much. You also need carbohydrates in order to process protein. So I’m not against carbohydrates, we do need them; I just prefer the more natural unrefined ones.

This is just another reason that makes UCAN so amazing - it’s a carbohydrate that releases slowly enough so that it doesn’t kick off the insulin response that the other carbohydrates do. It allows your body do what it’s evolved to do – burn fat as its energy source. It also keeps that steady slow drip of carbohydrates going to your muscles for the glycogen they need, so you don’t bonk. It keeps your blood sugar steady which stops that tired feeling you get when your sugars start running out and your blood sugar starts dipping. It also stops the starving feeling after a workout, the one where you feel like you want to eat anything you can get your hands on.

It keeps the happy balance.

To start you maybe burning 40% fat to 60% carbohydrate, but as your body adjusts that will reverse so that you are burning more fat compared to carbohydrates.

What can happen in five weeks with UCAN: (you would need to get blood work done to see what your percentages are, but I found it quite amazing that some athletes were able to do the following)

At race pace:

Week 1 – burning 60% carbs / 40% fat

Week 5 – burning 40% carbs / 60% fat

There is a catch to fat burning though, as you might have realised reading this, it takes a while for your body to readjust to using fat as a fuel source rather than the sugars.

Everyone is different some adjust faster than others, but generally it will take between 10 to 14 days to get a rise in oxidising fats so that you can use them for fuel. So you need to have some patience with yourself.  The trick is not to have any sugar, as it will disrupt what you are working so hard to achieve. Also don’t give up, it is hard going for the first 2 weeks, but then you will feel much stronger, better and healthier.

Until next time…

If you have any comments or questions, please email them to and I or the UCAN team will answer them.  The questions and answers will then be posted on here, to help others.

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